Newsy - Sci/Health The Latest Videos From Newsy.com http://www.newsy.com/ <![CDATA[Pluto Probe New Horizons Has A Few Scientific Flybys Left]]> Sun, 30 Aug 2015 14:27:00 -0500
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The New Horizons probe is past Pluto and on its way to the Kuiper belt, and NASA has already settled on a candidate for the next flyby. (Video via NASA)

2014 MU69 is almost a billion miles more distant than Pluto, which itself is currently about 3.6 billion miles from the sun. 2014 MU69 and rocks like it are far enough away from everything else to act as something of a cosmic time capsule.

NASA says Kuiper belt objects are "thought to represent a well preserved, deep-freeze sample of what the outer solar system was like following its birth 4.6 billion years ago."

It will take New Horizons a relatively skimpy three years to get there, thanks to it screaming along at over 52,000 mph. (Video via NASA)

But the probe will eventually deplete the fuel it uses for course corrections. NASA can only adjust New Horizons' flight path so much, and then it will be at the mercy of space. (Video via NASA)

Given its ludicrous speed and limited maneuverability, NASA wants to steer New Horizons onto its new course ideally by October or November this year.

In the meantime, the probe will be plenty busy sending back data from its Pluto encounter. We won't have all of it until late 2016.

This video includes images from NASA.

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<![CDATA[Neurologist Oliver Sacks Dies 'A Sentient Being']]> Sun, 30 Aug 2015 11:15:00 -0500
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Neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks has died at 82. 

Sacks chronicled the human mind through the cases of his patients over the course of more than 40 years of writing. (Video via New York Live Arts)

It was actually through writing — a column for The New York Times — that Sacks announced he had terminal cancer, back in February. 

Sacks wrote: "I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude."

Sacks wrote 13 books, including "Awakenings," which was adapted into an Academy-Award-nominated film starring Robin Williams. (Video via Columbia Pictures / "Awakenings")

"What I believe, what I know, is these people are alive inside," Williams' character Dr. Malcolm Sayer said.

Another character asked, "How do you know that doctor?"

"I know it," Sayer responded. 

Sacks wrote his last column for The Times earlier this month.

In the column announcing his cancer, Sacks wrote, "Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure." 

He is survived by his partner, Bill Hayes. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Are Naps Good Or Bad For You? We'll Let You Sleep On It]]> Sun, 30 Aug 2015 09:41:00 -0500
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It's 2 p.m., and your eyes are closing fast. But depending on who you are, naps can range from being just what the doctor ordered to a sign of an early death.

Some bodies really are wired for a midday snooze. Roughly 40 percent of Americans, in fact. One psychologist told Time, "For these people, skipping their nap is a huge productivity killer."

But always feeling tired at midday could be a sign of poor health.

Cambridge study found those who regularly napped for more than an hour had a 32 percent greater risk of dying, with longer naps being tied most to respiratory disease.

On the other hand, new research presented at a European Society of Cardiology conference found naps may actually save your life.

Midday sleepers' blood pressures were roughly 5 percent lower than those who didn't nap. And while that might not seem like much, the lead researcher noted previous studies have found drops in blood pressure half that amount still reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems by as much as 10 percent.

Interestingly, the longer participants napped, the more their blood pressure dropped. Those who slept more than an hour benefited the most.

But experts say if you want to feel alert, shorter naps are better.

10 to 20 minute nap pays off the most. Any longer and your body falls into deep stages of sleep, making you groggy when you wake up. If you do take a longer nap, you'll need 90 minutes to complete the sleep cycle.

Everyone seems to need different amounts of sleep. But it's important to ask yourself why you're taking the nap.

For example, a Stanford University professor told The Wall Street Journal if you're dreaming during 20-minute naps, it doesn't mean you're a natural napper: You just need more sleep at night.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[6 People Have Gone Into Isolation For A Year For Science]]> Sat, 29 Aug 2015 10:33:00 -0500
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Six people have sealed themselves in a dome for one entire year. (Video via University of Hawaii)

It's part of the ongoing Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation — or HI-SEAS — experiment.

Essentially, it's to help NASA figure out how isolation and lack of privacy for long periods of time affects people. 

Useful information for, you know, any future astronauts spending long stretches of time traveling to and living on the surface of Mars.

A year will be the longest time frame volunteers have ever sealed themselves inside the dome. The previous mission lasted only eight months and finished up in June.

And as previous missions have shown, the volunteers don't get much privacy in the dome. Like, none at all. But that's also kind of the point.

And they do get to go outside every now and then. Just as if they were actually on Mars.

Except they're actually on Hawaii, of course. The research project was started by the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2013 and is funded by NASA.

This mission's team consists of a French astrobiologist, German physicist and four Americans — including a pilot, an architect, a journalist and a soil scientist. Let's hope they all don't hate each other come this time next August.

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<![CDATA[Greece Uncovers Ancient Palace; Hopefully It Won't Be Looted]]> Fri, 28 Aug 2015 11:38:00 -0500
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So archaeologists in Greece have found some ruins, but these aren't just any ruins. 

Archaeologists discovered what may be a Spartan palace from the ancient Mycenaean civilization. 

Tablets written in Linear B script, the earliest known written language of the Greek people, were discovered within the 10-room palace.

Other parts of Mycenaean Greece have been discovered before, but this would be the first palace to be discovered near Sparta — making it a big find.

An archaeologist who studies the Mycenaean culture told LiveScience the find will fill a big gap in the world's knowledge of Mycenaean Greece, which mysteriously disappeared around 1100 B.C.

The find comes at a delicate time for both the cash-strapped Greek government and its citizens. (Video via European Commission)

And according to National Geographic, some of those citizens are turning to looting ancient Greek sites as a potential income source. (Video via European Commission)

Here's to hoping Greece is able to beef up the security around the new Sparta site to keep out any would-be artifact thieves.

This video includes images from the Greek Ministry of Culture, Education and Religious Affairs.

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<![CDATA[Buzz Aldrin Has A Plan To Help Us Get To Mars]]> Fri, 28 Aug 2015 09:35:00 -0500
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Some people go to Florida to retire. Buzz Aldrin is there to figure out how to get to another planet.

Aldrin has joined the Florida Institute of Technology to spearhead its Mars settlement research efforts.

He’s faculty now: a research professor of aeronautics. His qualifications include a doctorate of science from MIT and, you know, being the second person to walk on the moon. (Video via WOFL)

FIT’s new Buzz Aldrin Space Institute will focus on a concept Aldrin calls "Cycling Pathways to Occupy Mars." It outlines a step-by-step mission chain to get humans to the red planet. (Video via Florida Institute of Technology

"The proposed architecture establishes pathways of progressive missions to cis-lunar space, asteroids, Phobos, and eventually to the surface of Mars."

"And I expect that the Space Institute will — I hope — feed its input into NASA through the NASA advisory council," Aldrin said. (Video via Florida Institute of Technology)

In other words, Aldrin isn’t proposing FIT start up its own space program, but throw its resources behind existing ones.

That’s for the best, because getting to Mars will take an enormous amount of resources and capital.

Remember how the nonprofit Mars One proposed a permanent human colony on Mars by 2027? (Video via Mars One)

Independent analysis by researchers at MIT showed its plans came up many billions of dollars short, and relied on technologies that haven’t even been developed yet.

SpaceX has eyes on Mars, too. Or Elon Musk at least sees it as a necessity. He envisions humans on Mars within 10-12 years. (Video via SpaceX)

"The thing that really matters long-term is to have a self-sustaining city on Mars. To make life multiplanetary," Musk said in a CNBC interview. (Video via CNBC)

But exactly how — and how much that might cost — SpaceX still hasn’t said. In January, Musk said his company would lay out plans for its Mars Colonial Transporter sometime this year.

NASA, meanwhile, has arguably the best shot at actually making it work. (Video via NASA)

SpaceNews reports its plans look a lot like those Aldrin has laid out: before it sends astronauts to the Martian surface, NASA will run proof-of-concept tests between Earth and the moon, and in Mars' orbit.

If they go according to plan, NASA says humans could land on Mars by the mid-2030s.

This video includes images from Jazz Guy / CC BY 2.0 and NASA. Music by Frenic / CC BY 3.0.

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<![CDATA[NASA's Sea Level Find Is The Latest 'Too Late' Climate News]]> Thu, 27 Aug 2015 19:54:00 -0500
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As climate change predictions go, sea level rise is probably the easiest to understand. For at least a decade, we've been shown maps of how rising waters would literally reshape the coastline. (Video via NASA)

And now NASA says we've been underestimating it. A report out this week claims sea levels will rise by an average of 3 feet around the world over the next century, and at this point there's nothing we can do to stop it. (Video via NASA)

It's only been two years since the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted a 1- to 3-foot rise.

One of the biggest engines driving the change right now is the Greenland ice sheet. It lost a 5-square-mile chunk earlier this month and is shedding ice more than twice as fast as Antarctica. (Video via NASA)

"It's quite startling. In 10 or so years, Greenland's lost a trillion tons of ice," NASA's Josh Willis told CNN.

If that sounds a little doom and gloom, that's quickly becoming the norm in climate news. This year we've seen more and more claims that it may be too late to stop the worst effects of climate change. 

Journalist and meteorologist Eric Holthaus has pushed that point in several high-profile articles, and we've been seeing more and more talk of a "point of no return."

That's not the scientific consensus yet, though. By and large, climate scientists say acting fast to reduce carbon emissions could still stave off most of the damage. (Video via NASA)

But they also agree the tipping point is coming soon. That same U.N. report predicted it would likely come by 2020, at which point carbon would start playing less of a role as other feedback loops kick in. 

For instance, more ice melt becomes higher sea levels, higher sea levels become more ice melt and on it goes. (Video via NASA)

Expect to hear of more studies like this as the world's leaders prepare for the U.N.'s climate summit in Paris later this year. Activists, climate scientists and world leaders are all portraying the summit as the last best hope for global action. 

"There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change," President Barack Obama said.

This video includes images from go_greener_oz / CC BY ND 2.0 and Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Is Water The Cure-All It's Reported To Be?]]> Thu, 27 Aug 2015 08:54:00 -0500
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Water seems to get a lot of credit as a sort of cure-all, with a recent study promoting its use to lose weight. But should we be looking at water consumption studies a little more closely? 

A study from researchers at the University of Birmingham in the U.K. found participants who drank 16 oz. of water before meals lost an average of nine pounds over 12 weeks, while the control group lost less than 2 pounds, on average.

The control group didn't drink water before meals, but its members were told to imagine feeling full. Though it's a small difference, it might be a confounding variable — a factor that could damage the validity of the experiment.

Water pre-loading isn't a new idea though. A Virginia Tech study from 2010 says subjects who drank about 16 oz. of water before meals lost 44 percent more weight than a true control group.

The only problem is the study was just three months long. It's reasonable to lean toward guessing those effects would last in the long term, but we can't say for sure. 

Extrapolation could be a slight issue for other studies as well. For example, an oft-cited study that found water reduces subjective feelings of hunger had a sample size of only eight people.

