Newsy - Sci/Health The Latest Videos From <![CDATA[How Exoplanets Rebooted NASA's Search For Life Beyond Earth]]> Sun, 26 Apr 2015 11:34:00 -0500
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NASA just announced a huge cooperative effort to analyze other worlds for possible life.

The Nexus for Exoplanet System Science, or NExSS, brings together scientists from three different NASA research centers, the SETI Institute and teams at 10 different universities.

But this isn't exactly a rebooted search for extraterrestrial intelligence. NASA hasn’t funded that goal since 1992, when it deployed the High Resolution Microwave Survey to search for extraterrestrial transmissions. Congress killed its budget less than a year later.

The nonprofit SETI Institute is keeping up the search, using independently funded tools such as the Allen Telescope Array.

 But NASA's new NExSS initiative is focused more on life than intelligent life, using verifiable scientific data from a relatively new field: the study of exoplanets, which orbit stars other than our own. (Video via NASA

The first definitive detection of a pair of exoplanets came in 1992. Researchers found evidence of the first exoplanet orbiting a G-type star, like our own sun, three years later.

The Kepler mission launched in March of 2009 and really opened the floodgates. Since it started scanning distant stars, researchers have compiled a list of more than 1,000 confirmed exoplanets, plus thousands of additional candidates.

In fact, some research based on gravity data now indicates there's at least one exoplanet for each star in the Milky Way. Researchers found "stars are orbited by planets as a rule, rather than the exception."

But the mere presence of a planet doesn't mean much. Finding Earth-like life on another planet would require that planet orbit within its star's habitable zone, a certain set of distances at which water on the surface is a liquid.

There are a number of other variables to consider as well, which is where the brain trust at NExSS comes in. The goal is to develop a sort of equation to evaluate a given exoplanet for the possibility of life: a way to learn about and classify its formation, interior, geology, atmosphere, tidal dynamics, ecosystem and the effects of its host star.

At NExSS, Earth scientists will contribute their knowledge of how life works on our home planet. Planetary scientists will compare that Earth baseline to other worlds in our solar system. Heliophysicists will explain the interactions and effects stars have on their orbiting planets. And astrophysicists will give NExSS exoplanet targets to analyze using these rules.

Jim Green, NASA’s Director of Planetary Science, says this "provides a synthesized approach in the search for planets with the greatest potential for signs of life. The hunt for exoplanets is not only a priority for astronomers, it’s of keen interest to planetary and climate scientists as well."

And NASA will keep NExSS well-stocked with data to sift through. Missions over the next decade are expected to lengthen our list of exoplanets. The earliest dedicated mission, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is set to launch in 2017.

This video includes images from NASA and music by Blazo / CC BY NC SA 3.0.

<![CDATA[Top 3 Frog Stories Of The Week]]> Sat, 25 Apr 2015 14:52:00 -0500
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This week, slimy green things were taking over. You know ... frogs.

First, we'd be remiss if we didn’t talk about the most popular frog of the week: a new species of glassfrog discovered in Costa Rica.

It gets its name for its translucent belly that allows you to see its organs. The Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center says it's the first time a new type of glassfrog has been discovered in the country since 1973.

Now, the discovery of this new frog is great, but what really turned heads this week is that it sort of resembles a green Muppet we all know and love: Kermit the Frog.

The ladies of "The View" later spoke with Kermit about his newly discovered lookalike, and it seems like he’s taking the high road when it comes to another frog stealing his thunder.

"I want to assure them that the controversy about the legal action because of copyright infringement — ugh, that will not happen. They may all have to wear mouse ears during the summer," Kermit said.

Kermit did tell a Disney blog later that he probably has it easier than his doppleganger: "When you're transparent, folks really look right through you. It's almost like you’re invisible … which might come in handy around Miss Piggy. I take it back. I want to be transparent."

Next, bad weather can't stop a soccer match, but apparently an invasion of frogs can.

A soccer match between two teams in Zurich was abandoned after 41 minutes of play because the field was "swarming with thousands of frogs."

One of the clubs’ vice presidents told a local paper it’s not uncommon to see frogs making their way across the field, but they’d never seen so many at once before.

A rematch between the two teams has been scheduled for May 11. And hopefully security at that game will be more worried about catching any possible streakers than any possible frog invasions.

And finally, want to be able to understand frogs?

The University of South Dakota has got you covered. It's hosting a training session to teach people all about frogs and the different calls they make. 

Like distress and warning calls, as well as release calls, which the University of Michigan says is made "when one male needs to tell another male to let go." The university explains that frog mating "can be a bit hectic."

This video includes images from Getty Images and music from Podington Bear / CC BY NC 3.0.

<![CDATA[The Volcano Under Yellowstone Is Way Bigger Than We Thought]]> Fri, 24 Apr 2015 14:22:00 -0500
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Remember Yellowstone? It's the one with the bison, the geysers, the scenery and, oh yeah, the giant supervolcano. 

That last part isn't as well-known, but it's there: an enormous magma chamber stationed directly under the nation's oldest national park.

And here's the news: Scientists at the University of Utah have discovered another reservoir below the old one, and it's much, much bigger.

The new blob of magma measures about 30 miles long, 44 miles wide and at least 12 miles deep. Put together, it's enough magma to fill the Grand Canyon 11 times over. (Video via The World From Above and The Smithsonian

And for now, it's just sitting there, helping the upper chamber heat up the water that gives Yellowstone its hot springs and famous geysers like Old Faithful. (Video via National Parks Service)

The chamber also pushes on the ground above it, causing the ground of Yellowstone to rise or fall up to 3 inches a year — between 2004 and 2011, Yellowstone was pushed almost a foot higher. 

But the volcano is capable of much more — its last full eruption was 640,000 years ago, in an event that covered most of the American West and Midwest in feet of toxic volcanic ash. (Video via CBS)

The supervolcano's epic scale and potential for destruction has made it a popular subject of conspiracy theorists and "what if" movies — something that this newest discovery is unlikely to change. (Video via Naked Science)

But the scientists stress the actual hazard is still the same and the upper chamber we already knew about would be responsible for an eruption. Researchers put the chance of a large eruption in any given year at just 1 in 700,000. 

This video includes an image from National Park Service / Ed Austin / Herb Jones.

<![CDATA[Hubble Telescope: 25 Years Of Revealing The Universe]]> Fri, 24 Apr 2015 09:15:00 -0500
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The Hubble Space Telescope turns 25 Friday. In its quarter century in orbit, it's given us some of the best views we have of the observable universe.

Hubble takes its name from astronomer and cosmologist Edwin Hubble, whose research helped build our understanding of the universe beyond our home Milky Way galaxy.

It operates like any other optical reflector telescope, just scaled up and orbiting at 343 miles overhead. (Video via ESA/Hubble)

A primary mirror nearly 8 feet across (7 feet, 10.5 inches) captures light from billions of light-years away and feeds it into six sensors, which between them measure visible, ultraviolet and infrared light. The telescope uses reaction wheels and gyroscopes to orient itself with extreme precision: if Hubble were a laser pointer, it would be able to light up a dime 200 miles away. (Video via ESA / Hubble)

Hubble launched aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in April 1990.

But once it powered up in orbit, Hubble almost immediately showed trouble with its primary mirror. The glass had been ground incorrectly, and anything astronomers pointed Hubble at came out blurred. It was better than ground-based imaging, but not as sharp as they'd expected.

So the first maintenance mission to Hubble corrected the mirror with specialized hardware — space glasses, basically. The results were as striking as any visit to the optometrist.

Hubble would get four more service missions to upgrade and expand its cameras, replace stabilizing gyroscopes and install new computers for faster image processing. Since the last maintenance flight in 2009, Hubble has been running smoothly. (Video via NASA)

And to date, for clear visible-light images of distant cosmic objects, there's basically no better instrument in science. (Video via NASA)

Hubble has the best vantage point on — or off — the planet. From above the interference of Earth's atmosphere, it's captured some of the most detailed visible-light images ever recorded. (Video via ESA / Hubble)

Hubble effectively looks into the past: Its deep field projects capture light that is billions of years old. Scientists use the data to track the age and development of the visible universe and its rate of expansion. (Video via NASA)

On a smaller scale, Hubble has discovered and tracked planets outside the solar system, such as this first-ever visible-light image of an extrasolar planet, known as Fomalhaut b. Hubble's detectors can spot clues in the spectral emissions of such planets to tell scientists what they're made of.

Along the way, it's generated iconic real-color images of distant nebulae, dense star clusters and nearby neighbors. Scientists have used Hubble to watch the rare impact of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter and to capture high-resolution images of our own moon.

One of the few things Hubble isn't suited for is looking back at Earth, which it's orbiting at 5 miles per second. Even with its fastest cameras, all it would see is Earth-colored blur. (Video via ESA / Hubble)

Astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute hold Hubble up as one of the most useful astronomy installations ever built, not to mention one of the most prolific. Scientists have published more than 10,000 articles based on Hubble data and images.

And for the moment, not even Hubble can see an end to the science it will enable. There's no concrete end date for Hubble operations; officials have said they'll keep it running as long as economically feasible or until something breaks.

Hubble's "scientific successor," the James Webb Space Telescope, is slated to launch in October 2018.

This video includes images from RadioFan / CC BY SA 3.0, NASA and the European Space Agency and music by Planet Boelex / CC BY NC ND 3.0.

<![CDATA[Newest Pesticide Research Wades Into Debate Over Bee Decline]]> Thu, 23 Apr 2015 12:55:00 -0500
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Neonicotinoids are a group of pesticides that have long been the source of controversy — because they've been tied to the mass decline of bees. (Video via U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Two new studies show neonics, as they're known for short, can not only have negative effects across the board for wild bees, but wild bees and honey bees alike can get hooked on them. (Video via Youtube / rockerBOO, paul pod / CC BY 2.0)  

Neonics are widely used in the U.S. as seed coatings for crops like corn and soybeans, among others. 

The way seed coatings are supposed to work is the pesticide coating the seed is absorbed into the plant as it grows, killing off the pests that eat it. 

What that means, as a bee researcher told NPR, "You get (neonicotinoid) residues in the nectar and pollen, even when the plant is flowering some months later, potentially" exposing bees to the neonics. (Video via University of Sussex)

The possible risks were enough for the European Union in 2013 to institute a two-year ban on the use of the three most common neonics. (Video via Al Jazeera)

But there's debate over how big a factor the neonics are in the increased death-rate beehives have seen in the past decade. (Video via Youtube / Beekeeping in Ontario)

There was a study last year saying not enough neonics to kill bees make it into plant nectar, and a U.S. Department of Agriculture report before that said neonics were a minor factor in bee decline.

One big argument opponents of banning neonics make is there aren't a lot of alternatives. 

Bloomberg reported in January, in the wake of the E.U.'s ban, some European farmers have turned to other older and more environmentally damaging pesticides like pyrethroids, which are also toxic to bees. (Video via Deutshe Welle)

So these newest studies, published in Nature, wade into a debate — not over whether neonics are harmful to bees, but over how harmful their current use really is, and what can be done about it. 

A panel created by the Obama administration to look into ways to protect pollinators like bees is expected to publish its findings next year. (Video via ABC

This video includes images from Getty Images, Edgar181NEUROtiker, Jim, the Photographer / CC BY 2.0, paul pod / CC BY 2.0 and music from Matt Lloyd / CC BY 3.0.

<![CDATA[Your Genes Could Influence How Much Mosquitoes Love You]]> Thu, 23 Apr 2015 11:20:00 -0500
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There might be a reason mosquitoes bug you every summer. According to new research, your genetic makeup influences how much mosquitos are attracted to you.

A study at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine tested 37 sets of twins, some fraternal, some identical. Each set of twins stuck a hand in a tube full of mosquitoes — for science.

The idea was to give the mosquitoes a choice. The insects had 30 seconds to smell each hand; then, they were let loose to fly toward the more appetizing twin. (Video via National Geographic)

"Volatiles from individuals in an identical twin pair showed a high correlation in attractiveness to mosquitoes, while non-identical twin pairs showed a significantly lower correlation," the researchers wrote.

"Identical twins are very similar in terms of how attractive they are to mosquitoes, compared to unidentical twins," study author James Logan said.

The researchers determined DNA influences between 62 and 83 percent of someone's "mosquito attractiveness." (Video via the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)

The researchers say it might be possible to develop a pharmaceutical mosquito repellent, but they'll have to determine exactly what in our DNA causes the attraction.

Smell is a common factor: Earlier studies have investigated how mosquitoes can hone in on human skin odors and how the malaria parasite modifies mosquitoes' own sense of smell to make humans smell more attractive.

And there's good reason to investigate further. By some metrics, mosquitoes are the deadliest animals on the planet. (Video via Gates Notes)

According to data from the World Health Organization, mosquito-borne malaria, dengue fever and yellow fever cause millions of deaths worldwide every year.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[New Study Finds No Link Between Measles Vaccination, Autism]]> Wed, 22 Apr 2015 06:42:00 -0500
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A new study of close to 100,000 children shows no link between the Measles, Mumps & Rubella vaccine and an increased risk of Autism.

Researchers analyzed health insurance claims covering 95,727 children who had received either zero, one of the recommended two doses of MMR vaccine over an 11-year period since 2001.

The study found “no harmful association between the receipt of the MMR vaccine and the development of an autism spectrum disorder.”

“This was true even among those children who were at an increased risk of having autism spectrum disorders by virtue of having an older sibling with ASD,” said Dr. Anjali Jain. (Video via The Journal of the American Medical Association)

The study comes on the heels of an outbreak of Measles, which was traced to Disneyland in December 2014. Health officials documented 131 cases, and determined vaccination status for 81 of those affected. (Video via CBS)

“Of those 80 or so children that they could determine what the status was, they found that 70 percent of those kids had not been vaccinated at all,” said The Wall Street Journal’s Jeanne Whalen.

California health officials declared the outbreak over on April 17, but not before the issue got the attention of President Obama.

“The science is pretty indisputable. We’ve looked at this again and again. There is every reason to get vaccinated. There aren’t reasons to not,” he said in a February NBC interview.

The latest vaccination study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[How New York's Chimp Rights Case Got So Confusing]]> Tue, 21 Apr 2015 21:55:00 -0500
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The confusing issue of where animal rights end and human rights begin got more confusing this week with the widespread headline that two chimpanzees were granted human rights by a New York court. (Video via The Humane Society of the United States)

The story stems from a lawsuit filed by the Nonhuman Rights Project, a nonprofit dedicated to gaining legal rights for animals. 

The group filed for — and got — a court order challenging Stony Brook University's "detainment" of two chimpanzees. Representatives from the university will have to give the court cause for holding the chimps for medical research at a hearing in May. 

This is the same group that argued for a chimp named Tommy to be given legal rights last year. Judges denied Tommy a writ of habeas corpus — which is a challenge to one's detention — saying chimps can't have legal rights because they don't have legal responsibilities. (Video via WNYT)

The group trumpeted Monday's news as a victory on its website, saying, "Under the law of New York State, only a 'legal person' may have an order to show cause and writ of habeas corpus issued in his or her behalf. The Court has therefore implicitly determined that [the chimps] Hercules and Leo are 'persons.'"

That's all true to a certain extent, and it's farther than the last case got, so it's not surprising that the news about chimps getting human rights spread quickly Monday. But the situation is, of course, a bit murkier. 

Other outlets were skeptical. The New York Times characterized the judge's order Monday as "largely administrative" and a law professor told The Huffington Post, "'The chimps are being treated, for the moment, as persons,'" but "The judge could later reverse the decision."

The Nonhuman Rights Project walked back its earlier language Tuesday in a cautiously-worded update about the legal status of the case. 

But it's easy to see why the group would be quick to declare victory. Its website makes repeated references to "breaking the legal wall" separating humans from nonhumans. 

"Right now, nonhuman animals are considered property, and while they have certain — usually very weak — protections, they have no more actual rights than a tennis shoe, a car or a DVD player," the group said in a video.

The group's immediate goal seems to be getting any court to grant any nonhuman animal any exclusively-human right. Basically, it's fighting for the legal precedent. 

The fact that the judge's order Monday included a writ of habeas corpus means it comes very close to satisfying that goal. But the near-victory didn't last long. 

Tuesday afternoon, the group tweeted that the judge who issued Monday's ruling had amended it by "striking out the words '& writ of habeas corpus' from the title of her order." 

But it will get to argue its case in court, at least. On its website, the group's president said, "Whatever happens, we will try again and win next time, or the time after that, or the time after that." 

That patience will likely be tested. Legal analysts told CNN they don't see any court giving chimps legal rights any time soon. 

"If you do believe that's what this is, you may be in for a rude surprise," Danny Cevallos said. 

"I think it's going to get thrown out after the hearing," Paul Callan said. 

If the group does win, it's asking that the chimps Hercules and Leo be transferred to a sanctuary in Florida. The hearing is set for May 6.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Research Says Complex Tools Might Not Be 'Our Thing' Anymore]]> Tue, 21 Apr 2015 12:24:00 -0500
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For a long time, the ability to do this — craft complex tools out of natural materials — has been seen as a uniquely human characteristic.

Sure, all sorts of animals from elephants to crows use basic tools, but complex tools like stone implements have long been the purview of humanity. (Video via BBC, Real Africa)

That's until a recent discovery researchers made in Kenya's Great Rift Valley. (Video via Turkana Basin Institute)

At a conference in San Francisco, a researcher from Stony Brook University presented evidence of stone tools dating back 3.3 million years. 

Seeing as the earliest records we've found of our predecessors in the genus Homo only go back some 2.5 million years, that could mean complex tool-making predates humanity. (Video via YouTube / John Hawks)

So who could have made the tools? One likely candidate lived in the area they were found: Australopithecus. (Video via Howard Hughes Medical Institute)

Australopithecus, made famous by the Lucy skeleton, is thought to have lived in eastern Africa between 4 million and 3 million years ago

While Australopithecus walked upright like us and looked kind of like us, scientists generally believed it didn't use stone tools. (Video via California Academy of Sciences)

Even when researchers published evidence in 2010 of cut marks on bones that they say indicate some species of Australopithecus used implements to cut up meat, it became the subject of debate. 

But the newest findings seem to add credence to that 2010 paper, with researchers saying the tools are stone flakes, which could conceivably have been used for cutting. (Video via Emory University)

This video includes an image from Getty Images and music from Chris Zabriskie / CC BY 4.0

<![CDATA[Blue Bell Is Recalling All Of Its Products]]> Tue, 21 Apr 2015 07:32:00 -0500
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After two cartons of ice cream were found contaminated with listeria, Blue Bell Creameries is voluntarily recalling all of its products.  

"We are heartbroken over this situation. ... Our entire history has been dedicated to making the very best in high quality ice cream that we possibly could and we're committed to fixing the problem," Blue Bell CEO Paul Kruse said in a video statement. 

This is just the latest step Blue Bell has taken since the bacteria was found in its products earlier this year. So far, contaminated products have been linked to five patients in Kansas and three in Texas.  

In March, Blue Bell issued its first recall in its 108-year history. It included chocolate, strawberry and vanilla ice cream cups produced at its Oklahoma plant. 

Then on April 7th, Blue Bell expanded that recall to include additional ice cream products produced at that plant that tested positive for listeria. (Video via KXAS)

Blue Bell, which distributes ice cream to about half of the U.S., announced the decision to voluntarily recall all of its products was made after listeria was found in several half gallons of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream produced on two separate dates in March. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on average 1,600 people become infected with listeria every year and about one in five die, making it the third leading cause of death from food poisoning.

Listeria was linked to those tainted cantaloupes grown on a Colorado farm back in 2011, that sickened almost 150 people across the country. Thirty-three of them died. (Video via ABC)

Blue Bell isn't sure how listeria got into its facilities, but the company is now implementing what it calls a "test and hold" system in which Blue Bell will continue to produce ice cream but those products won't hit any supermarket shelves before they've been tested and shown listeria is not present. 

<![CDATA[Deepwater And Dolphins: The Oil Spill's Impact 5 Years On]]> Mon, 20 Apr 2015 11:12:00 -0500
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It's been five years since the biggest marine oil spill in U.S. history. (Video via U.S. Coast Guard)

The official cleanup ended more than a year ago, but while BP says the Gulf of Mexico is rebounding, scientists say it'll take decades to understand the spill's impact. (Video via American Military University)

The spill is linked to the Gulf's longest die-off of marine mammals, bottlenose dolphins in particular, in recorded history. (Video via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Studies have noted an overlap between areas that saw dolphin die-offs and areas affected by the spill. 

In the first breeding season after the spill, the Gulf saw 10 times as many dead baby dolphins wash ashore as usual, and research has pointed to the oil-induced death of their prey as one factor. (Video via Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)

The most visible, and arguably one of the most heart-wrenching, impacts of the oil spill on the environment was the toll it took on seabirds. (Video via Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Between 600,000 and 800,000 birds are estimated to have died in the spill's aftermath, but the spill's effects are more pervasive than that. (Video via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Oil has suffocated mangrove forests along the Gulf, which — aside from already being threatened by climate change themselves — provide important nesting grounds for a range of birds. (Video via National Wildlife Federation)

Despite these impacts, BP's own report on the spill five years on says the Gulf is "rebounding." It points to water and sediment samples with low oil content and cites a range of factors that would affect the Gulf's environment that don't include the U.S.' biggest marine oil spill.

