Newsy - Sci/Health The Latest Videos From <![CDATA[This Small, 3-D Printed Rocket Could Make It Easier To Get To Space]]> Fri, 26 May 2017 12:33:00 -0500
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A partially battery-powered, 3-D printed rocket just made it to space.

Rocket Lab, a Silicon Valley aerospace company, launched a roughly 55-foot rocket called Electron from New Zealand toward one of its outer peninsulas. The rocket reached space in three minutes.

Electron is the first orbital-grade rocket to take off from a private site — ever. It's also pretty low-cost and quick to make.

That's a really big deal because it could allow space travel to become more accessible. For example, NASA, one of Rocket Lab's clients, could afford to send more astronauts to space for research. Electron's success could even make way for civilian space tourism.

SEE MORE: What's Better Than Going To Space? Being In The Astronaut Hall Of Fame

CEO Peter Beck thinks the success of this launch could eventually lead to "improved weather reporting, internet from space, natural disaster prediction, up-to-date maritime data as well as search and rescue services."

This test launch was the first of three scheduled for 2017. The next step is getting Electron into orbit and increasing the weight it can carry.

Once Rocket Lab figures that out, the company will start commercial operations. Eventually, it could launch up to 120 times a year.

<![CDATA[Forecasters Predict An Especially Dangerous Hurricane Season]]> Fri, 26 May 2017 07:52:00 -0500
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said there's a good chance the East Coast will have more reason than usual to be worried about hurricanes in 2017.

NOAA's forecasters said there's a 45 percent chance there will be more hurricanes than normal during this year's hurricane season, compared to a 20 percent chance that it'll be more calm than average.

They also forecast somewhere between five and nine hurricanes. Two to four of them would likely be major storms — or hurricanes with winds over 111 mph.

SEE MORE: Climate Change Is Accelerating Gentrification In Some US Cities

Scientists said they based the predictions on a weakened El Niño and warmer ocean temperatures, which can help tropical storms build power.

And there's already evidence of some of the effects of the shifting weather patterns. We saw the first tropical storm of the year form in April.

Last year also saw an uptick in storms, but not to the same degree. There were five storms that made landfall, two of which were hurricanes. Hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.

<![CDATA[Cannabis Chemical Could Help Children With Severe Epilepsy Disorder]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 17:45:00 -0500
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A chemical in marijuana might help significantly lower seizure rates in children with a severe epilepsy disorder.

Researchers writing in The New England Journal of Medicine found that cannabidiol, also known as CBD, helped treat Dravet syndrome — a drug-resistant seizure disorder.

Dravet syndrome can be pretty deadly in children. Up to 20 percent of children with the disorder die before they turn 20.

The researchers tested 120 patients with Dravet syndrome. The subjects were all around 2 to 18 years old. Some received placebo treatments, while others got CBD. 

SEE MORE: Legalizing Medical Marijuana Could Save A Lot Of Taxpayer Dollars

The children who received CBD in the study saw a considerable decrease in the number of seizures they had when compared to a placebo group. But they also experienced more adverse side effects like diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue and drowziness. 

Five percent of the children actually became seizure-free for the duration of the 14-week study.

There's already evidence that pot's useful in treating epilepsy, but more evidence could help with rescheduling the drug — the final step toward medicinal use at a federal level.

<![CDATA[Scientists Tackle The Big Question: How Flamingos Sleep On One Leg]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 15:59:00 -0500
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Flamingos are so good at standing on one leg, they do it in their sleep. But why? 

Researchers think they do it to conserve body heat and fight muscle fatigue. A new study backs up one of those theories.

Scientists arranged flamingo cadavers in a one-legged stance. They found that flamingos support their weight on one leg without using muscle activity — and yes, it even works when they're dead.

SEE MORE: Before Birds Could Fly, Dinosaurs Had To Learn To Hop

The birds — the live ones — also sway significantly less on one leg while they're sleeping than they do when they're awake.

The secret to flamingos' balance is their unique skeletal system. When dozing off, they pick one leg up and move the other directly underneath their body. Their leg will lock in place, and with the help of gravity, it keeps them balanced.

And they're not the only birds that sleep on one leg. Cardinals and finches use a tendon in their heel to tighten their grip on branches while their body weight keeps them upright all night. 

<![CDATA[Talking About Periods Is Tough In Kenya. But That Might Be Changing.]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 15:06:00 -0500
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Kenya has a problem when it comes to teaching girls about periods. 

One study showed only half of girls in the country have conversations at home about their menstrual health. 

And while there are education initiatives in some schools, schools aren't required to teach about reproductive health. That could lead to a lot of unanswered questions.

SEE MORE: Self-Defense Classes Could Help Kids Kick Sexual Assault In Africa

So one group, ZanaAfrica, launched a magazine for girls that provides information about their changing bodies.  

The magazine will be given out with free sanitary pads. But it's unclear how many girls this publication will be able to reach, especially in rural areas. 

Kenya has been praised for repealing its tax on menstrual hygiene products. The government has also put funding toward providing free pads for girls in schools. 

But some schools still don't have a place for girls to change their pads. And, in some cases, the government program doesn't supply enough pads, or the pads are stolen. 

Despite the uphill battle these initiatives are facing, ZanaAfrica and other organizations are trying. And education may be an effective place to start. 

<![CDATA[Juno's First Results Show Us Jupiter Is One Seriously Angry Giant]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 13:12:00 -0500
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We expected Jupiter to be a roiling hellscape — a planet with huge storms and radiation so harsh it can ruin conventional spacecraft. Now, with the very first data from NASA's Juno spacecraft, we can confirm it's even worse than we thought.

Researchers observed clusters of giant ammonium cyclones at Jupiter's poles. Some were more than 800 miles wide.

The gas giant's magnetic field turned out to be much stronger than expected — about 10 times the strength of Earth's. It also appears to change its size. It has expanded since Juno first arrived.

SEE MORE: Astronomers Find A Watery, Cloudy Atmosphere On An Exoplanet

Researchers also may have determined what powers Jupiter's expansive auroras: Electron beams pouring energy into the planet's upper atmosphere. But they don't look the same as aurora patterns on Earth, which suggests space weather affects Jupiter in different ways.

This data comes from Juno's first close pass of Jupiter, so later orbits will probably bring more insight. Juno has completed five of the 37 orbits it will make through 2018.

<![CDATA[CBO: Republican Health Care Bill Cuts Less Than Previous Versions]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 17:03:00 -0500
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The latest version of the GOP's American Health Care Act has been reviewed by the Congressional Budget Office.

By now, the CBO has scored three different versions of this bill. The organization projects that this latest version would cut the federal deficit the least — $119 billion by 2026. It also projects that compared to current law, this latest plan would leave 23 million fewer people with health insurance by 2026.

The CBO is a nonpartisan agency that analyses how proposed bills could impact the federal budget and the economy. 

The CBO previously projected the AHCA would leave 24 million fewer Americans with health insurance by 2026 compared to the current law. Republicans tweaked the bill to help it pass the House, but the CBO's score on the changes said the bill would cost more but wouldn't insure more people.

Republicans tried to downplay the CBO's score the first time around ...

"The one thing I'm certain will happen is that CBO will say, 'Well, gosh, not as many people will get coverage,'" House Speaker Paul Ryan said on "Face the Nation." "You know why? Because this isn't a government mandate."

"If the CBO was right about Obamacare to begin with, there'd be 8 million more people on Obamacare today than there actually are," Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said on ABC's "This Week." Politifact rated that statement as "half true."

"We will get a score next week. CBO will do what they need to do," Gary Cohn, director of the White House National Economic Council, said on Fox News. "In the past, the CBO's score has really been meaningless. They've said that many more people would be insured than are actually insured."

SEE MORE: Does Trump's Budget Cut Medicaid Funding? No One Seems To Know

... but that version of the health care bill didn't make it to a vote. The GOP amended the bill to court hard-line conservatives. It passed the House 217-213 in early May. The bill will head to the Senate where it needs 51 votes to pass. 

<![CDATA[A Company's Plan To Fix Fisheries Has Scientists Feeling Skeptical]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 16:28:00 -0500
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Seafood could disappear from oceans by 2048. But one company says it's got a plan to restore fisheries — and that plan is leaving scientists feeling skeptical

The Oceaneos Marine Research Foundation is trying to get permits to dump 10 tons of iron dust off the coast of Chile. 

SEE MORE: How Smart Fishery Management Saved The Atlantic Sea Scallop

This iron fertilization is referred to as "ocean seeding." Phytoplankton use it for photosynthesis — and with a lot of iron in the water, a lot of phytoplankton can grow.

Phytoplankton populations have shrunk by 40 percent since 1950. The company claims iron seeding can strengthen the bottom of the food chain, which, in turn, will increase fish populations. 

But scientists aren't convinced that geoengineering is a safe way to fix ecological problems brought on by climate change. One Chilean ecologist said the company can't predict how far the blooms will spread or even what kind of algae will be produced.

The United Nations put a moratorium on ocean fertilization projects in 2008 until scientists can better understand the risks of manipulating the food chain. 

Oceaneos representatives say they're planning to push forward with the project anyway: They'll try to seed the waters near Chile as early as next year.

<![CDATA[Government Accuses Fiat Chrysler Of Using Emissions-Cheating Software]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 11:18:39 -0500
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The Justice Department is suing Fiat Chrysler, claiming software let some of its vehicles produce more emissions than is legally allowed.

The Environmental Protection Agency says Fiat Chrysler didn't disclose software features in the control system of some of its diesel-fueled Ram pickups and Jeep Grand Cherokees. 

The lawsuit also claims the software allowed the cars to emit lower amounts of nitrogen oxide when they were being tested. 

Over 100,000 of these vehicles were sold between 2013 and 2016. The EPA alleges that the sales violate the Clean Air Act. 

Fiat Chrysler says it wasn't trying to cheat on emissions tests, and the lawsuit doesn't go as far as accusing the company of deliberately trying to. 

That's, of course, what Volkswagen admitted to doing. That company's emissions scandal has cost it billions of dollars

SEE MORE: Diesel Emissions May Kill More People Annually Than Previously Thought

Some see the Fiat Chrysler lawsuit as a way to speed up a settlement. Last week the company offered a proposal on how it could reset the engine software. 

<![CDATA[Why What's In Food Pantries Matters]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 08:43:41 -0500
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Healthy choices often aren't on the shelves of food pantries. 

But pantries are trying to combat that. Take, for example, Feeding America — the largest U.S. organization working to reduce hunger.

Feeding America has committed to making fruits and veggies about half of the total pounds it gives out. 

SEE MORE: Nigerians Are Dying Of Hunger, And The World Is Ignoring Them

Research shows that those in poverty are more at risk for diseases and a shorter life expectancy. Diet plays a part in that.

Feeding America found that a lot of people who use food banks have high blood pressure or diabetes.

Without fridges, it can be hard to offer healthier food. And sometimes food banks and pantries don't have ways to store perishable goods.

But canning food is one way to preserve food until it can get into the hands of someone in need. Feeding America plans to look into this and other methods for preserving food.

The organization says food-bank clients want healthier food, and this might be a step toward helping them get it.

<![CDATA[Blue Whales Weren't Always The Giants They Are Today]]> Tue, 23 May 2017 19:00:00 -0500
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Modern whales are the biggest animals ever to live on Earth. But according to a new study, they only got that way recently.

Researchers examined whale skulls and found that their large size only showed up in the family tree about 2 to 3 million years ago at the beginning of an ice age.

"We live in a time of giants right now," said Nick Pyenson, curator of fossil marine mammals at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. "The whales we have today are substantially bigger than anything we find in the fossil record."

The team says the whales' larger size was likely due to increasing ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere. More ice meant more runoff, carrying nutrients into the ocean and boosting food supply in certain locations and at specific times of the year.

SEE MORE: Why Do Whales Beach Themselves? Scientists Have A Few Theories

"It makes sense if you're a large baleen whale to be even larger to make efficient use of that distinct dense quantity of prey," Pyenson said. "Being very large allows you not just to make good on that prey patch when you find it, but also allows you to migrate very long distances to undertake that kind of feeding style."

And the largest whale, the blue whale, isn't done growing. A 2011 study found whales are still getting bigger.

The scientists behind this latest study say they hope their findings will shed light on the survival of this species — especially in the age of humans.

"Looking at the fossil record gives us this view over large periods of time that is incredibly important right now, because the planet is changing in geologic scales and rates within human lifetimes," Pyenson said. "The past can provide us with windows into the possible states of the future."

<![CDATA[The Eastern Black Rhinoceros Has Officially Returned To Rwanda]]> Tue, 23 May 2017 14:47:00 -0500
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Eastern black rhinoceroses have returned to Rwanda. It's been 10 years since they were last seen in the country.

Eighteen of the endangered species were moved about 2,500 miles by cargo plane from South Africa to their new home at Akagera National Park.

SEE MORE: Poachers Broke Into A French Zoo And Killed A Rhino For Its Horns

In the 1970s, more than 50 black rhinos lived in the park, but their population shrank due to poaching.

The park has hired anti-poaching units and rhino-tracking teams to keep its new residents safe. And every little bit helps: Experts estimate there are only about 1,000 eastern black rhinos left in the wild.

But Akagera seems to be a promising place for savanna dwellers. Seven lions were introduced there in 2015, and their population doubled by 2016.

<![CDATA[Instagram Might Not Be Great For Young People's Mental Health]]> Tue, 23 May 2017 14:24:00 -0500
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Instagram could be really, really bad for young people's mental health. 

public health education group in England recently looked at how five major social media sites impact things like anxiety, depression and body image.

YouTube was the only site young people said had a net positive impact on their health.

But they reported Instagram had the most negative average impact on well-being.

Those surveyed said Instagram made them feel worse about their body images and led to a lack of sleep and increased FOMO, or fear of missing out. 

SEE MORE: In Obvious News: Social Media Sharing Is All About Your Social Cred

One specific contributor could be body-enhancing filters often used on Instagram. One user said they can make girls feels "as if their bodies aren't good enough."