A pediatric researcher wrote in The New York Times this week, "Contrary to many stories you may hear, there's no real scientific proof that, for otherwise healthy people, drinking extra water has any health benefits." It's unclear, though, if being overweight counted as unhealthy in his argument.

But studies have even argued the eight glasses-of-water-a-day recommendation is false. And it's been noted that the 1945 Food and Nutrition Board recommendation had an extra sentence: "Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods."

We're certainly not trying to argue against the findings of the studies advocating water for weight loss; we just wonder if more conclusive research may be needed.

This video includes images from Getty Images, Quinn Dombrowski / CC BY SA 2.0 and [cipher] / CC BY SA 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Older Siblings May Be More Likely To Become Obese]]> Thu, 27 Aug 2015 08:08:00 -0500
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Can birth order affect obesity risk? A new study comparing sisters may make being the older sibling a little less desirable. 

Researchers from Sweden and New Zealand published their findings in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 

Not counting twins, the study found firstborn sisters were 29 percent more likely to be overweight and 40 percent more likely to be obese than second-born sisters.  

Similarly, a 2010 study found firstborn sons had a greater risk of being overweight than their later-born brothers. 

The findings support the "resource dilution hypothesis" –– that, as family size grows, less food, money and attention are available. This leads to a negative effect on children's development both physically and mentally.  

However, because the study isn't an experiment, we can't say for sure birth order affects, or causes, obesity.

This video includes images from Getty Images and Bob B. Brown / CC BY ND 2.0

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<![CDATA[Trying To Help Panda Twins Survive Is Still A Challenge]]> Wed, 26 Aug 2015 16:25:00 -0500
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Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C., announced one of its newborn panda cubs has died.

The cub was the smaller of two twins born Saturday. Viewers around the world tuned in to the zoo's live stream to watch the birth.

The larger cub is alive and looks strong from what zoo workers can tell. (Video via Smithsonian National Zoological Park)

But they've had trouble taking the larger cub from its mother to monitor its health. They had been attempting to swap the cubs regularly, but the mother hasn't been cooperating.

Giant pandas tend to ignore one cub whenever they give birth to twins, which is part of the reason zookeepers had tried to swap them.

The zoo had said earlier the first week after birth is particularly high-risk for panda cubs. The small cub had been given antibiotics and was bottle fed and kept in an incubator. Video via Smithsonian National Zoological Park)

At a press conference Wednesday, a spokesman said the zoo is proud of the team's work and that they hope to learn from their experience caring for the newborns.

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[Microscopic Robot Fish Could Shape The Future Of Medicine]]> Wed, 26 Aug 2015 16:02:00 -0500
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The future of internal medicine could be in the hands of some microscopic robot fish.

Yes, that would make a cool plot for Pixar's next animated feature, but it's real science, and it's happening now. (Video via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / "Inside Out")

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have developed a method for 3-D printing microscopic fish that could be used in medical applications. (Video via University of California, San Diego)

How small are they? They're 120 micrometers in length and 30 micrometers in width.

How small is that? There are 1,000 micrometers in a millimeter, so 16 microfish could fit on a coarse grain of sand.

A medical application for the fish makes sense considering the easiest way to get from one part of our body to another is through the bloodstream. (Video via Mayo ClinicINVIVO Communications Inc.)

The fish are propelled by magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles in the head and platinum nanoparticles in the tail, which can be altered to dictate the speed and direction of their swimming.

The microfish itself is actually made out of a gel that's been used in other medical applications, and the printing technology allows for the fish to be redesigned. The researchers tried out manta ray and shark designs in addition to the fish. (Video via University of California, San Diego)

The process of 3-D nano printing is one of the biggest boosts to the microfish's potential medical applications: You can print "a large array" of microfish in just seconds. (Video via Vienna University of Technology)

Nanorobot technology has a long history in science fiction, but research is bringing it increasingly closer to reality. The development of the microfish represents a trend toward looking to the natural world for design inspiration. (Video via Paramount Pictures / "Terminator Genisys," Wyss Institute)

But we're still a ways off "Terminator"-level nanotechnology. In the meantime, the researchers say they can see microfish applications including drug delivery and therapeutics. 

This video includes images from UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering / W. Zhu and J. Li and UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering / John Warner.

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<![CDATA[This Colorful Dish Set Helps Alzheimer's Patients Eat]]> Wed, 26 Aug 2015 07:51:00 -0500
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This dining set was created by a San Francisco woman. While it might look similar to the dishes and silverware you use every day, the set was designed for people who have cognitive issues, like Alzheimer's disease.

The Alzheimer’s Association says patients may have more trouble eating food as the disease progresses.

The designer, Sha Yao, was a caregiver for her late grandmother who had Alzheimer’s.

On her website, Yao says she wanted to create a dining set that not only benefits the patients, but also the people caring for them.

“The slanted bottom of the bowl allows food to collect on one side. While spoons in the Eatwell set are specially designed to match the curvature of the bowl, making scraping food significantly easier,” Yao says in a promotional video

Here's why Yao made her Eatwell dining set red, yellow and blue: In 2004, Boston University students discovered nine patients with Alzheimer’s drank 84 percent more liquid and ate 24 percent more food from red cups and plates.

The bright colors can also help highlight the food on the plate.

And here's another feature: Suction cups are on the bottom of the Eatwell plates, bowls and cups so they won't fall over — something the Mayo Clinic says can make mealtimes easier for Alzheimer’s patients.

Out of 52 submissions, Yao’s dining set won the Stanford Center on Longevity Design Challenge in 2014.

Since then, Yao has raised over $91,000 on IndieGoGo to continue producing her product, which you can purchase now on the Eatwell website.

This video includes an image from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[To Control Cancer Cells, Turn Off Their Growth]]> Wed, 26 Aug 2015 07:32:00 -0500
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<![CDATA[Mama Bear Is Throwing A Wrench In Plans For Panda Twins]]> Tue, 25 Aug 2015 21:17:00 -0500
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The panda twins born Saturday at Washington D.C.'s National Zoo are proving difficult to care for.

The zoo team had a plan to swap cubs every few hours so they could care for one while Mom cared for the other. But mama bear has been reluctant to let zookeepers make the swap. (Video via Smithsonian National Zoological Park)

The zoo said Tuesday it had been more than a day since they were able to get hold of the larger cub. 

The zoo says giant pandas have twins about 50 percent of the time, but this is only the third time it's happened in the U.S. And it's going to take a lot of human intervention for the twin cubs to survive. (Video via ABC)

The first week is especially high risk. Veterinarians gave the smaller cub antibiotics as a preventative measure.

And zoo workers are bottle feeding and incubating the twins when they're away from Mom.

Thankfully, the smaller cub seems to be doing well so far and has a healthy squeak. (Video via Smithsonian National Zoo)

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[What Do Lawns Cost Us?]]> Tue, 25 Aug 2015 18:07:00 -0500
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What do lawns cost us?

Lawns are a lot of work to maintain. They can be environmentally harmful and require a lot of water. (Videos via John DeereUniversity of Wyoming)

How much? On average, a third of public water, according to estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency. In hotter and dryer areas, that share goes up quite a bit. (Video via YouTube / Edward Calvey)

For perspective, in the continental U.S., lawns take up an estimated 40 million acres of land, more than any crop that we can actually eat, like corn or soybeans.

Watering those lawns takes trillions of gallons of water a year, again, more than any other crop we consume. 

That’s in part because we have so much lawn and also because turf grasses are thirsty. (Video via Pennsylvania State University)

They have shallow root systems, which depend on relatively frequent watering to stay green. But even so, we tend to overwater them. A group of researchers from the University of South Florida wanted to know why. (Videos via PBS / "This Old House," City of London, Ontario)

Through focus groups, they found one of the major factors is a lot of confusion about good lawn care. (Video via eHow)

They found homeowners weren't sure exactly how often they needed to water their lawns to keep them green, so they overwatered, conditioning their lawns to need more water and leeching nutrients from the soil. (Video via Aquatech Solutions)

Another factor? Homeowners associations. 

Participants said the associations often warn or even fine homeowners whose lawns lose their green. They also can be obstacles for people who want to switch to lawn alternatives, like native plants or rock gardens. (Videos via Community Associations NetworkMissouri Botanical Garden)

The researchers say their main reason for studying lawns was to help find a solution to water conservation problems. The amount of water it takes to satisfy our lawns could cure California's drought almost two times over. (Video via California Department of Water ResourcesIowa Public Television)   

But ditching or at least cutting back on lawns would do more than cut water waste. 

From an ecological standpoint, lawns are basically useless. Most of the grasses aren't native, and because of that, native wildlife doesn't really need them. (Video via YouTube / CTLifestyles)

They're extremely useful to invasive pests like the destructive Japanese beetle, which feeds on the roots of turf grasses and prefers well-tended and well-watered lawns. (Video via Scotts Miracle-Gro)

If you're sticking with your lawn, the EPA has some suggestions to minimize the damage, like using less thirsty native plants and raising the blades on your mower, among other things.

This video includes images from Adam Meek / CC BY 2.0 and Sean Hobson / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Scientists 3-D Print A New Beak For This Mistreated Toucan]]> Tue, 25 Aug 2015 13:55:00 -0500
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In a great act of kindness and science, researchers at three Brazilian universities recreated the upper portion of a toucan's beak after hers was severely damaged. (Video via Instituto Vida Livre)

The toucan, named Tieta, was rescued from an illegal animal market. How she lost the top of her beak is unclear, but it was likely due to abuse by smugglers.

Without her beak, Tieta was mostly dependent on others to feed her.

But with her new plastic 3-D-printed beak, she can eat on her own. According to the BBC, the beak took three months to design.

The head researcher told CNN: "With the prosthesis, she won't be released into the wild because she will require monitoring. But, she will have a more autonomous life."

Tieta might now be used to educate people on the effects of the illegal animal trade.

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<![CDATA[Scolding Your Dog Won't Make It Feel Guilty]]> Tue, 25 Aug 2015 10:41:00 -0500
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This pooch's expression is most likely making you think it did something wrong, right? 

Well, it turns out that dogs aren't capable of feeling guilt or shame after they do something bad. 

Instead, what many of us assume is a look of guilt or shame, is really just "a response to being scolded by their owners," according to researchers from the University of Cambridge.

A researcher told The Telegraph: "I had a client who had three dogs and whenever something happened like a shoe was chewed, it was always one of them that had the guilty look. Yet often she was not the dog who had done it. She was just the most timid dog."

According to Stanley Coren, a psychologist who's best known for studying the behaviors of canines, dogs' emotions develop a lot like human emotions. (Video via University of British Columbia)

In an article he wrote for Modern Dog magazine, Coren says just like babies, dogs are born with the ability to feel excited. As both humans and dogs get older, they develop the emotions of distress, fear and joy.

But while canines stop developing their emotions at about six months old, humans continue.