"Over millions of years, Gulf ecosystems also have adapted to consume and biodegrade oil released by the many natural oil seeps across the sea floor."

For comparison, the total natural oil seepage for the entire Gulf of Mexico is estimated at 154,000 tons a year. The Coast Guard estimates Deepwater Horizon spilled 735,000 tons in 87 days. (Video via RT)

Scientists say the scope of the disaster means it will take a long time to understand all of the impacts. 

"We kind of look at it as a 20-year plan. But there are going to be questions answered about the oil spill in two decades, still," the University of Southern Mississippi's Jessica Kastler told the Sun Herald

BP said in March it will continue to investigate potential environmental injury going forward and pay compensation, which it has and will continue to do as ordered by the Supreme Court. (Video via BP)

<![CDATA[Rocket Science: Building And Testing The Space Launch System]]> Sun, 19 Apr 2015 15:11:00 -0500
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NASA's Space Launch System isn’t off the ground yet, but the agency is hard at work getting it ready to send humans into the solar system in the next decade.

It will be the biggest advance for the U.S. space program since the space shuttle days, and the first exploration-class vehicle to carry humans out of low Earth orbit since the Apollo missions.

With the SLS, NASA is on track to build the most powerful rocket ever launched. For comparison, the space shuttle could take 53,600 pounds into low Earth orbit.

The Saturn V, which took astronauts to the moon and is the single most powerful rocket ever constructed by man, could launch 260,000 pounds the same distance.

The final version of the Space Launch System is expected to beat even that monster by almost 30,000 pounds.

It won’t be breaking records immediately, though. NASA has three main development phases planned.

Block I will borrow the proven tech of engines and solid rocket boosters from the shuttle program, attach them to a newly developed core stage and stick a crew module on top. Total capacity it could take into low Earth orbit: 154,000 pounds.

The next phases, Block IB and Block II, will add the exploration upper stage and a larger payload fairing, respectively. The most powerful versions will be able to take almost 290,000 pounds to low Earth orbit, using advanced booster rockets that haven’t even been developed yet.

The goal is to eventually support enormous payloads. NASA is looking at everything from nuclear rockets for interplanetary travel, to deep space habitats, to the fuel and supplies astronauts would need for a trip to Mars.

Astronauts will ride aboard the SLS in Orion, NASA's new crew capsule.

Think of it like a modernized Apollo crew module. It's got the same basic shape and re-enters the atmosphere the same way, but it can carry four astronauts, and NASA says it can support them for more than 200 days. Perfect for long-duration missions. (Video via NASA)

We've already seen it in space during Exploration Flight Test 1 in December. NASA sent it to orbit aboard a Delta IV rocket to test its critical systems and demonstrate its space-worthiness.

But before Block I can launch, NASA's engineers have to make sure each component does its job. (Video via NASA’s Marshall Center)

The solid fuel mixes are working. 

The emergency crew capsule abort rockets are working.

Orion's parachutes are working.

And the booster housings are working as intended — technically.

Tests like this one subject parts to forces way beyond what they're expected to sustain during a rocket launch to make sure they'll hold up. That is to say, they can do this and be fine. (Video via NASA’s Marshall Center, NASA)

All of these parts are expected to come together within three years. NASA's planned Exploration Mission 1 will test sending an unmanned Orion capsule into lunar orbit.

And Exploration Mission 2 would send a crew of four astronauts to lunar orbit for four days to rendezvous with an asteroid that will be captured and placed in a stable orbit in the Earth-moon system. It marks the first of SLS' manned missions and is slated for sometime in the mid 2020s.

This video includes images from NASA, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and NASA/Pat Rawlings, and music by TwodaystoAlaska / CC BY NC SA 3.0.

<![CDATA[Teen E-Cigarette Use Triples, Government Debates Regulations]]> Sun, 19 Apr 2015 10:45:00 -0500
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E-cigarettes are the hot new thing among middle school and high school teens. That's according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says vaping has tripled for both age groups.

In numbers released by the CDC, 13.4 percent of high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days in 2014. That's up from 4.5 percent in 2013 and a massive jump from the 1.5 percent in 2011. For middle schoolers, the stats were just as surprising; 3.9 percent had tried vaping within the past 30 days in 2014, up from 1.1 percent the year prior.

The e-cigarette market is a fluid one. The government is still a bit indecisive about how to regulate them. Even though the Federal Drug Administration has put restrictions on e-cigarette sales in the past, it's wavered on how strict those regulations should be.

Most states have restrictions on anyone under 18 buying e-cigarettes, but, as Forbes points out, "that's clearly not stopping teens from getting them."

The CDC report also says more teens were into hookah and e-cigarettes than cigarettes and traditional tobacco products.

While e-cigs don't contain tobacco, they do contain the addictive drug nicotine, which can have negative effects on an adolescent's brain and can even lead to overdoses.

"This is something that truly is going to have kids die from inadvertent overdoses.  ... It's worth getting the message out that this is a scary substance," Dr. Jennifer Barker told our partners at WRTV

Just a few weeks ago, the CDC released its first anti-smoking ad featuring an e-cigarette user.

"Then I tried using e-cigarettes, but I ended up just using both," the ad says. 

The CDC says this is the first time e-cigarette use has topped traditional tobacco among teens.

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

<![CDATA[Elmo Teams Up With Surgeon General To Promote Vaccinations]]> Sat, 18 Apr 2015 15:44:00 -0500
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"Elmo will get vaccinated," said Elmo. 

The Surgeon General said, "And tell all your friends on Sesame Street to get vaccinated too." 

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has paired up with Elmo to to urge Americans to get vaccinated.

Dr. Murthy has urged parents to get their children vaccinated before. But his recent collaboration with Sesame Street seemed to ramp up the effort a bit. 

When Elmo asked, "Why doesn't everybody get a vaccination?" 

Murthy replied, "That's a good question Elmo, that's a good question."

That video was released the same day California Department of Public Health declared an end to the measles outbreak that started in back December. 

HLN reports, "California health officials announced that no new measles cases have been reported for 42 days, that covers two incubation periods for the virus. ... Officials say vaccines are the best protection against measles."

More than 130 cases of the measles was reported to the California Department of Heath. As the spread of the sickness was mostly attributed to a lack of vaccinations, the outbreak really brought the immunization debate to the forefront of conversation. 

A study by JAMA showed the areas most affected by the virus had vaccination rates "as low as 50% and likely no higher than 86%."

Since that outbreak we've seen a crackdown on immunizations in a couple states. A school district in Spokane, Washington pulled more than 100 kids out of school Monday for lack of vaccination records. 

And in California lawmakers are working to pass a bill that would put an end to the state's personal belief exemption that allows parents to opt out of having their children vaccinated. If Senate Bill 277 were to pass "only children that have been immunized for various diseases, including measles and (whopping cough), [will] be admitted to a school in California. The bill will also require schools to notify parents of immunization rates at their child’s school."

In the past the Obama administration has said it does not support mandatory vaccinations, so the chances of us seeing similar measures on a federal level are slim as of now. 

According to the Surgeon General, for kids born between between 1994 and 2013 routine vaccinations could "prevent an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations, and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes."

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Dr. Oz Under Fire For 'Quack Treatments' Yet Again]]> Fri, 17 Apr 2015 20:04:00 -0500
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"Today is all about miracles, revolutionary items big and small that could change your life," Dr. Oz said on his show.

The famous TV doctor calls some of his treatment suggestions "miracles," but 10 doctors around the country are calling them "quack" in a letter to Columbia University. 

The letter urges the university to drop Dr. Oz as vice chair of the department of surgery.

This is hardly the first time Dr. Oz has faced backlash from his medical claims, most of which he stands by. 

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal examined 479 of Dr. Oz's medical recommendations from 40 episodes and showed 15 percent of those contradicted scientific evidence. 

"You are still implying that drinking apple juice is exposing children to toxic arsenic, and you haven't even done that test. That is wrong. You are fearmongering. You are telling parents they are poisoning their children," Dr. Richard Besser told Dr. Oz.

Despite Dr. Oz's claim that arsenic in apple juice can cause long-term effects, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration maintains the level of arsenic in apple juice is safe.

Then, at the height of the Ebola panic, Dr. Oz went on TV with this claim: 

"What happens if it mutates and becomes like the flu so it can be passed on through air, not the way that Nancy described through direct contact with bodily fluids. Then it becomes a much more difficult beast to harvest," Dr. Oz said.

"We don't have any signs of that happening, let's be clear about that," NBC anchor Matt Lauer said. 

That — despite the medical community telling both the media and public the virus could not be contracted through the air.

Some of Dr. Oz's medical miracle claims actually sent him to the hot seat on Capitol Hill. 

"I don't get why you need to say this stuff when you know it's not true," said Sen. Claire McCaskill

The senator was referring to the weight loss products Dr. Oz promoted on his show, including green coffee bean extract, raspberry ketone and garcinia cambogia, all supplements sold around the world.

"These are the clinical papers, and we can argue about the quality of them very justifiably. I can pick apart papers that show no benefit as well, but at the end of the day, I have real subjects, real people being undergone trials," Dr. Oz said. 

After the doctor defended his claims in front of the Senate, researchers studying green coffee bean extract retracted a study that touted its benefits as a weight loss supplement.

And you can find an acknowledgment of the study’s retraction on Dr. Oz's site.

The Federal Trade Commission also sued sellers of green coffee bean extract, accusing them of "deceiving consumers through ... bogus weight loss claims."

For what it's worth, Dr. Oz says he gives his family the same advice he gives his audience. 

"I do personally believe in the items I talk about in the show. I passionately study them. I recognize that oftentimes they don't have the scientific muster to present as fact."

Columbia University has no plans right now to take any action against the doctor, saying the institution upholds "faculty members' freedom of expression for statements they make in public discussion."

<![CDATA[NASA’s MESSENGER Mercury Mission Is About To Crash Land]]> Fri, 17 Apr 2015 17:11:00 -0500
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NASA is about to lose a space probe.

MESSENGER, or MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging, was the first dedicated space probe for Mercury, the closest planet to our sun. It started orbiting in March of 2011.

Now, it’s almost out of the helium fuel it uses to hold its line against the gravity of Mercury and the sun. NASA says after one last correction burn on Friday, April 24, MESSENGER's demise will be just a matter of time.

And speed. MESSENGER will be doing 8,750mph when it spirals into Mercury's surface. The impact is expected to be on the far side of the planet, hidden from the view of Earth.

And yes, Mercury's minimal atmosphere means MESSENGER actually will hit the surface, instead of burning up.

"Rest in pieces" seems a suitable epitaph, considering the spacecraft will be ramming the planet at Mach 12. But the focus was always on the science. John Grunsfeld, with NASA's Science Mission Directorate, elaborates:

"We are celebrating MESSENGER as more than a successful mission. It’s the beginning of a longer journey to analyze the data that reveals all the scientific mysteries of Mercury."

Over its four-year mission, MESSENGER built an unprecedented picture of the solar system’s smallest planet: its instruments carried out surface mapping, elemental geology, magnetic field detection and atmosphere probing.

In 2012, it found evidence of frozen water and organic materials at Mercury’s poles: enough to cover Washington state in ice more than two miles deep.

MESSENGER also helped develop and test heat-shield technologies. On the sunny side of Mercury, temperatures climb past 570 degrees fahrenheit. NASA says the ceramic cloth coverings it used to keep MESSENGER’s instruments from cooking will be useful on later missions to other planets.

We humans won’t leave Mercury alone for long: European and Japanese space agencies are planning new Mercury-orbiting probes, to launch in January of 2017.

This video includes images from NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington and the European Space Agency.

<![CDATA[Scientists Find Link Between Gestational Diabetes And Autism]]> Fri, 17 Apr 2015 14:53:00 -0500
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A new study by researchers at Kaiser Permanente has given pregnant mothers something new to worry about: If you develop diabetes during pregnancy, your child might be more likely to have autism. 

The study was conducted between 1995 and 2009 and analyzed more than 320,000 children in California. It compared the prevalence of autism in kids with moms who had gestational diabetes with kids who had nondiabetic mothers during that same period. 

"Women who develop gestational diabetes before 26 weeks were at a 42 percent increased risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder," Dr. Tara Narula said on CBS.

"Forty-two percent increase, wow," anchor Norah O'Donnell said.

"What's the possible connection?" fellow anchor Gayle King asked.

"Right, so that's what everybody wants to know," Narula said.

Because even though gestational diabetes had already been linked to childhood obesity and other health problems in children, it was unknown whether it affected the fetuses' brains. Now these scientists think it does, and the big question is: Why?

The study was only an observational one, which means it didn't try to find out why — its only purpose was to find out whether the link existed.

But that's not stopping the scientists from speculating the fetuses' exposure to elevated blood sugar in the mother's blood could be decreasing the oxygen delivered to their developing brain or even changing the genome of the child, both of which could be linked to autism.

"Early in pregnancy, that first and second trimester, is where the fetal brain is developing. That's the period of time where the brain is most susceptible to insults. So having an elevated blood sugar is an insult to that fetus," said Dr. Edward Curry.

The message for mothers? There's no reason to panic. Kaiser Permanente says this should be a wake-up call and just another reason to get your health in check before pregnancy. 

And for soon-to-be mothers who are already diabetic, the good news is there was no link found between autism and mothers who had pre-existing Type 2 diabetes. (Video via WTNH)

Still, since the study stopped taking data in 2009, autism rates have only gotten worse. The CDC estimates that 1 in 68 American children born today fall somewhere on the autism spectrum.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[The Power Of Puppy-Dog Eyes Explained By Science]]> Fri, 17 Apr 2015 08:16:00 -0500
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Just look at that face. Could you ever say no to those puppy dog eyes?

Turns out, you probably can't. Japanese researchers say they've learned the reason we can never seem to resist those adorable eyes – gazing into them causes a spike in the hormone oxytocin. 

Sometimes called the "love hormone", oxytocin is the chemical in the brain that, when released, helps people bond with each other. Most notably, mothers and their children. 

What's interesting about this new study, according to NBC, is that it proves levels of oxytocin increase in both humans and the dogs. It had previously been believed that that hormone only rose in people. 

The Japanese research team conducted several experiments to come to that conclusion. In the first test, they had 30 dogs and their owners interact for 30 minutes and afterward collected a urine sample from both. 

Those with the highest levels of the hormone in their urine had actually gazed at each other for a significant period of time, which The New York Times said the scientists defined as "100 seconds in the first five minutes of the encounter." 

In the second test, researchers used a nasal spray to give the dogs an extra boost of oxytocin. It was discovered the female dogs looked at their owners for a longer period of time than the male dogs, resulting in a hormone increase in the female dogs' owners. 

While the study didn't have an explanation for why the female dogs gazed longer than the male dogs in that second experiment, the researchers do believe that when dogs became domesticated they somehow learned their ability to love. (Video via CBS)

That belief was further cemented when the same experiments were tested on a set of wolves and their handlers and the wolves couldn't hold a gaze. Dogs, of course, are thought to have evolved from wolflike ancestors thousands of years ago. 

"Evolution is a tinkerer ... and when humans and dogs came up with this even stranger, more unique relationship, it looks like oxytocin got co-opted for that as well," a Stanford University neurobiologist told the Los Angeles Times.

But not everyone is on board with this newly-discovered connection. NPR spoke with a psychologist from Arizona State University who notes that oxytocin can also be associated with feelings of emotional isolation and aggression in animals.

Wouldn't it just be great though to think your dog is staring at you because he or she loves you, and not because they want whatever food you're currently eating?

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Common Pain Reliever Might Dull Your Emotions]]> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 13:04:00 -0500
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A drug that dulls your minor aches and pains, like headaches, might also be dulling your emotions.

The Internet is having fun with the notion that a common pain reliever might also take away your joy.

A study published this month in the journal Psychological Science suggests acetaminophen can affect your response to positive and negative stimuli.

Acetaminophen is the main ingredient in Tylenol and is used as a pain reliever and fever reducer.

Researchers at The Ohio State University tested the drug's effect on 82 college students. 

Half of the subjects were given 1,000 milligrams of acetaminophen and the others were given a placebo pill, but no one was told which pill they were given. (Video via WRSP)

An hour after taking the pill, the subjects were shown pleasant and unpleasant images.

Their emotional responses were recorded after seeing each picture. Those who took acetaminophen had little reaction to any of the photos.

"So this drug, when you see negative or positive images, it numbs your response to it," researcher Baldwin Way told NPR"It blunts your overall experience of feeling towards it."

Other studies have also focused on the drug's potential effects on emotion. In 2010, a professor at the University of Kentucky found that acetaminophen reduced the pain of rejection.

The study is still in the preliminary stages, and doctors and health care providers warn people to not use the drug to alter their emotions, pointing out overuse of acetaminophen can damage the liver. 

About 50 million Americans take acetaminophen each week, making it one of the most common over-the-counter drugs. 

This video includes images from Getty Images, Shaun Martin / CC BY-NC 2.0, Jeffery Scism / CC BY-NC 2.0.

<![CDATA[Knuckle-Pop MRI Helps Explain That Awful Sound]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 17:10:00 -0500
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Call it habit or arthritis-inducing or just plain annoying. Chances are you've heard or seen someone popping or cracking their knuckles. (Video via University of Alberta

But now, scientists are giving us a better look at a popping joint (than many of us probably would've asked for) and possibly settling the scientific debate on how that noise actually happens.

In a study nicknamed the "pull my finger study," a team of researchers led by the University of Alberta put a subject's finger in tube that slowly yanked on the digit. The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging — or MRI — video to capture the formation of a cavity inside the synovial fluid, which is located between joints. 

Greg Kawchuk, the lead author of the study, explains what we see in the video, saying: "It's a little bit like forming a vacuum. As the joint surfaces suddenly separate, there is no more fluid available to fill the increasing joint volume, so a cavity is created and that event is what’s associated with the sound.'

The images from the "pull my finger study" go against the so-called bubble collapse theory of knuckle popping, in which bubbles were believed to form in the synovial fluid. When a person pops their knuckles, those bubbles were believed to collapse, causing the sound. (Video via Vox)

As for how unhealthy or healthy cracking a joint might be, other research outside of this University of Alberta study has found the force of a pop or crack can do damage, but there's no long-term link between popping and, say, arthritis.

So, naturally, that's one thing the University of Alberta researchers hope to explore next. The study can be found in the journal PLOS ONE

This video includes images from Jaysin Trevino / CC BY 2.0 and Greg Kawchuk et al. / CC BY 4.0.

<![CDATA[Study Suggests Link Between Alzheimer's And Immune System]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 11:01:00 -0500
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A study published Wednesday claims to have found a potential cause for Alzheimer's — and possibly a way to prevent it from happening.

The study, performed by researchers at Duke University, found the immune system was causing the debilitating disease in lab mice.

Certain immune cells called microglia that normally protect the brain began acting abnormally. The microglia, the researchers said, started to "divide and change." In parts of the brain where neurons had died, the researchers found these abnormal microglia along with arginase, an enzyme that breaks down an amino acid called arginine. They suspect this arginine consumption contributed to the mice's memory loss.

But then researchers used a drug called DFMO to target the arginase. Blocking the arginase, it turned out, also resulted in fewer of the abnormal microglia. When done before any Alzheimer's symptoms started to appear, the mice performed better on memory tests than other mice that didn't receive the drug.

DFMO is currently used for some cancer treatments but hasn't been tested as any sort of Alzheimer's therapy yet. The researchers are now trying to figure out whether DFMO can treat Alzheimer's in the lab mice after the symptoms appear. 

While not quite a cure, the team says the results are promising.

Speaking to Time, the study's senior author said, "Our approach is recognized as unique and opens new avenues to think about what causes Alzheimer's disease and new ways to treat the disease."

The London-based Alzheimer's Society released a statement saying the study offers new hope and that the next step will be to figure out if scientists can actually reduce the death of brain cells.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5 million Americans were living with Alzheimer's disease in 2013. The CDC expects that number to rise to 14 million by 2050.  

This video includes images from Getty Images and Siuki Wong / CC BY NC SA 2.0.

<![CDATA[NASA Probe Captures First Color Images Of Pluto]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 08:05:00 -0500
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NASA’s New Horizons probe has returned the first color images of Pluto.

These blobs represent Pluto and Charon, the largest of Pluto’s moons. New Horizons captured these images from 71 million miles away.

National Geographic quotes Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary science:

“You can see immediately a number of major differences: Pluto seems to be very bright. It seems to be redder. Charon [in the lower left] is now dimmer than Pluto.”

To be fair, the images aren’t much more than a few pixels at this point. But that’s all we’ve had to go on already. Our best orbital telescopes can’t get clearer pictures.

For that, we have to get cameras closer. New Horizons launched January 19, 2006 — when Pluto was still a planet — to do just that.

It’s traveled longer and farther than any space mission in history to reach its primary target: the probe has spent more than nine years and three billion miles in transit to get out to Pluto’s orbit.

It’s scheduled to arrive on July 14, during which it will take the most detailed images to date of Pluto. NASA says it will get within 7,750 miles; close enough to resolve ground characteristics just a few miles across.

New Horizons’ cameras, spectrometers and dust sensors will swallow as much data as they possibly can during the flyby, and send it home to earth over the course of 16 months following the encounter.

This video includes images from NASA.