The researchers say studies like these are important as social media becomes more popular. A study from 2012 found social media is harder to resist than cigarettes and alcohol.

But there is some good news. Social media may help young people build communities of emotional support, be more comfortable expressing themselves and maintain relationships.

<![CDATA[Climate Change Is Melting The Arctic Ice Out From Under Our Buildings]]> Tue, 23 May 2017 11:39:00 -0500
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We've built everything from roads to pipelines to nuclear power stations on the cold ground at the top of the world. But climate change means ice is melting, and permafrost is getting less permanent.

In Greenland, melting ice is expected to expose an old U.S. military base — and the radioactive waste that's buried under the snow.

"They thought it would snow in perpetuity," arctic researcher William Colgan told NPR. "And the phrase they used was that the waste would be preserved for eternity by perpetually accumulating snow."

In Svalbard, in the Arctic Ocean, there's a bunker holding a huge catalog of Earth's seeds — a so-called "insurance policy for the world's food supply."

The permafrost is supposed to keep it cold and isolated, even if the power cuts out. But it's been raining instead of snowing due to the warming climate, and the vault was never planned with flooding in mind.

SEE MORE: What Melting Arctic Ice Sheets Could Do To The World's Ocean Currents

Entire cities in the Arctic Circle are engineered to take advantage of permafrost. Now they're cracking and sinking. In Norilsk, Russia, builders didn't account for the possibility of climate change making their foundations unstable. Whole apartment buildings are being condemned.

These changes were unexpected, but we can still address them. Officials in Norway say they're waterproofing the seed vault. Scientists in the European Union built a database to track what permafrost is melting and when.

And we should be able to prevent some melting outright. The steps we take to cut emissions and counter climate change will slow down the arctic thaw.

<![CDATA[Trump's Budget Would Make It Harder To Clean Up Highly Polluted Sites]]> Mon, 22 May 2017 19:05:00 -0500
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Administrator Scott Pruitt has a new vision for the EPA, but he might have to rethink his plans if President Trump's proposed 2018 budget gets enacted. 

Pruitt wants the EPA to focus more heavily on cleaning up incredibly polluted superfund sites. But Trump's budget — to be officially unveiled Tuesday — would cut funding for those very cleanup operations by around a third. 

Superfund sites are areas where pollution is so bad they require long-term cleanup projects. They usually contain hazardous material like lead or nuclear waste. Sites can be anything: old mines, landfills, even vacant lots.

SEE MORE: This City Is Fighting Back Against The EPA's New Climate Change Stance

Many superfund sites are located near low-income and minority communities. But despite the EPA's commitment to environmental justice, it already tends to lag behind on its superfund cleanup duties. 

Just because something is in the president's budget doesn't necessarily mean it'll become law, though. Congress has a history of ignoring presidential budget proposals. And there's evidence they may continue that trend with this one.

<![CDATA[How And Why Do We Study The Deadly Phenomenon Of Volcanic Lightning?]]> Mon, 22 May 2017 16:32:00 -0500
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As if being a volcanologist wasn't dangerous enough — the ash clouds of the eruptions they study sometimes flicker with lightning, too.

And volcanoes aren't exactly safe to observe up close. But researchers think volcanic lightning holds clues to how eruptions occur.

SEE MORE: This Hawaiian Volcano Has Created A 'Firehose' Of Lava

To study the phenomenon, researchers have had to get creative. They made early observations using radio waves.

And recently, a team looked at glass spheres formed by lightning to determine how frequent and hot the strikes were.

Knowing how volcanic lightning behaves could also help us understand the risks ash clouds pose to nearby buildings and planes during an eruption.

<![CDATA[America's Trees Are Trying To Outrun Threats By Heading North And West]]> Sun, 21 May 2017 16:00:00 -0500
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America's trees are undertaking a slow migration.

Researchers writing in the journal Science Advances looked at tree population surveys starting in the 1980s. What they found is that the trees in eastern America are moving north and west. 

Specifically, conifer trees like pines are moving north, and deciduous trees like maples and elms are moving west. 

SEE MORE: Why US Forests Growing Farther Apart Is Bad News

Don't worry; the forest isn't full of Ents. Instead, successive generations of trees are sprouting farther west or north while older trees back east die off.

The researchers say at least 20 percent of the population shift is due to climate change. The rest can be attributed to other environmental changes like wildfires, land use and new pests or blights.

While tree migration doesn't sound like a huge deal, there is cause for concern: If the populations continue to shift, whole ecosystems could be pulled apart and begin to collapse. 

<![CDATA[All Cigarette Packs In The UK Now Come In The Same Graphic Packaging]]> Sun, 21 May 2017 14:15:00 -0500
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Starting this weekend, all smokers in the U.K. will be carrying a very different pack of cigarettes, no matter what brand they choose. 

All packs sold in the U.K. now have to have the same color and font type. Instead of company logos, packs will showcase graphic images of smoking's potential side effects. 

It's the result of a new law that went into effect last year, but companies had until May 21, 2017, to sell their old stocks. 

A recent study predicted the change in packaging will lead to 300,000 fewer smokers within a year of implementation. 

But how much of an effect that really amounts to is up for debate. 

The study highlighted Australia, which imposed similar packaging restrictions years before the U.K. But three years after its law went into effect, smoking's prevalence in Australia hadn't even dropped one percentage point. 

And in the U.K.'s case, even if 300,000 people stopped smoking due to the packaging, there'd still be millions of people continuing the habit in spite of it. 

SEE MORE: The Majority Of Global Smoking Deaths Come From These 4 Countries

Still, one argument from advocates is that these laws were made with younger people in mind. The idea is to convince them not to take up smoking in the first place. 

An estimated two-thirds of British smokers start before they're 18 years old. 

<![CDATA[The 'Greatest' (Or 'Cruelest') Show On Earth Is About To End]]> Sun, 21 May 2017 10:24:00 -0500
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When Ringling performs its last show on Sunday, it will be the end of an era. 

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has been a mega-act for roughly 100 years. It pioneered entertainment with traveling shows, incredible stunts and trained animals.  

Those animals have always been at the heart of the controversy, though. Animal rights activists have called it the "cruelest show on Earth." For years they've accused Ringling of abusing animals during and after training. 

But in two major cases, animal rights groups were ordered to pay Ringling millions of dollars after the courts realized animal rights groups had paid witnesses to testify. 

Ringling's parent company has blamed the end of the run on low ticket sales and high operating costs. It added that ticket sales dropped further after Ringling stopped using elephants in its acts. 

SEE MORE: Ringling Bros. Elephants Quit Showbiz, Join The Fight Against Cancer

Those elephants have been brought to Ringling's conservation center, though animal rights advocates have criticized the conditions at that sanctuary as well. 

Ringling hasn't said where specifically the rest of the animals will be going after Sunday's show, just that conservation centers have already been found for all the animals. 

<![CDATA[Melting Arctic Ice Jeopardizes Humanity's Plant Backup Plan]]> Fri, 19 May 2017 18:54:00 -0500
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Apparently, even the most advanced apocalypse bunkers aren't safe from climate change.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was established near the North Pole by the Norwegian government. It aims to preserve the seeds of nearly a million different kinds of crops from every country on Earth.

The massive vault was buried under the arctic permafrost to safeguard seeds in case of war or natural disasters. But rising temperatures near the pole melted the ice and flooded the entrance to the vault.

The water seeped in, then re-froze in the vault's subzero temperatures. A Norwegian official said, "It was like a glacier when you went in."

SEE MORE: Climate Change Is Screwing Up Birds' Migratory Patterns

Fortunately, the water froze near the entrance, and none of the seeds were damaged. But now scientists are concerned about the long-term well-being of the vault, one of humanity's most important backup plans ever.

"Some journalists call this the 'Noah's Ark of plant diversity.' And personally, I think that's quite a good name," Svalbard Global Seed Vault coordinator Åsmund Asdal said to Motherboard.

Scientists have discovered that the Earth's poles are heating up at a faster rate than the rest of the globe, drastically reducing the amount of ice there.

The seed depository is supposed to be totally self-contained and able to function without human help. But now the Norwegian government has to keep an eye on it around the clock.

SEE MORE: A 'Science Nerd' Takes On Congress' Top Climate Change Doubter

Officials are trying to divert the meltwater away from the vault and have installed pumps in case any more water seeps in.

They said: "We have to find solutions. It is a big responsibility and we take it very seriously. We are doing this for the world."

<![CDATA[A Stem Cell Breakthrough Could Solve The Blood Donor Problem]]> Fri, 19 May 2017 16:36:00 -0500
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After two decades of trial and error, scientists now have the formula to create blood stem cells in the lab.

The finding is especially important for patients who have blood disorders like leukemia because it could remove the need to find donors with matching blood types.

Two research teams shared how they created these cells.

One team took human skin cells and reprogrammed them with new genes. Those cells were then injected into mice and started producing something akin to blood.

SEE MORE: The Low-Cost Medical Devices That Are Making A Difference

The second team did something similar, but instead of creating blank stem cells, they modified them from blood vessels. They put those into sick mice with blood-related diseases, and the rodents eventually got better.

A lot still needs to happen before these cells are tested on humans, but scientists are elated about the possibility of treating people with their own stem cells.

<![CDATA[Trump's Federal Hiring Freeze Might Still Affect Hundreds Of CDC Jobs]]> Fri, 19 May 2017 14:57:00 -0500
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It's been a little more than a month since the Trump administration lifted a freeze on hiring new federal employees.

But a new report from The Washington Post suggests the Department of Health and Human Services still has a freeze — leaving hundreds of jobs vacant in offices it oversees.

That, according to the article, includes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reportedly, it alone has nearly 700 vacant jobs — many in high-level positions.

Those roles range from administrative support to positions in the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, which helps protect Americans from public health threats.

SEE MORE: Could The Health Care Vote Cost Republicans The House Majority?

Health and Human Services reportedly still has the freeze because it's following a directive from the Office of Management and Budget. Under that order, all federal agencies have until June 30 to submit a plan to shrink their civilian workforces.

A spokesperson for HHS wouldn't confirm a freeze is still going on. But we know other government agencies — like the Transportation Security Administration — did keep the freezes until the White House's proposed budget comes out, which is supposed to happen later in May.

The Washington Post story also highlights concerns over how the 2018 budget will affect Health and Human Services. The proposed budget would reduce HHS funding by $15 billion, with deep cuts to research and health training.

The agency has exempted many health positions from the freeze, like those that respond to public health emergencies.

Other departments facing major cuts include the Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department, and the Department of Education.

<![CDATA[What's Better Than Going To Space? Being In The Astronaut Hall Of Fame]]> Fri, 19 May 2017 12:58:00 -0500
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As if being an astronaut isn't prestigious enough, the United State's greatest space explorers can also be inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.

NASA's first astronaut class — the Mercury Seven — established the honor in the '80s. New members are inducted for what they've done to further NASA's mission of exploration and discovery.

It's pretty competitive. Only 95 of the more than 300 American astronauts, past and present, have been inducted into the hall of fame, including John Glenn and Neil Armstrong.

SEE MORE: NASA Completes Milestone 200th ISS Spacewalk

Shuttle astronauts Michael Foale and Ellen Ochoa are the latest to receive the honor. Foale logged more than 374 days in orbit and was the first British spacewalker. Ochoa was the first Hispanic woman in space.

So if you're one of the lucky few to be part of NASA's next astronaut class, here's another nearly impossible goal to strive for.

<![CDATA[How Virtual Therapy Can Lead To Real-World Healing]]> Fri, 19 May 2017 12:35:00 -0500
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Virtual reality's promise doesn't end with games and movies. Researchers and doctors are turning to VR for everything from neuroscience to psychiatry to occupational therapy.

Studies have found strapping on a headset can help treat phobias or post-traumatic stress disorder. In some cases, it can be just as effective as real-life exposure therapy.

But new research shows the benefits of virtual therapy go beyond the brain. Dr. Rachel Proffitt is exploring virtual reality games as a tool for occupational therapy, where patients rebuild everyday skills, like reaching for objects on high shelves or brushing their teeth.

SEE MORE: Virtual Reality Could Bring Crime Scenes To The Courtroom

"My focus is getting people back to that full normal-as-possible life after an injury, a disability, some sort of diagnosis," Proffitt said in a recent interview. "It involves the entire body — and I mean the entire body, brain included."

In her lab at the University of Missouri, Dr. Proffitt uses a Kinect camera and a virtual reality headset to gather information while the user plays games to help them recover.

The work patients do might be virtual, but they get the same real-world benefits as traditional therapy — and more. Research shows if you ask people to focus on an external goal, rather than on what they do to reach that goal, they perform better. That's what the game is for.

"It takes their mind off 'Oh, I just did 10 repetitions of this movement,'" Proffitt says. "They get immediate feedback from the game. They get sparkles and dings when they're successful."

Much of Proffitt's work probably wouldn't be possible if things like headsets and cameras weren't getting more capable and less expensive.

"It would take me two hours to gather all the data that I can get from just 30 minutes of somebody playing this game," Proffitt says. "Things are getting faster. You no longer need a large computer to run the Kinect. It runs on a regular laptop."

SEE MORE: The Virtual World Of 'Pokémon Go' Is Already Reshaping The Real One

But VR as therapy is a new field, and VR as occupational therapy is even newer. A lot of Proffitt's early research is testing to see what's feasible and what's not, but the results already show her patients are making real-world gains. Eventually, she'd like to see VR therapy in hospitals, clinics and homes.

"I want somebody to get better; I want somebody to improve," Proffit says. "'Now I want you to go into your kitchen and unload the dishwasher. Work on putting that cup up on the high shelf.' The game is sort of that stepping stone to get there."

<![CDATA[About Half Of All Deaths Don't Have A Recorded Cause]]> Fri, 19 May 2017 10:25:00 -0500
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Despite all the health records in the modern world, half of all deaths still don't have a reported cause.