Children don't begin to feel guilt until around age 3, according to psychologist Erik Erikson, who created the theory of psychosocial development in 1959.

So the next time you scold your dog, just know it's just reacting to your voice. No shame here.

This video includes images from Getty Images, angela n. / CC BY 2.0Bryan Allison / CC BY SA 2.0 and latteda / CC BY 2.0

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<![CDATA[NOAA Announces Investigation Into Unexplained Whale Deaths]]> Sun, 23 Aug 2015 14:06:00 -0500
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Whales in Alaska are dying at an alarmingly odd rate. Thirty individuals have washed up on Alaskan beaches in recent months.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has opened an official investigation and classified the deaths as an “unusual mortality event:” involving unexpected stranding and significant die-off.

Fourteen humpbacks, 11 fin whales, one gray whale and four unidentified whales have died, which NOAA says is three times the annual average rate. What's worse is scientists don’t know why.

In the case of the fin whales, one scientist said "Part of the mystery is why just fin whales? Why not their prey? Why are there not other consumers in the system showing up in mass die-off mode?"

A spokesperson for NOAA told The Guardian at this point it looks like the recent and harmful algal bloom could be to blame, but there's still not enough evidence to support that yet.

This year's bloom of toxic algae is the worst in more than a decade, according to NOAA scientists. They suspect it could be linked to unusually warm temperatures in the northern Pacific ocean. (Video via University of California, Santa Cruz)

In the case of the whales, NOAA will post data from its investigation to its Unusual Mortality Event website once it becomes available. A full inquiry could take months or years of analysis. (Video via NOAA)

This video includes images from NOAA.

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<![CDATA[What Can We Expect If The Boreal Forest Keeps Declining?]]> Sun, 23 Aug 2015 10:07:00 -0500
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The Boreal forest, also known as the Taiga, accounts for roughly 30 percent of the planet’s forested area, across three continents.

It’s also in trouble. While humans live in and move through it, their impact is generally low.

Climate researchers working on a new forestry study say the bigger problem comes from our warming planet.

“These forests normally trap vast amounts of carbon. But now, warmer summers are shutting the trees down, reducing photosynthesis.” (Video via Science Magazine)

These trees prefer it cold: Boreal forests in Canada, Russia and parts of Finland and Sweden spend six to eight months a year in freezing temperatures. (Video via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

And according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, they will endure the most significant temperature increases of all the planet’s forests during the 21st century. (Video via IPCC)

This swing could be between 4 and 11 degrees Celsius, and could change the whole ecosystem. 

Pine beetles and silk moths could expand into new, warmer territory. Fires could burn hotter and more frequently and drought could kill more trees as permafrost thaws. (Video via NASADiscovery)

And while the Taiga is typically a carbon sink, evidence suggests as it heats up it could start to emit more carbon than it captures.

“In Russia alone, the release of [carbon] from the thawing permafrost by the end of the century could potentially be several times larger than that of current tropical deforestation.”

There’s evidence the forest is trying to literally migrate away from the warmer temperatures. But the climate moves faster than new trees can grow.

Study author Dmitry Schepaschenko says “The forests can't go so far to the north. The speed at which forests can move forward is very slow, like 100 metres a decade.”

If unchecked warming goes on for long enough, scientists say the forest could start to look more like a savannah, with stands of trees in open space rather than unbroken canopy. (Video via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

So what do we do? Replanting the forest isn’t especially effective, since it’s not all that deforested to begin with. 

And fire control is a tall order, especially in remote areas. (Video via Canadian Geographic)

The best thing to do, according to the researchers, is to make the Boreal forest, and its future, a more central part of the global climate change discussion. (Video via European Parliament)

They’ve published their findings as part of a special report on global forests in the journal Science. (Video via Science Magazine)

This video includes images from Susan Drury / CC BY 2.0 and Mike Beauregard / CC BY 2.0. Music by Yinyues / CC BY 3.0.

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<![CDATA[The Optical Illusion Hidden In The 'Mona Lisa,' Explained]]> Sat, 22 Aug 2015 09:49:00 -0500
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Art historians say Leonardo da Vinci hid an optical illusion in the Mona Lisa’s face: she doesn’t always appear to be smiling.

There's question as to whether it was intentional, but new research into a second painting attributed to da Vinci suggests yes, it was.

"Portrait of a Young Fiancée," which is thought to be of an Italian girl named Bianca, shows the same almost-smile depending on viewing distance and sharpness of the image.

"When she is viewed from close-up the mouth appears to have a downwards slant, making her look melancholic, unhappy and hostile, but when viewed from further away, her mouth appears to take an upward, smile-like appearance making her appear happy and cheerful."

The researchers also found the smile — or frown — appears to change depending on where it is in a viewer’s peripheral vision. 

They simulated this effect on test subjects using blur. The blurrier Bianca was, the happier she appeared to be.

The technique in this portrait and in the "Mona Lisa" is called "sfumato," in which da Vinci blended colors and shades to get gradual transitions between different shapes in each painting.

The effect could be hard to pin down because it's so hard to do: the researchers suggest nobody has been able to pull it off as successfully as da Vinci did. (Video via The Louvre)

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<![CDATA[10 Years Of Advances In Hurricane Monitoring]]> Sat, 22 Aug 2015 08:10:00 -0500
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Ten years ago this month, Hurricane Katrina made landfall over New Orleans.

Since then, climate scientists at NASA have made huge strides in hurricane monitoring and now very literally have a much clearer picture of how these storms form and behave.

Visualizing the interiors of storms helps predict how big they’ll get and where they might go — important information when lives and livelihoods are at stake.

NASA tracks features such as “hot towers,” or the thunderstorms that lift hot air up into a cyclone.

In 2005, it was understood their presence alone helped feed energy into the overall storm system. Now, researchers know it’s where they’re positioned within the storm that determines how big a hurricane will get. (Video via NASA)

In the last decade, NASA has replaced and upgraded its precipitation satellites and stepped up manned and unmanned flights within the atmosphere. (Video via NASA)

These all feed data into better computer models, running on faster computers. The goal is higher resolution.

NASA likens it to the visual improvements in video games, going from blocky shapes to something closer to photorealism. (Video via Electronic Arts)

Atmosphere scientist Dan Cecil explains: “For the intensity of a hurricane, so much comes down to the details of the really small processes and specifics in the inner core.” (Video via NASA)

And all this time, we have yet to deal with another Katrina. Since 2005, there hasn’t been a single hurricane stronger than category 2 that’s made landfall in the U.S. — a streak NASA says only happens roughly every two centuries. (Video via NASA)

This video includes images from NASA, Getty Images and the U.S. Coast Guard.

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<![CDATA[Japan Has So Many Centenarians, It Can't Give Them All Gifts]]> Fri, 21 Aug 2015 14:37:00 -0500
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Japan has an aging problem.

There are a lot of old people in Japan. So many the government can no longer afford to hand out commemorative silver sake dishes to those who hit the age of 100. (Video via HidaliYouTube / 横川由紀子)

That's according to Kyodo News, which reports the Japanese government is looking for a cheaper option such as a less-expensive sake dish or simply a letter of congratulations. (Video via Al Jazeera)

The Japanese paper says the government spent almost $2 million on the silver dishware last year. 

And the number of Japanese centenarians is continuing to rise. 

Kyodo says the number of 100-year-olds will reach 39,000 in 2018. The number back when they started handing out the silver dishes a half-century ago? One hundred fifty-three. (Video via BBC)

At 84 years, Japan has the highest life expectancy in the world, according to the World Health Organization.

Japan also has a low-birthrate problem. So the national population is both declining and getting older.

And as far as conventional wisdom goes, an aging population isn't exactly good for the economy.

So, what's Japan doing about it? 

Simply put, the government's trying to get more young people to marry. That could help fix the birthrate issue and stabilize Japan's declining population. (Video via Happy Dayz Productions)

As for the aging population, that's a bit trickier. You can't really tell a group of people to, well, stop living. 

But you can tell them to work longer. One fix the government is trying out is raising the minimum retirement age from 61 to 65 incrementally by 2025. 

For now, there are some grim forecasts for Japan's economy if the country doesn't find a way to solve its aging crisis. 

This video includes images from Getty Images, Japanexperterna / CC BY SA 3.0Yutaka Tsutano / CC BY 3.0 and Hajime Nagahata / CC BY 3.0.

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<![CDATA[Many Common Alzheimer's Risk Factors Are Controllable]]> Fri, 21 Aug 2015 13:48:00 -0500
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Researchers have identified nine risk factors associated with as many as two-thirds of all cases of Alzheimer's disease. (Video via the National Institutes of Health)

These include obesity, carotid artery narrowing, low educational attainment, depression, high blood pressure, frailty, smoking habits, high levels of certain naturally occurring amino acids, and Type 2 diabetes in the Asian population.

Researchers determined these risk factors after analyzing existing results from more than 300 studies.

The direct causes of Alzheimer's are still not fully understood, and the researchers emphasize "what is seen here is an association rather than a direct cause-and-effect relationship between any one factor and Alzheimer's risk."

But they say catching and addressing any of these warning signs early "may decrease new incidence of [Alzheimer’s disease]."

There is no cure for Alzheimer's, which accounts for 60 to 70 percent of all dementia cases, according to the World Health Organization. (Video via TED)

But in their analysis, the researchers did identify factors that could help reduce the risk of the disease, including estrogen treatments, certain high blood pressure medications and coffee. (Video via CBS)

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Go Small And Go Home: Tiny Houses A Growing Trend]]> Fri, 21 Aug 2015 11:00:00 -0500
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There's a movement sweeping the nation, but if you're claustrophobic it's probably not for you. 

It's known as the "tiny house movement," where people are downsizing their homes — dramatically — to live simpler lives.

And by dramatically we mean down to about 150 square feet sometimes — one-sixteenth the size of the average new home completed in 2014.

There are societiesconferencesjamborees and a handful of TV shows dedicated to the topic. 

There's apparently enough interest in the tiny dwellings that HGTV has three shows on the topic. (Video via ABC News).

For many tiny-home owners, it's about dialing down to get more out of life.

"For us I think going smaller made a lot of sense. We started really realizing what's important to us lifestyle-wise — traveling and doing things outside the house, not being restricted by the cost." (Video via FYI Television Network).

It's no surprise that tiny homes tend to be much more affordable than their average-sized counterparts; although  high-end, luxury versions do exist.

Another benefit of tiny homes is their impact on the environment. TinyHouseBuild.com reports tiny homes, on average, produce 93 percent less CO2 than normal homes. 

As the saying goes, if you build it, they will come. They just might have to duck their heads to get in.

This video includes images from Getty Images, Nicolás Boullosa / CC BY 2.0Tomas Quinones / CC BY SA 2.0 and Tammy Strobel / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Did We Overestimate The CO2 Impact From China's Coal?]]> Thu, 20 Aug 2015 10:04:00 -0500
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A recent study suggests China's coal-based carbon emissions are actually 40 percent lower than assumed.