<![CDATA[SpaceX's Rough Landing Isn't A Total Failure]]> Tue, 14 Apr 2015 16:24:00 -0500
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SpaceX's missions to the International Space Station are well on their way to becoming routine, but the company still manages to excite space fans with its attempts to land a rocket. (Video via NASA)

Tuesday's launch is the company's sixth cargo mission to the ISS, but it's also the second time SpaceX has tried to safely land a first-stage Falcon 9 on an unmanned floating platform in the ocean. (Video via NASA)

Sadly, success is still out of reach, as company CEO Elon Musk tweeted the rocket did arrive at the platform but didn't survive the impact.

The company's previous attempts haven't been perfect landings either, but they've provided invaluable data on the path to reusable rockets.

It's a long-standing goal for the company, which has carried out a string of landing tests with its Grasshopper engine. CEO Elon Musk has said many times that reusable rockets could slash the cost of space travel, opening it up to more companies and governments.

SpaceX's next attempt is slated for July, but this time, instead of a floating platform, the company will attempt to land on ... land. The current plan is to return the rocket to a launch pad near the one it used for liftoff.

This video includes images from SpaceX.

<![CDATA[Prescription Drug Sales Surged In 2014]]> Tue, 14 Apr 2015 08:06:00 -0500
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Spending on medicine reached a new high in the U.S. in 2014, as Americans spent nearly $374 billion on prescription drugs. 

That's according to a new report released by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics Tuesday, which found 2014's spending rose 13 percent compared with the year before. 

Signed into law in 2010, 2014 was the first year the Affordable Care Act required Americans to either buy health insurance or pay a penalty, making it so many more were covered compared with previous years. (Video via The White House)

About 15.7 million Americans gained health insurance last year, resulting in a 5.1 percent decrease in the U.S.'s uninsured rate. 

The New York Times says states that expanded Medicaid under that law saw a 25.4 percent rise in prescriptions from 2013. Whereas there was only a 2.8 percent increase in states that didn't expand the program. 

But other outlets stressed the increase in healthcare coverage didn't contribute much to this new level of spending. 

Instead, the Los Angeles Times focused on IMS Health's discovery that more than $11 billion in spending went toward the new hepatitis C drug Sovaldi, which costs more than $80,000 for a 12-week treatment.

Time reports the number of patients seeking treatment for hepatitis C in 2014 jumped to 161,000 from just 17,000 in 2013. 

Quoted by the Los Angeles Times, the director of research development for IMS Health said he and his colleagues believe 2014 was "a bit of a one-off" and don't expect people will spend as much on medicine in the coming years. 

<![CDATA[Why Rainforests Losing Their Smallest Animals Is A Big Deal]]> Mon, 13 Apr 2015 16:27:00 -0500
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Malaysia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. 

On the island of Borneo, close to 80 percent of the Malaysian regions of Sarawak and Sabah have seen high-impact logging, and while the forests are resilient, there's a limit.

Logging has threatened Borneo's most famous resident, the orangutan, but it's also had a profound impact on its littlest inhabitants. (Video via Natural History Museum)

Rob Ewers, along with his colleagues, looked at how logging affects Sabah's forest invertebrates.

Invertebrates play three key roles in the forest's ecosystem. They break down leaves on the forest floor, releasing nutrients; they eat and disrupt seeds, maintaining tree populations; and they eat other invertebrates that could otherwise decimate vegetation.

All of those functions were reduced by logging.

"If you cut out ... all invertebrates, the rate of decomposition drops by about 25 percent," Ewers said.

But there's another important effect. When invertebrates are taken out of the picture, vertebrates step in. 

"I think what's happening is a logged forest has more resources for small mammals," Ewers said. "A logged forest tends to have a lot of new leaf growth, and because of that we have a lot of large insect herbivores ... big juicy meals for small mammals. There's a lot of food in that sense." 

The good news is the vertebrates are able to take over a lot of those invertebrate functions. But the bad news is, there aren't nearly as many vertebrates. (Video via Sabah Forestry Department)

"You go from relying on thousands of species ... once you start relying on vertebrates, you're talking about relying on 30 to 50 species,Ewers said. 

See, the sheer variety of species means there's redundancy. (Video via The Natural History Museum)

"So if you lose one of those species, there's another species on hand that can pick up the job, if you like," Ewers said.

So there's no other plan B: If the forests in turn lose those vertebrates, there aren't really any other animals that can carry out those functions. 

The rainforest has been logged for development and to make way for palm oil plantations. (Video via The Seattle Globalist)

Palm oil is used in a wide range of products from food to cosmetics, and its production is highly profitable. (Video via Al Jazeera)

In light of the backlash from environmentalists and consumers, some palm oil companies are trying to minimize their impact on surrounding ecosystems through standards for sustainability. (Video via Greenpeace)

"If anything, I think we'll find the criteria are too weak."

But Ewers is realistic.

"We're obviously never going to get a perfect win where you get to convert to plantation and there's no effect on that ecosystem, but we want to try and work out how we can minimize that impact."

You can find the research in the journal Nature Communications.

This video includes images from Wakx / CC BY 2.0 and Rajeev Pillay, University of Florida. 

<![CDATA[Do Australian Financial Incentives 'Coerce' Vaccinations?]]> Mon, 13 Apr 2015 06:43:00 -0500
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"This is essentially a no jab, no pay policy from this government," said Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's government is making it harder for parents to opt out of vaccinations for their children. 

"No jab, no pay," meaning Australian parents who choose not to have their children vaccinated can lose child care and welfare benefits.

"I'm just very pro-choice. It's a very complex issue," said one woman.

"I'm not sure. I gotta tell you I can see both sides of it," another told Australia's Prime7 News.

Though they've had some time to think about it. The Australian government has been considering financial incentives for years.  (Video via Al Jazeera

A petition calls the plan coercive and manipulative, saying it puts low income families in particular in the position of not legally consenting to immunizations. 

As much as $11,000 in benefits could be at stake — unless parents register as conscientious objectors or have medical or religious reasons for choosing not to vaccinate.

Though Social Services Minister Scott Morrison has noted there are no mainstream religious groups in Australia that officially object to vaccinations. 

There is, however, apparently a small religious sect that does — and Morrison wouldn't publicly reveal its name over fears parents would convert to avoid vaccines. 

Health experts say vaccines have made diseases like polio and diphtheria rare, and that immunizations are vital for public health. Vaccines work by prompting the body to make antibodies. (Video via TED Ed)

By government estimates, 39,000 Australian children haven't been vaccinated. Parents who opt out have varying reasons. Some think shots cause autism — a theory that's been widely discredited in the scientific community. 

<![CDATA[Increasing C-Section Rates Carry Health, Financial Costs]]> Sun, 12 Apr 2015 12:50:00 -0500
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The rate of cesarian sections is on the rise globally, exceeding longstanding guidelines from the World Health Organization.

Since 1985, the organization's recommended rate for C-sections in any given population has been between 10 and 15 percent. (Video via University of Massachusetts Boston)

 That recommendation was made because Northern European countries who had C-section rates in that range had good rates of healthy mothers and newborns. (Video via Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center)

But the U.S. rate is more than double the recommended rate. About one-third of all births in the nation are C-sections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But the World Health Organization says populations with C-section rates higher than 10 percent don't have reduced rates of newborn and infant mortality. (Video via St. Mary's Health)

As a writer for Harvard Magazine explains, pregnant women have become heavier and are having children later in life, and they tend to undergo C-sections more frequently. (Video via BBC)

As more women have C-sections, the cost has also increased. A 2013 report from The New York Times says vaginal deliveries cost about $30,000 while C-sections are upwards of $50,000. 

And doctors have concerns about women who elect to have tummy tucks following C-sections, which is an involved procedure that can lead to complications.

As one Mount Sinai Medical Center obstetrician told Yahoo"Most OB-GYNs have zero plastic surgery training, and that's what this involves. It's a significantly bigger surgery than the name implies."

A 2012 study published in the International Journal of Women's Health showed roughly half of participants were satisfied with their post-pregnancy tummy tucks, while roughly one-third were unsatisfied with the shape of their abdomen.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[FDA Cites Diabetes Drug For Possible Increased Risk Of Death]]> Sat, 11 Apr 2015 18:55:00 -0500
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The Food and Drug Administration believes a Type 2 diabetes drug produced by AstraZeneca may increase overall death rates in patients.

According to the FDA's review of data on the drug, patients who took Onglyza were at a greater risk for hospitalization because of heart failure, along with an increased risk for all causes of death.

Onglyza falls into a class of drugs know as DPP-4 inhibitors. They can affect the body's production of glucose as a form of diabetes management. (Video via Boehringer Ingelheim)

The analysis of the drug didn't indicate the cause of the overall trend and also noted individual patients often had "morbid events" days or weeks before they died. Still, the FDA wrote it was not reassured "and we do not necessarily view this pattern of variable causes as evidence the mortality signal is due to chance."

One Bloomberg analyst wrote drawing "solid conclusions" from the study would be difficult given all those factors.

In 2008, the FDA started requiring drug companies to provide evidence their Type 2 diabetes drugs don't increase the patient's risk of cardiovascular disease. (Video via U.S. Food and Drug Administration)

The FDA is still waiting on results from Onglyza's competitor and the market-leading DPP-4 inhibitor, Merck's Januvia.

The FDA originally approved Onglyza in 2009. Last year, the drug had $820 million in sales. An FDA advisory panel is set to meet Tuesday to discuss Onglyza and another similar drug the FDA said did not pose any increased health risks.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

Correction: An earlier version of this video said the FDA was pulling Onglyza off the market. The video has been updated.

<![CDATA[Apollo 13: NASA's High-Stakes Learning Experience]]> Sat, 11 Apr 2015 10:13:00 -0500
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“Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

Apollo 13 would have been the third mission to send humans to the surface of the moon, but it never made it that far.

Saturday marks the 45th anniversary of the doomed mission, which launched April 11, 1970. It’s often called “NASA’s most successful failure.”

200,000 miles from earth, during its approach to the moon, an oxygen tank aboard the spacecraft’s service module exploded. This represented two immediate problems: a loss of breathable air, and external venting that threatened to literally push the mission off course.

“It looks to me looking out the back that we are venting something. We are venting something out into the - into space,” Apollo 13 mission commander Jim Lovell said.

“Roger, we copy you're venting,” said NASA flight director Gene Kranz.

“It's a gas of some sort,” Lovell said.

“You say to yourself: ‘why did this happen on Apollo 12, or wait for Apollo 14?’ We didn’t know what caused the explosion at first, but the first thing we thought of: ‘perhaps a meteorite hit the lunar module,’” Lovell said at a Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum panel in 2010.

Within minutes of the explosion, focus had shifted from getting to the moon to getting safely back to earth.

Despite the lost oxygen tank, the crew had plenty of breathable air left. The issue was removal of carbon dioxide. The chemical scrubbers in the lunar module were designed to support two men for two days; survival of the crew required they support three men for four days while they returned to earth.

And since the air systems in the lunar module were designed differently than those in the command module, it meant literally fitting square pegs in a round hole.

“On the ground, an adapter was fashioned from materials the crew had available in the LEM: cardboard from a checklist, plastic bags and tape.”

It’s the quick thinking like this that gave Apollo 13 its reputation as such a successful learning experience for NASA.

Francis French, of the San Diego Air and Space Museum, spoke to NPR:

“They were ready to think about things that were way outside of their procedures they practiced, to run through checklists, to use their imagination and come up with ways to very calmly work out the best way to bring three people back to Earth alive.”

Jim Lovell says despite its aborted status, the mission still inspired a generation.

“I meet people now in their 50s, even some early 60s, that said “when I was a small kid, I watched you go up into space and this was the reason why I’m now an engineer, or scientist,’” he said. (Video via KMFB)

And while the astronauts aboard Apollo 13 never did set foot on the moon, they set a record of another kind during their slingshot around its dark side: to date, they have gone further from earth than any other human.

This video includes images from NASA and music by Master Class & Blendy Cello / CC BY NC SA 3.0.

<![CDATA[What Happens During Baby Sea Turtles' Lost Years]]> Fri, 10 Apr 2015 17:37:00 -0500
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After baby sea turtles hatch, they crawl up out of the sand and make their way to the ocean. But what happens next was pretty much a big question mark.

"The little dudes are just eggs," said Crush in Disney's "Finding Nemo"We leave them on the beach to hatch, and then coo-coo-ca-choo, they're back in the big old blue."

The time between when the turtles hatch and enter the sea and when they show up again off the coast many years later is known as the "lost years," and scientists were pretty much just guessing what the palm-sized hatchlings were doing with their free time.

But now, researchers at the University of Central Florida's turtle lab have an answer for that question. 

At first the little turtles went to the Gulf Stream, which is what scientists predicted, but then they started to do some unexpected things. They dropped out of the current in the middle of the Atlantic in the Sargasso Sea. Before, scientists guessed they just let the water carry them along.

And when the turtles swam away from the stream, they spent a lot more time at the algae-filled surface of the Sargasso Sea than scientists thought before. The researchers think they may do that to help them grow. (Video via PBS)

The researchers learned all this by sticking special satellite tags on the tiny turtles and studying what they were doing.

So why didn't researchers just put satellites on the turtles earlier? That might have worked for a full-grown loggerhead, but the satellites were too big and the turtles were too small. And they were growing so quickly, the satellite would just peel off after a couple weeks.

But a technology breakthrough led to much a smaller solar-powered tag. And, after a recommendation from a manicurist, the researchers discovered using the glue that holds on acrylic nails as a base coat worked great on the turtle shells, which are made out of keratin just like nails.

"It was actually really, this is women in science. ... It was kind of a keratin connection. ... Marisol of Not Just Nails recommended an acrylic nail fill kit that we tried out, painted on the back of the turtles, and sure enough instead of one to two weeks tag attachment in the lab it lasted upwards of two to three months," said lead researcher Kate Mansfield.

These new findings are especially important because the loggerhead turtles, and many other sea turtle species, are threatened. And it's pretty hard to protect something when you're not even sure where it is.

This video includes music from Chris Zabriskie / CC BY 3.0.

<![CDATA[Skull Shows Signs T. Rex-Like Dinosaur Was Cannibalistic]]> Thu, 09 Apr 2015 15:19:00 -0500
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Life for dinosaurs was dog-eat-dog — literally. Scientists say that an ancient predator similar to tyrannosaurus rex likely ate its own kind.

The findings are based on the skull of a Daspletosaurus, a cousin to the more famous T. Rex. 

What exactly killed the Daspletosaurus is still unknown, but scientists say some of the damage was done after it had died, evidence that it was likely eaten by its own kind.

The lead scientist for the study said, "This animal clearly had a tough life, suffering numerous injuries across the head including some that must have been quite nasty."

Some of the damage to the skull had signs of healing, leading researchers to believe the creature fought with other Daspletosaurus long before it was eventually killed. 

The dinosaur lived roughly 75 million years ago. It's skull was discovered near Alberta, Canada, in 1994. At the time of it's death, it was about 10 years old, measured in at 20 feet long and weighed over a thousand pounds. If it would have reached adulthood, it could have grown to 30 feet in length. 

At that time, Daspletosaurus would have been one of the larger predators in the area. T. Rex didn't arrive until about 10 million years later. 

The idea that some tyrannosaurs might have been cannibalistic isn't new. This is just the oldest case scientists have discovered. As if, the dinosaur wasn't already menacing enough, there is other evidence that T. Rexes fought with and ate others of their kind.

The most recent findings were published Thursday in the journal PeerJ.

This video includes images from Tuomas KoivurinneHone and Tanke / CC BY 4.0FunkMonk / CC BY SA 3.0 and Steveos 86 / CC BY SA 2.5.

<![CDATA[Examining Earth's DNA Supports New Origin Theory For Moon]]> Thu, 09 Apr 2015 14:56:00 -0500
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We don't know exactly how the moon started orbiting our planet.

The "giant impact" hypothesis has been a prevailing theory since the 1970s: It's thought some stellar body, about a tenth of the weight of Earth, rammed into the forming planet and knocked enough debris free to form what would eventually become the moon.

The theory held this early impact body would have a different chemical composition than Earth because we've seen the trait in other planets and planet-like masses in the solar system.

But a new study from researchers in Israel and France suggests the impact body was very similar, materials-wise, to Earth. Author Hagai Perets spoke to Nature:

"We see that other objects in the solar system have different composition from the Earth. So we should expect the moon, also, to have very different composition, which is exactly opposite what we see. They are almost identical."

A writer at says it's not totally unreasonable. The composition of protoplanets depended in large part on where they orbited in the solar system.

"The scientists found that as each planet assembled, the last protoplanet to collide with it probably shared a similar orbit. Thus, protoplanets that share similar birthplaces can also share a similar composition."

And this ties conveniently into other recent research. Two new investigations into moon rocks in the U.S. and Germany detail the "late veneer" hypothesis,

which states after the impact that formed the moon, both it and Earth collected a layer of additional material in the form of meteorite impacts. The greater mass and gravity of Earth suggests it should have a larger collection, which it does.

But analysis from both of those studies shows Earth and the moon were chemically similar before gathering their meteorite layers, a finding that both challenges older models of Lunar formation and lends support to the newest version.

All three studies are published in the journal Nature.

This video includes images from NASA and music by Thomas Prime / CC BY NC SA 3.0.

<![CDATA[Sabra Recalls Hummus After Tests Find Listeria Bacteria]]> Thu, 09 Apr 2015 12:22:00 -0500
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Sabra foods is recalling certain varieties of its packaged hummus after samples tested positive for traces of listeria. The recall affects certain packagings of its classic flavor, some 30,000 cases total.

Listeria can cause high fever, headaches, and nausea in healthy people and can be fatal to infants or the very old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pregnant women are especially at risk; an infection can lead to miscarriage and stillbirth.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, there have been no reported illnesses or deaths tied to the hummus recall so far.

This is the second Listeria recall in recent headlines. In an unrelated case, Blue Bell Creameries is recalling a number of its prepackaged ice cream products after they first tested positive for the bacteria in March. (Video via CBS)

That recall has expanded several times since, and Blue Bell has suspended operations at a plant in Oklahoma to address the issue.

More information on the Sabra recall is available via the FDA. It's listing the UPCs for the specific varieties affected on its website.

This video includes images from Tanya Patrice / CC BY NC SA 2.0linda sellers / CC BY NC ND 2.0 and Yael Beeri / CC BY-NC 2.0.

<![CDATA[Venomous Toads Poisoning Florida Pets Is A Man-Made Problem]]> Thu, 09 Apr 2015 11:12:00 -0500
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WFTS anchor Laura Harris warned: "Seriously, an SOS, warning call right now for any pet owners out there: the bufo season, right now." 

That urgent warning is one Florida residents get around this time every year — about a toad.

The cane toad — Rhinella marina — is a species of toad originally found in South America up through Southern Texas. (Video via Al Jazeera)

It's become an invasive species in Florida, the Caribbean and Australia, thanks to human intervention. (Video via BBC)

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the toad was introduced to try to preserve sugar cane crops around the world, with producers hoping it would eat pests. (Video via This Week in Louisiana Agriculture)

While it failed spectacularly to control pests in almost every place it was introduced, in some environments, it succeeded in killing off indigenous species. (Video via Discovery)

In Florida, it's killed off pets. Dogs and cats can ingest the venom from eating or playing with the toads, and it can often be fatal. 

A veterinarian told WFTS, "It doesn't take very much of this toxin to cause the arrythmias and the seizure activity."

Authorities advise residents to keep pets on leashes and keep their food indoors. (Video via National Geographic)

<![CDATA[NASA's Claim We'll Find Alien Life Isn't Out Of This World]]> Wed, 08 Apr 2015 07:49:00 -0500
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Dr. Ellen Stofan said"I'm gonna say I think we're going to have strong indications of life beyond earth within a decade and I think we're going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years."

That's the line, from a NASA panel discussion Tuesday, that's grabbing all the headlines. An ambitious prediction from NASA's chief scientist Ellen Stofan that we're on the brink of discovering extra-terrestrial life. 

And if local news anchors are anything to go off, people think that's a pretty outrageous claim. 

"Researchers say recent discoveries suggest solar system and milky way galaxy can support life as we know it... mmm," said a KNSD anchor

KENS's Stacia Wilson said, "I don't know what else to say..." 

"We're not alone, get ready," warned anchor Mat Garcia.

"I wonder if this is like, another movie in the making," added anchor Jenny Suniga

A WPIX anchor said"So a NASA scientist has come out and said, 'yes we will come into contact with an alien life form within the next 10 to 20 years..."

Again, to clarify, Stofan predicted, "strong indications of life beyond earth within a decade and I think we're going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years."

From NASA's perspective, there are a lot of important advancements that are going to happen in those 20 to 30 years that make it not so outrageous. 

For one, NASA's Kepler Mission, which has discovered more than 1,000 exoplanets — planets outside our solar system — keeps turning up potentially habitable ones. (Video via NASA)

And recent research suggests there are billions of those exoplanets that could support liquid water in our Milky Way galaxy alone

Liquid water is arguably the most important factor when it comes to supporting life, as we know it anyway, and it's got scientists looking even closer to home — Jupiter's moon Europa. (Video via NASA)

NASA is planning a mission to Europa, which is thought to house an enormous sub-surface ocean. A spacecraft will fly by the moon and take measurements using radar and other equipment. If funded, that mission would launch in the 2020s. 

That funding is key — and capturing the public's imagination would be a big boost when it comes to getting it. So it's not surprising that Tuesday's discussion ended with this invitation from Dr. Stofan.