But it's getting better. A World Health Organization report found that about 27 million of an estimated 56 million deaths were registered with a cause in 2015. 

That's a sizable increase from 10 years prior, when only 33 percent of deaths were registered with a cause. 

SEE MORE: The Majority Of Global Smoking Deaths Come From These 4 Countries

China, Turkey and Iran were integral to this shift. In 1999, those countries only reported about 5 percent of deaths with a cause. In 2015, that number jumped to 90 percent. 

Registering cause of death is important because it helps countries figure out how to best invest in health care, which leads to an overall increase in the health of a population. 

The WHO also called for a push toward universal health coverage. About 9 percent of populations included in the study spent more than 10 percent of their household budget on health care. 

<![CDATA[We Aren't Just Changing Earth's Weather, We're Changing Space's, Too]]> Thu, 18 May 2017 18:49:00 -0500
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Human actions don't just have an effect on Earth's weather, but also the weather in space.

Starfish, Argus, Teak, Yucca. These are all names of nuclear tests the U.S. ran in the 1950s and '60s.

And while they left a nearly permanent mark on the planet, declassified data shows the tests also affected unseen forces around Earth.

It's usually only solar radiation that affects space weather. Most of that radiation is sent back out into space, but sometimes it gets through the magnetosphere. That radiation can damage satellites, interrupt communications and cause the aurora borealis.

SEE MORE: You Can Now Watch Declassified Nuclear Weapons Tests ... On YouTube

But it turns out some of those Cold War tests actually mimicked the sun's natural effects in space surrounding Earth.

Some tests created distortions in Earth's magnetic fields, and one even caused its own aurora.

A few of the explosions actually created new radiation belts around the planet that stuck around for weeks or even years.

Atmospheric nuclear tests are no longer allowed, and those artificial radiation belts are long gone. But the data could help NASA protect astronauts and satellites from space radiation.

These findings are all part of a larger paper about human impact on space weather. The researchers also found anthropogenic effects from chemical experiments and low-frequency radio communications.

<![CDATA[A Greener Antarctica Isn't Always A Good Thing]]> Thu, 18 May 2017 13:39:00 -0500
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Antarctica is "going green" — but not in a good way.

The continent is one of the most rapidly warming regions on Earth. Annual temperatures have increased about a half-degree Celsius per decade since the 1950s.

And scientists studying moss in the region found that warming temperatures are driving a sharp, widespread increase in plant life during the past 50 years.

SEE MORE: The Probable Fate Of One Of Antarctica's Largest Ice Shelves

The same research team conducted a similar study in 2013 in just one location on the Antarctic Peninsula. Their new findings confirm widespread ecological changes on the continent.

If temperatures continue to rise and Antarctic ice melt accelerates, the region might be a much greener place in the near future.

<![CDATA[Worried About Predator Attacks? Stay Away From The Equator]]> Thu, 18 May 2017 13:02:00 -0500
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The tropics are host to exotic animals and vibrant plants, but the region is also a hot spot for predator attacks in the animal kingdom.

According to a new study, prey is more likely to be eaten if it's closer to the equator.

Scientists glued "dummy caterpillars" to plants across a 7,000-mile area, from the Arctic Circle to Southern Australia. They revisited the fake animals several times to check for attack marks from predators, like birds and ants.

SEE MORE: How Tiny Caterpillars Could Help Solve A Huge Environmental Issue

The team found for every degree of latitude away from the equator, a caterpillar's odds of being attacked decreased 2.7 percent.

The researchers said these findings are important for understanding how caterpillars and other herbivores evolve. For example, caterpillars closer to the poles might not need to evolve the same defenses or camouflage as those near the equator.

They also said the research suggests just how important herbivore predators are for keeping the world green, especially near the equator. Without them, hordes of caterpillars would be eating away at Earth's plant life.

<![CDATA[Fidget Spinners' Stress Relief Claims Are Under The Microscope]]> Thu, 18 May 2017 11:05:00 -0500
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Fidget gadgets are incredibly popular. They're the top 20 most-sold toys on Amazon.

But people can't decide if they have a medical purpose or if they're just a toy.

Some adults — mostly teachers — say the noisy toys are just another distraction in the classroom.

SEE MORE: Amazon Let Kids Make In-App Purchases, And Now It's Paying For It

But some parents say these gadgets have medical properties that can help children who have anxiety, stress and ADHD.

They're even advertised as being able to ease those issues.

The debate even splits the medical community.

One clinical psychologist from Duke University told NPR that advertising these devices as helping with ADHD is a false claim because he says no scientific studies prove it.

But some sensory toys, like stress balls, have been found to help with classroom distractions.

<![CDATA[Before Birds Could Fly, Dinosaurs Had To Learn To Hop]]> Wed, 17 May 2017 13:09:00 -0500
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Scientists think birds and their dinosaur ancestors might've first learned to fly by hopping around, and new research could explain why: It's all about moving the farthest by doing the least work.

Researchers studying bird behavior found these jumps with a little flapping are the best way to get from perch to perch, at least for distances of a few feet. Parrots that pushed against a branch with their feet used less energy than when they pushed against the air with their wings.

SEE MORE: In Case You Forgot, Dinosaurs Were Actually Feathery

Those energy needs could also be why we don't see evidence of more flying dinosaurs. They were probably too heavy to make flapping over long distances practical, but the short hops still would have been useful.

Researchers in this new study proposed that as flight evolved, early birds got smaller than their dinosaur precursors because lighter bodies are easier to lift.

<![CDATA[When Choosing Flowers, Bees Go For Their Nicotine Fix]]> Wed, 17 May 2017 09:45:00 -0500
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Bees might get hooked on flowers the same way humans get hooked on tobacco — through nicotine.

Scientists at Queen Mary University of London had a two-part experiment to test if nicotine played a role in bee's foraging efforts. The researchers built a garden with two types of artificial flowers.

SEE MORE: Bumblebees Are Better Problem Solvers Than We Thought

In the first part of the experiment, scientists laced blue flowers with a plain sugar solution and purple flowers with a nicotine sugar solution, which is sometimes found in the wild. The bees were more likely to flock to the nicotine-infused purple flowers.

In the second part of the experiment, scientists switched the solutions, so the nicotine was in the blue flowers. But the bees still preferred the purple flowers because they associated them with a reward.

The authors think flowers might use addictive chemicals besides nicotine to lure the most pollinators.

<![CDATA[A 'Science Nerd' Takes On Congress' Top Climate Change Doubter]]> Tue, 16 May 2017 15:33:00 -0500
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Derrick Crowe of Texas is taking on Congress' top climate change doubter. The first-time candidate for Congress is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) in 2018.

"We have an escalating climate change emergency," Crowe says. "We are not getting policies that are based in science to deal with it. And you see our representative trying to stop investigations of companies that have caused the climate change emergency. So I'm running to stop that."

Crowe is a self-proclaimed science nerd, and he's putting climate change front and center in his campaign. Most Texans say they believe global warming is happening, and a majority want Congress to do more on the issue.

SEE MORE: Climate March Pushes Back Against Trump Agenda

"More than half of Texans support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant," Crowe says, "and they support real investment in clean energy technologies."

Smith currently represents Texas' 21st District, including parts of Austin and San Antonio. He heads the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, but he's often skeptical of climate scientists.

"Their ultimate goal appears to be to promote a personal agenda, even if the evidence doesn't support it," Smith said of climate scientists and their work in a House hearing earlier this year.

Crowe is part of a wave of progressive candidates running for Congress in 2018.

"If we don't get involved right now, we are going to lose our real opportunity to set up a better future for our kids," Crowe says. "We can't wait for the next presidential election. Cities, localities, members of Congress have to take this issue into their own hands. And we can't do that if people don't get involved."

<![CDATA[Trump Took Republicans' Usual Anti-Abortion Policy And Expanded It]]> Tue, 16 May 2017 12:12:00 -0500
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The Trump administration has taken Republicans' "global gag rule" on abortion and greatly expanded it.   

More formally known as the Mexico City policy, the rule prevents U.S. funding from going to foreign health providers if they perform or promote abortions. 

That includes groups that treat malaria, AIDS, the Zika virus and other conditions unrelated to family planning. If they even give patients information regarding abortions, they could lose U.S. funding. 

The Obama administration nixed the Mexico City policy in 2009, and President Donald Trump brought it back in January. 

But Trump has taken it a step further. He added the Department of Defense to the list of agencies whose funding has to adhere to the policy.  

SEE MORE: Countries Pledge Millions To Cut Losses From 'Gag Rule' On Abortion

So while George W. Bush's "gag rule" affected about $600 million in available funding for those foreign organizations, Trump has expanded it to affect almost $9 billion. 

Supporters say the law doesn't actually reduce the amount of financial aid going out, it just prevents it from going to organizations that promote abortions. 

But critics argue in poor countries, there are not many health care providers. They add that entire communities could be kept from getting life-saving care. 

<![CDATA[Climate Change Is Screwing Up Birds' Migratory Patterns]]> Tue, 16 May 2017 11:14:00 -0500
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Climate change is threatening birds' migration patterns, according to a new study.

Each spring, birds migrate from their winter hangouts to their breeding grounds. Birds know to begin migrating when the sun appears longer during the day, which happens the same way each time Earth goes through its orbit.

So, if the birds arrive at the right time, breeding grounds will be full of food from blooming plants and swarming insects. But the changing climate isn't as reliable as Earth's orbit, and it's throwing off when spring arrives each year. This could threaten whole bird species.

SEE MORE: New Dinosaur Fossil Has A Lot In Common With Its Bird Relatives

If spring is late, the birds show up when there's less food and worse weather. And if spring starts early, the birds show up after resources have already been picked over. Either way, it'll be harder to survive, and they'll hatch fewer chicks.

Researchers studied 48 bird species and found that while most of them have adjusted their schedules to match the new seasons, nine species of songbird have not.

The researchers noted this could be the first sign of a domino effect because as climate is altered, nature may not be able to keep up.

<![CDATA[This 3-D Printed Ovary Might Help Restore Fertility]]> Tue, 16 May 2017 10:09:00 -0500
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Thanks to 3-D printing, we're getting closer to a host of artificial organs — from kidneys and ears to whole hands. Now, scientists hope 3-D printing will help restore fertility.

Researchers at Northwestern University developed 3-D printed ovaries using gelatin, a material strong enough to hold immature eggs but flexible and porous enough to allow for ovulation and for blood vessels to form.

When they implanted the ovaries into infertile mice, the mice were not only able to ovulate, but also gave birth to healthy pups. They were even able to nurse them.

SEE MORE: Gender Bias In Medical Testing Puts Women's Health At Risk

The scientists say the main goal for developing the ovaries was to help restore fertility in women and younger girls sterilized by cancer treatments.

"We've never had a way to provide back the fertility," said Dr. Teresa K. Woodruff, director of the Women's Health Research Institute at Northwestern University. "[Now] they're going to have endocrine function, endocrine hormones like estrogen and progesterone, and they're going to be able to have their own children one day."

Although the ovaries worked in mice, more research is needed before the team tests them in humans.

<![CDATA[This Tiny Remote Island Is Getting Buried Under Plastic Trash]]> Tue, 16 May 2017 08:35:00 -0500
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This is Henderson Island, a tiny, remote island in the South Pacific. It's thousands of miles away from the nearest major populated area.

And yet, researchers estimate its beaches are littered with more than 37 million pieces of plastic trash.

According to a new study from the University of Tasmania, the island is covered in the highest density of plastic debris ever recorded.

SEE MORE: Filter-Feeding Plankton Clean Carbon Out Of The Oceans

And ocean currents dump thousands of new pieces of trash from around the world on its shores every day.

But that's just a fraction of the 5 trillion bits of plastic garbage scientists estimate are floating around on the high seas.

The study's lead author said, "What's happened on Henderson Island shows there's no escaping plastic pollution even in the most distant parts of our oceans."

The plastic pollution problem is projected to get even worse over time. By 2050, researchers predict the amount of plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish pound for pound.

<![CDATA[Diesel Emissions May Kill More People Annually Than Previously Thought]]> Mon, 15 May 2017 20:31:00 -0500
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Diesel emissions contribute to 38,000 more premature deaths worldwide than previously thought.

That's in addition to the estimated 3.7 million deaths caused by other sources of outdoor air pollution annually.

According to a new study in the journal Nature, diesel vehicles put out 4.6 million more tons of nitrogen oxides than they're supposed to under international standards.

Nitrogen oxides damage lung tissues, but they can also react with chemicals to form ozone, which itself can worsen lung diseases like asthma. 

SEE MORE: Children Breathe Dangerous Pollution At Almost 8,000 Public Schools

The researchers say that Europe is likely the hardest hit by the excess diesel emissions, with China following closely behind. A little more than 1,000 deaths in the U.S. can be attributed to excess emissions, according to the study.

Back in 2015, Volkswagen was caught using "defeat devices" that would sense when diesel emissions were being tested. Those devices made it look like the car was performing better than international standards when they weren't. 

This new study proves that defeat devices aren't the only problem, though. Manufacturers aren't meeting the standards set up by the international community. 

If next-generation standards aren't met, the researchers warn deaths from excess emissions could reach 174,000 globally in 2040.

<![CDATA[There's A New Ebola Outbreak In Central Africa]]> Sun, 14 May 2017 11:33:00 -0500
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The Democratic Republic of Congo is dealing with a new Ebola outbreak.

News of the outbreak traveled slowly since it's in a remote region of the country. So far there are 11 suspected cases, including three deaths. One case has been confirmed.

Ebola spreads from person to person via direct contact with body fluids or with other mammals that are also infected — such as bats, monkeys and apes. The disease has a mortality rate around 50 percent.

SEE MORE: Ebola Vaccine Provides 100 Percent Protection During Human Trials

The World Health Organization says it's working with local authorities to best combat the spread of the virus.

There are 12 vaccines in development that might work against the Ebola virus, but none of them have had large-scale testing. WHO thinks this outbreak might be a good chance to test at least one of them.