Researchers analyzed coal specimens from 602 mines around China, and found more of China's coal is a lower-grade variety than what was used in previous emissions calculations. It produces more ash and has lower energy efficiency than purer coal, but also emits less carbon. (Video via BBC)

Lead researcher Dr. Zhu Liu said "The quality is not as good as developed countries, so if we use the same amount of coal, we overestimate the carbon content of the coal, and so we overestimate the carbon emissions.”

According to the researchers, the revised calculations mean China’s CO2 emissions from 2000 to 2013 were close to three gigatons lower than initially reported, which should account for approximately 10 percent of global CO2 in any given year.

But global CO2 measurements haven’t shown any decline in that time. (Video via NOAA)

One climate scientist told the BBC "This study therefore makes no difference to the total amount in the atmosphere; it simply means that accounting for Chinese emissions is getting better."

It also suggests 10 percent of global emissions are coming from somewhere else — and right now it’s not clear where.

Other researchers say this report doesn’t change China’s mid-term priorities: squaring significant energy demand with the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions. (Video via CCTV)

In 2006, China was bringing one and a half new coal-fired plants online every week. Since 2007, it’s led the planet in CO2 emissions.

It’s started phasing out coal plants since then, but China still accounts for nearly half of global coal consumption, according to the Energy Information Administration. (Video via Xinhua)

But it expects to peak its greenhouse emissions by 2030 to meet guidelines in the Copenhagen Accord that could prevent extreme climate change.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Here's When To Catch This Fall's 3 Supermoons]]> Thu, 20 Aug 2015 00:14:00 -0500
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If you like your full moons at their full mooniest, there's no moonier time than the supermoon. And there just so happen to be three supermoons this fall. (Video via JoanneQEscober / CC BY 2.0)

The recent trend of giving the closest full moons a special title each year doesn't seem to be going away. And yes, we've all heard that the pictures going around showing an absolutely enormous moon in the sky are fake. (Video via NASA)

And yes, we've heard astronomers complain about the term:

"If you have a 16-inch pizza, would you call that a super pizza compared with a 15-inch pizza?" Neil deGrasse Tyson asked

And yeah, fine, it's not even really a noticeable difference. Despite all of that, the supermoon is a good reminder just to go enjoy looking at the full moon every once in a while. So there are definitely worse trends. 

You know what else is cool? New moons — when the moon is shrouded in shadow — can technically be supermoons, too. Maybe that needs a special name. Sneaky moon? (Video via NASA)

This video includes images from slgckgc / CC BY 2.0Marco Langbroek / CC BY SA 3.0Chris Isherwood / CC BY SA 2.0Uditha Wickramanayaka / CC BY 2.0 and Jay Tanner / CC BY SA 3.0.

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<![CDATA[How Dogs Became Dogs]]> Wed, 19 Aug 2015 16:55:00 -0500
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We think we know dogs pretty well: they're cute, they get along with us and they have for a long time. (Video via YouTube / Adventures of my dogYouTube / Bruno BorgesYouTube / Klaus Seiersen)

But what about where they come from? Beyond wolves, answering that question gets pretty interesting. (Video via BBC)

A good starting point is around 50 million years ago, when canine and feline ancestors diverged

Recent research says canines' evolution took a big step toward modern dogs some 7 million years ago, likely shaped by climate change. (Video via Animal Planet)

Early canines were originally ambush predators, like some big cats, but as the landscape changed, so did they. (Video via National Geographic)

These ancestors were a lot smaller than most modern dogs and more suited to life in and around trees — a trait primitive canines like the gray fox have retained. 

Grasslands spread, and canines adapted, gradually evolving into the pursuit-predators they are today, unhampered by obstacle-filled forests. (Video via BBC)

And eventually evolved into wolves, which are able to relentlessly pursue their prey in the open. (Video via PBS)

The part that most people know is, as early as 30,000 years ago, humans domesticated the gray wolf. (Video via History Channel)

But exactly where and when that happened is something scientists are still trying to piece together. 

"All modern dogs grew together to the exclusion of all modern wolves. ... The hunt is now on to try to find that original wolf population that gave rise to all modern dogs," Oxford researcher Greger Larson told Science Magazine

What's clear though, is somewhere along the evolutionary process, dogs' ancestors left North America, across the Bering land bridge. (Video via Alaska National Parks)

By the time they returned accompanying humans some 14,000 years ago, they were dogs. Over time, and a lot of human intervention, they differentiated into countless different breeds, none of which resembles those earliest ancestors. (Video via Transkei Animal Welfare InitiativeAmerican Kennel Club)

This video includes an image from Leonora Enking / CC BY SA 2.0 and Mauricio Anton)

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<![CDATA[ALS Researchers To Haters: The Ice Bucket Challenge Worked]]> Wed, 19 Aug 2015 12:18:00 -0500
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Back when this was all over your Facebook, a lot of people said it wasn't going to do any good.

But $220M later, some Johns Hopkins ALS researchers have a message.

"We've recently made a big breakthrough for ALS..."

In a Reddit AMA, the researchers wrote, "I remember reading a lot of stories about people complaining that the ice bucket challenge was a waste and that scientists weren’t using the money to do research, etc. I assure you that this is absolutely false."

"There's this protein called TDP-43 that doesn't seem to be doing its job in the neurons of ALS patients, and for the past decade we've been trying to figure out exactly what it's doing. And now I think we finally figured it out, and the best part is it can be fixed."

The study was published in the journal Science.

"Of course, there is always more to be done so please consider donating."

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<![CDATA[Rare Surgery Gives 8-Year-Old New Ears]]> Wed, 19 Aug 2015 11:02:00 -0500
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An 8-year-old North Canton, Ohio, boy now has a set of external ears due to an incredibly rare surgery. 

According to Newsy's partners at WEWS, Elijah Bell, who goes by Eli, was born with bilateral atresia microtia in 2007. This means no ear canals, openings or outer ears ever formed. 

The Children's National Health System reports this condition "occurs in one out of 25,000 births."

"Eli wears a band around his head with boxes attached — known as bahas — and those allow for typical hearing," a WEWS reporter said. 

Since 2012, Eli has had five different surgeries to construct outer ears at the Akron Children's Hospital. The process is quite extensive.

"Akron Children's doctors removed the boy's own rib cartilage, crafted personalized ears and attached them to Eli," a WEWS reporter said. 

"It's kind of like arts and crafts in there, you know. We have essentially what amounts to an Exacto set with the gouges and the grooves," Eli's doctor, Dr. Ananth Murthy, told WEWS.

"What's gotten us through is our faith in God, who turned this kind of crazy story into this miraculous journey of having him find himself and find his self-confidence," Eli's mother, Colleen, told WEWS.

As for what Eli thinks of his new ears?

"I like 'em and I love 'em," Eli told WEWS.

"You like them and you love them?" the WEWS reporter asks.

"Yes," Eli says.

Eli will start second grade later this week. 

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<![CDATA[So, E-Cigs Might Be Way Less Harmful Than Actual Cigarettes]]> Wed, 19 Aug 2015 09:21:00 -0500
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"Cigarette" is becoming less and less of an all-inclusive term. 

Public Health England recently published a review that found electronic cigarettes to be 95 percent less harmful than conventional cigarettes. Most chemicals that cause smoking-related diseases are not found in the electronic version. 

The number of people who believe e-cigarettes are just as dangerous or more dangerous than regular cigarettes has jumped 14 percent since 2013, however. (Video via CNN)

And perhaps counterintuitively, the over-cautiousness worries researchers. 

A director at Public Health England said this misperception "may be keeping millions of smokers from quitting." He suggested that "local stop smoking services should look to support e-cigarette users in their journey to quitting completely."

Debates over e-cigarettes' appeal to youths has caused some controversy. (Video via WOOD)

Public Health England's study, however, found an overwhelming majority of e-cigarette users are former tobacco users, and found no evidence that e-cigarettes lead children to smoke regular tobacco. 

But a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published earlier this year found e-cigarettes have become the most-used "tobacco product" among high schoolers, and almost half of all middle and high school students who smoked one type of tobacco product used multiple types. 

Critics worry that steps to increase e-cigarettes' popularity with adults will translate to an increase in use among children. (Video via YouTube / Volcanoecigs)

Both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes can contain nicotine. Fears about a younger group starting that addiction may hold back measures helping older generations to quit. 

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[Can This Bedtime Story Really Make Kids Fall Asleep Faster?]]> Tue, 18 Aug 2015 14:42:00 -0500
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Parents are loving Amazon's newest bestseller, although they might never reach the ending.

"The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep" is said to use psychological techniques to make children fall asleep and cues the parent when to slow their speech and even when to yawn.

"'Yes, that's true,' you now thought. 'I feel even more tired already. Now, he has made me sleepier,'" an excerpt from the book says. (Audio via Amazon)

The Swedish psychologist who wrote the book told CBS the the language pattern and sentence structure is the secret. He said, "One could say that this story is the verbal equivalent of rocking the baby to sleep."

There are parents who claim the book doesn't work or at least doesn't get their children to sleep any faster. It might be because the psychology of falling asleep isn't as much of a formula as it seems.

Although yawns might be contagious, they don't always mean you're ready for sleep. In fact, a neuroscientist told the New Yorker yawns are often followed by an increase in activity.

In a study of soldiers, the scientist found parachuters yawned the most right before they jumped.

And parents should steer clear of the e-book. Blue light emitted from electronics stops the production of melatonin, the chemical that naturally puts you to sleep.

The author says if it doesn't work the first time, try again.

"It's mostly about creating a habit, and children are different," the author told NBC.

Research does support using routines to fall asleep. Who knows? If parents read the story enough, maybe the mere mention of a bedtime story could help their kids doze off.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Shell's Arctic Drilling Permit Upsets Environmental Groups]]> Mon, 17 Aug 2015 18:27:00 -0500
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The Obama administration has given the final OK for Shell to drill deeper in the Arctic than it has in more than 20 years. 

The holdup was due to a piece of equipment the feds wanted equipped on the wellheads called a capping stack; basically, it can shut down a well if a blowout happens. (Video via Shell

With the capping stack in place, the director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement told The Hill the drilling is being held to the "highest safety, environmental protection and emergency response standards." (Video via Platts)

As you can guess, the news isn't going over well with environmental groups. The Sierra Club said President Obama is risking "his climate legacy," and allowing the permit "goes against science, the will of the people and common sense." 

Greenpeace was a little more blunt, saying the administration "should know better than to bend over backwards to approve such a reckless plan." 

The road to get the permit approved has been quite literally blocked by protesters. In Portland, Oregon, people rode kayaks and dangled from a bridge to stop a Shell ice-breaking ship from getting the capping stack to its destination. (Video via KOMOMSNBC

The president of Shell says it is more than prepared to deal with any potential disaster. 

"We seriously just think about what's every possible thing that could go wrong, how do we mitigate that to keep it from ever going wrong?" Shell President Marvin Odum said

Shell is allowed to drill until Sept. 28 when its permit expires. 