"Don't just listen to us, don't just read about it. Come help us discover whether there's life in the solar system and beyond," Stofan said. 

<![CDATA[The Brontosaurus Is Back, But For Some, It Never Left]]> Tue, 07 Apr 2015 14:44:00 -0500
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The story of the brontosaurus is long and confusing, but it may finally be getting some clarification. 

If you've ever been scoffed at or condescendingly corrected for saying brontosaurus, today is your day. Scientists are bringing the bronto back into the fold. 

For a long time, brontosaurus was thought to be a misnomer, a name its discoverer O.C. Marsh applied to bones that really belonged to apatosaurus, which Marsh had named two years earlier in 1877.

This man, paleontologist Elmer Riggs, presented evidence in 1903 the so-called brontosaurus bones bore an overwhelming resemblance to apatosaurus, and from that point on, the two were considered one and the same. 

But that scientific distinction didn't really puncture the popular culture, and the brontosaurus lived on through movies, music and stamps. (Video via Universal Pictures / 'The Flintstones')

But the new research, hundreds of pages of it, exhaustively analyzed specimens of diplodocidae — the group to which apatosaur belongs — and determined brontosaurus was in fact its own genus. 

There's a reason the public at large didn't really seem to care whether the dinosaur in question was a brontosaur or an apatosaur.

Establishing what an animal's species or genus is falls under the purview of taxonomy, which kind of faces a double threat when it comes to attracting public interest. (Video via CSIRO)

For one, it's kind of a dry science. The Latin names and lack of pictures have long kept it largely in the purview of scientists. (Video via Crash Course)

And, like all science, it's fluid. Animals' classification can change according to a number of factors like genetic evidence or new discoveries. (Video via Curtin University)

As paleontologist Stephen Brusatte explains"Naming things is more art than science. There is no machine or experiment that can tell you whether two things are different enough to be called different."

But whatever the designation bronto or apatosaur, Brusatte probably sums it up best: "This dinosaur by any other name, or any name indeed, would still be just as fascinating."

This video includes images from Charles R. Knight, The Field Museum Libraryw:en:Levin Corbin Handy, Karen Horton / CC BY NC 2.0, and tadekk / CC BY 2.0.

<![CDATA[Researchers Track Effectiveness Of Diet Plans]]> Tue, 07 Apr 2015 12:10:00 -0500
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There are plenty of weight loss programs out there to choose from. 

"You can lose weight simply with Jenny Craig." 

"Order your 28-day NutriSystem plan right now." 

"With Atkins, now you can."

But there's not always a lot of reputable evidence as to which ones may work the best. 

A new study published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine aimed to do just that and figure out what weight loss programs truly accomplish their goal of getting you to lose weight.

The researchers said there are some 4,200 studies involving commercial diet programs, but the Johns Hopkins University-led study focused on just 45 of them that follow science's gold standard of randomly assigning or not assigning someone a weight loss program and tracking their progress over time.

Three of the U.S.' most popular diets saw positive results over time in comparison to education and counseling — which was the control group. Weight Watchers participants lost about 8 pounds on average, or 2.6 percent more than the control group over a 12-month span. The Jenny Craig program boasted even better results with an average of 15 pounds, or 4.9 percent more than the control over the same time. Those using NutriSystem also achieved results with 3.8 percent greater weight loss over a three-month span. 

Positive results for those programs are huge, too, since those three alone control more than 70 percent of the $2.5 billion weight loss service market. 

While, on average, the weight loss numbers aren't huge, doctors say losing a few pounds and keeping it off can have big health benefits.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports those who lose weight gradually have a better chance of keeping it off and, while they may still be overweight or obese, the decreases in weight can improve blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugars.

The researchers also pointed to the Affordable Care Act for making counseling and screenings more readily available for those who want it.

Researchers tested other diet plans aside from those main three, including Slimfast, Atkins, very low-calorie programs and others.

This video includes images from bark / CC BY 2.0 and chrisphoto / CC BY NC ND 2.0.

<![CDATA[India's Latest Pollution Plan Won't Clear The Air]]> Mon, 06 Apr 2015 12:51:00 -0500
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Air pollution contributed to 620,000 deaths in India in 2010. (Video via YouTube / Fabio Campo)

Last year, the World Health Organization ranked New Delhi as the most polluted city in the world. 

Part of the problem may lie in the government's response, or lack thereof. (Video via DD National)

On Monday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the creation of a national air-quality index to monitor pollution in 10 cities. 

Which sounds like progress. But in the announcement, Modi also denied India was one of the world's leading polluters and pointed to the country's low per-capita carbon emissions as proof. (Video via CBS)

That's despite the fact that The World Bank ranked India as the third biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in 2010, contributing more than 2 billion tons. 

Denying India's a leading polluter is par for the course when it comes to Modi's government. Officials also rejected that WHO report saying Delhi was the most polluted city in the world. (Video via Press TV)

And critics have called government action to combat pollution so far as ineffectual. 

For example, last year the government's National Green Tribunal banned cars 15 years or older from Delhi, something activists say missed the heart of the problem. (Video via NDTV)

"Average age of personal vehicles in Delhi is about 4 to 7 years ... So even if you get rid of them, I don't see that that's going to have a massive impact on air quality," Anumita Roychowdhury told Al Jazeera.

Cars are one of the leading contributors to air pollution in Delhi, and as the country prospers economically, the number of people driving them goes up. (Video via YouTube / soundspirit1's channel)

"Since I moved to Delhi, my breathing problem has gotten worse. I find it difficult to move around. The air is really filthy, and my asthma has aggravated and I feel worse," one man told the Financial Times

But the problems posed by increasing development go beyond exhaust emissions: Construction work contributes to emissions and industrial development has led to deforestation.

Mongabay estimates India has lost some 10.7 million acres of forest over the past 20 years, and when you consider that one acre of forest can sequester thousands of pounds of carbon, that's a big loss. (Video via TERI)

Nevertheless, Indian broadcaster IBN reports there's no plan to take action, regardless of what the new air quality index says. Instead, in his address Monday, Modi asked Indians to forgo using electric devices once a week.

This video includes an image from Onewhohelps / CC BY 2.0 and music from Kevin MacLeod / CC BY 3.0.

<![CDATA[The Large Hadron Collider Is Up And Running Again]]> Sun, 05 Apr 2015 08:23:00 -0500
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The Large Hadron Collider is back online.

CERN engineers restarted the particle accelerator Sunday, feeding beams of electrons into the collider for the first time since 2013.

"Since then, engineers have been upgrading the world's most powerful particle accelerator. It's able to operate at twice the energy as it was before," said the BBC's Pallab Ghosh.

Professor Tara Shears told the BBC the LHC's "run two" is entering new territory for science:

"With run one and the discovery of the Higgs, we've discovered everything that our existing theory predicts."

That theory is the standard model, or what scientists sometimes call "the theory of almost everything." It describes almost all the interactions of almost all known subatomic particles, electromagnetism, and weak and strong nuclear forces.

The Higgs Boson was the last piece of the puzzle of the Standard Model, and CERN researchers figured it out in 2012. So … now what?

Scientists there are especially interested in supersymmetry, or the theory that each of the elementary particles of the standard model has a yet-to-be-identified partner particle.

If such particles exist, they could help explain things such as dark matter or where the universe gets its mass. (Video via Deutsche Welle)

The beams won't be accelerated to collision velocities until June, at which point researchers will be recording more than a gigabyte of data per second in case elusive new particles show up.

A spokesman for CERN said: "If something interesting appears in this new window we will see it. It might be two months from now or two years; we're not able to say."

This video includes images from Getty Images, Amber Case / CC BY NC 2.0 and Luigi Selmi / CC BY 2.0. Music by Birocratic / CC BY 3.0.

<![CDATA[April's Pre-Easter 'Blood Moon': Bring Out The Conspiracies]]> Sat, 04 Apr 2015 05:40:00 -0500
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For the third time in two years, stargazers and apocalyptic doomsayers Saturday are getting their fill of unique celestial events with a total lunar eclipse. (Via NASA)

Lunar eclipses happen about twice a year when the moon passes directly behind the Earth into its shadow, or umbra. Total lunar eclipses, or "blood moons" are a little more rare. (Video via Óscar Díaz Olivares / CC BY NC SA 2.0)

But what's up with the creepy red glow that gives the lunar event its nickname? 

Well, the red color is actually not unlike a sunset, but from the moon's perspective. NASA describes it as "seeing every sunrise and every sunset in the world, all of them, all at once." And that red glow from behind the Earth gets projected onto the moon. 

This total lunar eclipse is the third in a series of four appearing every six months, a phenomenon called a "tetrad" – something not particularly rare for this century according to NASA.

While a total lunar eclipse is an interesting sight for stargazing hobbyists, for others the oncoming blood moon and tetrad brings something else – tidings of doom. 

CTV News writes that "conspiracy websites draw parallels between lunar eclipses and historical events, like the fall of Constantinople and the founding of the State of Israel," and that the last blood moon outside this current tetrad occurred when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004. So hey, maybe they'll have a shot this year. 

​But perhaps the biggest proponent for any conspiracy concerning the upcoming blood moons is Pastor John Hagee, who released a book titled Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change in 2013. (Via The Christian Broadcasting Network)

In a 2013 interview with Fox News, Hagee emphasized the significance that each blood moon will occur during a Jewish holiday. 

"To have a blood moon, and then for those blood moons to be on this exact date, is something that just is beyond coincidental." 

And with all four blood moons being viewable from the U.S., Hagee claims that as further proof they are signs of our impending doom. Right.

As Think Progress notes, Hagee has caused some controversy before when in 2008 he suggested a connection between God's wrath towards a gay pride rally planned for New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina.

The last of the four blood moons in this tetrad will be viewable later this year on Sept. 28.

This video includes images from Getty Images, Daniel Rodriguez / CC BY 2.0 and Dr Michael D Evans / CC BY NC ND 2.0.

<![CDATA[Why TV Binging Might Increase Diabetes Risk]]> Fri, 03 Apr 2015 14:59:00 -0500
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This sounds obvious, but if you’re at all worried about developing diabetes you might want to spend less time in front of the TV.

That’s according to newly published research from the University of Pittsburgh.

Reviewing a federally funded diabetes study published in 2002, the research team found each hour per day spent in front the old boob tube upped participants’ risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 3.4 percent.

Now, it should be noted that all of the around 3,200 participants in that original study were pre-diabetic and overweight — meaning their odds of developing full-blown diabetes were already slightly higher.

And the original study was carried out between 1996 and 1999 — well before the Netflixes, Amazon Primes and HBO Gos of the world came around.

So the couch might have slightly more draw these days than it did back then.  

Quoted by NDTV, one of the authors of the new study said, "With streaming TV, you can watch a program continuously; instead of watching just half an hour [one] day a week, you can watch a whole season in a day, so we expect to see increases in sitting to continue."

Despite the TV-diabetes connection, the researchers in the new study couldn’t determine a cause and effect relationship between diabetes and TV.

Which, makes sense because it’s not really the TV that’s the problem — it’s what you’re doing while you’re watching TV.

As the president of healthcare and education for the American Diabetes Association explained to HealthDay, "I know when I'm sitting around watching TV, I'm more likely to graze and eat crappy food. … When's the last time you measured out a portion size of potato chips and ate it in front of the television?"

The original study was designed to examine the effects of diabetes drugs and lifestyle changes on the development of Type 2 diabetes. It found exercise and healthy eating worked best.

This video includes images from / CC BY 2.0, sriram bala / CC BY NC 2.0, Al Ibrahim / CC BY SA 2.0, Corie Howell / CC BY NC ND 2.0, Jill Brown / CC BY 2.0, Tomas Hellberg / CC BY 2.0.

<![CDATA[France Could Ban Underweight Models From Runway]]> Fri, 03 Apr 2015 09:49:00 -0500
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French lawmakers have taken a monumental step toward addressing a dangerous and popular characteristic in the fashion industry — weight, or lack thereof. This week, the lower house of France's parliament approved a law that will ban modeling agencies from hiring underweight models. 

The law doesn't just target extremely thin models but also bans "pro-anorexia" websites and there are tons of them out there encouraging women to lose weight. Using so-called "thinspiration," some outlets claim the sites promote the development of eating disorders. 

France's health minister explained that the bill "is an important message to young women, young women who see these models as an aesthetic ideal."

This is especially true in France where, according to the neurologist who wrote the bill, “between 30,000 and 40,000 people,” mostly teens, suffer from an eating disorder.  

Isabelle Caro was one of those women. Living with anorexia for most her her life, the model advocated against the disease until her death in 2010. 

The logistics of the bill are pretty stiff. 

BBC reports, "Very thin models would be required to prove that they have a minimum body mass index or BMI of 18. They do that through a medical certificate and then they'd be subjected to periodic weigh-ins." 

Agency officials found violating the guidelines could be subject to a fine of more than $80,000 and six months in jail. 

Other countries like Spain, Italy and Israel have also enforced laws to counteract the glorification of extremely thin physiques in the fashion industry. (Video via ITN)

According to CNN, "Israel even has strict rules on how model's bodies are photoshopped. Any changes must be clearly marked on the photo. But France would be the biggest industry to throw its weight behind these rules." 

The passing of France's bill comes after a proposal for similar regulations in the county was shot down in 2008. The bill now goes to the French senate for consideration.

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Critically Endangered Red Wolf Faces A Catch-22]]> Thu, 02 Apr 2015 14:02:00 -0500
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This is a coywolf — a coyote-wolf hybrid that has developed in North America. 

They happen when coyotes breed with any of three types of wolf: the grey wolf, the eastern wolf and the red wolf. (Video via PBS)

Coywolves have been reported throughout the eastern United States and southeastern Canada.

In urban areas, the hybrids can pose a threat to small pets. 

"Mississauga animal services believe this is the third time this year coywolves have attacked dogs in the city," CityNews Toronto's Tracy Tong said.

A witness whose dog was killed said, "I tried to get him to drop the dog even after I knew he wasn't alive anymore."

But in the southeastern U.S., the animals are posing an existential threat to a critically endangered species — the red wolf. And humans might be to blame. (Video via Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium)

The red wolf was declared extinct in the wild in 1980 but has since been reintroduced into the wild in North Carolina. (Video via The State)

One man asked, "Who wants to see the red wolf gone from their land, by show of hands?"

Some wolves have been shot. Researchers say when that happens, the wolf's mate sometimes then breeds with a coyote, diluting the species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been trying to sterilize hybrids to preserve true wolves. 

It's not clear if it will get the chance, though. In January, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission recommended the Wildlife Service end the recovery program, citing hybridization. (Video via Western North Carolina Nature Center)

This video includes an image from Mech et al and music from Kevin MacLeod / CC BY 3.0.

<![CDATA[Tracking This Warbler's 'Extraordinary' Transoceanic Flight]]> Wed, 01 Apr 2015 12:51:00 -0500
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This unassuming little bird is a blackpoll warbler.  

If you've ever flown across an ocean, you know how long it can take, and that's flying at some 550 miles per hour in a metal tube. (Video via British Airways)    

The warbler makes a transoceanic flight every autumn with just its two wings to keep it in the air. (Video via Fundacion Conservacion Verde)

Scientists fitted several of the warblers they captured in Vermont and Nova Scotia with little geolocating backpacks and tracked where they went. (Video via SongbirdSOS Productions Inc.)

The warblers flew all the way from the northeastern corner of North America down across the Atlantic to the island of Hispaniola in one go — a journey of 1,500 miles, on average. 

That leg of the trip alone takes three days of nonstop flight for a bird that's just 12 grams — the mass of a AAA battery. 

After that stopover, the researchers tracked the birds' flight to the northern tip of South America, where they spend the winter. (Video via Fundacion Conservacion Verde)

In the spring, their trip back north to breed is a little easier. After flying through Cuba, the warblers fly overland across the Eastern Seaboard. 

The researchers say the warbler's "extraordinary" journey south is rivaled by the slightly larger northern wheatear's overwater flight from the Canadian Arctic to the U.K. — around 2,000 miles. 

This video includes images from Robert Royse and Wil C. Fry / CC BY NC ND 2.0.

<![CDATA[The Universe Could Be Full Of Tatooine Sunsets]]> Mon, 30 Mar 2015 17:46:00 -0500
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In another case of science following science fiction, it's looking more and more like George Lucas got it right when he envisioned a planet with two suns.

Every "Star Wars" fan knows the scene we're talking about: a teenage Luke Skywalker watching dual suns set from his uncle's farm on Tatooine. It's pretty much the most iconic scene in the whole franchise.

Nearly four decades later, astronomers still haven't found a planet quite like Tatooine. But a new study says it's only a matter of time. 

The study has to do with planet formation, the process where dust and gas surrounding a newly formed star clump together into a planet. For years, it's been an open question whether that process could work the same way in binary star systems. 

In 2006, astronomer Alan Boss at the Carnegie Institute showed that the process could work for large gaseous planets like Neptune or Jupiter, and five years later, NASA announced just such a planet had been found. 

Since then, around a dozen other planets have been discovered orbiting binary stars, but all of them are gas giants. 

So what about small, rocky planets like Earth or Tatooine? According to astrophysicists at the University of Utah, they're out there, too, even if we haven't found them yet. 

In a new paper that hasn't yet been peer reviewed, the study's authors say they ran simulation after simulation, and eventually found that "planet formation can proceed in much the same way as around a single star."

In fact, because around half of all star systems have two stars, they say, "Tatooine sunsets may be common after all," including in the habitable zone, the distance from the star where life can flourish.

Part of the reason we might not have found them yet is that small rocky planets are just tougher to find. Luckily, NASA has a new space telescope dedicated to the planet search set for launch in 2017.

This video includes images from NASA and Ben Bromley, University of Utah.

<![CDATA[The Future Of Japanese Whaling: Heritage Vs. Conservation]]> Mon, 30 Mar 2015 14:05:00 -0500
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When Japanese whaling ships returned this weekend after their first nonlethal venture into the Antarctic, Japan's minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries was quick to tell Japan News Network one thing. (Video via Japan News Network)

The country plans to resume whaling. 

The Future of Japanese Whaling 

The International Court of Justice ruled in March of last year that under its then research plan, Japan could not engage in whaling in a region of the Antarctic known as the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. (Video via Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)

That particular area has been a hotbed of conflict, with activist group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society obstructing Japanese whaling ships in whale breeding grounds. (Video via Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)

Japan's plan allowed for as many as 850 minke whales to be taken a year — along with 50 humpback and 50 fin whales — for research. (Video via Tourism and Events Queensland)

So Australia filed a suit in the International Court of Justice in 2010 to stop the whaling in the waters, part of which are just south of its coast. (Video via ABC Australia)

The court decided, among other things, the limited research produced by the government-subsidized research body — two peer reviewed papers from 2005 to 2011 — was not enough to justify the taking of whales in protected waters. (Video via International Court of Justice)

So, in response, Japan has proposed a new plan, lowering its sample of minke whales from 850 to 333 and saying it will abide by the court's decision. 

The meat from the whales Japan takes for research has been largely sold — which is allowed under International Whaling Commission regulations — ostensibly to raise money for further research. 

But researchers, including scientists at the International Whaling Commission, have expressed skepticism about the actual value of killing whales for research, arguing nonlethal methods are just as effective.

In Japan, there is a lot of support for whaling, something Japanese officials have argued is part of the country's heritage. There are records of whaling going back centuries. (Video via NTDTV)

But commercial whaling, which started in Japan in the early 20th century, drove many whale species to the brink of extinction before a moratorium on commercial whaling went into effect in 1986. (Video via New Zealand Maritime Museum)

Japan is currently looking to return to the Southern Ocean by the end of 2015. 

This video includes images from Getty Images and music from Tampa Taiko / CC0 1.0 and Chris Zabriskie / CC BY 4.0.

<![CDATA[New Arthropod Fossil Might Be Relative Of Spiders, Scorpions]]> Sun, 29 Mar 2015 11:24:00 -0500
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Paleontologists have discovered the fossilized remains of a new arthropod.

Yawunik kootenayi was swimming around oceans in Canada in the Cambrian period, 508 million years ago. It's thought to share a common ancestor with today's spiders and scorpions. (Video via the University of Toronto)

The arthropod had four eyes and arms lined with both tiny claws to help it feed and long antennae to sense its surroundings. (Video via the Royal Ontario Museum)

The study's lead author says species today don't have limbs that function like that:

"This dual function is very, very special, because it does not appear in modern forms. If you take insects as an example, they have a very constrained body plan. But the constraints were not the same in Yawunik."

Researchers at the Royal Ontario Museum found the arthropod in the Marble Canyon fossil beds in Canada. Since they discovered the site in 2012, it's produced some of the best-preserved fossils we know of.

"There's reports of perhaps the liver and heart and some of the gut content of some of these creatures has been fossilized, which is very unusual. It's usually just the hard parts: shells, bones," said Stuart Sutherland, a paleontology professor at the University of British Columbia. (Video via CBC)

Researchers have published their findings about this latest discovery in the journal Palaeontology.

This video includes an image from Royal Ontario Museum / Jean–Bernard Caron.

<![CDATA[What NASA Wants To Learn From Its 'Year In Space' Tests]]> Sat, 28 Mar 2015 08:28:00 -0500
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The latest crew for the International Space Station has arrived safely at the orbiting outpost, after a successful launch from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome. (Video via NASA)

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly along with Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka made orbit in less than ten minutes. (Video via NASA)

Both Kelly and Kornienko are set to make history on this trip: they’ll spend a year in space. This is the longest single mission a NASA astronaut has ever undertaken.