The last Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo killed 49 people in 2014.

<![CDATA[EPA Removes Roadblocks For Controversial Gold Mine In Alaska]]> Sat, 13 May 2017 15:26:00 -0500
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A new settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency is clearing the way for a controversial mining project.

Under former President Barack Obama, the EPA ruled that a proposed gold and copper mine on Alaska's Bristol Bay could harm the local fishing trade and wildlife. It blocked the mine from breaking ground, citing the Clean Water Act.

The company attempting to open the mine, The Pebble Limited Partnership, sued the EPA, saying the administration colluded to stymie the project. 

SEE MORE: EPA Administrator Pushes For Fewer Scientists On Advisory Panels

Now, the Trump administration's EPA has settled the case. Pebble can apply for an Army Corps of Engineers waiver so it can break ground ahead of another EPA evaluation.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said Pebble won't just automatically get the waiver, saying, "The agreement will not guarantee or prejudge a particular outcome, but will provide Pebble a fair process for their permit application."

Locals, who are still concerned about the mine's impact, plan to keep fighting. A representative for a group of Native Alaskans said, "Anyone looking at this thinking that the opposition is going away, they're mistaken."

<![CDATA[The US Health Secretary Is At Odds With His Agency On Opioid Addiction]]> Sat, 13 May 2017 14:45:00 -0500
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Addiction experts aren't happy about what the U.S. health secretary recently had to say about opioid addiction medications.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said opioid replacement therapy is "just substituting one opioid for another." That's not exactly accurate. 

He's talking about drugs like methadone and buprenorphine; they're milder opioids that reduce withdrawal symptoms in people addicted to prescription opioids and heroin without causing a high.

Substitution treatment is the standard therapy for opioid addiction — it's been scientifically proven to decrease drug abuse and increase recovery.

SEE MORE: Heroin-Related Causes Are Killing More Americans Than Gun Homicides

But Price says he believes opioid addiction can be "cured" through other avenues — like non-opioid therapies and abstinence programs.

Experts fear that stance could set the U.S. back when it comes to fighting the opioid crisis.

Price's statement also directly contradicts that of his department. HHS considers opioid addiction a chronic disease that can be managed, but not cured.

<![CDATA[This Organization Is Using Discarded Soap To Help Others]]> Fri, 12 May 2017 13:35:00 -0500
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Hotel soap that would normally get pitched is now getting a new purpose.

Clean the World partners with hotels to collect, recycle and then give the soap to those who can't access or afford it.

Soap can help prevent diseases and reduce child deaths.

SEE MORE: Humans Drastically Change The Environment — And We Always Have

With the help of partners, the organization works to teach people in developing countries the benefits of good hygiene.

But beyond just helping those in developing countries, recycling soap means way less is in landfills.

In about seven years, Clean the World stopped 4,300 tons of hotel waste from heading to landfills.

There are over 200,000 hotels in the world. Clean the World has 4,000 hotel partners.

<![CDATA[NASA Completes Milestone 200th ISS Spacewalk]]> Fri, 12 May 2017 12:36:00 -0500
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NASA celebrated an important milestone Friday: its 200th spacewalk on the International Space Station.

Astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer did some maintenance on the ISS, including work on an adapter for a new international docking port for commercial crew spacecraft.

Friday's spacewalk might seem a bit routine compared to NASA's first ISS spacewalk in 1998 when astronauts were putting the station together. They attached the first two components of the station: a Russian module and a U.S. one.

SEE MORE: NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson Keeps Breaking Space Records

Spacewalks have come a long way. During NASA's first-ever spacewalk in 1965, astronaut Ed White ventured out of the Gemini IV spacecraft, propelling himself with a hand-held oxygen jet-tank. The tank ran out of fuel after three minutes, and White had to pull himself back to the capsule by his tether.

Friday's spacewalk comes at a time of uncertainty for the ISS. Congress extended NASA's station operations until 2024 but hasn't decided what to do with the station beyond then. Officials suggested eventually transitioning the ISS from NASA to the private space industry.

<![CDATA[How Harsh Habitats Shaped Snow Leopards' Genes]]> Fri, 12 May 2017 12:26:00 -0500
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For the first time, scientists peered into the genetics of all wild snow leopards and found there's more to these "ghost cats" than meets the eye: Instead of just one species, there could actually be three distinct subspecies.

The scientists examined snow leopard droppings — a much easier technique than tagging them with GPS or radio collars. They found leopards were in three genetic groups across their range: one in the north, one in the central patch and one in the west.

The species lives across 12 countries in Asia, mostly in arid mountain climates above 9,000 feet. Researchers think natural barriers, like the Gobi Desert and the tall mountains of the trans-Himalaya range, separate the populations into groups.

SEE MORE: Climate Change Threatens Snow Leopards Even More Than Humans

But a changing climate and interaction with humans are shrinking their territory. Researchers say these new tests will help them see how populations evolved, how they're connected and how to tune conservation efforts for each group of cats.

<![CDATA[There Aren't A Lot Of Glaciers Left In Glacier National Park]]> Thu, 11 May 2017 21:16:00 -0500
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Glacier National Park is rapidly losing its namesakes.

In the past 50 years, glaciers in the park have shrunk by 39 percent on average, though some have lost as much as 85 percent of their mass.

And the U.S. Geological Survey says only 26 of the parks original 150 glaciers are large enough to actually be called glaciers. 

The massive melt-off isn't too surprising. Global warming is melting glaciers the world over. 

The Environmental Protection Agency says glaciers worldwide have been losing mass since at least the 1970s, but evidence suggests the melting could've started around the 1940s.

SEE MORE: Climate Change Is Accelerating Gentrification In Some US Cities

And NASA says that worldwide, glaciers shed nearly 400 billion tons of ice a year and have been doing so since at least 1994.

In the last century, sea levels have gone up by an average of 6 inches because of ice melt.

But Montana is in danger of losing its glaciers faster than the rest of the world. Western Montana — where Glacier National Park is located — is warming almost twice as fast as the global average. 

The glaciers in the park are thousands of years old, but if current trends continue, it could lose all of its active glaciers by 2030.

<![CDATA[Paleontologists Name Dinosaur After Demon Dog In 'Ghostbusters']]> Thu, 11 May 2017 18:37:00 -0500
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Meet Zuul. No, not the demon dog from "Ghostbusters," but that is this newly identified dinosaur's namesake. 

Scientists thought the name was so fitting the Royal Ontario Museum even brought in Dan Aykroyd — you know, Dr. Raymond Stantz from the movie — to introduce the beast to the public. 

Zuul was discovered by accident while scientists were trying to dig up another dinosaur in the same area of Montana. 

The new dinosaur is a bit of a surprise. Zuul is an ankylosaur, and for a long time paleontologists thought there were only a few species of ankylosaur in North America.

But the recent discoveries of Zuul and a few other subspecies of ankylosaur have proved that theory wrong. 

SEE MORE: The World's Weirdest Mammal Keeps Surprising Scientists

More importantly, though, Zuul's skeleton is incredibly well-preserved. There was so much soft tissue still intact that the scientists say they've got a decent idea of what parts of it would've looked like when it was alive.

All that leftover tissue also means they've got something to study while they remove Zuul from its rocky grave — a process that could take a couple of years.

<![CDATA[Climate Change Is Accelerating Gentrification In Some US Cities]]> Thu, 11 May 2017 14:28:00 -0500
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As climate change pushes sea levels higher and higher, many U.S. cities are facing a peculiar predicament: climate gentrification.

Take Miami, for instance. Many neighborhoods in the city once denied financial services by lenders are now quickly gaining value.

That's because they sit on high ground and are much less likely to flood than coastal properties.

In Charleston, South Carolina, water levels could rise 7 inches by 2030. Officials say the city doesn't have the resources to protect existing public housing from sea-level rise.

SEE MORE: Climate Change Is Destroying This Virginia Island

And in Galveston, Texas, where 569 public housing buildings were destroyed by two hurricanes, the city initially stalled for seven years on spending billions to rebuild them. Some saw it as an effort "to keep public housing from coming back."

By 2100, as many as 13 million Americans could be displaced by rising water levels, but many Americans are already seeing the effects now.

<![CDATA[Many HIV Patients Are Living Longer, Thanks To Improved Treatments]]> Thu, 11 May 2017 13:26:00 -0500
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New and improved treatments are helping HIV patients live much longer.

According to a new study, the life expectancy for people in developed nations living with HIV has gone up for about a decade.

And researchers say it's thanks to improved HIV medications, along with better screening, prevention and treatment for other health problems associated with the virus.

A team of researchers at the University of Bristol studied data from more than 88,000 people who had HIV in Europe and North America.

All of the patients were treated between 1996 and 2010.

The researchers found the life expectancy for 20-year-olds undergoing HIV treatment increased by nine years for women and 10 years for men.

SEE MORE: 30 Years Ago, The FDA Approved The First AIDS Treatment

And the study predicted 20-year-olds who started therapy after 2008 and survived the first year could live to be about 78.

That's pretty encouraging news, considering the average life expectancy in the U.S. is 79 years.

These findings are a big milestone in the fight against HIV and AIDS. But it's important to note that HIV-positive patients can face other life-threatening obstacles.

For instance, some patients don't have access to the consistent, high-quality care needed to keep the virus in check.

And life expectancy in the U.S. can vary by as much as 20 years, depending on where someone is born.

Internationally, there's still a lot of room for improvement. The World Health Organization says over 36 million people worldwide live with HIV but less than half are on antiretroviral therapy.

<![CDATA[Astronomers Find A Watery, Cloudy Atmosphere On An Exoplanet]]> Thu, 11 May 2017 13:10:00 -0500
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Astronomers have discovered a cloudy, watery atmosphere on an exoplanet that's 437 light years away.

More than 3,000 exoplanets have been discovered to date, but it can be tough to learn about their atmospheres. They're orbiting stars that are light years away, and sometimes they're so close to those stars that it's too bright to see details.

SEE MORE: It's A First — An Earth-Sized Exoplanet With An Atmosphere

And different exoplanets can gain atmospheres in different ways. Some gather hydrogen and helium while they form. Some get layers of complex organic molecules. And some, like this Neptune-sized planet we just found, show clear signs of water in their atmospheres, which probably gathered some time after it formed.

Water vapor isn't especially rare on exoplanets. Gas giants can have a lot of it. In 2014, a team found some on an exoplanet 124 light years away.

The researchers say this new finding will help them understand how exoplanets get their variety of atmospheres and offer clues as to how they form.

<![CDATA[Does Experiencing Beauty Require Thought? Kant's Theory Is Tested]]> Thu, 11 May 2017 11:08:00 -0500
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In 1764, philosopher Immanuel Kant speculated that beauty requires thought — and over 250 years later, new research backs his theory.

Neuroscientists at New York University wanted see if you really need conscious effort to experience beauty.

So they had study participants look at a series of images and say which ones they thought were "beautiful" or "plain."

SEE MORE: Men Increasingly Feeling Pressure To Be Beautiful

Then, the subjects did it again — but this time while they rated the pictures, they had to finish a memorization task that was supposed to distract them.

The second time around, participants said they had less pleasure from seeing "beautiful" images and felt indifferent about the "plain" ones.

It goes to show — you probably need brain power to appreciate beauty.

<![CDATA[This Robotic Exoskeleton Helps You Stay On Your Feet]]> Thu, 11 May 2017 09:17:00 -0500
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Some of us might be more clumsy than others, but we all trip and fall. Now, a new wearable robotic device could help you recover your balance after a slip.

Researchers developed a robotic exoskeleton that can detect a loss of balance. It will apply extra torque at the hips to help wearers stay on their feet.

"The novelty of this experiment is that for the first time, a human and an exoskeleton act together in real time, and the exoskeleton gives support to mitigate the risk of falling," said Nicola Vitiello, professor at Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies in Italy.

SEE MORE: Self-Folding Origami Could Lead To Self-Folding Robots

The scientists say this device could be useful for the elderly and for people with prosthetic limbs. It helps out only when it has to; wearers walk on their own the rest of the time.

"When I wear the exoskeleton, I feel that I am helped and protected even during normal walking," said Fulvio Bertelli, a participant in the study.

Ten people have tested the balance-boosting exoskeleton so far, including two people with lower limb amputations. Researchers say more tests are needed before the exoskeleton hits the market.

<![CDATA[SpaceX Successfully Tests Its Biggest Rocket So Far]]> Wed, 10 May 2017 20:20:00 -0500
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SpaceX just had a successful test run of its Falcon Heavy rockets. CEO Elon Musk wants to eventually use these rockets to take astronauts to the moon and, eventually, to Mars. 

The rocket can achieve liftoff with up to 100,000 pounds holding it down. The Falcon Heavy is made up of three Falcon 9 boosters, which produce a combined 5 million pounds of thrust. 

SpaceX is one of a handful of private companies trying to break into space travel, including United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin.

SEE MORE: This Flying Drone Car Could Mean No More Traffic Jams

Musk is planning to send two space tourists around the moon in 2018. That mission is intended to be a stepping stone to sending a manned mission to colonize Mars within the next few years.  

<![CDATA[The Clock Just Ran Out On Trump's Best Deregulation Tool]]> Wed, 10 May 2017 16:07:00 -0500
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Since taking control of the White House, Republicans have quickly stripped away lots of Obama administration regulations. But they may have just missed their last chance to keep doing it.

The Senate failed to repeal a rule allowing the Bureau of Land Management to cap methane emissions produced by oil and natural gas drilling, thanks to a surprise defection from Sen. John McCain.

Every Senate Democrat voted against the bill. They were joined by McCain, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Susan Collins. McCain said he didn't want to block the BLM from implementing a similar, better rule in the future.

Around $330 million of methane either leaks out of pipes or is intentionally burned off in the U.S. every year. Environmental advocates say the rule helped cut greenhouse gas emissions, but opponents said it was government overreach.