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[Why Victims Rebuild Homes In Areas Prone To Wildfires]]> Mon, 17 Aug 2015 13:29:00 -0500
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Every summer, wildfires rage in the West, burning acres of land and destroying homes. But once the flames are extinguished, many people rebuild — right where they were. So why do people live in areas prone to destructive wildfires?

The big reason: The government usually helps out after those fires consume property.

This wildfire season in Alaska is already the worst on record. Conditions are bad in parts of the continental U.S., too. Fires continue to rage up and down the West Coast, displacing hundreds of residents.

The 2015 FireLine State Risks Report says 4.5 million homes are at high or extreme risk this wildfire season. 

"This was the back patio basically of this family's house, they stayed in a hotel again last night. You can see the patio furniture is twisted and melted and mangled here," Jake Whittenberg reported for KING5-TV.

 Regardless of the risk, many rebuild in the same spot. And they get help paying for it.

Under the Stafford Act, government money can start flowing to wildfire victims as soon as the president declares an emergency. An entire section of the act outlines payment for private residences.

And local communities want those affected to return and rebuild so the areas don't become health and safety hazards. Sometimes, insurance is also a factor. But the government still plays a big part.

According to NBC, a significant amount of the $1.5 billion the federal government spent fighting wildfires nationwide last year went to protecting nearly 70,000 homes. Those homes are in the wildland-urban interface — the area between occupied and unoccupied land.

Those numbers have some upset. Environmentalists are urging lawmakers to discourage people from building and buying homes in the danger zone to save taxpayer money and potentially save lives.

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

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<![CDATA[Want A Baby Boy? Not Exercising, Eating Breakfast Might Help]]> Mon, 17 Aug 2015 11:45:00 -0500
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OK, so this story isn't quite to the level of people designing their own babies.

"Genetics. What can it mean? The ability to perfect the physical and mental characteristics of every unborn child."

But apparently, you might be able to influence your baby's gender.

Fox News played a "Fact or Fiction" game with a specialist in women's health, Dr. Nancy Simpkins:

"If you want a boy, eat breakfast," Fox News anchor Elisabeth Hasselbeck said.

"That is fact because the Y-chromosome tends to like a higher glucose environment," Dr. Nancy Simpkins said.

A 2008 study backs up the doctor. Women who ate cereal in the morning were more likely to have a baby boy thanks to the glucose.

But wait. There's more! 

"For a boy, ditch the cardio," Hasselbeck said.

"This is true. ... If you're doing a lot of cardio and you're dropping weight, it may not be so conducive to having a boy," Simpkins responded.

We actually couldn't find anything to back up that claim. The doctor also mentioned if the father drinks caffeine, the sperm carrying the Y chromosome swims faster and results in more boys.

Although that coffee theory sounds more like an old wives' tale. And if we're gonna follow those, women wanting a baby girl should eat chocolate, and for a baby boy, they should eat red meat.

Wives tales involving gender are just the tip of the iceberg. How about this one: Eat yams to have twins. Or, drink cough syrup to speed up conception. If you're looking to improve your odds of conceiving, snack on some raw eggs, hot sauce and grapefruit juice. What?

This video includes images from Berit Watkin / CC BY 2.0Siona Karen / CC BY 2.0 and Ronald Sarayudej / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Here's How A Book's Pages Could Literally Save Lives]]> Mon, 17 Aug 2015 09:11:00 -0500
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More than 3 million people around the world die each year from diseases stemming from unsafe water supplies.

One critical factor is lack of knowledge about safe water practices in developing countries. A book being developed that not only instructs, but also filters clean water through its pages could prove transformative. 

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Virginia are working with the organization WATERisLIFE on what they call "The Drinkable Book." 

Silver nanoparticles in its pages kill 99.9 percent of contaminants, according to the Carnegie Mellon researcher who developed the technology. That would make the water comparable to U.S. tap water. 

Instructions on how to treat water, trash and human waste are written in the native language of wherever it's implemented, in ink that's safe to ingest. 

According to the researchers, each page can filter around 26 gallons of water, with a whole book providing four years' worth of drinking water for one person.  

The World Health Organization estimates giving the entire world access to clean water would cost around $22 billion per year. 

A "Drinkable Book," however, reportedly costs pennies to make. Researchers say they've successfully field tested the filter paper in Ghana, Haiti and Kenya, and they are currently waiting for patent approval. 

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[Climate, Markets And Mouths: The Problems With Food Supplies]]> Sun, 16 Aug 2015 11:24:00 -0500
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An international team of researchers has quantified the biggest problems with Earth's food. In a nutshell, it's getting harder to grow enough to feed everyone.

Droughts, heat waves and floods likely brought on by climate change are getting more frequent, as is their suppressive effect on the global food supply. (Video via KOVR)

Researchers with the U.K. Global Food Security program stress their numbers are predictions based on limited data but nonetheless suggest "the risk of a 1-in-100 year production shock is likely to increase to 1-in-30 or more by 2040."

Their models suggest by 2070, such shocks could be happening in seven out of every 10 years. (Video via CBC)

The changing climate is one of three major stress points on food reserves.

According to the researchers, the interconnected economies of global trade represent a "structural vulnerability" that can make food shocks elsewhere even worse. (Video via Deutsche Welle)

When countries impose export restrictions to ensure their own food security, for example, prices spike. Studies suggest this played parts in food riots in northern Africa in 2010 and 2011 and even influenced the Arab Spring movement. (Video via Al JazeeraNBC)

And there are more mouths to feed than ever. Right now, Earth hosts 7.3 billion people; the most recent U.N. report indicates the population will reach 9.7 billion by 2050. By then, global demand for food could be 60 percent higher than it was a decade ago.

The GFS researchers say more agricultural innovation and market transparency is needed to minimize the impacts of shortages going forward. But actually getting it done is up to the stakeholders.

You can read the full report on the GFS website.

This video includes images from Sascha Elmers / CC BY 3.0 and music by Yinyues / CC BY 3.0.

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<![CDATA[NASA's Shuttle-Era Engines Have One Last Job]]> Sat, 15 Aug 2015 09:17:00 -0500
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If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. That’s the mentality at NASA, which is test-firing the RS-25 rocket engines that will serve as the main engines for the Space Launch System. (Video via NASA)

These are the same engines that powered the Space Shuttles — literally. The design has proved so reliable NASA has been refurbishing and reusing the same rockets for 34 years. Of the 16 RS-25s standing by for SLS duty, 14 of them have already been to space. (Video via NASA)

Aerojet Rocketdyne developed the RS-25 in the 1970s. During their first manned flight in 1981 and for every shuttle flight since, three of them helped launch the orbiter away from Earth’s gravity. (Video via NASA)

Each one cranks out more than 400,000 pounds of thrust at sea level, and runs for more than six minutes during launch on a mixture of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. They’re the most efficient engines of their kind, even with that fuel economy.

And with a couple upgrades, including a modernized engine controller, they’re good enough for the next generation of launch vehicles.

All the testing is to make sure they’ll perform at the higher temperatures and pressures the SLS will require. It will be heavier — and move faster — than the Space Shuttle. (Video via NASA)

Also worth noting: the SLS core stage is designed to be disposable, as opposed to the Shuttle orbiters that returned to runways. An SLS launch is the last time any RS-25 will be reused. (Video via NASA)

Plans call for new RS-25E variants that will be disposable from the start, using more efficient modern manufacturing methods to make them cost-effective. (Video via NASA)

Until then, though, the old guard has a few more missions to launch. NASA will start testing the last of its old RS-25s for flight readiness at the Stennis Space Center this fall. (Video via NASA)

This video includes images from NASA and music by Birocratic / CC BY ND 3.0.

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<![CDATA[Is There A Formula For A Perfect Day?]]> Fri, 14 Aug 2015 12:12:00 -0500
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Time is of the essence. But really, there might be a best time of day to do just about everything. 

Shoutout to the Daily Mail for coming up with a list of their own. 

First up —the best time to weigh yourself is first thing in the morning, before you put any food in your stomach.  

A study from Brown University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found 61 percent of people who hit the scale in the morning maintained their weight within five pounds. 

On that note, exercising in the morning is most beneficial — if you want a good night’s sleep. 

Researchers at Appalachian State University found those who exercise at 7a.m. sleep better and have lower blood pressure. (Video via CrossFit

As for the best time to house clean? Late afternoon. 

If you need to vacuum or do the dishes, do it then. (Video via Hoover

“This is when coordination is at its peak and mood levels are high,” says one expert in chronomedicine who spoke with the Daily Mail.

And the best time to work on a project — late evening. 

Because as it turns out, being tired could actually make you more creative. 

A study out of Albion College found tired students performed better on insight problems. (Video via Albion College

Now you know the formula, so good luck making a perfect day.

This video includes images from Getty Images, Doc Searls / CC BY 2.0nigelpepper / CC BY 2.0 and Csaba Fekete / CC BY SA 2.0

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<![CDATA[Smallest Visible Exoplanet Is Still Twice As Big As Jupiter]]> Fri, 14 Aug 2015 11:56:00 -0500
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Exoplanet 51 Eridani b just set a record. It’s the smallest planet we've managed to take a direct image of, despite being twice the size of Jupiter.

To find 51 Eridani b, scientists used the Gemini Planet Imager to look at the planet’s infrared emissions. (Video via Gemini Observatory)

This is no small task, given the distances involved, the interference from our own atmosphere and the fact the planet is a million times dimmer than its star.

As one of the researchers said to The Washington Post, "You're basically looking for a firefly that's really close to a flood lamp, standing about a mile away and looking through a glass of water."

We’ve found most of the exoplanets we know about with NASA’s Kepler Telescope. It searches for the shadows an orbiting planet creates in front of its host star. (Video via NASA)

Having direct photographic evidence of 51 Eridani b will help researchers learn more about the formation of both the planet and the system as a whole than they might with Kepler. (Video via Gemini Observatory)

Lead researcher Bruce Macintosh says, "How all the weird systems we see and Kepler sees got to be there is the biggest exoplanet question right now, and everything we can do to understand it is critical."

The researchers have published their findings in the journal, Science.

This video includes images from Stanford University / Danielle Futselaar and Franck Marchis and music by Frenic / CC BY 3.0.

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<![CDATA[Should Scientists Worry That Their Drones Stress Out Bears?]]> Thu, 13 Aug 2015 20:14:00 -0500
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Wildlife researchers have gone all-in on drones. They used to need airplanes to get aerial data, and now they can do it cheaply and easily with an off-the-shelf gadget. (Video via U.S. Geological Survey)

But drone use for research may have a downside: Wild animals could be getting seriously stressed out by all the drones, even if they aren't showing it. 

The study from University of Minnesota describes researchers terrifying some black bears for the sake of science. Not that they really meant to. 

They flew a small quadcopter over four wild bears that had been equipped with heart rate monitors and GPS trackers. The drones never got closer than about 46 yards from the bears, so not exactly getting in their faces. (Video via Robb Hannawacker)

The bears panicked anyway. Despite the fact that the copter didn't get very close and the bears didn't act frightened, the heart rate monitors recorded huge jumps in each bear's pulse every time the copter came near. 