It’s not the case for the Russian Federal Space Agency: cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov spent almost 438 days aboard space station Mir back in 1994 and 1995.

NASA is in the unique position of being able to run comparative tests with Scott and his twin brother (and former astronaut) Mark Kelly here on earth. They’re the only siblings to ever have been in space.

And, since they’re identical twins, it’s a chance for NASA to see exactly how long space missions change an astronaut from an Earth-standard baseline, down to the genetic level.

NASA’s biology testing will explore the impacts of long-term space travel on the human body. It will study everything from sleep patterns and eyesight changes based on changes in pressure inside an astronaut’s skull; to immune system changes, microbial changes, and interpersonal relationships between crew members. (Video via NASA)

The idea is to identify and reduce risks of long-term space flight before NASA starts sending astronauts to other planets. A year is a long time to spend in orbit, but a mission to Mars is expected to take almost twice that time with current technology. (Video via NASA)

One NASA breakdown shows getting to Mars will take nine months at a minimum. And then you’re stuck on Mars. You can’t abort back to Earth because the planets won’t be aligned properly. Your rocket just wouldn’t have the fuel. It’s a three-to-four month wait for another alignment, and then another nine months in transit.

NASA’s long-term plans call for manned missions to Mars by the 2030s. Closer to here and now, Kelly and Kornienko will stay aboard the ISS until March 2016.

This video includes images from NASA.

<![CDATA[These Popular Antibiotics Can Cause Permanent Nerve Damage]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 10:49:00 -0500
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"My body seemed to completely slow down. ... It was from my ankle all the way down to the bottom of my feet turned ice cold. But they were burning on the inside," Nancy Garlow said. 

"On day seven I woke up and I was in so much pain everywhere. ... I felt like I was dying," added Dr. Susan Tannenbaum.

Two separate patients who were prescribed a popular class of antibiotic told our partners at WFTS the drug came with severe side effects.

For both women, the family of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones resulted in pain and nerve damage. 

Now here's the thing — in the fall of 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about fluoroquinolones — that they carry a risk of permanent nerve damage. 

"It's probably more common than it is uncommon," said Dr. Charles Bennett. 

Levofloxacin, which is marketed under the brand name Levaquin in the U.S. and Tavanic in the EU, is often prescribed for pneumonia, urinary tract infections and infections of the abdomen. 

According to Forbes, there have been 45,000 reported cases of side effects related to fluoroquinolones. 23.1 million patients filled prescriptions for oral flouroquinolones in 2011. 

Fluoroquinolones in general have also been associated with cardiovascular, endocrine and renal symptoms. 

Though the National Institutes of Health says severe side effects are generally rare and that the benefits can outweigh the risks. 

Bottom line: Most drugs carry a risk, but if you've been prescribed an oral or injected fluoroquinolone and you're concerned about side effects, be sure to talk to your doctor about switching. In the meantime, there are petitions filed with the FDA for more aggressive warnings about Levaquin and other fluoroquinolones. 

This video includes images courtesy of Reubot and Marina Vladivostok.

<![CDATA[Antarctic Ice Is Melting Faster Than Ever]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 10:13:00 -0500
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Antarctica is melting faster than ever.

This from a study by the California-based Scripps Institute of Oceanography, which found the floating ice shelves that make up large portions of the Antarctic coastline could lose half their volume in the next 200 years.

Researchers compiled 18 years of satellite data from three different European Space Agency missions, making this one of the most comprehensive looks yet at Antarctica’s thinning ice.

The study shows over the first nine years, Antarctica’s ice shelves saw an average of 5.99 cubic miles of loss a year. In the second nine; 74.3 cubic miles a year: a rate of loss more than 12 times faster than before.

Glaciers typically replenish mass lost to melting with snow that falls inland and is eventually compressed into new ice. But these days the melting is outpacing the new snowfall, indicating something is out of balance. (Video via National Geographic)

Since the shelves are already floating, they wouldn’t contribute to increased sea levels. But these shelves act like giant bookends for some of Antarctica’s largest glaciers. And if those melt, we’d notice. (Video via NASA)

“Some of those ice shelves are holding back, say, between 1m to 3m of sea level rise in the grounded ice. And that means that ultimately that ice will be delivered into the oceans,” co-author Helen Amanda Fricker told the BBC.

The news is not much better for Antarctic ice anywhere else. Earlier this month new research showed warmer water is pushing its way under the eastern Antarctic coast and thinning out glaciers there. (Video via ABC Australia)

And last year NASA researchers found a similar scenario has sent glaciers on the western coast into what they characterize as an “unstoppable” decline.

The Scripps team has published its most recent findings in the journal Science.

This video includes images from NASA and Davepape and music by Lee Rosevere / CC BY NC 4.0.

<![CDATA[Why So Many People Think NASA's Asteroid Mission Is A Waste]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 23:11:00 -0500
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On Wednesday, NASA announced new details of its Asteroid Retrieval Mission, or ARM. The plan involves capturing part of an asteroid, towing it closer to Earth and sending astronauts to study it up close by the mid-2020s. But here's the thing: a lot of people really, really hate this plan. 

To grasp why, we need to go back to the mission's origins: a speech given by President Obama in April, 2010, when his administration was considering canceling a Bush-era program to return humans to the moon. 

"I understand that some believe that we should attempt a return to the surface of the Moon first, as previously planned. But I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We’ve been there before," President Obama said.

Instead, the president called for a manned mission to an asteroid as a stepping stone to Mars. 

That idea was pretty well received at the time. Asteroids are scientifically important to study, and sending humans out to meet one presented a bold new set to challenges. (Video via NASA)

But when Sen. Bill Nelson announced NASA's plan in 2013, it had been significantly scaled down. (Video via C-SPAN)

Now, instead of flying out to meet an asteroid, the asteroid would be retrieved by a robot and placed in orbit around the moon, making it a much easier target. (Video via NASA)

The new plan didn't match Obama's 2010 rhetoric. In that same speech, he portrayed the asteroid mission as a deep space mission. 

"By 2025, we expect new spacecraft designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first-ever crewed missions beyond the Moon into deep space. ... We’ll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history," President Obama said.

The less-inspiring mission has been slammed by members of Congress, like Texas Republican representative John Culberson, who called it a waste of taxpayer funds. His fellow Texas rep Lamar Smith feels the same. 

"The administration continues to push this mission on NASA without any connection to a larger exploration roadmap." (Video via C-SPAN)

And the opposition isn't just political. What's interesting here is that scientific organizations — including one of NASA's own advisory groups — have started questioning the mission's merits. 

One group said of the ARM mission, "Its benefits for advancing the knowledge of asteroids and furthering planetary defense strategies are limited and not compelling."

An MIT researcher involved in that report called the whole mission a "distraction," telling Nature it would make more sense to carry out a large-scale asteroid survey to find better targets. 

"It's pointless to go and retrieve an asteroid when we can wait for one to come to us," Richard Binzel said. 

The National Research Council argued that ARM wouldn't help get humans to Mars, either, and recommended NASA go back to the moon instead. 

Even Buzz Aldrin has spoken out against the idea several times. 

"I sure do not think bringing a rock back is better than taking what the president said, human mission to an asteroid, 2025," Aldrin said.

It's actually kind of hard to find anyone cheering the project on outside of NASA itself. In fact, it's become downright popular to trash it. 

Probably the biggest organization in the pro-ARM camp is The Planetary Society, headed by Bill Nye — and even that group questions the mission's costs. 

So will ARM ever actually get off the ground? Congressional Republicans aren't keen on the idea and currently control the purse strings, and even the earliest timetable puts the first launch well into the next president's first term. (Video via NASA)

But if the mission is called off, there's currently nothing to replace it. NASA is developing its Orion spacecraft and its Space Launch System rocket to carry humans into deep space, but aside from ARM, there are no missions in the works for them to actually take astronauts anywhere. 

So even if ARM isn't the mission everyone wants, politicians might be loath to condemn the U.S. to another decade without human spaceflight.

This video includes images from Sunlight Foundation / CC BY NC SA 2.0 and The National Academy of Sciences / CC BY NC SA 2.0 and music by Podington Bear / CC BY NC 3.0 and Lee Rosevere / CC BY NC 4.0.

<![CDATA[What's Different About This Latest Ebola Vaccine]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 22:12:00 -0500
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A new whole virus Ebola vaccine has passed its latest test — it has been shown to effectively protect monkeys exposed to the virus.

There's been a lot of news since the outbreak in West Africa about various Ebola vaccines, but here's what's different about this one.

This vaccine, called a "whole virus vaccine," lets the immune system practice against an inactivated version of the Ebola virus. The University of Wisconsin-Madison professor who led the study says this vaccine "affords excellent protection" and is "very safe."

So far, other Ebola vaccines being tested only used pieces of the virus, or used other viruses that are engineered to express Ebola protein, although those vaccines have also created immune responses in early trials. 

"In order for one to be infected by Ebola, it has to be the entire ebola virus. ... But what has happened is that a little piece of that Ebola has been inserted here. It is inactive and it cannot cause an infection," Ebola scientist Dr. Stephen Kennedy said.

Using the whole virus vaccine could be more effective, according to the researchers. They say it is more likely to trigger a broader and more robust immune response.

Whole virus vaccines are already used to prevent diseases like polio, influenza, hepatitis and HPV.

This one was created using an experimental method: researchers removed the gene in the virus that allows it to reproduce in host cells, which meant it was safe for researchers to work with the virus.

Human trials for some of the other vaccines have already begun in Ebola-stricken countries like Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone

Human trials for this newer vaccine are the next step, but UW-Madison researchers point out that might not happen for a while because they are very expensive, costing millions of dollars. 

Details on the vaccine were published Thursday in the journal Science.

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

<![CDATA[Richard III Saga Ends With Burial And An Eye Roll]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 11:51:00 -0500
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After more than 500 years, Richard III, who was buried in an unmarked grave following his death at Battle of Bosworth Field, finally got a stately funeral Thursday.

Richard was laid to rest in Leicester Cathedral with 700 people there to see him buried, including Prince Edward's wife — the Countess of Wessex — and a celebrity. (Video via BBC)

Benedict Cumberbatch, who was found to be a distant relative of King Richard, read a poem written by British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy. (Video via Channel 4)

And even the queen gave her approval with a message in the funeral's order of service

The funeral wasn't without controversy — historian John Ashdown-Hill visibly rolled his eyes when the University of Leicester was given the bulk of the credit for the discovery. (Video via Channel 4)

Ashdown-Hill claims on his site the discovery could've happened much earlier if the university had responded to his proposal in 2009 to excavate at the site where Richard was ultimately found.

On Sunday, the former king's remains, accompanied by a military escort, were taken through notable landmarks from his reign, including the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field where he died. (Video via ODN)

Richard's descendants, who attended the funeral Thursday, laid white roses — a symbol of his royal house of York — on his casket, which his 17th great-grandnephew crafted. (Video via The University of Leicester)

Those descendants played a crucial role in identifying Richard's remains, which were excavated from a parking lot in Leicester by university researchers in 2012. (Video via The University of Leicester)

By tracking the lineage of the former king's sister, researchers were able to test the DNA of two descendants against those of the remains. In February of 2013, the researchers announced they had a match. (Video via The University of Leicester)

Since then, experts have worked to reconstruct the king's face and conducted an exhaustive examination of his remains to determine details about his death. 

A visitor center for Richard III has also been established near where he was discovered.

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

<![CDATA[HIV Outbreak Prompts Public Health Emergency In Indiana]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 09:53:00 -0500
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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence declared a public health emergency in southern Indiana Thursday and outlined his plan to combat the worst HIV outbreak the state has ever seen. (Video via WRTV)

"At this point, all 79 of the confirmed cases are traced to Scott County. We think it's what the experts call a 'cluster,'" Pence said. (Video via WRTV)

Health officials say Scott County's HIV problem is due to widespread intravenous drug use. With 79 confirmed cases, the state health department is calling it an epidemic.

"That's why they and others want a needle distribution and collection program. The primary objective: lower legal barriers to providing needles." (Video via WISH)

The Indianapolis Star reports such a measure is currently illegal under state law, but Gov. Pence says emergent times call for emergent measures.

"I do not support needle exchanges as anti-drug policy, but this is a public health emergency. I'm going to make a decision on the best science and the best way to stop this virus and this outbreak in its tracks."

In the meantime, doctors in Indiana are trying to contact as many as 100 more people thought to be associated with a number of the current HIV cases. They expect the number of confirmed cases to rise as a result. (Video via WRTV)

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[NASA Gives New Details On Upcoming Manned Asteroid Mission]]> Wed, 25 Mar 2015 17:03:00 -0500
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NASA announced new details Wednesday in its mission to send humans to an asteroid.

The agency says its Asteroid Redirect Mission is set to begin in 2020, with the phase involving astronauts scheduled to follow five to six years later. 

NASA is touting the mission as a test of its capabilities, setting it up as a stepping stone on the way to a manned Mars mission. It's a goal President Obama has been pushing for years. 

"We are setting a course with specific and achievable milestones. ... We’ll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history," Obama said in 2010

In its final form, the plan sounds more like bringing an asteroid to the astronauts. Phase one will send a robot to snag an asteroid and haul it back closer to Earth, and phase two is the manned mission to fly out and study it. (Video via NASA)

Until Wednesday, we weren't sure what the robotic phase would look like. One plan involved essentially wrapping a smaller asteroid up in a big container and towing it closer to Earth. 

The other plan involved sending a spacecraft to retrieve a boulder from the surface of a larger asteroid using a giant arm. That's the idea NASA ultimately decided to pursue. 

We already have a good idea what the human phase of the mission will look like, though. The agency tested its Orion spacecraft late last year, demonstrating that it can carry humans farther from Earth than ever before, including to a nearby asteroid.

This video includes images from NASA.

<![CDATA[Opportunity's Marathon: The Mars Rover Just Keeps Going]]> Tue, 24 Mar 2015 22:20:00 -0500
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It might've taken 11 years, but NASA's Opportunity finally finished a marathon Tuesday — making the Mars rover the slowest (and the only) manmade machine to do 26.2 miles on another planet. (Video via NASA)

Opportunity was already the distance champion of off-earth vehicles after it beat the 25-mile record of the former Soviet Union's Lunokhod 2 moon rover last year.

Which is pretty impressive, considering it was never meant to be a marathon runner: Opportunity was originally launched in 2004 on a three-month mission. (Video via NASA)

"We went into this, honestly, with big ambitions. We went in this to try to transform our understanding of Mars, and that's hard to do in 90 days. But turns out if you have 10 years you can come pretty close," said Steve Squyres, Mars Exploration Rovers Principal Investigator.

Opportunity's twin rover, Spirit, didn't quite make it as far as Opportunity, but it also shattered every expectation. Spirit drove 4.8 miles, more than 12 times the goal for its mission, before becoming stuck in 2009. It last communicated with Earth five years ago this month. (Video via NASA)

Over the past 26 miles, Opportunity has made a lot of discoveries that it beamed back Earthbound scientists. It found signs that Mars may have been habitable for millions of years, including signs the planet once hosted a watery environment. 

To celebrate Opportunity's accomplishment, NASA's rover team at its Jet Propulsion Laboratory is going to run a marathon-length relay at the lab next week. Hopefully it won't take them 11 years to complete it. (Video via NASA)

<![CDATA[Scientists Urge Museums To Cut Ties With David Koch]]> Tue, 24 Mar 2015 19:46:00 -0500
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More than three dozen members of the scientific community launched a campaign urging museums of science and natural history to cut ties that would damage those museums' reputations. (Video via Smithsonian Institution

The scientists' first target: David Koch of Koch Industries, who sits on the boards of directors at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History and the American Museum of Natural History. 

Koch has donated to the Smithsonian museum, whose official position is that humans have contributed to climate change.

"We, as human beings, are having a very unique impact on these natural systems over and above what nature does. We are changing factors that affect the climate at a very rapid pace," said G. Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.  

But the scientists in the letter call Koch out for also donating millions to organizations that deny climate change.

In an open letter to museums, several scientists write that the integrity of these institutions could be damaged because of contradictions between the missions of museums and their sources of funding. 

This letter comes after major climate change skeptic Wei-Hock Soon was outed for having accepted more than $1 million from the fossil fuel industry. Soon never disclosed those connections in many of his scientific papers on global warming. (Video via Greenpeace

But it's not clear whether the letter will affect museums' decisions, and some scientists even say it shouldn't. Chris Norris, a scientist at Yale University and museum blogger, says museums could also be seen as violating the public trust by removing board members and denying donations because of politics.

"If (museums) shift our position from education to outright advocacy, then we risk damaging that trust. ... Museums are not responsible for campaigning to protect the natural world; they are responsible for generating and supporting the science that underpins those efforts," Norris wrote. (Video via Yale University

A Smithsonian spokesman said the museum has no plans to remove Koch from its board of directors. However, the group that organized this most recent campaign plans to present petitions to the museums Koch is part of during spring board meetings.

This video includes images from Getty Images and music from Revolution Void / CC BY NC 3.0.

<![CDATA[Many Don't Know They Have Alzheimer's, But Their Doctors Do]]> Tue, 24 Mar 2015 17:01:00 -0500
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"One disease, millions of lives disrupted."

Alzheimer's disease is one of the most devastating diagnoses to hear. But does that mean patients should be kept in the dark about whether or not they have it? (Video via Alzheimer's Association)

According to a new study by the Alzheimer's Association, that's the case for more than half of people who have the degenerative brain disease.

The association studied Medicare data from 2008 to 2010 for more than 16,000 patients. Researchers analyzed that data to see who received Alzheimer's-specific treatment and whether those patients said they knew they had the disease. Fewer than half reported being given a diagnosis by their doctors. 

The report says doctors who don't disclose the diagnosis to their patients are primarily worried about the same thing: causing emotional distress. Ironically, these same doctors are aware of the benefits that come with a truthful diagnosis.

Alzheimer's Association researcher Keith Fargo told Time"What struck us was that physicians generally understand the positive benefits of disclosing the diagnosis, and agree with those benefits."

This trend among doctors — treating patients but not disclosing the diagnosis — is apparently not a new one. 

Today, the disclosure rate among doctors for the four most common cancers is at 90 percent, but according to the new report, that percentage was "disturbingly low" back in the '50s and '60s. (Video via YouTube / BioDigital)

The full report also details the latest facts and figures surrounding Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. It's the only cause of death in the top 10 that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed; and one in every three seniors develops the condition before they die. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Giant Triassic Salamander Acted More Like A Crocodile]]> Tue, 24 Mar 2015 09:30:00 -0500
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Most modern-day salamanders are miniscule with a large portion of the hundreds of different species measuring less than 8 inches.  

There are some exceptions, like the Japanese giant salamander, which can reach lengths of 5 feet. (Video via National Geographic)

But even the Japanese giant would have been dwarfed by Metoposaurus, a genus of ancient amphibians that could grow to be as much as twice the size of today's biggest salamander.

Researchers recently discovered a new species of Metoposaur — M. algarvensis — in the Algarve region of southern Portugal on the Atlantic coast.

To get an idea of how imposing the 200 million-year-old giant predator would've been, just listen to this description from lead researcher Steve Brusatte. (Video via American Museum of Natural History)

He said it "looks like something out of a bad monster movie. It was as long as a small car and had hundreds of sharp teeth in its big flat head, which kind of looks like a toilet seat when the jaws snap shut."

All right, so the toilet seat bit isn't super intimidating, but nonetheless, the amphibian would've filled a crocodile-like niche and could've preyed on dinosaurs that strayed to close to the water. (Video via BBC)

While Metoposaurs have been found all over the globe, this represents the first species found in the Iberian Peninsula, and it joins two other European species. 

The researchers believe the fossils they've discovered could be part of a mass grave that developed when the lake the animals lived in dried up — something which wouldn't be uncharacteristic, as paleontologist Larry Rinehart explains. 

"They are often found in large deposits, which leads us to believe that they were gregarious for some reason: feeding or breeding, or not quite sure what, but we have some clues," Rinehart said. (Video via New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

The paper notes similar sites have been found in Africa and North America. Metoposaur is thought to have died out in the late Triassic. 

This video includes images by Octavio Mateus, Marc Boulay, Cossima Productions and Daniel Oines / CC BY 2.0 and music by Matt Lloyd / CC BY 3.0.

<![CDATA[Tests Find Colorado Weed More Potent, Less Medicinal]]> Mon, 23 Mar 2015 15:02:00 -0500
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Apparently, when pot becomes legal, it gets more potent. Tests of Colorado's legal marijuana have revealed the product is more potent than ever before but also contains some contaminants.

Charas Scientific tested more than 600 samples of Colorado's recreational marijuana. The lab found high levels of THC, the psychoactive compound that produces the high sensation.

In the past, marijuana bought at street level typically had THC levels below 10 percent. The retail strains in Colorado had an average level of 18.7 percent, and some even went as high as 30 percent. 

A spokesman for the research company said the potency doesn't present any health risks when smoking but that it would be easy to over-consume edibles since the effects aren't as immediate as with smoking. (Video via KMGH)

The lab also found some fungus and chemical butane present in the samples. But researchers aren't sure the levels they found would pose health concerns. 