SEE MORE: Trump Takes Aim At EPA Water Regulations With New Executive Order

That likely would have been the 15th late Obama-era rule repealed using the Congressional Review Act

The CRA is a relatively new, powerful weapon in the legislative arsenal. It was passed in 1996 and only used once before the Trump administration, in 2001.

The rule lets Congress repeal regulations that have taken effect within the last 60 days that Congress has been in session. It only requires a simple majority and it can't be filibustered.

But due to the 60-day time frame, the clock has run out on the last few bills and orders signed by former President Obama. That could make it much tougher for President Trump to continue with his mission of deregulation.

<![CDATA[Hold It Together: The Delicate Work Of 3-D Printing Soft Tissue]]> Wed, 10 May 2017 15:59:00 -0500
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3-D printing has all sorts of promising medical applications — from tools and prostheses to entire organs. Doctors would love to dial up a replacement kidney for anyone who needs one.

And researchers at places like Harvard University and Cornell University are experimenting with printing human tissues and organs.

But without scaffolding or patterns to follow, holding something soft together can be challenging: blood vessels, for example.

SEE MORE: Doctors Develop Innovative Way To Save Babies Born Prematurely

So researchers are experimenting with support gels that hold fragile structures up while they're printed. They just figured out which chemicals to use to support silicone printing, which could lead to a range of useful soft parts, like fluid pumps or tracheal implants.

And live replacement tissue might not be far behind, after all. Carnegie Mellon University is already using a similar technique to print heart arteries.

<![CDATA[Trump Might Soon Clear Up Confusion Over His Climate Agreement Stance]]> Tue, 09 May 2017 16:55:00 -0500
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President Donald Trump might be this close to fulfilling a huge campaign promise — but it doesn't seem to be something most voters want.

"We're going to cancel the Paris climate agreement," Trump said in May 2016 during the campaign.

But that hasn't been so simple. Since Trump's inauguration, the administration has kind of been all over the place about America's future in the landmark climate deal, and a strategy session on the agreement has been put on hold for the second time.

The climate agreement aims to reduce carbon emissions worldwide, with each country pledging to hit individual targets. It was a huge achievement for President Barack Obama, who is still championing it post-presidency. And about 7 in 10 U.S. voters in one poll think the U.S. should be in the agreement.

Trump hasn't really been clear on where he stands now. And his team is clearly not in agreement. The head of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt is against it.

"We don’t need to be apologetic about our position, and we need to exit Paris," Pruitt told Fox News.

On the other end, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has reportedly led the charge for America to stay in the agreement. Apparently, Tillerson is worried about the diplomatic fallout if the U.S. leaves.

Trump's decision won't be easy. Backing out is completely in line with promises of an "America First" policy and making sure all international deals are looked at or ripped up. And yet in one poll, 47 percent of his own voters say the U.S. should stay in the agreement.

SEE MORE: Climate March Pushes Back Against Trump Agenda

In just more than 100 days in office, the realities of policy-making in the White House seem to have tempered some of Trump's rhetoric, at least when it comes to international relations.

The president has already backed off from two international promises: labeling China as a currency manipulator and promising to leave the North American Free Trade Agreement — not to mention the lack of action on building a southern border wall.

Either way, the U.S. is the key to the future of the Paris Agreement. One hundred ninety-five nations signed on, but with the Americans gone, it's likely to fall apart, especially since the U.S. is the world's second largest polluter after China.

Despite the public confusion, the president is expected to announce something soon, possibly before the G7 summit on May 26.

<![CDATA[Irradiated US Nuclear Site Goes Into Emergency Lockdown]]> Tue, 09 May 2017 13:49:30 -0500
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A cave-in at a mostly decommissioned U.S. nuclear site has prompted an emergency warning from the Department of Energy.

Employees at the Hanford Site in Washington state were told to shelter in place after part of a tunnel used to store contaminated materials collapsed. The site says all employees are safe and that there are no signs of a radiation leak.

Hanford was a plutonium production plant during the Cold War. It's now one of the Energy Department's most challenging cleanups. Work began in 1989 and probably won't stop until at least 2052. The site will cost the department $2.3 billion this fiscal year alone.

SEE MORE: US Could Make It Harder For North Korea To Fund Its Nuclear Program

The Trump administration has proposed increasing spending on nuclear waste management, even as it plans to slash other parts of the department's budget.

And Energy Secretary Rick Perry said during his confirmation hearing he'd prioritize the Hanford cleanup.

Perry told Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, "There is an administration that is committed to making true movement on what I consider to be one of the real failures that this country has had dealing with our nuclear waste."

<![CDATA[There's A Two-Decade Life Expectancy Gap In The US]]> Tue, 09 May 2017 11:00:00 -0500
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Where you live could affect your life span by as much as 20 years, according to a new study.

Researchers looked at counties across the U.S. and found the highest life expectancy was almost 87 years old. The lowest was about 67 years old.

Counties in North and South Dakota saw the lowest life expectancies, and the hardest hit communities included Native American reservations.

People in counties in eastern Kentucky, the lower half of Mississippi and the southwestern part of West Virginia also face earlier deaths.

The highest life expectancies were found in central Colorado.

Socioeconomic factors like poverty, education and unemployment had a big impact on projected life spans in the study.

SEE MORE: Where You Live Could Affect Your Cancer Risk

But health factors like obesity and smoking had the biggest impact.

Those were the main reasons Americans died young, which brought averages down more.

Unfortunately, the life-span gap depending on where you live in America is getting wider. The researchers say by next year, the difference will likely be over 20 years.

<![CDATA[Why Do We Treat Our Spacecraft Like They're Humans?]]> Tue, 09 May 2017 10:49:00 -0500
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Robots have become our new space explorers, venturing farther than any human ever has. And since they're essentially their own astronaut class, we tend to treat them like humans.

Space agencies have taken it one step further — giving spacecraft a voice and personality through social media.

"There's a lot of people who follow us because it taps back into that childlike wonderment that they had when they were a kid," said Jason Townsend, deputy social media manager at NASA. "I think we can really connect in a way that is relevant and resonates really well with our audience."

When NASA gave its space probes their own Twitter accounts, the public loved it.

 "Suddenly it was 'Go, buddy, go! You can do it! We're rooting for you!'" said Stephanie Smith, social media lead at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "There was a lot more personal connection with the mission."

Now lots of NASA space probes put their own spin on their journeys. NASA's Curiosity rover shares new views of Mars and posts selfies. It even sings "Happy Birthday" to itself every year.

SEE MORE: Celebrate The Martian New Year To Fill That Springtime Holiday Void

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has shown us what it's seen on its journey to an asteroid.

Some space bots even have a bit of attitude. 

 "Juno is named for the goddess Juno, who could see through all of the god Jupiter's shenanigans," Smith said. "There's a fierceness to that account, almost like Beyoncé in space."

And when a mission is ending, these spacecraft say goodbye. China's Yutu spacecraft sent a farewell message before engineers shut it off.

And the European Space Agency shared a teary cartoon of its probe as the Rosetta mission wrapped up. People took to social media to say their goodbyes to the spacecraft and share their remorse.

This emotional attachment stems from how we anthropomorphize inanimate objects — or treat nonhuman things like humans. And the more humanlike an object is, the more likely we are to treat it as human.

"It is something humans want to do, particularly when something looks like it has a face," Smith said. "The natural human reaction is to anthropomorphize it, to treat it like another human."

But some researchers are concerned our emotional connection to inanimate objects could affect how we use them — especially when things go wrong.

Yutu's goodbye was so sad the entire internet mourned the rover, and the media pronounced it "dead." "The Daily Show" even spoofed the farewell message to lift people's spirits.

And as NASA's Cassini spacecraft prepares for its "grand finale" — a crash landing on Saturn — people on Twitter have shared their appreciation and said their farewells.

SEE MORE: NASA's Cassini Probe Goes Where No Spacecraft Has Gone Before

The concern is we might not be so eager to launch another spacecraft if we know it'll eventually be lost to space. But Smith says she thinks the emotional attachment does more good than harm.

"On the contrary, I think forming more emotional bonds with a spacecraft makes it easier to root for them," Smith said. "You root for things, and you pull for things that you love."

"The public is not going to be in control of spacecraft operations," she added. "Not that the teams are dispassionate; they love their explorers. But they know full well that they are not people and that they are robots. They are tools there to do a job."

So, it's probably not a bad thing we give these probes a human side. It can get people interested in exploring space — even if it does make it harder to say goodbye.

<![CDATA[THC May Affect Older Brains In A Surprising Way]]> Mon, 08 May 2017 18:56:00 -0500
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A toke a day might just keep the doctor away, or at least keep your brain younger. That's according to a new study out Monday in the journal Nature Medicine

Researchers at the University of Bonn and Hebrew University gave young and old mice THC — the stuff in marijuana that gets you high — and found something interesting.

The younger mice conformed to stoner stereotypes; they struggled with simple tasks they could easily do sober.

SEE MORE: Support For Pot Seems To Be Growing, But Not In Trump's White House

But in older mice, the exact opposite was true. They struggled while sober, but under the influence, they were as good as their younger sober counterparts. 

The daily low dosage of THC also seemed to protect against, and even reverse, signs of aging in the brains of older rats. 

Previous research has shown that the brain's cannabis receptors might be related to brain health. 

The researchers want to explore the impact of THC on older human brains later this year

<![CDATA[EPA Administrator Pushes For Fewer Scientists On Advisory Panels]]> Mon, 08 May 2017 18:28:00 -0500
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The Environmental Protection Agency is restructuring some of its independent advisory panels, and that could mean fewer scientists working for the government. 

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has decided not to renew three-year terms for at least some scientists who advise the agency on its research and how that impacts certain environmental regulations.

While there was no guarantee for a renewal, members of one panel were previously told twice their roles would be renewed, which was often the case.

Two specific panels have been named already: The 47-member Science Advisory Board, which evaluates certain regulations and helps direct research done for the agency, and the Board of Scientific Counselors, an 18-member panel that assesses the diligence of that research.

According to their respective websites, the SAB is authorized to:

-Review the scientific and technical information used by the EPA, including those used to establish regulations

-Review the agency's research programs and plans

-Advise the EPA and its leadership on matters of science

The BOSC was established to:

-Evaluate the work of the EPA's research and development wing

-Recommend ways to enhance research as it pertains to the goal of the EPA

-Facilitate peer review of research

At least five members of the BOSC have already been dismissed after their terms ended this year, according to The New York Times; many of the members' terms already have or will expire this fiscal year. At the SAB, 12 members' terms expire by September.

This seems to be part of an overall movement to bring more industry influence to the EPA. Back in March, the House passed a bill that would allow for more corporate influence on another advisory board, and it could have the added impact of discouraging academics to seek out the role.

"These reforms will strengthen the public's trust of the science the EPA uses to support its regulations," Science, Space and Technology Committee Chair Texas Rep. Lamar Smith said on the House floor March regarding the bill. "It also allows more public participation in the EPA's science review process."

SEE MORE: This City Is Fighting Back Against The EPA's New Climate Change Stance

A spokesperson for Pruitt said, "The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community."

<![CDATA[Some FDA-Approved Drugs Have Safety Problems After They're OK'd]]> Mon, 08 May 2017 15:40:18 -0500
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About 1 in 3 drugs a new study examined were found to have a safety issue after the Food and Drug Administration OK'd them.

The researchers found 32 percent of new drugs approved from 2001-2010 were flagged with a safety cocern.

The FDA tries to spot problems early by running drugs through a number of clinical trials and tests before they get to market.

SEE MORE: Trump's FDA Pick Is A Popular Choice In The Pharmaceutical Industry

But those trials usually last less than six months, which makes it harder to spot side effects that might only show up when someone takes the drug for a longer time.

The Trump administration has pressured the FDA to approve drugs faster.

But the researchers say moving quickly might already be part of the problem. They found that drugs fast-tracked through the FDA were more likely to cause safety concerns later.

<![CDATA[Where You Live Could Affect Your Cancer Risk]]> Mon, 08 May 2017 15:39:00 -0500
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Areas of poor environmental quality are more likely to have higher cancer rates, according to new research published in the journal Cancer.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago compared data from the Environmental Quality Index with cancer incidence rates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study looked at how air, water and land quality, as well as social factors, demographics and even the things we build around ourselves, can contribute to cancer development.

The scientists found the average county in the U.S. had about 451 cases per 100,000 people, while areas with the worst environmental factors had about 490 cases.

SEE MORE: Most Cancer-Causing Mutations Might Just Be Bad Luck

People were most likely to develop prostate and breast cancer when environmental quality decreased.

And while previous research has looked at the individual environmental factors that lead to an increased risk of cancer, this study is the first that considers all of those factors at once.

<![CDATA[The Air Force's Top-Secret Space Plane Has Returned To Earth]]> Mon, 08 May 2017 07:36:00 -0500
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The U.S. Air Force's unmanned space plane has returned to Earth, completing a top-secret mission that lasted nearly two years.

The X-37B spacecraft landed safely at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Sunday morning after spending 718 days in orbit. 

It was launched into space by an Atlas 5 rocket back in May 2015.

It's still unclear exactly what the plane was doing up there. 

SEE MORE: SpaceX Just Launched A Top-Secret Spy Satellite

The Air Force will only say it "performs risk reduction, experimentation and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies."

But, as CNN points out, many wonder if it was up to something a little more mysterious, like spy activities or testing a new weapon.

This was the fourth and longest trip for the space plane so far. The Air Force says it plans to launch it back into orbit again later this year.

<![CDATA[This City Is Fighting Back Against The EPA's New Climate Change Stance]]> Sun, 07 May 2017 14:20:00 -0500
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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has decided to fight back against what he sees as the Environmental Protection Agency's new stance on climate change.

On April 28, the EPA's website removed most mentions of climate change.

Now when you try to visit the agency's climate change section, you get a notice that says the page is being updated to reflect the administration's priorities. 

SEE MORE: The US Will Battle Climate Change Without Washington's Help

In response, Emanuel decided Chicago would launch its own climate change section on the city's official website.