That's interesting because an earlier study showed wild birds didn't react to a drone until it was around 10 or 15 feet away — even flamingos, which are known to be skittish. Without heart rate data to go by, those researchers concluded birds just don't mind drones very much. (Video via Ingrid Taylar / CC BY 2.0Sunny Ripert / CC BY SA 2.0)

The bear study's lead author says he would have thought the same thing if the bears hadn't been wearing monitors. (Video via Sandy Brown Jensen / CC BY SA 2.0)

The study definitely gives some food for thought, but it's not likely to stem the tide of research drones. Even if they stress out the animals, scientists are likely to conclude that the benefits still outweigh the risks. 

For instance, without the use of remote controlled helicopters to — let's be blunt here — catch whale snot, biologists studying wild whales wouldn't be able to get data on DNA, diseases and all kinds of other biomarkers without having to draw blood somehow. (Video via BBC)

And even if your average quadcopter sounds like the world's angriest swarm of bees, it's still bound to be less stressful than being circled by an actual full-sized helicopter. (Video via Ed Schipul / CC BY 2.0U.S. Geological Survey)

The bear study does help support another trend, though: limiting wilderness drone use by your average hobbyist. The National Park Service banned drones at national parks last year due to noise complaints, frequent crashes and the suspicion that they might be affecting wildlife. (Video via Yann Caradec / CC BY SA 2.0)

This video includes images from the U.S. Geological SurveyU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyU.S. National Park ServiceCasey Brown / CC BY 2.0 and U.S. Bureau of Land ManagementMusic by “Merlot” by Birocratic / CC BY ND 3.0 

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<![CDATA[The Human-Driven Spiral That Might Be Making Wildfires Worse]]> Thu, 13 Aug 2015 15:19:00 -0500
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Since Jan. 1, wildfires have burned more than 6.4 million acres across the country, almost three times the amount burned during the same span last year. (Video via State of California)

That's continuing a trend of bigger, more destructive fires.

But to what extent are these fires natural and to what extent are they human-driven? (Video via CBS)

The overwhelming majority of wildfires in the U.S. are started by humans — as many as 90 percent of them, in fact. (Video via Canadian Tire)

But that's not really the point: The factors that allow them to spread so rapidly in certain regions have evolved over millennia and serve an ecological purpose. (Video via NASAState of Colorado)

In forests, wildfires regenerate soil, recycle nutrients, and some forests even depend on regular fires to reseed trees. (Video via California University of Pennsylvania)

But, as with so many things, humans have disrupted this natural process and made it more destructive. (Video via National Wildfire Suppression Association)

Through suppressing regular fires, for agriculture and development, humans likely have increased the frequency of severe fires, by allowing forest litter — like dead leaves and branches — to accumulate.

That litter also allows greenhouse gases to accumulate, which means those severe fires are also contributing to climate change. 

Which is in turn leaving forests dryer and hotter, making it a lot easier to start those severe wildfires.

Especially in Alaska, which is currently seeing its worst ever wildfire season and, as the country's only Arctic state, is also warming twice as fast as the rest of the U.S., according to Climate Central. (Video via KTVANASA)

But it doesn't look like suppressing those fires will stop anytime soon. Settlement of wildfire-prone areas in Colorado, for example, is only increasing, and the government spends some $3 billion to protect settlement every year. (Video via YouTube / Show My Property TV)

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Los Angeles Throws 96M Balls At California's Drought Problem]]> Thu, 13 Aug 2015 13:42:00 -0500
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What are black, round, meant to save water and cost $34.5 million?

They're called shade balls and that's exactly what they do. The spheres, 4 inches in diameter, are meant to cut down on water evaporation from the Los Angeles reservoirs by simply floating on top of the water. (Video via Las Virgenes Municipal Water District)

"By reducing evaporation, these balls will conserve 300 million gallons of water each year, instead of just evaporating into the sky," said Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Oddly enough, California has used this method to conserve water before. It was originally used in 2008 to help with water quality, but the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power discovered it has the added benefit of reducing evaporation off the reservoir surface by 85-90 percent.

The 96 million shade balls covering the surface of the Los Angeles Reservoir cost about 36 cents each, and while this method seems a bit unorthodox, the mayor says the alternative options are much more expensive.

For example, according to the mayor's office, building two "floating covers" over the 175-acre reservoir would have cost upwards of $300 million.

Now in most instances, dropping more than $34 million worth of plastic into a large body of water would be frowned upon, but the LA Department of Water and Power says this plastic is made up of high-density polyethylene, so it's reportedly not harmful if it touches drinking water.

"This isn't gonna add to that kind of plastic pollution?" a CBS reporter asked.

"No nothing leeches out of it; nothing gets in the water," an official from the LA water department responded.

The need for something — anything — to help the state's water reserves is pretty drastic. According to the National Drought Mitigation Center, this is California's fourth straight year of severe drought, and it's affecting more than 92 percent of the state. 

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<![CDATA[Woman Fighting For Life Claims Surgical Tool Spread Cancer]]> Thu, 13 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0500
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A mother who went in for a routine hysterectomy in New Jersey is now fighting for her life after she says a tool used during the surgery caused cancer to spread.

Viviana Ruscitto has been diagnosed with stage 4 uterine cancer. She is blaming the use of a surgical tool called a power morcellator.

Morcellators are used in laparoscopic, or minimally invasive, surgery. They chop up tissue so it can be taken out of the body through a small opening. The 43-year-old patient says she believes the tool spread the cancer around. 

Ruscitto filed a lawsuit against the hospital, several doctors and the company that makes the tool.

There is already a class action lawsuit for women who had surgery using morcellators and who developed cancer within two years of having procedures to remove fibroids, ovaries, fallopian tubes or the uterus. 

A Fox News medical correspondent said morcellators need to go. 

"If you're still using a morcellator, that's a huge mistake. ... Once the cancer starts to spread, these women will have stage 4 of the disease," Dr. David Samadi told Fox News. (Video via Fox News)

The FDA has also released a warning against morcellators, especially in women suspected to have cancer. 

"The FDA is warning against the use of laparoscopic power morcellators in the majority of women undergoing myomectomy or hysterectomy for treatment of fibroids."

That statement was released in April 2014 and originally said it discouraged the use of morcellators. The statement was then updated in November to say it was warning against the use. Ruscitto's surgery was in October of that year.

Ruscitto is currently undergoing chemotherapy. The FDA says 1 in 350 have unsuspected cancer and are at risk for that cancer spreading after hysterectomy or myomectomies. 

This video includes an image by Ed Uthman / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[With The Moon Out Of The Way, Perseids Put On A Great Show]]> Thu, 13 Aug 2015 07:54:00 -0500
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The annual Perseid meteor shower peaked early Thursday morning. (Video via NASA)

These meteors are debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle, which leaves a cloud of ice and dust on Earth’s orbital path during its own trip around the sun. When that dust impacts our atmosphere at 37 miles per second and burns up, we get Perseids.

They’re so named for their apparent origin point in the Perseus constellation, in the northern celestial hemisphere. (Video via NASA)

Thanks to a new moon during this year’s shower, the usually faint meteors were easier to spot.

NASA’s network of fireball cameras caught a fair few.

And amateur skywatchers all over the world turned up some spectacular examples, from California to England to this lucky 30-second shot in Spain that captured three meteors at once.

While the best of the show is now over, it’s not too late to go meteor hunting. The Perseids will stay active through August 26. All you need to spot one is a dark sky.

This video includes images from Channone Arif / CC BY 2.0James / CC BY 2.0Andres Nieto Porras / CC BY SA 2.0See1,Do1Teach1 / CC BY 2.0Gregors / CC0 and NASA / Geral Rhemann and music by Birocratic / CC BY 3.0.

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<![CDATA[The Science Of Why You Trust Some People More Than Others]]> Wed, 12 Aug 2015 11:28:00 -0500
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No trust, no teamwork. Seems obvious, right? Then why has it been so hard to study?

Because trust can take different forms. You can trust someone you don't know well when you take a risk together — like skydiving with an expert whose life is hooked to yours.

But on the flip side, your trust for a friend can outweigh facts and cloud your judgment.

Researchers at Dartmouth College have discovered why your brain makes the trust you feel for friends and strangers unequal and how relationships affect the decisions you make.  

Participants in the study played a game, taking turns working with a friend, a stranger or a computer. One person started with a dollar. They could keep it or invest it in their "partner" and the dollar would become $3. The partner could then keep the $3 or split it 50/50.

The catch? The friend and stranger weren't really playing. The researchers made sure both only split the money with the true participant 50 percent of the time. 

The true participants were hooked up to brain scanners, and researchers found a certain neural pathway gave participants a greater reward signal when they learned their friend acted trustworthy than when the other two players did.

The researchers showed mathematically the true participants made decisions based more on social value than on financial rewards.

One of the researchers said the findings show "how relationships can change our perceived value associated with a given decision."

But the findings go beyond psychology. Economic theories, in particular, have almost exclusively relied on non-personal factors, like financial rewards. 

Possibly the biggest takeaway from this study is the way it maps and quantifies an abstract concept.

And as researchers get better at measuring feelings like trust, we're learning just how much emotions and the need for relationships influence the choices we make.

This video includes images from Getty Images and Katie Tegtmeyer / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Are Humans To Blame For North Carolina Shark Attacks?]]> Tue, 11 Aug 2015 16:13:00 -0500
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Sharks are scary. They're really good swimmers; we're really not. They're apex predators; we're ... not, really. (Video via National Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationYMCA of South AustraliaDiscovery and KXTV)

So when they attack us, it's scary, especially when it seems like there are more attacks than ever — like this summer.

"Two kids are recovering after a pair of shark attacks in North Carolina," a WNCT anchor announced.

While there was a slight uptick in attacks in one region of the country, shark attacks aren't really on the rise.

The slight increase in attacks in North Carolina can be chalked up to a variety of possible causes, none of which mean sharks are more aggressive. (Video via ABC)

Saltier water, baby sea turtle season and other oceanographic factors could all have brought more sharks into contact with humans this summer. (Video via National Geographic)

But there's also a human factor to take into account. (Video via WWAY)

"Fundamentally, shark attack, then, is driven by the number of humans in the water more than the number of sharks," International Shark Attack File director George Burgess told NPR

"When areas such as the Carolinas become popular tourist destinations, as they have, there's more people entering the water, you're going to end up having more shark bites," Burgess added. (Video via Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina)

And the numbers seem to back that up: Tourism has been on the rise in North Carolina, with first-time visitors making up more than a tenth of the tourists who visited the state in 2014. (Video via Right Point Media)

Aside from shopping and visiting relatives, going to the beach was at the top of the list of tourist activities in 2014 as well.