What is concerning is the lack of cannabidiol, or CBD, the compound found in marijuana believed to have medicinal properties.

Some believe CBD can help with depression, anxiety, pain and seizures. (Video via KMGH)

Charas was testing recreational strains, not medicinal ones, so this isn't too surprising. However, a spokesman for the company noted "there is a decent number of people buying retail marijuana who want some medicinal value."

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Scientists Add Woolly Mammoth DNA To Elephant Cells]]> Mon, 23 Mar 2015 10:02:00 -0500
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The woolly mammoth has been extinct for some 4,000 years

But now researchers are attempting to bring it back to life. A team at Harvard University has successfully inserted woolly mammoth DNA into the genetic code of an elephant. 

The project was led by Harvard genetics professor George Church. He told The Sunday Times, "We prioritized genes associated with cold resistance including hairiness, ear size, subcutaneous fat and, especially, hemoglobin." 

Church has spoken about this type of genetic splicing in elephants before.

"We would propose to make a hybrid elephant that has the best features of modern elephants and the best features of mammoths."

The Asian elephant is the closest relative to mammoths, although the size of mammoths was similar to that of the larger African elephant.

Church's project isn't without its critics, though. 

Some scientists are against using elephants to potentially bring back the woolly mammoths. Professor Alex Greenwood told The Telegraph"Why bring back another elephantid from extinction when we cannot even keep the ones that are not extinct around? What is the message? We can be as irresponsible with the environment as we want. Then we'll just clone things back?"

The Harvard-led project has not yet been submitted to a journal because the research is ongoing. 

This video includes images from Getty Images and Tracy O / CC BY SA 2.0.

<![CDATA[Packing Peanuts Could Be Key To Faster-Charging Batteries]]> Mon, 23 Mar 2015 07:44:00 -0500
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Next time you get a big, heavy package in the mail, you may want to keep those packing peanuts around. 

Two Purdue University scientists have now found a way to convert those packing peanuts into fast, rechargeable batteries. By simply baking the packing peanuts at 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit, researchers reduced them to carbon microsheets. 

"These carbonaceous materials, as they're called, have a very large surface area. That means they can store more lithium ion material, creating a higher capacity, faster charging battery. The team's materials actually outperformed current commercial batteries," a video for the American Chemical Society says. 

Currently, the anodes of lithium-ion batteries are created from graphite. This new process though could change that. 

Lead researcher Vilas Pol says he got the idea when he was setting up a new lab and all the new equipment came with packing peanuts. Only about 10 percent of packing peanuts made in the U.S. are recycled every year. 

Most packing peanuts are made of polystyrene foam, known more commonly as Styrofoam. While they're extremely helpful in protecting packages, they can stick around in landfills for more than a century after being thrown away. 

There are biodegradable packing peanuts, but packaging company Heritage Pioneer points out they're usually heavier, increasing shipping costs. They can also be pricier to produce. 

Now, the researchers hope to scale up their process — something a writer for Engadget says is a very doable. 

"It won't be at all shocking if you can one day buy a quick-charging phone and send the packing foam back to help make more phones, rather than throwing it in the trash." 

The researchers are presenting their findings at the American Chemical Society conference in Denver this week. 

This video contains images from ian munroe / CC BY 2.0, Adafruit Industries / CC BY NC SA 2.0,  Erik Sagen / CC BY NC ND 2.0, Alan / CC BY ND 2.0Tamra / CC BY NC ND 2.0

<![CDATA[A Quick 45-Minute Nap Can Improve Your Memory]]> Mon, 23 Mar 2015 06:37:00 -0500
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Trying to cram in a bunch of information for a test you have tomorrow? How about you take a nap instead?

A new study out of Germany found a nap of 45 minutes to an hour long actually improves a person's memory. 

Researchers had 41 participants learn 90 different words and 120 word pairs that made no sense when put together. Then, half the participants took a nap, while the other half watched a DVD. 

Afterwards, all the participants were tested on what they'd learned. Those who'd taken a nap did quite a bit better recalling the information — like five times better.

The exact part of the brain the researchers were looking at was the hippocampus, where short-term memories are converted into long-term ones. 

Tech Times reports the researchers used EEG readings to study bursts of brain activity during sleep known as sleep spindles. They realized the more sleep spindles one had on their reading, the stronger their memory was when tested later. 

What's interesting is that a 45 minutes to an hour nap is pretty long, at least according to the National Sleep Foundation.

It recommends a quick nap, just 20 to 30 minutes long, to boost alertness and performance. 

But WebMD boasts the benefits of a longer nap on its website, saying a 30-minute to an hour-long nap helps with making decisions, while an even longer nap, up to 90 minutes, is useful for solving creative problems. 

To learn more about the German researchers' findings on naps and memory, read about it in the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory online. 

This video contains Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Top 3 Weather Records Set This Winter]]> Sat, 21 Mar 2015 15:54:00 -0500
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It's finally spring! Sunshine, rain and allergy season are upon us. And we thought there was no better way to celebrate than to look back on some of the weather records that were broken this past winter. 

First up, we've got to talk about Boston. Poor Boston. 

As of March 15, more than 108 inches of snow had fallen in the Boston area, making it the snowiest winter the city's seen since 1872, the first year official records were kept. (Video via MSNBC)

The previous record was set in the 1995-1996 winter when the city got 107.6 inches of snow.

In February of this year alone, USA Today reports nearly 65 inches of snow fell on Boston. 

Of course, the snow didn't come cheap. WBZ-TV says the city's mayor estimates it'll cost about $50 million for trucks to remove all the snow. The city had only budgeted for $18 million. 

But despite all that snow, this past winter was actually Earth's warmest on record. 

That's according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which reported the average global temperature for this past winter was about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the average winter temperature for the 20th century, which was nearly 54 degrees Fahrenheit.

Last month also ranked as the second-warmest February on record. In the continental U.S., this past winter was the 19th-warmest we've experienced. 

Back in January, NASA and NOAA announced the year 2014 was actually the hottest since records began in 1880.

And finally, maybe one of the most bizarre records set this winter happened in Italy.

Back on March 5, almost 101 inches of snow reportedly fell on the town of Capracotta, Italy, in just 18 hours. (Video via Telemolise)

Now, we don't know yet if this is a world record because tracking snowfalls isn't really easy. 

A World Meteorological Organization expert told The Washington Post"Even making snowfall measurements too often can affect the total snowfall value as snow compression is a critical factor in snowfall measurement."  

The most snow that's ever fallen in one 24-hour period in the U.S. was way back in 1921, when 75.8 inches fell in Silver Lake, Colorado.

This video includes images from Getty Images and music from Kevin MacLeod / CC BY 3.0.

<![CDATA[Europe's Solar Grids Survive Solar Eclipse]]> Fri, 20 Mar 2015 22:24:00 -0500
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Europe's solar eclipse has come and gone, and the lights are still on across the region, despite many dire warnings.

Europe has been one of the strongest adopters of solar energy — the region relies on solar for about 3% of its energy annually. And on sunny days in Germany, solar power makes up as much as 40% of the country's energy supply.

And, Europe shares its energy on the same grid. That means changes affect the entire region.

So, the idea of that power source dimming for a few hours during a peak time Friday and then surging up after posed a challenge for European energy suppliers.

The eclipse did have an effect, but, luckily, it didn't really do any damage.

This is what two normal days of solar energy look like in Germany. As you can see, the output rises during the day and goes down to zero at night.

Now, here's how the energy output looked on Friday. As you can see, the eclipse caused solar output to dip down and then quickly spike up.

According to Deutsche Welle, German engineers coordinated across the country and ramped up fossil fuel plants at just the right time to offset the eclipse.

Italy, on the other hand, decided to play it safe. The country relies on solar for about 8% of its energy annually. For the eclipse it proactively shut down 25% of its solar energy and set aside reserves of gas and hydroelectric energy.

Still, Bloomberg reports the eclipse led to a pretty big fluctuation in the price of power in Europe. During the darkest 15 minutes of the eclipse, the price for a megawatt-hour ranged from 950 euros, to negative 130 euros — that negative number means producers were paid not to put any power on the grid.

So it seems after this real time experiment of how solar energy works during an eclipse, countries who use the panels can breathe a sigh of relief.

Which is good news for China, which has led the world in solar installations for the past two years. The country is expecting a solar eclipse in March of 2016.

And the U.S. can also learn from how Europe handled the eclipse. We're expected to see our next eclipse in August of 2017.

<![CDATA[Unemployment Might Triple Young Americans' Depression Rate]]> Fri, 20 Mar 2015 15:26:00 -0500
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We all know being unemployed can cause an increase in stress, but new data says it can also have a profound effect on mental health in younger people.

The research, stemming from a 2010 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey, found that unemployed Americans aged 18-25 were more than three times as likely to be depressed as their working counterparts.

According to the study, "The high rate of unemployment among emerging adults is a public health problem. ... The association between poor health outcomes, including mental health, and unemployment warrants attention from individuals, families, and policy makers."

To reach their findings, Emory University researchers looked at eight questions regarding anxiety and depression from that CDC survey.

They found that nearly 23 percent of young Americans were unemployed and almost 12 percent were depressed.

They placed some of the blame for depression amongst the jobless on "uncertainty related to the transition to adulthood and changes in social relationships and support structures." (Video via KNSD)

But they also found not everyone within the 18-25 age group showed the same risk for mental health issues.

For example, women — and interestingly, those without health insurance and smokers — only showed about two times the likelihood of depression compared to their employed peers.

What the data doesn't show is which came first — the depression or the unemployment. It can be a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation.

As the Los Angeles Times explains, "Research like this is tricky, since depression can be both a cause and a consequence of unemployment. Complicating matters further, there are things that can make people depressed and make it more difficult for them to find steady work, such as having a disability."

The data was gathered from 12 states as part of the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The study was published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

This video includes images from Mike Hoff / CC BY NC 2.0, United Nations Developmental Program in Europe and CIS / CC BY NC SA 2.0, Ryan Melaugh / CC BY 2.0, Sascha Kohlmann / CC BY SA 2.0, Roman Pavyluk / CC BY 2.0 and Phanlinn Ooi / CC BY 2.0.

<![CDATA[Your Next Guinness Might Come With A Nutrition Label]]> Fri, 20 Mar 2015 11:05:00 -0500
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"It might surprise you to know that a 12-ounce serving of Guinness has only 124 calories. A great way to go lighter is to go darker," says a Guinness commercial

Be surprised no more, Guinness drinkers! Diageo, the company that owns Guinness as well as Johnnie Walker, Ketel One, Baileys and a host of other beers, wines and spirits, will put nutrition labels on its beverages.

So next time you pick up some, say, Smirnoff at the store, you might see one of these on the bottle.

Diageo touts the voluntary move as "a first done by any alcohol company." (Video via Guinness)

The reason for the change, Diageo's CEO Ivan Menezes says, is to "help reduce the misuse of alcohol — a goal shared by regulators, consumer organizations, health professionals and alcohol companies alike." (Video via Bloomberg)

Diageo has already received approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in the U.S., which The Wall Street Journal says means the labels will likely start appearing in the next few months.

Europe might take a bit longer for approval. Diageo says it wants to label its drinks with per-serving information, but European Union regulations require distributors to label per 100mL. That, according to Diageo, is misleading.

There's also the fact the E.U. covers 28 member states, so it could take some time to establish a standard throughout all of them.

But this wouldn't be the first push for nutritional information on booze in the E.U. Last October, the London-based Royal Society for Public Health called for just that.

The European Commission ruled on new food regulations within the E.U. in December of last year but did not require mandatory nutritional information on alcoholic beverages.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Norwegian Sea Gets Glimpse Of Rare Total Solar Eclipse]]> Fri, 20 Mar 2015 08:04:00 -0500
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Some Europeans got the lucky chance to see a rare total solar eclipse Friday morning. 

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes in front of the sun and hides it completely. 

Now not everyone in Europe got the chance to see this rare phenomenon. Those living in the Faroe Islands and Svalbard, both located in the Norwegian Sea, were the only places able to see the sun 100 percent covered by the moon. (Video via The Telegraph)

While total solar eclipses occur about once every year, they're not visible in all parts of the world each time. So CNN reported about 3,000 tourists were expected to descend upon the Faroe Islands to watch this year's eclipse.

An astronomer who traveled to Svalbard to watch the eclipse wrote in to The New York Times before it happened saying, "The weather forecasts for Svalbard mainly show 'partly cloudy,' which is what we hoped for — since it is almost never COMPLETELY clear."

According to the BBC, different portions of England got to see anywhere between 83 to 90 percent of a total solar eclipse, while those living in Scotland saw between 95 to 98 percent of one. 

Apparently, though, the best place to watch the eclipse take place would have been at the North Pole.

Because of its location, National Geographic says the North Pole only experiences one sunrise and one sunset annually. The sunrise for this year just so happened to coincide with the eclipse. 

So as the Slooh Community Observatory explained, tourists got to "see an extraordinary sight: an eclipsed Sun just emerging above the horizon for the first time in six months."

The next total solar eclipse will happen about a year from now in March and will only be visible to several islands in Indonesia. 

<![CDATA[South LA Fast Food Ban Backfires]]> Thu, 19 Mar 2015 16:02:00 -0500
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Turns out a 2008 law banning new fast food restaurants in South Los Angeles hasn't worked out as planned. In fact, it did the exact opposite of what it was meant to do.

KNBC reports"The idea was to improve public health, but a new study says it didn't work. ... Before the law, 63 percent of South L.A. residents reported being over weight or obese. That number jumped to 75 percent." 

According to the lead author in the study, which was conducted by the RAND Corporation, "This should not come as a surprise: Most food outlets in the area are small food stores or small restaurants with limited seating that are not affected by the policy."

The law only restricted stand-alone restaurants, so for instance, fast food restaurants could still open in strip malls. And they did. According to the study, 17 new fast food restaurants opened in the area from 2008 to 2012. 

"Fast food consumption actually went up in South L.A.," reports Fox News

But the Los Angeles Times talked to Gwendolyn Flynn, policy director for nutrition resources at Community Health Councils, who said she disagrees that the regulation was ineffective: 

"Flynn said she has noticed that at community meetings in South L.A., there is often fruit and water among the pastries and soda. 'That's huge,' she said."

And the RAND study did find that consumption of soft drinks decreased across Los Angeles since the law was implemented.

But as both critics and proponents of the ban note, time will tell whether the policy makes a difference in the long run — time and a change of lifestyle. 

KTTV anchors discussed the news, saying, "People choose unhealthier options because they taste better."

"And convenience." 

"I just think it shows the folly of good intentions being applied very badly. ... You can close a number of restaurants but you have to change how people live and they have to change themselves." 

With about 700,000 residents living in the South Los Angeles area, the ban was the first time a big city has successfully implemented such a law in an effort to increase public health.

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

<![CDATA[Obese Women At Greater Risk For Diabetes After Pregnancy]]> Thu, 19 Mar 2015 14:56:00 -0500
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Obese women who develop diabetes during pregnancy and continue to gain weight after giving birth are 43 times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes

Pregnant women sometimes develop gestational diabetes, but it often disappears after giving birth. 

However, researchers discovered that obese women who develop the condition and gain 11 pounds or more after pregnancy have a much greater chance of developing Type 2 diabetes. 

More than 1,700 women who had developed gestational diabetes between 1991 and 2001 took part in the study. 

The study's lead researcher said, "Our findings show the importance of maintaining a healthy body weight both before and after pregnancy."

No matter what a woman's prepregnancy weight was, her risk of developing Type 2 diabetes increased by 27 percent for each 11 pounds gained after having gestational diabetes. (Video via CBS)

Another recent study has shown that nearly half of all women who become pregnant gain too much weight during pregnancy. A person's body weight is known to be a contributing factor for Type 2 diabetes. 

But diabetes doesn't pop up overnight. Doctors say it could take as long as 15 years for the condition to fully develop. (Video via U.K. National Health Service)

Researchers say their findings provide a strong link between gestational diabetes and weight gain, leading to the long-term form of the disease. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Mars One Boots Astrophysicist As Skepticism Builds]]> Thu, 19 Mar 2015 14:11:00 -0500
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From the outset, the Mars One project has been ambitious. (Video via Mars One)

And as with all ambitious projects, the effort to colonize Mars with a private company within the next 20 years has attracted skepticism.

Nevertheless, the project has attracted interest from some prominent figures, including people who have worked with NASA in the past. 

But now one of those people, Dr. Joseph Roche of Trinity College Dublin, is off the project. (Video via RTE)

Roche, unlike many of the project's 100 final candidates, has a pedigree: a PhD in astrophysics and time spent as a research assistant at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. (Video via TED)

So why would Mars One get rid of him? Well, mainly because of this column he wrote for The Guardian.

In it, he writes, "I think that the shortcomings of the selection process, coupled with their unwillingness to engage and collaborate with the scientific community, means that the time might have come for Mars One to acknowledge the implausibility of this particular venture."

In his column, Roche cites a paper put together by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which cast doubt on the viability of Mars One's plan.

In that paper, the researchers found Mars One's plans to use resources from the ground — oxygen and hydrogen — to make water, were unrealistic. They forecasted without those resources, the first crew member would die 68 days into the mission. (Video via Mars One)

Mars One's CEO Bas Lansdorp disagreed with those conclusions, although Popular Science reports he was not willing to share his own company's data with the researchers. (Video via Bitkom)

Roche is not the first scientist involved in the project to question its practicality. Dutch Nobel laureate and Mars One Ambassador Gerard 't Hooft said last month the company's timeline is unrealistic. (Video via University of Southampton)

For their part, other Mars One finalists have spoken out in defense of the project and emphasized the mission is still in its earliest stages. (Video via Youtube / Martian Colonist)

Mars One aims to start training its future colonists full time by the end of 2015. (Video via NASA)

<![CDATA[Oxytocin Is Why Dogs Are Man's Best Friend]]> Thu, 19 Mar 2015 10:41:00 -0500
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We know them as man's best friend. And how could we not? Just look at that adorable face.

Well, a new study is saying the reason dogs are man's best friend is because of a hormone called oxytocin.

It's produced in the brain and is why mothers and newborn babies always seem to have that special connection right from the start. 

In fact, a writer for Red Orbit reports both dogs and people produce more oxytocin when they're cuddling together for just three minutes. (Video via CBS)

So researchers in Australia wanted to look at how dogs behaved after having their hormone levels increased. They took 62 dogs and gave half of them a nasal spray full of the hormone and a placebo to the other half.

After waiting 45 minutes, the dogs were then put through a series of tests in order to find a hidden treat. The researchers discovered the dogs given the oxytocin outperformed those given the placebo. This outcome remained the same when the same dogs were tested again 15 days later.

The lead researcher told ABC Australia, "This told us that oxytocin is definitely involved in a dog's ability to use human cues."

"Dogs do read their owners' every move. ... With my dogs, they know when I don't feel well, they read your facial expressions. They're so in tune to their human parents," the owner of a doggie daycare, Tania Isenstein, told ABC.

This study is building upon previous research that's looked into the role oxytocin plays in a dog.

The Australian researchers think their findings reveal more about how wolves evolved into domesticated dogs. Next, they want to try the same study on wolves.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[MAVEN Spots Unexplained Dust In The Martian Atmosphere]]> Thu, 19 Mar 2015 08:21:00 -0500
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Breaking space news: there’s dust on Mars.

Unexplained dust, anyway. Researchers have detected a cloud of dust floating between 93 and 190 miles high in the Martian atmosphere, using sensors aboard the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft, or MAVEN.

The dust has been there since MAVEN arrived in orbit in September of last year, and scientists aren’t sure where it came from. (Video via NASA)

It could have been kicked up from the surface, obviously, or it could have come from the martian moons Phobos or Deimos, or from passing comets.

We’ve seen comets make close flybys before: Siding Spring made it within 87,000 miles of Mars last year. That comet itself couldn’t have caused the dust, though since the cloud was present in the atmosphere before its pass. (Video via NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Scientists are considering external dust delivery because they don’t know of any processes on Mars itself that would trigger a dust cloud in that location.

"If the dust originates from the atmosphere, this suggests we are missing some fundamental process in the Martian atmosphere," researcher Laila Andersson said.

If an unexplained cloud of dust isn’t intriguing enough, MAVEN has also detected ultraviolet aurora in Mars’ atmosphere, as it interacts with charged particles in the solar wind.

They’re spread out across the whole Northern Hemisphere, instead of focusing themselves around specific magnetic features the way those on Earth do. (Video via NASA)

That could be because Mars doesn’t have a strong magnetic field like Earth does, meaning electrons from the solar wind hit the atmosphere itself. (Video via NASA)

While these findings might be unexplained for now, they’re part of what MAVEN was designed to do: the satellite is part of the Mars Exploration Program, which, between three orbiters and two rovers, is designed to survey and explain the climate on Mars.

And MAVEN will have time to keep searching for answers: its primary mission is expected to last for another eight months.

This video includes images from NASA / ESA and the University of Colorado and music from the United States Air Force Band.

<![CDATA[Why Is The Amazon Absorbing Less Carbon?]]> Wed, 18 Mar 2015 21:08:00 -0500
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TOS: Earth's Lungs Are Breathing Less

The Amazon rainforest is the largest rainforest in the world. It makes up more than half of all rainforest on the planet and has been called the Earth's lungs — filtering out carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

But a new study found the Amazon isn't eating up anywhere near as much CO2 as it used to. (Video via CCTV)

The study, published in Nature on Wednesday, found that in 1990 the Amazon was absorbing two billion tons of carbon dioxide every year. Now it eats up about half of that. 