Chicago's climate change site pulled its information from the EPA site under the Obama administration. That information is still available as a snapshot but isn't being updated anymore.

The city will be developing tools to better archive the public information. Emanuel says he hopes that other cities and universities will join Chicago in preserving the climate data. 

<![CDATA[On A Sloppy Track, A Last-Minute Favorite Wins The Kentucky Derby]]> Sun, 07 May 2017 10:26:00 -0500
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In the 2017 Run for the Roses, Always Dreaming out-galloped the competition and became this year's Kentucky Derby champion.

Always Dreaming didn't start out as the favorite but caught bettors' eyes as the race drew near. 

That was money well-invested. Always Dreaming shot out to a big lead on the final stretch that left everyone else fighting for second. 

The race was made a bit more difficult by rainy conditions, but the 3-year-old colt was able to push through the sloppy track.

SEE MORE: A One-Eyed Horse Named Patch Is The Kentucky Derby Fan Favorite

Always Dreaming will now get ready for the second jewel of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes. He will try to become the second Triple Crown winner in three years, following American Pharoah in 2015.

<![CDATA[Celebrate The Martian New Year To Fill That Springtime Holiday Void]]> Fri, 05 May 2017 16:20:00 -0500
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Got your party hats ready? May 5 marks ... the Martian New Year. That seems a little odd since we're in the middle of Earth's year, but there's a reason Mars' date falls where it does.

NASA usually measures time in the solar system against the Earth standard — where our planet takes 365 days to go around the sun.

Mars orbits farther from the sun than Earth does. One year there takes 687 Earth days, or almost 23 months.

SEE MORE: Trump Wants To Get Humans To Mars ASAP

The Mars New Year coincides with the the start of spring in its northern hemisphere. The planet doesn't have the atmosphere for rain showers, but it will get dust storms.

To celebrate, NASA is in Mars, Pennsylvania, for a few days of science and technology exhibits about Mars exploration. Yes, it's not the real Mars, but the weather should be much nicer, and there's still parking for spaceships.

<![CDATA[Dark Matter Is Hard To Find, But Hubble Might Be Able To Help]]> Fri, 05 May 2017 15:18:00 -0500
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NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has peered across 6 billion light years of space, giving us unprecedented views of our universe. Its newest and final Frontier Fields image shows just how vast our universe is and is helping astronomers study one of the most elusive secrets of space — dark matter.

Researchers think dark matter is more common in the universe than visible matter, but because it does not absorb or emit light, they have a hard time finding it and studying it. The best way is to watch for its effects on other things we can see, like in images from the Frontier Fields program.

"We can't study it by using traditional methods like looking at the light it gives off," said NASA scientist Padi Boyd. "That's exactly why we call it 'dark matter.' Using an image like the Frontier Field and how it's distorting the galaxies behind it allows us to map out the dark matter."

The Frontier Fields program aims to push our view of the universe all the way back to the Big Bang, showing us some of the earliest objects and galaxies in the cosmos.

SEE MORE: How Does NASA Transport A Massive $9 Billion Telescope?

The new image captured the thousands of galaxies in a cluster known as Abell 370. Astronomers think the cluster contains two large clumps of dark matter.

And although this is the last Frontier Fields image, astronomers can study its observations for years to come. Hubble will also continue to lay the groundwork for future missions, like NASA's James Webb Space Telescope.

<![CDATA[Music Keeps The Mind Sharp — Even If You're An Animal In A Zoo]]> Fri, 05 May 2017 11:32:00 -0500
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sloth bear wouldn't usually play the harmonica, but at a zoo, the experience stimulates her senses and mind.

Enrichment is any practice where zookeepers give animals something new — from perches to toys to exotic foods and scents. The idea is to encourage captive animals to keep their wild behaviors sharp or give them a mental challenge, some exercise or just an interesting toy to investigate.

"We want our animals to be as natural as possible," said Smithsonian zookeeper Jenny Spotten. "We want to encourage natural behaviors as much as possible."

SEE MORE: Where To Go To See A Giant Panda In The US

At Smithsonian's National Zoo, keepers recently gave residents musical instruments. Animals definitely wouldn't find those in the wild, but they are unique to look at, to touch — and to listen to.

It's a bit avant-garde, yes, but a jam session can have real health benefits. Enrichment reduces stress, and makes zoo residents less likely to pick up unnatural behaviors, like pacing or swimming in circles.

And you have to admit that it's fun to listen to.

<![CDATA[The Probable Fate Of One Of Antarctica's Largest Ice Shelves]]> Thu, 04 May 2017 16:08:00 -0500
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There's a giant crack working its way through part of a huge Antarctic ice shelf. If it gets bad enough, a chunk of ice the size of Delaware might break loose. And researchers think they might know what's coming after that because they've seen it happen several times already.

In 1995, part of that Larsen ice shelf disintegrated into tiny icebergs. It was the first time researchers watched a shelf do that. Until then, they usually saw one big iceberg break off or just gradual melting. Scientists suggested the new behavior was related to warmer temperatures in the region.

In 2002, part of the shelf the size of Rhode Island became unstable and broke apart in a matter of months — again, probably thanks to local warming trends.

SEE MORE: What Melting Arctic Ice Sheets Could Do To The World's Ocean Currents

Researchers think the current iceberg threat could be the first hint at a similar fate. They can't say yet if warming is the culprit this time or if this is some other natural event — but the outcome could eventually be the same: more melting.

<![CDATA[House Votes 'Yes' For The GOP Obamacare Replacement]]> Thu, 04 May 2017 13:31:00 -0500
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Congress has taken the first step toward repealing and replacing Obamacare.

Before the vote, House Speaker Paul Ryan said: "A lot of us have been waiting seven years to cast this vote. Many of us are here because we pledged to cast this very vote."

Getting rid of the Affordable Care Act was one of President Donald Trump's main campaign promises. Less than 24 hours before the vote, GOP leaders were confident the latest version of the bill would pass.

This is the second time Republicans have pushed an Obamacare replacement. The first version, proposed in late March, was deeply unpopular on both sides of the aisle.

Democrats blasted the initial bill, saying it would strip health insurance coverage from millions of Americans.

Some Republicans also resisted the bill. Many said it wasn't a big enough change from the existing health care system. Sen. Rand Paul called it "Obamacare lite."

SEE MORE: Bernie Sanders' 'Medicare for All' Health Care Plan, Explained

Speaker Paul Ryan pulled it before it even went to a vote.

Trumpcare 2.0 still isn't popular among Democrats and even some Republicans, partly because the Congressional Budget Office hasn't reviewed it. The office estimates how many people would lose coverage and how much the bill would cost.

Still, the Republican majority in the House was enough to push the American Health Care Act through. The vote on the bill passed 217-213.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi warned Republicans: "You have every provision of this bill tattooed on your forehead. You will glow in the dark on this one."

This is the first step in a three-part Republican plan to overhaul the American health care system. The bill still needs 50 votes in the Senate to reach the president's desk.

<![CDATA[After A Scramble For Support, Health Care Bill Will Come To The Floor]]> Wed, 03 May 2017 20:57:00 -0500
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After a last-minute amendment, Republican leaders say their health care plan has enough votes to pass. 

If that's the case, House Speaker Paul Ryan will bring the bill to the floor for a vote on Thursday

The magic number is 216; the GOP was a few votes shy of that threshold only a day ago

But after some phone calls from the president to wary Republicans, along with a new amendment that adds even more money to the cash pot for "high-risk" patients, a vote seems like it could happen. 

Fred Upton, a moderate Republican from Michigan, was a big "no" vote until he met with the president Wednesday. They drafted an amendment that put an additional $8 billion over five years into the high-risk pool fund. The bill had $130 billion set aside for the fund before the amendment was tacked on. 

Thankfully for the GOP, all but one member of the House Freedom Caucus still supports the bill after the added amendment. The ultra-conservative group was responsible for keeping the bill from making it to the floor back in March. 

SEE MORE: Pence Defends GOP Health Care Plan In Ky., Where Obamacare Had Success

The bill would still have to get through the Senate. But getting it through the House would be a huge win for both President Donald Trump and the GOP. 

<![CDATA[A New Way To Detect Pain In Newborns]]> Wed, 03 May 2017 13:06:00 -0500
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It's no secret that babies cry — a lot. And that makes it hard for doctors to tell if a newborn is in pain during simple procedures like blood tests. But a new method might better show just how much discomfort a baby is in.

Researchers have developed a way to determine babies' pain levels by measuring their brain activity. They say they hope it will be more reliable than current methods.

Right now, pediatricians rely on facial expressions, body movements and changes in temperature and heart rate, to tell if a baby is in pain. They then compare their observations to a pain scale to assess how much discomfort the baby is experiencing.

But these indicators aren't always reliable and can have other causes, such as illness or reactions to certain medications.

SEE MORE: Doctors Develop Innovative Way To Save Babies Born Prematurely

"There's a fundamental problem with some of these measures because they're not very sensitive, and they're the kinds of things a baby would do anyway," said Rebeccah Slater, associate professor at the University of Oxford and lead author of the study.

The new method could serve as a better indicator of whether a baby is in pain and even be used to test new baby-specific pain treatments.

"Now that we've applied these measures, we're hoping that they'll be able to be used to better understand the development of pain in infancy and also to improve treatment," Slater said.

<![CDATA[Oscar Mayer Is Taking Some Stuff Out Of Its Hot Dogs]]> Wed, 03 May 2017 13:05:00 -0500
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Oscar Mayer wants to make the contents of your next hot dog slightly less mysterious.

Kraft Heinz says its wieners will now have no added nitrites and nitrates, as well as no artificial preservatives.

To mark the change, the company is sending six Wienermobiles across the country for three months. It's even taking hot dogs to places like New York Harbor and to remote places in Alaska.

It's not the only Kraft Heinz product that's had its recipe tweaked recently. The company's signature macaroni and cheese apparently ditched the artificial preservatives, flavors and dyes.

SEE MORE: Debunking 'Halal Hysteria' Meat Myths

Changing recipes to make them more healthy or natural has been a trend lately in the food and beverage industry.

PepsiCo said it wants to phase out a lot of added sugars in its drinks.

Nestle says it's figured out how to use 40 percent less sugar in its candy bars without ruining the taste.

And General Mills — the company behind Lucky Charms, Reese's Puffs and Cheerios — vowed to get rid of artificial flavors and colors in its cereals.

<![CDATA[Filter-Feeding Plankton Clean Carbon Out Of The Oceans]]> Wed, 03 May 2017 13:03:00 -0500
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The ocean absorbs a lot of our industrial carbon dioxide, and plankton filters a lot of it once it's there. But new research shows one specific species of plankton filters carbon faster than the others — probably thanks to its house.

Giant larvaceans build delicate water filters out of mucus and pump water through them to keep them inflated. The wispy outer filter can get more than 3 feet wide to catch stuff that floats by. The curved inner filter guides particles toward the larvacean so it can eat.

Until now, we hadn't studied how giant larvaceans filter the water around them. They're so fragile they can't really be removed from the ocean. So researchers used a remote vehicle packed with lasers and cameras to study them where they live.

SEE MORE: Lowly Plankton Have Evolved Sophisticated Harpoon Guns

They calculated there were enough plankton to filter carbon and other nutrients out of all the water in their range in Monterey Bay in just a couple weeks. 

When a filter gets clogged with enough material, the larvacean drops it, and it drifts to the bottom of the ocean. All the carbon it cleaned out of the shallower water ends up on the seafloor — or as lunch for other creatures — and can stay out of the atmosphere for millions of years.

<![CDATA[Jane Goodall Said This After Ivanka Trump Used Her Quote]]> Wed, 03 May 2017 10:08:00 -0500
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Ivanka Trump's new manual for women in the workforce is full of inspirational quotes from other people: Toni Morrison, Estée Lauder and Jane Goodall, who, in a way, is turning her own words on Trump.

The British conservationist once said, "What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make."

And Trump used that quote in her new book, "Women Who Work."

Goodall said she wasn't aware Trump was using her words, but she wasn't necessarily upset. Instead, she pushed Trump to take them to heart.

SEE MORE: Here's What Ivanka Trump Needs To Do To Comply With Ethics Laws

Goodall argued Trump administration policies have jeopardized wildlife, natural resources and national monuments.

She said, "[Ivanka Trump] is in a position to do much good or terrible harm. I hope that Ms. Trump will stand with us to value and cherish our natural world and protect this planet for future generations."

But how much Trump can, or will, do on the environmental front is up for debate.

She is widely considered one of the president's most trusted advisers. And a slew of stories with unnamed sources have said climate change is a key issue she wants to tackle.

But others note Trump hasn't explicitly supported climate policies. And because most of her work happens behind closed doors, her role and influence isn't explicit, either.

<![CDATA[AP Report Highlights School Violence Tracking Flaws]]> Tue, 02 May 2017 14:23:00 -0500
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Schools are one of the places children are most likely to be sexually abused by their peers. But a recent Associated Press report highlights just how difficult it can be to track that abuse. 

The report centers around Chaz Wing, who says his classmates at his former school in Brunswick, Maine, sexually assaulted him during the 2011-2012 school year. 

Wing and his mother were formerly anonymous plaintiffs, along with the Maine Human Rights Commission, in a lawsuit against the Brunswick School Department. They claimed the school didn't do enough to prevent or address the abuse. 

SEE MORE: Here's How You Could Help Stop A Sexual Assault

The school district later settled the lawsuit for $125,000 and also agreed to switch from paper to electronic records to track incidents of bullying. 

The AP says Wing's case is one of 17,000 reported sexual assaults by students between 2011 and 2015 across the country. According to federal statistics, "serious violent victimizations," which include rape and sexual assault, have decreased over time

But many cases still go unreported, and there's no federal mandate for school districts to track sexual violence. 

<![CDATA[Your Cat Probably Loves You. Science Says So.]]> Mon, 01 May 2017 21:03:00 -0500
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Are you sitting down? You might want to be sitting down for this. OK, ready? Cats tend to prefer the company of people over nearly anything else. 