That's obviously not conclusive evidence an increase in humans is driving the increase in shark attacks, but it's a little more plausible than human-hungry killer sharks. (Video via Universal Pictures / "Jaws")

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<![CDATA[One Gene Could Change How We View The Obesity Epidemic]]> Tue, 11 Aug 2015 11:30:00 -0500
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An important link between genetics and obesity has just been discovered. Researchers from the University of British Columbia say by silencing a gene that codes for a certain protein, they cut fat deposits in mice by half without changing the amount they ate.

And not just any fat — white fat, specifically the kind associated with obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

One of the researchers said"People gain fat in two ways — through the multiplication of their fat cells, and through the expansion of individual fat cells." The protein influences both the number and size of these cells.

It's important to note the mice studied were bred to have the silenced gene, so the research is not necessarily a solution to obesity but a way to decrease risk. It's a key piece of the puzzle, but researchers still aren't sure how fat cells are created.

Besides other genes associated with obesity, the National Center for Biotechnology Information cites 40 epigenetic factors known to tailor specific risks to the disease. Think of these factors as extra information that doesn't change the text of DNA but affects how it's read.

The breakthrough by University of British Columbia researchers is a huge step forward, though. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the medical costs related to obesity in America is $147 billion each year. (Video via University of California Television)

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[War In Space Isn't Considered Fantasy Anymore]]> Tue, 11 Aug 2015 11:19:00 -0500
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We're arguably closer than ever to war in space. Most satellites orbiting Earth belong to the U.S., China and Russia. And recent tests of anti-satellite weapons don't exactly ease the scare factor. (Video via NASA)

It sounds like science fiction, but the potential for real-life star wars is real enough. It's just not new. (Video via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens)

Fears of battles in space go back to the Cold War and several initiatives, like President Reagan's "Star Wars" missile-defense system. (Video via ABC

Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work spoke to Congress in June about the threat. He said during a speech the technology the U.S. developed during the Cold War allows it "to project more power, more precisely, more swiftly, at less cost."

Take a moment to think about everything satellites do. GPS, surveillance and communications all depend on them.

And the Scientific American notes you can disable satellites without missiles. Simply spray-painting lenses or breaking antennas is enough.

President Obama requested $5 billion for space defense in the 2016 fiscal budget.

And a former Air Force officer told the Scientific American most of the U.S.' capabilities in space have been declassified to send a clear message: There are no rules for war in space.

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[Troubling 3-Year-Old Air Traffic Report Surfaces]]> Tue, 11 Aug 2015 09:53:00 -0500
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Drowsiness is a common problem among air traffic controllers, according to a NASA report. 

The massive caveat? The report is almost three years old. 

It's making headlines now because the FAA only released it after the Associated Press got its hands on a draft, and the statistics were pretty worrying. (Video via CNN)

On average, controllers working the midnight shift got just 3.25 hours of sleep before their shifts; 70 percent of those night-shift controllers reported almost dozing off; and more than half of the responders who reported operational errors said fatigue was a contributing factor. 

But with each problem NASA identifies in the report, the Federal Aviation Administration has included actions it's taken that it says will address the issues. (Video via U.S. Trade and Development Agency)

For that 70-percent drowsiness problem, the FAA implemented "revised watch schedules, recuperative breaks, and a self-declaration of fatigue policy."

Still, some of the stories about the report have accused the FAA of burying it. Other stories have buried the fact that the report is almost three years old. 

"If you're about to jump on a plane this morning you might find this next story troubling, okay?" Matt Lauer said on the "Today" show

The study was based on responses from 3,268 air traffic controllers who completed the online fatigue survey in 2010. (Video via Smithsonian)

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[Is Queen Nefertiti's Lost Grave Hidden In King Tut's Tomb?]]> Tue, 11 Aug 2015 09:00:00 -0500
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Here's Queen Nefertiti, King Tutankhamun's mother. A British archaeologist may have found the answer to one of the biggest mysteries in ancient Egyptian history: the location of her lost grave. 

While the paint on the tomb's walls kept previous researchers from examining them closely, Nicholas Reeves of the University of Arizona simply scanned them. The cracks in the walls seem to show two concealed passages –– one of which he thinks could run to a queen's burial chamber.  

Since King Tut's tomb was discovered in 1922, there have been a lot more questions than answers. Why is it smaller compared to other kings'? Why do the objects found inside seem second-hand?  Why is the tomb's main axis angled in a direction reserved more for queens than kings? 

King Tut died suddenly at 19. Reeves proposes the royal court had no tomb dug for him, so they enlarged Queen Nefertiti's.

There's still doubt among fellow researchers, though. One told The Times he wouldn't be shocked to find the tomb had additional rooms but said it wouldn't have been Nefertiti's original resting place.

He did say, however, there's strong evidence that King Tut moved several of his royal family members' bodies to the city where his tomb is. Queen Nefertiti could have been one of them.

An archaeologist who previously mapped the Valley of the Kings told the Economist testing Reeve's theory would be pretty easy. Any hallows could be seen with a simple radar scan.

Reeves told the Economist: "Each piece of evidence on its own is not conclusive, but put it all together and it's hard to avoid my conclusion. If I'm wrong I'm wrong, but if I'm right this is potentially the biggest archaeological discovery ever made."

This video includes images from Getty Images and Discovery, and audio from Birocratic / CC BY 3.0.

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<![CDATA[It's Official –– The Universe Is Dying]]> Tue, 11 Aug 2015 07:36:00 -0500
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Prep your doomsday bunkers –– the universe is dying. 

Ok, maybe that's a little strong. The leader of the Galaxy and Mass Assembly project, said, "The Universe has basically sat down on the sofa, pulled up a blanket and is about to nod off for an eternal doze.”

Sounds kind of like an average Sunday to me. Scientists have speculated since the '90s that the universe has been in decline. This latest project between dozens of universities is just a further confirmation of that.  

The researchers measured the energy being emitted from more than 200,000 galaxies. They measured at 21 different wavelengths, between ultraviolet and the far infrared. (Videos via GAMA)

Theoretically, the Big Bang created all the energy in the universe, some of which became mass. Thanks to Einstein and his equation E=mc^2, we know stars shine by transferring that mass back into energy. (Video via NASA Goddard)

The stars have already lost half their brightness, not just in terms of visible light but in all the 21 wavelengths measured. (Video via NASA)

A member of the research team told NPR"Once you've burned up all the fuel in the Universe, essentially, that's it. The stars die, like a fire dies, and then you have embers left over that then glow but eventually cool down. And the fire just goes out." 

But there's some good news –– the project is one of many that are advancing our ability to detect energy. Similar to how human history can only go as far back as the stories available, the universe's past is only as deep as its earliest energy we can measure. (Video via NASA)

The researchers are planning on building the world's largest radio telescope over the next ten years to map the complete history of the Universe. 

And one more piece of good news, the researchers say the universe has a few billion years left to live. That's plenty of time for us to figure out our next move, right? 

This video includes images from Getty Images and audio via Birocratic / CC BY 3.0.

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<![CDATA[Japan Restarts Its First Nuclear Reactor Since Fukushima]]> Tue, 11 Aug 2015 07:34:00 -0500
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Japan is restarting one of its nuclear power plants. But why? (Video via Tokyo Electric Power Company)

Japan turned on the number one reactor at its Sendai nuclear power plant on Tuesday — the first since it shut down all of its reactors following the Fukushima disaster in 2011. 

Tens of thousands of people were forced to evacuate the Fukushima area after an earthquake and tsunami caused the ill-prepared plant to melt down. 

Japan has since imported a large chunk of its energy, which in turn caused electricity prices in the island nation to skyrocket. 

Though some would rather deal with higher electric prices than risk running a reactor right now. (Video via Fuji News Network)

A member of Greenpeace Japan told CNN seismic and volcanic risks weren't investigated thoroughly enough for the Sendai plant, and its reactors are also aging.

Polls suggest the majority of Japan's people are against restarting any reactors, with more than 70 percent saying they support phasing the country off nuclear power. (Video via Tokyo Broadcasting System Television)

This video includes images from IAEA / Giovanni VerliniTokyo Electric Power CompanyTANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) / CC BY 3.0 and music by Chris Zabriskie / CC BY 4.0.

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<![CDATA[Researchers (Funded By Coke) Say Soda May Not Be The Problem]]> Mon, 10 Aug 2015 13:17:00 -0500
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"Most of the focus in the popular media and the scientific press is, 'Oh you're eating too much.' Blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks and so on," said University of South Carolina professor Steve Blair.

After the info-graphic heard 'round the world, Coca-Cola has a new message for consumers: Exercise more because we don't really know if sugary drinks are the problem.

Coca-Cola is providing funding for a group of scientists to research proper "energy balance." Or in other words, the biggest soda company on the planet is paying for research that emphasizes the importance of exercising. 

Blair said: "Too many people are eating more calories than they burn on too many days. But maybe the reason they're eating more calories than they need is because they're not burning many." 

According to The New York Times, Coca-Cola donated $1.5 million last year to start the research organization and has given $4 million since 2008 to the organization's founding members. 

As you might imagine, the organization, known as the Global Energy Balance Network, is being met with some skepticism from news outlets and the general population.

But perhaps, desperate times call for desperate measures: 2015 marked the 10th straight year of a decline in soda sales for Coca-Cola and its biggest competitor, Pepsi. Many attribute the drop in sales to customers choosing what they consider more healthy drink options, like juice and flavored water.

Not only that, but school districts around the country have removed soda machines from school cafeterias. 

According to the Global Energy Balance Network website, the group has executive committee members from the  United States, Denmark, China, Lebanon, Australia and Venezuela. 

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[This Might Be Your Best Chance To Catch The Perseids]]> Mon, 10 Aug 2015 09:54:00 -0500
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Attention stargazers: NASA says this might be your best week to catch a stellar light show, starring the Perseids. Sorry for the puns. (Video via YouTube / ElektrischerApparat)

NASA says the Perseid meteor shower should be especially visible this week because the moon won't be. (Video via NASA)

"The Perseids feature fast and bright meteors that frequently leave trains, and in 2015 there will be no moonlight to upstage the shower," NASA says.

The Perseid meteor shower is named after the Perseus constellation, even though Perseus really doesn't have much to do with them. (Video via YouTube / starryearth)

They're actually products of the Swift-Tuttle comet, which orbits the sun every 133 years. But it's not the comet traveling close to Earth that makes the meteor shower happen.

Instead, it's the Earth passing into the cloud of particles the comet leaves behind and those particles interacting with our atmosphere.

Even though the moon won't be messing with visibility, clouds can, so check the forecast. (Video via YouTube / someytowner)

The Perseid meteor shower happens every year in mid-August. This year, the shower peaks between Aug. 12 and 13. (Video via YouTube / lez briddon)

This video includes images from NASA and Dominic Alves / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[A Bacteria Could Literally Eat Away Your Smoking Habit]]> Sun, 09 Aug 2015 09:06:00 -0500
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Quitting smoking might not need to be such a struggle in the future, as chemists are exploring a bacteria that eats nicotine. (Video via the U.S. Food and Drug Administration)

The researchers from the Scripps, Skaggs and Worm institutes touted their bacterial enzyme, called NicA2, in the Journal of the American Chemical Society

One of the researchers compared the enzyme to Pac-Man — in the way it eats nicotine containing the carbon and nitrogen it needs to survive. (Video via Bandai Namco Entertainment America)

While nicotine doesn't directly harm smokers, it increases dopamine in the brain, which makes smoking satisfying.