And now for the first time, fossil fuel emissions in South America are higher than what the trees can consume.

So what's behind the slowdown in our planet's filter?

According to the researchers, the rainforest is absorbing less emissions because the trees are dying younger than they used to.

The lead author of the study said, "Tree mortality rates have increased by more than a third since the mid-1980s, and this is affecting the Amazon’s capacity to store carbon."

But when it comes to why the trees are dying earlier, the researchers aren't so straightforward.

Part of the reason could be that at first, the increase in carbon dioxide from humans made the trees grow faster, which ultimately sped up their entire life cycle. Live fast, die young, right?

The researchers also suggest droughts and recent high temperatures could be playing a role in the shorter tree life spans.

A report from NASA last year found that an area twice the size of California had been suffering from a "megadrought" since 2005.

And the new study didn't look at areas of the Amazon that had been hit by deforestation. In the past 40 years, 20% of the Amazon has been cut down, according to National Geographic.

But still, the main takeaway from this new study is that we can't count on the Amazon to clean up our air as much as we thought we could.

<![CDATA[New Research Predicts Billions Of Livable Milky Way Planets]]> Wed, 18 Mar 2015 15:16:00 -0500
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The search for habitable planets may have just taken a big step forward. (Video via NASA)

New research indicates most stars in the Milky Way have between one and three planets in the so-called habitable zone. (Video via NASA)

That's the range of distances from the star where it is cold enough that water doesn't evaporate but not so cold that it freezes — also known as the Goldilocks zone.

It's a hard number to guess, but scientists estimate there are hundreds of billions of stars in the galaxy. So if each one has a couple planets in the habitable zone, that greatly ups our chances of finding life or a place we can live.

But so far, NASA's Kepler Mission, which uses a space observatory to look for planets, has turned up a relatively small number of planets in the habitable zone.

The problem, the scientists argue, is our perspective is limited. Because of different orbital sequences, or the axes of different planets, we can't necessarily see all or even most of the exoplanets out there. 

So to figure out just how many of those planets we might be missing out on, the researchers turned to some very old math.

Specifically something called the Titius-Bode law, thought up by these two guys named Johann, back in the 18th century.

That law used some pretty complicated math, based on the spacing between planets, to correctly predict the location of Uranus and the dwarf planet Ceres. (Video via NASA)

While the law failed to correctly predict Neptune's location, it can be used to establish where planets might be missing in a system. (Video via National Geographic)

The researchers have identified some priority planets for Kepler to look for that could help confirm their theory. 

This video includes an image from ESO/S. Brunier / CC BY 4.0.

<![CDATA[Breast-Feeding Could Influence IQ, Schooling And Income]]> Wed, 18 Mar 2015 14:24:00 -0500
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Get ready to get fired up, moms. We're about to talk breast-feeding.

A new study out of Brazil shows breast-feeding provided a litany of benefits later in life, not just in childhood.

The study is set to be the focus of The Lancet Global Health's April cover and found breast-feeding infants led to increased intelligence, more schooling and a higher income as adults.

The study found children who breast-fed for at least a year grew up to gain an extra four points on their IQ and earned an income a third higher than those who were given breast milk for less than a month.

Lead researchers say not only did their study look at long-term affects of breast-feeding instead of simply childhood, but also the population they studied had similar breast-feeding rates at all economic levels. A mother living in poverty was just as likely to breast-feed her baby as a wealthy mother.

These findings will be provocative, to say the least. Breast-feeding seems to bring out the staunchest of supporters and those who defend their right to give their child whatever they see fit.

Breast-feeding isn't an option for many women for physical or work-related reasons, and a University of California, San Francisco researcher told NPR the stigma behind the decision to use formula is real. (Video via Aleph Pictures / "BREASTMILK")

"What I hear from some of my mothers is that if they are giving their babies a bottle in Starbucks or on the bus, they feel like people are giving them dirty looks or saying they should be breast-feeding," Dr. Valerie Flaherman said.

The positive findings were also associated with babies who had total or predominant breast-feeding as their source of nutrition, not partial feedings. Again, that led critics to point out there are a lot of factors besides breast milk at play there.

"So if you're able to feed your baby full-time for 12 months, it means you're probably not going to work," psychologist Sandy Rea told 9 News. "What I'm alluding to here is there's an environmental aspect, that you are very hands on."

Now, there's little doubt breastfeeding helps a child's health, especially in developing countries. Last year, UNICEF found breastfed children were 14 times more likely to survive the first six months of life.

But when it comes to something as complex as IQ later in life, the research is less than definitive. Another study published last year found little difference in health and intelligence between siblings who were breast-fed versus bottle-fed.

The study focused on nearly 3,500 people born in 1982. They were given IQ tests at the age of 30, and the study controlled for 10 variables from family income to their mothers' ages when the participants were born.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Northern Lights Not Quite As 'Northern' As They Used To Be]]> Wed, 18 Mar 2015 10:10:00 -0500
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The northern lights moved south last night on the back of a big solar storm. 

And if the volume of YouTube videos posted overnight is anything to go off — people noticed. 

The lights were spotted in areas of the U.K. that don't usually see them, including Northern Ireland, northern England and Wales. (Video via BBC)

They were also visible in some northern states in the U.S. including North Dakota, where Joshua Eckl captured this stunning time lapse video

To better understand why the lights were seen so far south, we have to first look at what causes the aurora in the first place. 

It starts with the sun, which regularly emits tons of energized particles. Some of those particles end up entering the Earth's magnetic fields where the magnetic field lines dip toward Earth: the poles. They then energize elements in the atmosphere, like nitrogen and oxygen, causing them to give off energy in the form of light. 

The sun gives off big waves of these particles during events called coronal mass ejections, two of which happened earlier this week and eventually combined. (Video via NASA)

That volume of particles means the aurora gets pushed farther from the poles, providing the light show for people who normally miss out. 

And that means it wasn't just the northern lights that moved south: The southern lights — the aurora australis — moved north, filling the sky over New Zealand with pink and violet light. (Video via TVNZ)

The strength of the solar storm — the strongest since 2013 — could also disrupt GPS and harm radio communications. (Video via U.S. Air Force)

<![CDATA[The U.S. Is The Costliest Place To Live With Type 2 Diabetes]]> Tue, 17 Mar 2015 14:23:00 -0500
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387 million people in the world have diabetes, with the most common form being Type 2. 

And a new study that looked at the global economic impact of the disease discovered the most expensive place to live with Type 2 diabetes is actually the U.S. 

After looking at a compilation of data from more than 100 different studies, researchers in the U.K. determined Americans with the disease pay an average of about $283,000 in health care costs.

The American Diabetes Association reports that as of 2012, 9.3 percent of Americans have some form of diabetes. Of those, about 28 percent have gone undiagnosed.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when people's bodies can't produce enough insulin to maintain average glucose levels or when their bodies actually resist insulin's effects. (Video via WebMD)

According to the National Diabetes Statistics Report, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014, the estimated cost for both types of diabetes in the U.S. is $245 billion. Most of that — $176 billion — was from average medical costs while the other $69 billion came from indirect costs like the inability to work.

That's compared with the U.K., whose Cost of Diabetes report released the same year reported about $14.5 billion of estimated medical costs to cover 3.8 million Brits living with diabetes.

Researchers also discovered the disease hits American women harder financially than American men.

Medical News Today reports women in the U.S. with Type 2 diabetes have a 50 percent lower chance of gaining employment or keeping their jobs compared with men. Women also lose $21,392 in income yearly, making it the "highest annual income loss worldwide."

Despite the U.S. being the most expensive place to have diabetes, the study found the disease is more devastating for people living in poorer countries.

The study's lead researcher said in a press release, "In high income countries the burden often affects government or public health insurance budgets while in poorer countries a large part of the burden falls on the person with diabetes and their family due to a very limited health insurance coverage."

This is problematic because two-thirds of the diabetes cases now being diagnosed are from countries with lower incomes like Mexico, India and Egypt. 

And the number of people with diabetes worldwide is expected to jump to 592 million people by the year 2035.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Drinking Diet Soda Could Make Your Waist Bigger]]> Tue, 17 Mar 2015 12:56:00 -0500
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A new study suggests you might not want to take that "diet" label on certain sodas too seriously because it's all going to your waistline, especially if you're older.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found an increased intake of diet soda led to an increased mid-section, too.

We were being nice by saying "increased mid-section." Metro just came right out and said it. The diet drinks make you ... the dreaded "F" word: Fat. 

Researchers looked at data from 749 adults over the age of 65. Over the course of a decade, those who drank diet soda ended up with larger waists — literally, more than double an increase in size than those who didn't drink diet soda.

And the waist-specific focus is important. A bigger waist size has been linked to an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes. 

But really, you shouldn't panic too much. Diet soda drinkers' waist circumferences typically grew about two centimeters over the nearly 10-year period. That's miniscule. (Video via Coca-Cola Co.)

As HealthDay points out, while the study did find an association between diet soda and wider waists, it wasn't "designed to prove whether drinking diet soda directly caused weight gain around the middle."

Regardless, The Huffington Post says good ol' sugary soda isn't any nicer to your waist.

"For whatever it's worth, plenty of previous studies have had no trouble linking sugar-sweetened sodas with weight gain."

And the American Beverage Association, which represents producers of soft drinks, unsurprisingly had something to say about this study, too. It said in a statement: 

"It's important to recognize that this observational study looked at an aging population -- those over 65 at the beginning of the study, who are already at risk of weight gain and cardiovascular disease -- and then made conclusions based on associations."

But zero calories doesn't mean zero weight gain. Sharon Fowler, one of the study's authors, says it could be that artificial sweeteners disrupt the way the body processes sugar and make people more hungry, which in turn leads to weight gain.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Nail Biting Could Be A Sign Of Perfectionism]]> Tue, 17 Mar 2015 10:47:00 -0500
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Many of us bite our nails, right? Even celebrities do it.

According to researchers in Quebec, what may be seen as a nervous tick, may actually be what perfectionists do when they're bored.

They studied 48 people during four different sessions created to cause stress, frustration, boredom or relaxation in the participants. Half of the participants suffered from some sort of body-focused repetitive behavior like nail biting, picking at split ends or skin. 

Researchers say the participants who engaged in these repetitive behaviors were more likely to do so when they were frustrated, bored or stressed, as opposed to when they were relaxed.

In a press release, the lead researcher said this led his team to believe these may be signs of a perfectionist: "They are therefore prone to frustration, impatience and dissatisfaction when they do not reach their goals. They also experience greater levels of boredom."

This discovery falls into place with what is already known about perfectionism. According to a stress management expert on, perfectionists are high achievers who get frustrated or beat themselves up when their goals aren't met.

This doesn't mean nailing biting is good for you, though. 

The Mayo Clinic reports it can harm your teeth as well as cause germs to spread from your fingers to your mouth, increasing your chances of developing a cold or other infections. 

But there's hope for those who engage in these repetitive behaviors. 

A writer for Bustle says this study "indicates that we might have learned these were societally acceptable reactions to certain feelings and developed small addictions to them."

And the researchers concluded in their study, which was published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, that nail biters and hair pullers would benefit from finding ways to reduce their perfectionist tendencies. 

Or, you know, own it.

Because if Kate Middleton can do it, maybe there's hope for the rest of us.

This video contains images from Getty Images, CileSuns92 / CC BY ND 2.0kiwinky / CC BY NC ND 2.0 and Freddie Pena / CC BY NC 2.0

<![CDATA[Investigators Identify Remains Of Legendary Writer Cervantes]]> Tue, 17 Mar 2015 09:12:00 -0500
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Applause greeted the announcement that investigators had found the remains of one of the most influential writers of all time, Miguel de Cervantes. (Video via RTVE)

Cervantes, best known for writing what many consider the first modern novel in "Don Quixote," died in 1616 and was buried in a church in central Madrid. (Video via Al Jazeera)

Investigators started looking for Cervantes in January by examining remains buried at the church, at first using cameras to look through the crypts in search of characteristic features. (Video via ODN)

The writer had a few of those, including multiple wounds from the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, which left him without the use of his left hand.    

It's on that evidence that one of the lead investigators on the project announced Tuesday the remains matched. (Video via Telemadrid)

But now that the writers' bones have been found, the question remains: What to do with them? 

Some Spanish writers have criticized the effort to find the bones as a spectacle, and a pointless one at that — just identifying Cervantes for the sake of proving it could be done. 

But others have pointed to the attention the investigation has drawn to Cervantes and his works as an example of its worth.

Cervantes died just a day before his English contemporary William Shakespeare. Although the discovery of one of Shakespeare's literary subjects, Richard III, sparked international media furor, it's unlikely Shakespeare himself will be dug up any time soon. (Video via The University of Leicester)

The epitaph on his grave curses anyone who disturbs it.

This video includes images from david_jones / CC BY 2.0 and AlcalaNow / CC BY NC ND 2.0.

<![CDATA[Why The White House Wants To Track Imported Fish]]> Mon, 16 Mar 2015 14:28:00 -0500
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The Obama administration announced a sweeping new set of regulations Sunday, involving dozens of federal agencies, with global implications. (Video via The White House

The target? Illegal fishing and seafood fraud. (Video via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Those are the two main goals of the 40-page action plan: collaborating across agencies to monitor illegal fishing and tracing the origin of imported fish to combat seafood fraud.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated — IUU — fishing is the official designation that covers everything from fishing without the correct license to fishing for protected species. (Video via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

The administration says IUU fishing costs the industry between $10 billion and $23 billion each year. (Video via U.S. Coast Guard)

The action plan essentially lays the groundwork for collaboration between agencies.

For example, NOAA and the Department of State would work together to implement U.N. recommendations on port regulations — with NOAA presumably covering the domestic side and the State Department working internationally. 

It's kind of like the Avengers, just instead of superheroes like Iron Man or Thor, you have the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of the Interior. (Video via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / "The Avengers")

The measures would include requiring the regional governments of some international fishing grounds to pursue — among other things — monitoring fishing through satellite tracking, technology developed in part by Pew. (Video via The Economist)

The action plan would also use the Trans Pacific Partnership — another major item on the administration's agenda to further its goal: requiring member states to renounce subsidies that encourage overfishing. (Video via The White House)

While United Nations estimates rank the U.S. as one of the top fishing nations in the world, we still import around 90 percent of our seafood, and that brings us to the administration's next target. (Video via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Seafood fraud — mislabeling one seafood product as something else. 

Beyond the obvious problems this causes, like suppliers overcharging for subpar fish, it can also be dangerous. 

Oceana's Dr. Kimberly Warner explained, "84 percent of the white tuna was actually escolar, which is something that can cause acute and serious digestive effects if you eat more than just a couple of ounces."   

Studies by conservation advocacy group Oceana have found that common seafood items are regularly misrepresented, posing a problem for local fish vendors.  

"Ultimately the consumer suffers and the fishermen," a man told WPDE.

So the administration's solution is ambitious: Track the fish, so by the time it reaches the U.S., the authorities have more information about it. 

The plan would involve tracking where a fish was harvested, what type of fish it was and who was harvesting it, as well as tracking where it was taken before getting to the port of entry.

But that's going to take a while: Before the administration starts, it has to decide on what species are the most threatened by IUU fishing and fraud, something it hopes to have done by October. 

<![CDATA[Blue Bell Ice Cream Linked To 3 Deaths In Kansas]]> Sun, 15 Mar 2015 12:31:00 -0500
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One of the country’s favorite treats has been linked to three deaths in Kansas. Blue Bell Creameries has issued a recall on several ice cream items that are believed to be at risk for carrying the bacteria listeria.

Five patients, who were already being treated in a Kansas hospital, were infected with listeria, and three of them died shortly afterward.

According to Blue Bell, the potentially affected products came from one machine at the ice cream company’s headquarters in Brenham, Texas. The machine has since been dismantled, and the involved products have been removed from stores and storage. (Video via KTVT)

"This is not on our cups and pints and half gallons, not packages ice cream. Most of these were food service items, and there's none out there right now," said Blue Bell CEO Paul Kruse.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, listeria multiplies at refrigerator temperatures, and "the longer ready-to-eat refrigerated foods are stored in the refrigerator, the more opportunity Listeria has to grow."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sites listeria as the third leading cause of death from food poisoning and says about 1,600 people get sick from the bacteria strain every year. Of those 1,600 people, 90% of them will be pregnant women, newborns, people who are 65 and older and those with weakened immune systems.

"We are recommending at this point that no one eat caramel apples."

Less than three months ago, a similar outbreak spread across the country through pre-packaged caramel apples, infecting 35 people across 12 states and killing seven.

This is Blue Bell Creameries' first recall in its 108 years of business.

This video contains images from Getty Images, imelda / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0David Machiavello / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0Mike Renlund / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

<![CDATA[NASA Scientist Says One Year Left Of Calif. Water Supply]]> Sat, 14 Mar 2015 18:26:00 -0500
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Californians — if you're not taking the drought seriously, a new op-ed by a NASA scientist in the Los Angeles Times makes some shocking revelations. 

"We're not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we're losing the creek too." That's from Jay Famigelietti, the senior water scientist for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech. He claims there's only about a year's worth of water supplies left in the state.  

"NASA satellites found total water in Sacramento and San Joaquin River basins is 34 million acre-feet below normal compared to last year," KERO reports

Just take a look at this water gage from The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California — 2014 alone did a lot of damage on the state's water supply with it being the hottest year on record for California. 

And the winter didn't help. With snowfall making a miniscule dent, this past January was the driest for the state since record keeping began in 1895.

The Weather Channel explains, "There's not much snow on the Sierra. ... for this time of the year we're actually running ... only about 18 percent, one-fifth, the snow fall you'd expect. ... We really have to hope we can get some more rain in there." 

​Other than the obvious lack of precipitation, farmers are also being blamed for much of the dwindling water supply. According to Famigelietti, "Farmers have little choice but to pump more groundwater during droughts, especially when their surface water allocations have been slashed 80% to 100%. But these pumping rates are excessive and unsustainable."

But The Sacramento Bee reports some farmers are willing to give up a portion of their crops to sell water to the Metropolitan area. The price being offered for one of our most precious natural resources highlights just how severe the shortage is. Rice farmers in Sacramento Valley will be paid about $700 an acre-foot, which is about 326,000 gallons or a year's worth of water for just two households. Compare that to last year's $500 an acre-foot price tag. 

Famigelietti did make a few recommendations as to how Californians can better combat the growing problem, including "immediate mandatory water rationing." 

KXTV talked to Famigelietti who said, "In the home those of us who water the grass should consider getting rid of the lawns and planting ... native landscaping. 

Other recommendations include implementing a task force, encouraging "the public [to] take ownership of this issue," and accelerating "the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014." 

"The act requires the formation of local groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) that must assess conditions in their local water basins and adopt locally-based management plans." The act allows for a 20-year implementation period after the agencies create a plan. But if NASA's predictions are true, by then "there may be no groundwater left to sustain."

"All of this news comes as the state water resources control board is considering tighter regulations or restrictions state-wide," KRON reports.

One board member told KTVU, "We are looking at some new prohibitions also, to make sure restaurants aren't serving water unless the customers are requesting it, the hotels and the motels are giving guests the options of not having their sheets and towels laundered." 

Another possible new rule from the board, whose members call the situation "dire," includes enforcing a fine for residents who over water their lawns. Those fines could be up to $500.  

On the upside, results from a recent Field Poll found 94% of Californians support implementing mandatory regulations on water use. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Nerd Alert! Saturday Is Super Pi Day]]> Fri, 13 Mar 2015 16:57:00 -0500
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A nerd holiday set for this Saturday will be especially awesome this year. No, not Albert Einstein's birthday, although that is also Saturday. This will be the first perfect Pi Day in a century.

Saturday's date perfectly lists the first five digits of the infinite mathematical constant, pi — 3.1415.

So why is pi so special? The number represents the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter.

As Smithsonian Magazine writes"Pi has held an almost mystical quality to humans throughout time. Its unspoken presence can be felt in the circular ruins of Stonehenge, in the vaulted ceilings of domed Roman temples and in the celestial spheres of Plato and Ptolemy."

Scientists everywhere are getting pumped for the special day. Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted"Crazy Pi-Day nears. But only if you write the month first, the day second, and a two-decimal truncated year third. 03/14/15."

And MIT will follow its tradition of announcing who got in on Pi Day, so the next generation of leaders in science, technology, engineering and math will find out Saturday if they got in to arguably the best engineering school in the country. (Video via Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Plus, there are tons of celebrations across the country.

In 2009, Congress officially recognized the holiday, encouraging teachers to talk about the irrational number and engage in pi-related activities on Pi Day. With it hitting on a weekend this year, that probably happened the day before.

And in Chicago the Illinois Science Council is holding a Pi K run. Instead of 3.1 miles, the run will be 3.14 miles. (Video via Video4Good)

For nerdy couples looking to get married, a chapel in Vegas has a Pi Day special — for $314.15, lovers can get married and get a free apple pie. Who needs wedding cake?

If you really want to get specific and extend the pi numerals out a few more digits, you have two chances to celebrate the most perfect pi time in most of our lives. Go crazy at 9:26 a.m. or p.m. ... and 53 seconds.