SEE MORE: A Border Wall Would Be Bad News For Wild Cats

Unbelievable, right? Well, there's scientific evidence to back up that claim. Researchers exposed 38 cats to a wide variety of stimuli including food, toys, interesting smells and humans to see which they preferred. And humans won out, even against food — though food was a close second.

The researchers say the information might be useful in helping reinforce good behavior in cats through conditioning, but they leave it to future studies to see if that's true.

So the next time you feel like a glorified can opener for your feline friend, remember they love you more than the food you're holding. Probably.

<![CDATA[SpaceX Just Launched A Top-Secret Spy Satellite]]> Mon, 01 May 2017 09:59:00 -0500
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SpaceX successfully launched yet another rocket Monday morning.

But it wasn't carrying your average SpaceX cargo. 

The Falcon 9 rocket was actually used to send a top-secret U.S. government spy satellite into space.

SEE MORE: SpaceX Hits A Major Milestone On Its Way To Mars

The unmanned rocket lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida around 7 a.m. Monday.

The launch was originally scheduled for Sunday, but it was scrubbed at the last minute because of a "sensor issue." SpaceX CEO Elon Musk noted in a tweet that high-altitude winds during Monday's launch almost exceeded the rocket's capability.

And after it launched the National Reconnaissance Office satellite into orbit, the rocket booster turned around and touched back down at a nearby landing pad.

The mission was SpaceX's first for the Department of Defense, a customer Musk has been trying to do business with for a while now.

SpaceX received certification to launch satellites for the U.S. Air Force in 2015.

Because Monday's mission was a national security launch, the finer details are being kept under wraps.

<![CDATA[Storm Dumps A Foot Of Snow And Kicks Up Tornadoes On The Same Night]]> Sun, 30 Apr 2017 15:30:00 -0500
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A blizzard, flooding and tornadoes — all in one storm.

A late-April system that ripped across a large part of the central and southern U.S. killed at least 10 people in Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi and Missouri, according to local media.

Heavy rain in Oklahoma caused flooding across the state. In Missouri and Arkansas, high waters killed at least five people.

On Saturday, the storm produced tornadoes that leveled homes east of Dallas while at the same time, it dumped more than a foot of snow on parts of the Denver metro area.

SEE MORE: The Northern Hemisphere Is Getting Less Snow, And That's A Big Problem

The snowfall that covered the Mile High City moved out to western Kansas on Sunday. The National Weather Service predicted up to 14 inches could fall there. Goodland, Kansas, reported wind gusts up to 59 miles per hour.

It's not unheard of for western Kansas to get snow in April — but not quite this much. The average snowfall for the entire month of April in the area is around 3 inches. So 14 inches is uncommon.

The storm was moving east Sunday, impacting much of the Midwest.

<![CDATA[A New Bill Could Completely Upend The Endangered Species Act]]> Sun, 30 Apr 2017 10:11:00 -0500
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A new bill could completely change how endangered species are protected in the U.S.

The Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act would allow governors to determine how much to protect a species found only within their state's borders — if at all.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, that change could affect over 1,000 animals. And whatever protection the governors choose is ironclad: The proposed act doesn't allow for judicial review at all.

The bill also rewrites how endangered species are added to the list of protected animals.

Right now, services within the Department of the Interior determine if an animal is in danger of going extinct and add those animals to the list.

But under the bill, any animal put on the endangered species list would first have to be approved by Congress.

SEE MORE: Why The Endangered Species Act Can Be So Controversial

And those animals won't necessarily be protected for long. Under this proposal, animals would be removed from the list after five years unless Congress agrees to keep protecting them.

But in order to relist them, the secretary of the interior first has to consult with the governors of all the states where the animal is present before resubmitting the animal for consideration.

So far, the bill has only been referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works for review, so it will be a while before the whole Senate gets to vote.

<![CDATA[Climate March Pushes Back Against Trump Agenda]]> Sat, 29 Apr 2017 15:57:00 -0500
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The People's Climate March drew tens of thousands of people to Washington, D.C., on Saturday — one of the hottest days on record for April 29 in D.C. history.

"There's a lot of energy," said Ben Smith, a Sierra Club member. "There's maybe even anger, you might say. But if you can focus that, like you can hear right now, and get people to work together on something, I think that's where change comes from. But I think this is a good first step."

SEE MORE: A New Climate Change Prediction Is Bad News For One State

Organizers say about 150,000 people took part in Saturday's march in Washington. Hundreds of other marches sprung up around the U.S. and globally.

This comes exactly 100 days into Donald Trump's presidency and just hours after the Environmental Protection Agency, led by oil and gas ally Scott Pruitt, removed information on climate change from its website.

"I think the administration is just not doing enough on climate change," said Sarah Van Horn, a student from Brooklyn. "I think it's a huge issue that's going to affect the whole work, but it's not going to affect everyone equally. I think it's a class issue, and it's a race issue."

<![CDATA[Why The Government Wants Your Old Prescription Drugs]]> Sat, 29 Apr 2017 14:43:00 -0500
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The Drug Enforcement Administration wants to take back your old prescription drugs.

The idea is simple: the annual Drug Take-Back Day gives people a safe place to turn in old or outdated prescription medications, some of which are controlled substances.

Last year, a record number of pills were turned over to law enforcement. DEA hosted the first drug take-back day in 2010.

SEE MORE: We Might Be Underestimating Opioid-Related Deaths In The US

Studies show people who become addicted to opioids often start by stealing or buying old pills from friends and family.

The Department of Health and Human Services says the opioid problem in the U.S. is an "epidemic." According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's most recent data, an of average 90 deaths in the U.S. every day are linked to opioids.

<![CDATA[The EPA Just Removed Climate Change Info From Its Website]]> Sat, 29 Apr 2017 13:08:00 -0500
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If you're looking for info on climate change, you won't find it on the Environmental Protection Agency's website — at least for the time being.

The EPA took down some of its webpages Friday, including an explainer on what climate change is and what it means for the U.S. The agency also removed a section detailing the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan.

The EPA is keeping an archived version of the site online, dated to the day before President Donald Trump took office.

The EPA says this is an effort to get the website more in line with the views of the Trump administration.

SEE MORE: Senator Says The EPA Is 'Brainwashing Our Kids'

The old climate change page said in no uncertain terms "climate change is happening" and "humans are largely responsible for recent climate change." That goes against what new EPA head Scott Pruitt has said.

"Measuring with precision the human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there's a tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact," Pruitt said in a CNBC interview March 10. "So no, I would not agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see."

Pruitt's comments go against the consensus in the scientific community. According to NASA, at least 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate change in the past century was likely caused by humans.

The website change came the day before thousands of people were set to participate in the People's Climate March.

<![CDATA[A New Climate Change Prediction Is Bad News For One State]]> Sat, 29 Apr 2017 11:35:00 -0500
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California could be in major trouble because of climate change. In some cases, landlocked regions could eventually have beaches.

An updated government report says in one severe scenario, sea levels could rise by 10 feet over the next the century.

That could mean tens of thousands of homes and businesses lost, as well as power plants, water treatment facilities and hundreds of miles of roadways in the coastal state.

The culprit in the study? It says loosely regulated greenhouse gas emissions. Fossil fuels are causing ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica to melt at increasingly faster rates.

The report says when ice melts in Antarctica, sea levels near California could rise more than the rest of the world.

SEE MORE: Trump Administration Could Reverse America's Course On Climate Change

Sea levels have been rising for thousands of years, but starting in 2050, that rate could be 30-40 times faster than what we've seen over the past century.

California has some of the the strictest rules on emissions in the nation as it's particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

But the eco-friendly state's rules run contrary to the Trump administration's latest emission efforts. President Donald Trump signed an executive order in March to roll back regulations on carbon emissions.

<![CDATA[Self-Folding Origami Could Lead To Self-Folding Robots]]> Fri, 28 Apr 2017 15:47:00 -0500
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These little shapes aren't just pretty origami. Scientist have figured out how to get them to fold themselves, which could bring us closer to self-assembling robots.

Researchers in Atlanta and China projected patterns onto light-sensitive resin so it curled and folded itself as it hardened. Tuning the light source changed how much a shape bent and the direction it bent in. The result was intricate designs less than an inch wide.

The researchers think self-assembling origami could make it easier to build custom electronics or medical tools. They and other scientists are interested in foldable robots — something that can arrange itself and then do something useful with its shape.

NASA is developing bots that can fold themselves to go places rigid ones can't and to help explore exotic locations. This one from Massachusetts Institute of Technology is less than half an inch long, but it can swim, climb and even carry things.

SEE MORE: This Small Robot Could Change The Way We Explore Other Planets

Tiny origami robots are especially promising for medical applications inside the body. One version unfolds itself from a capsule to recover swallowed objects or to patch wounds.

That might be a good fit for these resin shapes, especially since the technique can be applied to different materials. Robots in the future might fold themselves up, do their jobs and then dissolve when they're done.

<![CDATA[New Executive Order Could Lead To Increased Offshore Drilling]]> Fri, 28 Apr 2017 10:44:00 -0500
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President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday that could lead to an increase in offshore oil and gas drilling.

Late last year, the Obama administration implemented a five-year plan that banned offshore drilling in parts of the Arctic, Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Trump's executive order directs the Interior Department to review that plan.

Those banned waters make up most of the Outer Continental Shelf — the waters that neighbor U.S. land. Interior officials believe they contain 90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered gas.

The order is also designed to reverse a ban President Barack Obama implemented in December to block new offshore drilling leases in the majority of U.S. waters in the Arctic Ocean and some of the Atlantic Ocean.

The review could take several years, so new offshore drilling won't pick up immediately.

The executive order also requires the Commerce Department to review all marine monuments and sanctuaries designated within the past decade.

SEE MORE: What's With The Obsession With The President's First 100 Days?

That means looking at the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which is the largest conservation area on Earth. It covers more than 582,000 square miles of sea and land off the coast of Hawaii.

Earlier this week, Trump signed an executive order to review 21 years worth of national monument designations.

If any of those monument designations were to one day be resized or rescinded completely, that federal land could be opened up to energy production. 

<![CDATA[NASA's New Spacesuit Program Is Way Off Course]]> Thu, 27 Apr 2017 18:35:00 -0500
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Over the last eight years, NASA has spent around $200 million trying to develop new spacesuits. But auditors report the agency isn't even close to having its next generation of suits ready.

But they need to be done relatively soon or they'll miss an important deadline: the retirement of the International Space Station in 2024. 

Testing the new suits aboard the ISS might be key to avoiding life-threatening technical difficulties on later deep-space missions.

All that money NASA has spent has been spread across three programs. But the auditors report that those programs don't have a clear road map right now.

The auditors are pretty critical of one contract in particular: suits being developed for the Constellation program. That contract was active until 2016 — even though the program was canceled in 2010.

Constellation was an ambitious program authorized under President George W. Bush. Among other things, it wanted to get humans back to the moon by 2020 and eventually establish a lunar outpost.

SEE MORE: Seam Me Up, Scotty: How Spacesuits Evolved From Clunky To Cool

And the auditors are worried that the suit designed for NASA's Orion mission won't be ready in time, but that mission might not launch on time anyway, even if the suit is completed as scheduled. 

NASA has been using the same spacesuit design since the 1970s, but it's running out of those, too. Only four of those remain flight-ready with the other seven in various states of repair or testing.

The agency doesn't want to build more of those because they cost up to $250 million per suit to build, and they're not exactly deep-space ready.

One of NASA's main goals is to have humans visit Mars in the 2030s. But without updated spacesuits, that dream would be nearly impossible. 

<![CDATA[Copying The World's Greenest Energy From Nature]]> Thu, 27 Apr 2017 16:06:00 -0500
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Solar panels are great and all, but what if technology could photosynthesize energy from sunlight like plants do? As renewable energy goes, that's the Holy Grail.

Sunlight is the most plentiful, most reliable energy source we have. The fuels from photosynthesis can pack the same kind of punch as gasoline. And the process can even clean the air, just like real plants.

One method uses a catalyst to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, either on its own or with a power boost from a solar panel that makes the process more efficient. Researchers at Harvard University have improved that technique by applying bacteria that refine the hydrogen into different fuels.

And one of the newest experiments, from researchers in Florida, works even more like natural leaves: Organic molecules pull carbon dioxide out of the air.

These modern lab tests are already more efficient than plants, which usually turn less than 1 percent of their sunlight into usable energy. So why don't we have forests full of fake trees to meet our energy needs?

SEE MORE: Lightning Makes For A Terrible Renewable Energy Source

Efficient water-splitters need catalysts like platinum, which are expensive. We're finding cheaper materials, but some of them corrode if they're in water too long. There's a balance to strike, and we haven't found a commercially viable one yet.

Another challenge is using the fuels these experiments produce. Most consumer cars don't run on hydrogen, for example, and other fuels we can make from the gas take more processing.

But researchers say creating reliable energy from sunlight is worth the challenge. It could help meet the energy needs of a developing world and help the environment at the same time.

<![CDATA[NASA's Cassini Probe Goes Where No Spacecraft Has Gone Before]]> Thu, 27 Apr 2017 11:57:00 -0500
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NASA is giving us an up-close-and-personal look at the ringed planet.

The space agency's Cassini spacecraft made its first dive between Saturn and its rings Wednesday and snapped some pictures.

Now, NASA say Cassini is zipping around at 77,000 miles per hour, so the raw photos aren't super clear.

But it did capture new images of the massive hurricane on Saturn's north pole.

Cassini first spotted the hurricane in 2013. It's eye measures about 1,250 miles across, and the clouds on its edge spin at 340 miles per hour.

SEE MORE: NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson Keeps Breaking Space Records

NASA says Cassini's trip between Saturn and its rings is the closest any spacecraft has ever gotten to the planet.

Cassini was launched into space in 1997 and has spent the past 13 years orbiting Saturn. But it's almost out of fuel, so this mission will be its last.