This video includes images from Western Connecticut State University Peggy Stewart / CC BY ND 2.0, hhwlib / CC BY NC SA 2.0Val D'Aquila / CC BY NC SA 2.0.

<![CDATA[Penis Transplant In South Africa Spurs Medical Questions]]> Fri, 13 Mar 2015 16:48:00 -0500
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The world's first successful penis transplant has been reported. 

Doctors performed the operation in Cape Town, South Africa, in December of last year. Doctors say the 21-year-old recipient's body has accepted the organ and it is functioning as expected.

A penis transplant has been attempted before in China. However, that man's body rejected the organ. 

This patient in South Africa does not yet have full sensation in the transplanted penis but is reportedly happy with the operation.

The doctors involved consider the operation a success, but the broader medical significance is still in debate. 

That's because as a writer at Forbes explains, it could take years for a body to fully accept or reject such a transplant.

The donor must also be the right fit for the patient because of the psychological impact of reattaching a sexual organ. 

There were some ethical concerns for the operation. It wasn't a life-saving procedure, and there could be psychological damage if the body doesn't accept the transplant. 

The man had lost his penis during a botched circumcision at the age of 18. The procedure is part of a rite-of-passage ceremony in some parts of South Africa. 

One of the surgeons who performed the operation told the BBC, "You may say it doesn't save their life, but any of these young men when they have penile amputations are ostracized, stigmatized and take their own life."

It's estimated as many as 250 penis amputations occur in South Africa each year due to botched circumcisions.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Institute Of Medicine Recommends Raising Smoking Age To 21]]> Fri, 13 Mar 2015 13:22:00 -0500
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There are a few things American teens can buy when they turn 18. Buy lottery tickets, buy ... ahem, adult material, buy cigarettes.

But that last one could become a thing of the past. A committee at the Institute of Medicine recommends raising the legal smoking age to 21. 

This comes after it released a report saying this change would improve the health of Americans and delay the start of tobacco use. 

The government-commissioned study says tobacco use among 18- to 24-year-olds "poses serious concerns." It also says 98 percent of people who have ever smoked tried their first cigarette before they were 25 years old. Cigarette use is also highest in the 21-25 age range.

Researchers specifically looked at raising the smoking age to 19, 21 and 25. They concluded raising the legal age by just one year wouldn't be enough. 

The researchers pointed out 21 was the magical number instead of 19 because teens under 15 could still have friends or co-workers who were 19. In other words, easy access. People in the 21 age range tend to be less connected with the 15-year-old crowd. (Video via U.S. Food and Drug Administration

The study says changing that age could prevent 249,000 premature deaths and lead to "45,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer" in people born between the new millennium and the year 2019. It also says there would be 12 percent fewer smokers by 2100.

Federal law says 18 is the minimum age to buy a pack of smokes, but cities and states can still raise the age on their own. 

And it's quite the range. Both New York City and Columbia, Missouri, have already raised the age to 21. And some states, including Alabama and New Jersey, have raised the age to 19. (Video via Euronews)

But not everyone is gung-ho about the trend to raise the smoking age. 

A writer for The Wire called the idea "pointless." 

"Smoking is bad, duh — but ... smoking rates are already coming down, and smokers start way before age 21 anyway. ... The prevalence of college-age drinkers who have no problem getting their hands on alcohol, suggests that those who want to smoke will have no problem getting their hands on tobacco."

The Food and Drug Administration says smoking is the cause of 443,000 deaths in America every year and that smokers die around 14 years earlier than nonsmokers. 

The FDA also says 3,500 kids start smoking every day, and 850 of them will stick with the habit. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Tracking Magnetic Activity With NASA's MMS Mission]]> Fri, 13 Mar 2015 08:10:00 -0500
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NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission, or MMS, is on its way: a quartet of matched satellites launched Thursday evening aboard an Atlas V rocket. (Video via NASA)

Once the satellites are in place they’ll give scientists the best look yet at magnetic reconnection. (Video via NASA)

Magnetic reconnection occurs when a magnetic field, usually that of a celestial body, gets violently rearranged. When the sun’s magnetic field undergoes reconnection, for example, you get solar flares. (Video via NASA)

On Earth it contributes to the auroras. The phenomenon can also disrupt electronics and pose hazards to spacecraft or astronauts. (Video via NASA)

MMS has made it to orbit, so there can be a small celebration, but NASA’s engineers say it will take several weeks to deploy and arrange the quartet of satellites. Fully extended, the booms on each one reach 496 feet, or roughly across a baseball field. That's when the real science party can start. (Video via NASA)

MMS will study earth’s own magnetosphere as a sort of laboratory. The satellites’ orbit will take them both to the magnetopause, where earth’s magnetic field first encounters the solar wind, and to the tail of the magnetosphere behind the planet.

The data will help scientists understand how and why magnetic reconnection works in other celestial bodies, such as the sun or black holes. It could also help them predict solar storms, or improve magnetic containment systems in nuclear fusion reactors.

Measurements are expected to start in September, once the MMS satellites have been arranged in their final configuration.

This video includes images from NASA and music by Lasswell / CC BY NC 3.0.

<![CDATA[Marine Life Catalogue Adds More Than 1,400 New Species]]> Thu, 12 Mar 2015 14:12:00 -0500
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There's a catalogue listing the hundreds of thousands of different types of marine life in the world, and just last year, it added a little more than 1,400 species. (Video via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)  

The list — called the World Register of Marine Species — is the brainchild of marine science professor Dr. Mark Costello. 

"I started the project in Europe, when I was based in Ireland. And we wanted to collaborate in Europe, and one of the problems was that we were using different names for the same species in different countries," Costello told the Accelerating Science Awards Program.

So the significant thing here isn't that the list has expanded by 1,400 species but that it's been shortened.

The register lists 228,445 different organisms, a number that's about half of what it was before the duplicates were identified and removed. 

There are often hundreds of different common names for the same species. Let's take a common freshwater crayfish — or crawfish, or crawdad —species, which has the scientific name Procambarus clarkii, but is known variously as the red swamp crawfish, the red swamp crayfish, the Louisiana crawfish or the mudbug.

That's normal and doesn't interfere with anything. But problems arise when you have multiple scientific names for the same species because it hinders collaboration. (Video via GoPro)

A common catalogue of all the aquatic species on the planet is important because bodies of water, the oceans in particular, are one of the biggest sources of previously undiscovered species. We've explored so little of them there's still a lot to find. (Video via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

So a common database streamlines the process of identifying a new species, like this Araguaian river dolphin from Brazil, identified last year. 

Because scientists have been classifying animals for centuries, it's taken the researchers at the World Register eight years to pare down the 419,000 different species names recorded across the world.

This video includes images from Javier Pais / CC BY 2.0 and Rio Cicica / CC BY SA 3.0.

<![CDATA[Healthy Lifestyle Could Reduce Risk Of Dementia]]> Thu, 12 Mar 2015 14:03:00 -0500
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Could something as simple as living a healthy life be a combatant against dementia?

A new study out of Finland is the latest study to suggest that might be the case. 

Researchers studied 1,260 people between the ages of 60 and 77 for two years. All were considered to be at risk for dementia and were either placed in a control group, which only received health advice, or placed in what they called an intervention group. 

Medscape Medical News reports those in the intervention group all underwent a program focusing on exercising, healthy eating and cognitive training. 

At the end of those two years, every participant underwent a mental function test. Compared with the control group, those in the intervention group scored 25 percent higher overall. 

According to HealthDay, the intervention group even scored 83 percent higher in the section concerning regulating thought processes and 150 percent higher in the section concerning mental processing speed. 

Now here's the thing — it's already known that a healthy lifestyle can help prevent various types of dementia.

The Huffington Post reports the lead researcher differentiated this new study by saying, "Our study is the first large randomized controlled trial to show that an intensive programme aimed at addressing these risk factors might be able to prevent cognitive decline in elderly people who are at risk of dementia."

The head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK provided some perspective on the findings. 

"The initial results are promising ... but it's unclear which of the interventions carried the greatest benefit," Dr. Simon Ridley said in a press release.

According to HealthDay, the researchers' next step is to continue studying the participants for seven years to see if the discovered reduced risk of dementia with the intervention group continues. 

This video includes music from Chris Zabriskie / CC BY 4.0.

<![CDATA[Heavy Marijuana Use During Teens Might Lead To Memory Loss]]> Thu, 12 Mar 2015 13:31:00 -0500
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Teen pot smokers might be getting more than just a high. A new study finds marijuana use as a teenager could have long-term effects on memory. 

People who reported smoking pot regularly in their teens performed 18 percent worse on long-term memory tests than their peers who had not heavily smoked the drug. Their brains also showed changes in the structure of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that helps form long-term memories.

Researchers studied young adults who quit smoking marijuana for an average of two years, so the findings suggest that the effects of pot do not fade quickly.

The study had its limitations. Its participants were only surveyed once, so it's hard to tell if memory problems existed before marijuana use.

The findings were based on 10 people who smoked pot heavily starting at ages 16 or 17 and compared them with 44 people of the same age who didn't smoke the drug.

But it does fall in line with other research on teen marijuana use. Other studies have found teens who smoked pot regularly had abnormal brain growth and even a loss in IQ points.

So the lead researcher on this most recent study suggests, "If (marijuana is) an experience you want to have, you'd probably be better off if you at least wait until your early-20s."

The study was published in the journal Hippocampus and was conducted by the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[NASA To Test New Augmented Reality Glasses For Astronauts]]> Thu, 12 Mar 2015 11:00:00 -0500
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NASA is working on a set of augmented reality glasses for astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

The agency is partnering with Osterhout Design Group, which has been building high-tech glasses for commercial and government use for the past six years.

The group's latest models pack HD displays and cameras, Wi-Fi, GPS, positional sensors and headphones.

NASA says the goal is to replace tasks an astronaut might do with a computer — and then some. The glasses can overlay content onto the wearer's environment, everything from step-by-step instructions to live videoconferencing from ground-support teams.

And NASA believes the glasses could be a viable replacement for the old-fashioned paper checklists astronauts turn to in an emergency, especially as the agency lays plans for manned missions beyond low earth orbit.

Bloomberg quotes Sean Carter, an official at NASA's Johnson Space Center: "For us, this is huge today, and it gets even bigger tomorrow. The further we go away from earth, the more we need this."

But before the glasses would head to orbit, they'd go underwater. NASA tests potential new mission tech in its Extreme Environment Mission Operations lab, or NEEMO. It's an undersea habitat that closely resembles the environments founds on the ISS.

That's where training astronauts decided Google Glass wasn't for them: The screen was too small, and it was awkward to scroll through things quickly.

The new glasses would use astronauts' full field of view, instead of keeping all the data in the corner of their vision the way Glass does.

According to Forbes, Osterhout Design Group's glasses will enter testing at NEEMO sometime later this year.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Depression, Stress Increase Risk Of Death For Heart Patients]]> Wed, 11 Mar 2015 14:39:00 -0500
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Depression, stress, heart disease. We already know these things are bad for us. (Video via Columbia Pictures / "Anger Management")

According to a study published in the journal Circulation, the combination of these three things can literally kill you. 

Researchers looked at 4,487 adults who already had coronary heart disease. Six percent of these people had high stress and depressive symptoms. These people were 48 percent more likely than those with low stress and depression to have a heart attack or die in a 2.5-year follow-up.

Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease and the No. 1 killer of men and women in the U.S. It's when plaque builds up inside coronary arteries and partially or completely blocks blood flow to the heart. It can lead to heart attacks and stroke. (Video via Edward Hospital)

In the conclusion, the researchers labeled the stress and depression combined with heart disease a "perfect storm" and noted these things "may be particularly destructive in the shorter term." (Video via Bupa Health

And it's the combination that's important. HealthDay quoted the lead researcher on the study from Columbia University Medical Center, who said high depression alone or high stress alone didn't increase the risk of a heart attack or death.

And interestingly, a longer follow-up with the participants didn't show a great association. It was only within that 2.5-year follow-up that the risk was higher when combined with stress and depression.

<![CDATA[Risk Of Massive Earthquake In Calif. Up To 7 Percent]]> Wed, 11 Mar 2015 12:39:00 -0500
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There is now a 7 percent chance that a massive earthquake — magnitude 8 or higher — will hit California in the next 30 years. 

The U.S. Geological Survey announced the increase from 4.6 percent in its most recent earthquake rupture forecast, which it released Tuesday

The USGS put the increased risk down to the possibility of multi-fault ruptures, where multiple faults can rupture at the same time, causing a much more significant earthquake. (Video via U.S. Geological Survey)

That's still a low probability, but it's easy to understand the fear, given the damage past earthquakes have caused. 

The Northridge earthquake in 1994 was a magnitude 6.7 quake that caused more than $20 billion worth of damage and killed 57 people. (Video via KCAL)

Just last year the South Napa earthquake — a 6.0 magnitude quake — caused more than $400 million in damage and killed one person. (Video via KNTV)

The closest the state has come to an 8.0 magnitude quake in recent history was 1992's Landers earthquake. Because of its remote location, the 7.3 magnitude quake caused limited damage and cost one person's life. (Video via Morongo Basin Historical Society

USGS officials say it's important to remember increased probability doesn't really change things. 

The lead author of the report told the Los Angeles Times"The message to the average citizen hasn't changed. You live in earthquake country, and you should live every day like it's the day a Big One could hit."

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[How Tiny Crystals Transform Chameleons' Colors]]> Wed, 11 Mar 2015 09:46:00 -0500
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If last month's Twitter storm over #TheDress taught us anything — and that's up for debate — it's that the way we perceive color works in weird ways. 

Over millennia, chameleons have used that to their advantage, and now scientists have a better understanding of exactly how they do what they're so famous for. (Video via   

New research on panther chameleons shows a layer of microscopic nanocrystals in the chameleon's skin alter the way light reflects off the lizard, which allows it to change color. (Video via BBC)

It all hinges on the distribution of those nanocrystals: When the chameleon becomes excited, the space between the nanocrystals expands, changing the color. 

The expanding distribution of crystals lengthens the wavelengths of light reflecting off them: Longer wavelengths, which reflect red, produce an orange skin color. (Video via TED)

Chameleons change their color for a number of reasons beyond camouflage, including when confronted with a possible mate or a rival male chameleon. (Video via Nature)

The researchers also found the chameleons have another layer of larger nanocrystals beneath that one, which reflects a lot of sunlight, especially near-infrared frequencies. 

In the paper, they theorize because some chameleons live in dry, hot areas where they're exposed to large amounts of sunlight, "the 45% decrease in sunlight absorption caused by (the layer) is likely to be advantageous for survival."

However, the researchers found similar systems in other chameleons that aren't exposed to as much sunlight, so whether that layer serves a specific sun-related purpose remains to be seen. (Video via Howcast)

The presence of both layers is unique to chameleons, and, the researchers say, an "evolutionary novelty."

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[New Dwarf Galaxies Could Aid Search For Dark Matter]]> Tue, 10 Mar 2015 18:13:00 -0500
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Our galaxy has a lot of neighbors. Two teams working independently have identified eight to nine objects that appear to be dwarf galaxies orbiting the Milky Way. (Video via NASA)

The discoveries come from a new in-depth survey of the southern sky that will allow astronomers to find the faint signatures of stars that are nearby but outside our galaxy. 

If confirmed, the new objects would join around two dozen other dwarf galaxies known to follow the Milky Way around.

The teams used data from The Dark Energy Survey, a collaboration that uses the world's most powerful digital camera to photograph the sky in unprecedented detail. Its goal is to help scientists understand dark matter and dark energy. 

Dwarf galaxies are especially useful because they're the perfect place to look for signs of dark matter — that invisible and as-yet-unknown substance that makes up about a quarter of the matter in the universe. Yes, a quarter of the universe. And we know very, very little about it. 

One of the top candidates for dark matter are theoretical particles physicists have dubbed "WIMPs." They don't interact with light, but may emit gamma rays. (Video via NASA)

NASA has a telescope named Fermi that can search for those rays in dwarf galaxies.

"These faint, tiny galaxies possess impressive amounts of dark matter, but they contain no gamma ray-emitting objects and little gas or star formation."

And finding more dwarf galaxies, like these new ones close to home, gives telescopes like Fermi new targets to study. It's thought The Dark Energy Survey may find dozens more nearby galaxies before its mission ends.

This video includes images from Fermilab.

<![CDATA[Here's One More Reason To Be A Vegetarian]]> Tue, 10 Mar 2015 17:49:00 -0500
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Alright you herbivores out there, find your closest meat-loving friend and scream at the top of your lungs, "I told you so!"

A new study says a vegetarian diet can cut your risk of colon cancer by 20 percent compared to non vegetarians, and if you add fish to that veggie diet — making you a pesco-vegetarian — that number jumps to 43 percent. (Video via YouTube / Asahpazi)

And colon cancer is a big problem. It's the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer deaths. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 50,000 people are predicted to die of the disease this year. (Video via YouTube / Medical Informatics)

The study followed more than 77,000 adults for seven years. Researchers found 380 cases of colon cancer and 110 cases of rectal cancer, and according to the study, all vegetarians and vegans had a lower risk of colon cancer compared to non vegetarians. 

On top of that, it's been known for years that too much red meat in your diet can increase your risk of colon cancer, heart disease and diabetes. 

But the added protection from cancer was not just from eating less red meat but also from eating more of the green stuff. 

"One, reduce or eliminate red meat ... and increase your consumption of a wide variety of the whole plant foods."

According to the study's lead researcher, there will be at least two follow-up papers examining if a vegetarian diet can also lower the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer.

This video includes images from lynn.gardner / CC BY NC SA 2.0 and SliceOfChic / CC BY NC ND 2.0.

<![CDATA[Burger King Follows Rivals, Removes Soda From Kids Menu]]> Tue, 10 Mar 2015 11:03:00 -0500
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Burger King has stopped listing soda as a beverage option for kids meals, leaving healthier options on the menu.

"The menu shows only milk, chocolate milk and apple juice. Soda is available if you specially request it," ABC reported.

The president of Burger King North America told USA Today Burger King made the switch "as part of our ongoing effort to offer our guests options that match lifestyle needs."

But Burger King isn't the first to cater to parents who are growing ever more health-conscious. Wendy's removed soda from its kids menu in January.

And McDonald's stopped promoting soda as an option for Happy Meals back in 2013.

Several popular restaurants now dubbed "fast casual" are focusing on healthy, locally grown food and whipping out meals about as fast as your traditional fast food options. 

And with national campaigns promoting healthy lifestyles, the pressure on many once-favorite places to eat a quick meal continues to increase.

In March alone, we've seen some take steps in a healthier direction. McDonald's has made efforts to limit its use of antibiotics in chicken. 

This after the Burger King rival experienced a 4 percent decrease in sales for the month of February.

And Dunkin' Donuts has announced it's going to stop using titanium dioxide, a common food whitener, in its powdered sugar. Time notes this whitener can also be found in sunscreen. Yum. 

Surprisingly, Burger King did not announce the move to remove soda from its kids menu. USA Today reports the chain quietly ushered in the switch in late February.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[The Link Between The 'Love Hormone' And Men's Weight Loss]]> Mon, 09 Mar 2015 13:50:00 -0500
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Bow chicka bow wow. That little love hormone, oxytocin, could help guys drop the pounds. (Video via New Line Cinema  / "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery")

And just in case you need a refresher, oxytocin is a hormone released by the pituitary or "master" gland after sex, intense physical activity or even from a good ol' hug. 

According to research presented Sunday at the Endocrine Society's 97th annual meeting in San Diego, oxytocin made men take in fewer calories. 

Researchers took oxytocin and did what anyone would think of: They made it into a nasal spray and said, "Hey, squirt this up your nose!"

OK, so it didn't quite go like that. The researchers took 25 men, 13 that were a healthy weight and 12 that were obese. The men were asked to use the nasal spray after fasting. Some of them had the oxytocin nasal spray; others had a placebo, or a fake spray. 

One hour after the spray, the men were given double breakfast portions. The researchers then measured how many calories the men ate. 

The men repeated the experiment later but received opposite treatment from the first time — so if they had the placebo the first time, they'd have the oxytocin the second time and vice versa. 

On average, the guys who got the love spray up their nose ate 122 fewer calories and 9 fewer grams of fat than those who had the fake love nose spray.

Which, in turn, led to the "love hormone" headlines. Hey, it's fun to say. Love hormone. (Video via Focus Features / "Anna Karenina"

An assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the study's lead author, Elizabeth Lawson, said the study also needs to be done on women.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Prostate Cancer In The Family Increases Breast Cancer Risk]]> Mon, 09 Mar 2015 11:24:00 -0500
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Researchers have come up with another risk factor for breast cancer — family members with prostate cancer. (Video via KSHB

A group of U.S. researchers looked at data collected on 78,000 women between 1993 and 1998. By 2009, 3,506 of those women had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Using that data, the researchers determined women whose father, brother or son had prostate cancer were 14 percent more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer after age 50.

What's more, the risk for women with history of both cancers in the family jumped by 78 percent.  

The findings could change how doctors go about diagnosing breast cancer, which currently affects 1 in 8 women in the U.S. (Video via KSHB

The researchers recommend doctors ask for a complete family history and don't overlook any of the patient's close male relatives.  

There is at least one potential issue with the study. As Medical News Today points out, the researchers relied on self-reported family histories, which aren't always accurate.

This video includes music from Chris Zabriskie / CC BY 4.0