Cassini is set to make 21 more dives between the planet and its rings before plunging straight into Saturn on Sept. 15. The probe is expected to burn up when it hits the planet's atmosphere.

<![CDATA[Get Ready For Round 2 Of The GOP's Health Care Reform]]> Wed, 26 Apr 2017 17:42:00 -0500
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After some changes, the GOP's plan to overhaul the health care system won the approval of a hard-line conservative group in Congress.

The House Freedom Caucus, whose lack of support blocked the first Republican plan from going to a vote, now says it's on board with the bill, thanks to a recent amendment.

It's called the "MacArthur amendment," nicknamed after Tom MacArthur, a moderate Republican and co-chair of the more centrist Tuesday Group of House Republicans. He and Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows authored the amendment.

The bill would now let states apply for waivers from key parts of the Affordable Care Act.

States could waive requirements on what insurers cover and how much those insurers can charge a person based on age or health history: 

    -The community rating requirement, which keeps insurers from charging different rates based on a patient's health history

    -Essential health benefits, which require insurers to cover things like maternity and newborn care, hospitalization and prescription drug costs

    -Regulations on what insurers can charge based on a patient's age

To get one of these waivers, a state would have to present an alternative that would meet the amendment's criteria of either cutting costs, or expanding or stabilizing the market.

States trying to opt-out of community rating would also be required to set up high-risk pools or allow people with pre-existing conditions to join a federal pool.

A waiver would be granted automatically after 60 days, so long as Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price doesn't reject it within that time period.

These changes haven't made the bill more attractive to moderate Republicans, let alone Democrats. But one part stuck out: an exemption for members of Congress and their staff from losing those Obamacare protections if their state got a waiver.

A spokesperson for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi summed up the opposition, saying the bill was so unattractive, its authors wanted to exclude themselves from it.

SEE MORE: Judge Blocks Order From Causing 'Irreparable Harm' To Sanctuary Cities

GOP sources have said the exemption helps the bill meet certain requirements once it gets to the Senate but also said it would be fixed — after the health care bill passes.

<![CDATA[When Did Humans Get To America? New Find Pushes Debate Back 100k Years]]> Wed, 26 Apr 2017 12:32:00 -0500
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Scientists like to argue over when humans first got to the Americas — and the debate might be heating up again. A new study claims early humans were in North America 130,000 years ago — far earlier than any other estimate.

"My first reaction on reading the paper was 'No, this is wrong; something's wrong,'" said John McNabb, an archaeologist at the University of Southampton.

In 1992, construction workers uncovered mastodon bones and nearby rocks buried in a layer of silt. The bones show impacts from hard objects, and the rocks appear to have broken apart from a single larger one. Also, radioactive dating now shows the bones are about 130,000 years old.

The researchers argue the stones might have been used as hammers and anvils to break the bones apart — meaning tool-users could have been spreading across the planet about six times earlier than we thought.

"They're going to think, 'This is crazy; this is outrageous,'" said paleontologist and research author Thomas Deméré.

The prevailing view is no human ancestors were in the Americas until they crossed a land bridge between Asia and Alaska, anywhere from about 13,000 to 22,000 years ago. And every time a new finding like this pops up and revises that arrival date, the debate reignites.

SEE MORE: Capuchins Put A Monkey Wrench In Our Knowledge Of Early Human Tool Use

And there's plenty to be skeptical about with this new find. The rocks fit together, but researchers can't say for sure if they were broken apart to be used as tools. There's no evidence nearby of other tools with sharp edges.

But if the dates are accurate, the find has implications not just for humans in America, but also for the whole history of human migration. It means tool-users were all over the planet when modern humans were just leaving Africa.

So the researchers are excited — but they can't be positive yet. They say until someone finds better evidence — like skeletal remains of early humans — we won't know for sure. And if we do find that evidence, you can expect the debate to be fierce.

<![CDATA[Canada Is Testing Prospective Astronauts — And It's Pretty Intense]]> Wed, 26 Apr 2017 09:40:00 -0500
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What's the secret to becoming an astronaut in Canada? Don't die during recruitment.

OK, that's a little dramatic, but the Canadian Space Agency is having its fourth round of recruitment since the beginning of the program — and the process is pretty intense.

The pool has been trimmed from over 3,000 applicants down to 17. Those 17 people have undergone extremely stressful physical and mental tests to make it this far.

For example: Candidates had to escape from a submerged cage, jump several meters down into rough waters, and work with peers to put out fires and stop leaks in close quarters.

SEE MORE: SpaceX Is Launching A Recycled Rocket

They've also endured standard physical tests like running and swimming, mental tasks, and teamwork challenges.

The point of all this is to see how the prospective astronauts respond under pressure, and if they have the personality to keep it together.

Those who remain are competing for two open spots on the Canadian astronaut corps. CSA will pick the new space explorers by August.

<![CDATA[Doctors Develop Innovative Way To Save Babies Born Prematurely]]> Tue, 25 Apr 2017 16:42:00 -0500
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Doctors hope they've figured out a way to keep extremely premature infants alive and healthy — by placing them in an artificial womb

Babies born extremely prematurely, or before 28 weeks, make up a third of all infant deaths in the U.S. And in those that survive, organ immaturity can lead to severe conditions like lung disease.

So doctors at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia rethought the way they cared for preemies. Instead of treating them like a fully developed baby, they created a device that simulated a mother's womb. 

The first test was done with fetal lambs, which closely resemble human fetuses. A device pumped oxygen-rich blood to the fetus and removed CO2, just as a mother's placenta would. 

The fetus is surrounded by a synthetic amniotic fluid and uses it to "breathe" in and out, which helps lung development.

SEE MORE: Meet The Goats Of Anarchy: A Rescue Farm For Baby Goats

Human trials are still a few years away, but ethical and political concerns have already been raised, including the potential implications for abortion laws and maternity rights. 

<![CDATA[We Might Be Underestimating Opioid-Related Deaths In The US]]> Tue, 25 Apr 2017 13:55:00 -0500
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Across the country, more than 90 people die every day of an opioid overdose, but the crisis might be even worse than we know.

Researchers looked at unexplained death records from the Minnesota Department of Health. Specifically, they looked at toxicology screenings in deaths marked as pneumonia and other infectious diseases for traces of opioids.

Between 2006 and 2015 they found 59 reports that showed evidence of opioid use in the deceased. Twenty-two deaths involved toxic levels.

Problem is, the death records didn't reflect that. Instead, they were filed under infectious diseases with no clear cause of death.

SEE MORE: One Senator Is Going After Big Pharma Over The Opioid Epidemic

Opioids are sometimes used to relieve pain, but they can also weaken the immune system and complicate infections.

There's no way to tell how many deaths with links to opioid use are sliding under the radar. Still, the researchers hope these findings will help inform people of risks and further prevention efforts.

<![CDATA[This Two-Toed Sloth Is The Memphis Zoo's Newest Addition]]> Tue, 25 Apr 2017 12:51:00 -0500
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The Memphis Zoo has lions and tigers and giant panda bears. And now its newest inhabitant is a baby Linné's two-toed sloth. 

Meet Lua. She's the first of this type of sloth to be successfully birthed at the Memphis Zoo. 

The zoo has had difficulty breeding Linné’s two-toed sloths, but they aren't an endangered species.

Also known as the southern two-toed sloth, the species has the distinction of being "the slowest animals on earth." The sloths are native to tropical forests in Central and South America. 

SEE MORE: This Clouded Leopard Cub Is One Of A Kind

Because they live up in trees, sloths aren't visible to hunters. But their conservation status could change if deforestation of their habitats continues. 

Staff at the Memphis Zoo will hand-raise Lua for a year because she is so "genetically valuable."

<![CDATA[How Tiny Caterpillars Could Help Solve A Huge Environmental Issue]]> Tue, 25 Apr 2017 12:18:00 -0500
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This tiny caterpillar could help solve one of the world's biggest environmental problems.

Meet the wax worm. This little larvae will one day become a wax moth.

Wax worms are typically used for fishing bait and are well-known for wreaking havoc on beehives by eating their wax combs.

But as one scientist at the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria found, they also like to eat plastic. A lot.

Federica Bertocchini first noticed the caterpillars' affinity for plastic while she was cleaning up a wax-worm infestation in a beehive she keeps at home.

She put the wax worms in a plastic bag, tied it shut and continued to clean. But it didn't take long for the worms to chew through the plastic and escape.

SEE MORE: A Lot Of Marine Animals Eat Plastic ⏤ Now We Know Why

From there, Bertocchini teamed up with researchers from the University of Cambridge to study just how well these little guys can munch away plastic.

They found 100 wax worms could break down 92 milligrams of polyethylene in just 12 hours.

That's pretty darn impressive. Polyethylene is a notoriously tough type of plastic to degrade.

Researchers say factories produce about 88 million tons of polyethylene each year for products like plastic shopping bags. And some of those products can take up to 400 years to degrade in garbage dumps and landfills.

But one of the study's authors told the BBC: "The caterpillar will be the starting point. ... We hope to provide the technical solution for minimizing the problem of plastic waste."

<![CDATA[Mexico Is The First Country In The Americas To Eliminate This Disease]]> Tue, 25 Apr 2017 08:20:00 -0500
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Mexico is the first country in the Americas to eliminate trachoma. So what is that?

Globally, it's the leading infectious cause of blindness. It's caused by a bacterial infection, and if a person gets repeated infections, their corneas could be scarred or they could lose vision entirely.

About 1.9 million people worldwide are either visually impaired or blind from trachoma, according to the World Health Organization. Roughly 182 million people live in areas where they're at risk for catching it. 

In Mexico, trachoma affected about 146,000 people. The state of Chiapas actually created a task force of doctors and nurses dedicated to eliminating the disease in 2004. 

Known as the "Trachoma Brigades," the task force followed the World Health Organization's SAFE program, which calls for surgery for advanced stages of the disease, antibiotics, facial cleanliness and improvements to the environment. 

SEE MORE: World's First Malaria Vaccine To Be Tested In Parts Of Africa

Efforts to get rid of trachoma worldwide have increased in the last year. Health experts say 86 million people were treated with antibiotics in 2016, compared to 56 million the year before. 

Mexico is only the third country, behind Morocco and Oman, to receive WHO validation for eliminating trachoma. The health organization hopes to have the disease completely eradicated by the year 2020. 

<![CDATA[Trump Wants To Get Humans To Mars ASAP]]> Mon, 24 Apr 2017 18:04:00 -0500
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"Who's ready to go to Mars up there?"

That's the question President Donald Trump had for astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer, who are aboard the International Space Station. Trump called to congratulate Whitson on breaking a space record

But the video conference quickly turned to Mars and questions about when the astronauts thought humans would make it to the red planet. 

"Well, as I think your bill directed, it'll be approximately in the 2030s," Whitson told Trump.

"Well, we want to try and do it during my first term, or at worst, during my second term, so we'll have to speed that up a little bit, OK?" Trump said.

SEE MORE: Why NASA's Mars Rover Has Only Moved 10 Miles In 4 Years

It's unlikely humans will make it to Mars by 2024 — the last full year of Trump's possible second term. But Trump's not the only one hoping to reach the planet by then. That also happens to be the year Elon Musk says he wants to launch SpaceX's first manned mission to the red planet.

<![CDATA[The EPA Panicked Scientists With A Warning About Government Shutdown]]> Mon, 24 Apr 2017 16:02:00 -0500
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You might have seen the worrying headlines claiming some of the Environmental Protection Agency's public data troves were about to get taken offline.

The Open Data Service collects information about U.S. power plants and other companies the EPA regulates. The site tracks the chemicals a company handles, and whether there have been toxic leaks into the environment.

According to an email the EPA sent to some data scientists, the looming government shutdown meant the agency wouldn't have been able to continue its work. There was a message on the site, too, warning that users had until April 28 before it went offline.

But the dire headlines might have overstated the actual risk — and the EPA walked back its own message, too. It tweeted after the news broke to say the site was safe and would stay open. That pop-up on the website changed to say the same thing.

SEE MORE: Department Of Energy Might Stop Talking About Climate Change

Still, public concern is understandable. The Trump administration's hostility toward environmental regulation has driven scientists to copy reams of climate data, just in case. His executive orders have reversed some environmental regulations. 

And the EPA could soon be feeling the crunch. Trump's budget proposal for 2018 cuts more than 30 percent of the agency's funds. 

<![CDATA[World's First Malaria Vaccine To Be Tested In Parts Of Africa]]> Mon, 24 Apr 2017 11:46:00 -0500
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The World Health Organization announced the world's first malaria vaccine will be tested in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi next year.  

If the RTS,S vaccine works well in those countries, it could be used across Africa to save tens of thousands of lives.

In 2015, almost half a million people around the world died from the mosquito-borne virus, most of them children. 

SEE MORE: How Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Could Help Stop Malaria

Close to half the world's population is at risk for the disease, but Africa suffers the most deaths

RTS,S tested well in controlled trials, but it's not clear how well it can be implemented in real life. 

The BBC notes infants need to get four doses over more than 18 months of treatment for the drug to have a chance to work. And that could be a challenge in poorer countries.

<![CDATA[NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson Keeps Breaking Space Records]]> Mon, 24 Apr 2017 08:26:00 -0500
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Peggy Whitson is a NASA astronaut who just won't quit.

As of early Monday morning, Whitson has spent more cumulative time in space than any other U.S. astronaut.

Astronaut Jeff Williams previously held the record with 534 days, 2 hours and 48 minutes. 

Whitson began her third long-term stay on board the International Space Station back in November. Since then, she's become the first woman to command the ISS twice and has completed the most spacewalks of any female astronaut.

SEE MORE: How Does NASA Transport A Massive $9 Billion Telescope?

Whitson's hold on this latest record won't be an easy one to break.

Her stay on the ISS was recently extended to September, which means when she finally touches down on Earth, she'll have spent 666 cumulative days in space. 

That still won't be enough to beat the world record-holder, though. In 2015, a Russian cosmonaut set the record with an outstanding 879 days. That's almost two and a half years.