Without any treatment, the researchers say nicotine reaches the brain 20 seconds after the first puff of a cigarette.

It then takes two to three hours for half of those nicotine molecules to disappear.

But in tests on mice, NicA2 cut nicotine's half-life from two hours down to nine minutes.

NicA2's test results are even more impressive considering the researchers say currently available smoking cessation aids are only successful for 10-20 percent of smokers.

The researchers say their next step is altering NicA2's bacterial makeup to prevent any potential side effects to the immune system and to maximize its ability to eat nicotine before it reaches the brain.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[The Many Benefits Of Space Gardening]]> Sat, 08 Aug 2015 08:00:00 -0500
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Astronauts are set to sample fresh vegetables grown in microgravity on the International Space Station for the first time.

Their lettuce crops are ready for harvesting. They’ll eat half and freeze the other half for study back on earth. And yes, it’s red.

NASA has found red and blue LEDs are the most power-efficient lights and give plants all the wavelengths they need to grow.

NASA says “Green LEDS were added so the plants look like edible food rather than weird purple plants,” which seems like a bit of a missed opportunity. Who wouldn’t eat Purple Space Lettuce?

The prototype plant-growth system arrived aboard SpaceX’s CRS-3 mission in 2014. That launch carried spare parts for the ISS, HD cameras, communications lasers — and lettuce and Zinnias. (Video via NASA)

Since then, astronauts have been gardening. NASA hopes Veggie or a system like it could one day provide sustainable food supplies for long-duration missions. (Video via NASA)

Plants could also serve as more than just a food source. They absorb carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, which could decrease strain on atmosphere scrubbers.

Their antioxidant content could counteract some negative effects of radiation exposure from the Sun. (Video via NASA)

And it’s a nice hobby for astronauts sealed in a tube on the way to Mars for months at a time. (Video via NASA)

“The farther and longer humans go away from Earth, the greater the need to be able to grow plants for food, atmosphere recycling and psychological benefits.”

Just ask Wall-E about how important that plant he found was. (Video via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

History’s first Space Lettuce Taste Test is set to be broadcast live on NASA’s online stream on Monday, August 10. (Video via NASA)

This video includes images from NASA and music by Birocratic / CC by 3.0. Music.

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<![CDATA[Woman Sheds 106 Pounds By Drinking Green Tea]]> Fri, 07 Aug 2015 07:34:00 -0500
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This is Samantha Rees, a UK mother-of-two who lost 106 pounds after she swapped out eating greasy food for drinking green tea. 

Rees decided she needed to make a change after she stepped on a scale and weighed in at almost 250 pounds back in 2014. 

Her friend proposed Rees drink green tea to shed the weight. 

The Sun reports Rees said, "I started drinking four cups of green tea a day and within a month I noticed a massive difference. I'd lost a stone and felt absolutely amazing."

WedMD says green tea isn't some magic diet drink, but it is a good substitute for drinks filled with sugar. 

"...if you sub 1-2 cups of green tea for one can of soda, over the next year you'd save over 50,000 calories," a research scientist in nutrition told WebMD

Rees upped her green tea intake to nine cups a day. 

She said, "Obviously I'd been eating well and cutting out my milky teas had probably helped, but my metabolism must have sped up, too — and I was certainly snacking less."

As of August 2015, Rees now weighs just 133 pounds, which was her goal. 

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<![CDATA[Alabama Man Tests Negative For Ebola]]> Wed, 05 Aug 2015 14:19:00 -0500
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The Alabama Department of Public Health has confirmed a man who showed symptoms of Ebola does not have the virus.

According to the department, the man has been under surveillance since he arrived from a country with widespread Ebola cases. Officials haven't released the man's identity or what country he traveled to.

Even after the negative test result, the Alabama man will stay under surveillance for at least the 21-day monitoring period that's standard for anyone showing symptoms. Officials say the patient is "assessed to be at low, but not zero, risk of Ebola." (Video via WIAT)

"There is also some other testing which has come back, which has revealed another diagnosis," health department official Dr. Edward Kahn.

One Alabama.com reporter says that other diagnosis is malaria, but the health department hasn't confirmed it.

As it stands, Alabama's health department says it monitors an average of eight people each month for Ebola. 

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<![CDATA[Eating Spicy Food Might Help You Cheat Death A Little Longer]]> Wed, 05 Aug 2015 13:24:00 -0500
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Like spicy food? Turns out it might help you live longer. At least that's what a new study published in the medical journal The BMJ says.

For the study, researchers used data from about half a million Chinese adults who filled out health questionnaires between 2004 and 2008.

Participants answered questions about their spicy food diet — if they had one — and their health. About seven years later, researchers followed up with them.

What they found was those who ate spicy food at least once a week had a 10 percent reduced risk of death compared to folks who ate spicy food less than one time a week.

For those who ate spicy food three to seven days a week, the risk decreased 14 percent.

But don't rush to the store to buy all the jalapeno peppers or Tabasco sauce quite yet. The study's authors say more research is needed to see if spicy foods really do make people live longer.

Still, eating spicy foods might have other health benefits, such as helping with weight loss or preventing cancer. (Video via Phil King / CC BY NC ND 2.0)

So it can't hurt to eat more — well, as long as you don't mind spicy food. (Video via Rhett & Link)

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Birth Control Overachieves, Might Prevent Cancer]]> Wed, 05 Aug 2015 10:18:00 -0500
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Birth control's uses beyond contraception are pretty well known, but now, researchers have found another: preventing cancer. 

Analysis of data from more than 130,000 women showed oral contraceptives can provide long-term protection against endometrial cancer. (Video via Washington University)

Endometrial cancer is one of the most common uterine cancers in women, and the National Cancer Institute estimates more than 54,000 new cases will be diagnosed in 2015 in the U.S. alone. (Video via Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center)

While the researchers say birth control was already known to protect against endometrial cancer, it wasn't clear how long that protection lasted.

Now, it looks like sustained use of birth control confers long-term protection, with as many as 200,000 cases of the cancer estimated to have been prevented over the past decade. (Video via YouTube / Covenant Health)

The researchers report, "10 years use of oral contraceptives was estimated to reduce the absolute risk of endometrial cancer arising before age 75." 

And that's especially significant, because endometrial cancer tends to affect women who have long since stopped taking birth control. (Video via Stanford Health Care)

"Most endometrial cancers occur in women after menopause, meaning they've stopped having their periods for a number of years and then all of a sudden will start to have bleeding," Dr. Paul M. Magtibay told EmpowHER.

That makes endometrial cancer easy to catch early, and it's fairly curable, with more than 80 percent of women surviving past 5 years. 

This video includes an image from lookcatalog / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Blame Physics For Our Lack Of Futuristic Flying Machines]]> Wed, 05 Aug 2015 08:37:00 -0500
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According to Doc Brown's calendar, it's officially The Future. So where's our flying everything? (Video via Universal Pictures / "Back to the Future Part II")

Some of our slow progress is thanks to a regulatory vacuum, but most of it is thanks to plain old physics.

Lexus tested out an early version of the hoverboard this month, which uses nitrogen-cooled superconducting magnets to float, and it can support a person. (Video via Lexus)

The thing about superconducting magnets is they have to stay chilled down to work. And they have to stay above the magnetic track they push off of. That's how Lexus did it, too. (Video via The Royal Institution)

And this board requires a copper-lined hover surface to generate the required magnetic fields. (Video via Hendo Hover)

So true hoverboards are out until we figure out how to free them from their magnetic bases. Sorry, Marty McFly. (Video via Universal Pictures)

Jetpacks are a tall order, too, in that to lift a human, you have to point enough energy down at the ground — without setting your legs on fire.

There are fixed-wing jet backpacks, but that's technically using a wing surface to generate lift rather than being a true jetpack. (Video via TED)

The Martin Jetpack is technically a "ducted-fanpack," but that doesn't roll off the tongue quite the same way. 

Pumped-water rocket packs actually use jets of something pointed straight down, but they're altitude-limited. (Video via CNN)

Okay, so what about our flying cars?

Concepts are everywhere: Terrafugia started showing off this crazy commuter just last month. (Video via Terrafugia)

And even DARPA has shown interest in something that might fly as easily as it drives. (Video via Lockheed Martin)

But infrastructure and regulation haven't caught up yet, mostly because the government has never had to come up with rules for something that's simultaneously a car and a plane.

Maybe "Back To The Future" was just too far ahead of its time. We'll set the clock for another 26 years.

This video includes images from martinjetpack / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Reviewers Say Lexus' Hoverboard Doesn't Ride Like A Dream]]> Tue, 04 Aug 2015 21:08:00 -0500
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Hoverboards may be the future, but Lexus' version shows the future isn't very impressive yet. 

The sci-fi staple has appeared in "Back to the Future Part II," "Doom Runners," "Futuresport" and more. 

But it's 2015, and so far each attempt at creating the fated skateboard in real life has been kind of lame. (Video via Hendo)

Lexus has been teasing its version since June, and some tech reviewers have actually been able to try it out. 

Jalopnik's Robb Holland also took the board for a spin, and he wasn't blown away. 

"As bad as that looks, I'm the only one really to ride this so that makes me the best hoverboarder in the world," Holland said.

Neither was The Verge's Sam Sheffer.

"It's not as easy as riding a skateboard where all four wheels are on the ground. The magnetic track in the ground lines up vertically with the center of the board, so it's kinda like you're on a tightrope," said Sheffer.

That track he's referring to is probably why reviewers weren't completely on board. You see, the device uses superconducting magnetic levitation. Basically, it won't work at your average skatepark. 

"A superconductor is something that when you cool it down — in this case we've liquid nitrogen — it loses all it's electrical resistance. ... You can see that it is actually levitating on the track," says a Royal Institution scientist

Lexus' hoverboard works the same way, meaning the board's insides have to be kept extremely cold. Even then, it only works over metal tracks built into a special skatepark in Barcelona. 

Knowing the board's limitations does make it lose some of the magic. But at least it's still pretty cool to look at. 

This video includes music by Pierlo / CC BY 3.0.

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<![CDATA[These Little Organs Could Be Big For Stem-Cell Research]]> Tue, 04 Aug 2015 20:10:00 -0500
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What is an organoid? It's a smaller version of an organ, a tiny model created from stem cells.

Some researchers are working on growing body parts, like skin, for transplants. But two recent studies seem less like science fiction and could end the controversies surrounding stem cells. (Video via Wake Forest Baptist Health)

But first, some background.

"While skin cells protect your body, muscle cells contract, and nerve cells send signals; stem cells do not have any specific structures or functions. Stem cells do have the potential to become all other kinds of cells in your body," said a narrator in a TED video. (Video via TED)

Organoid milestones have already been achieved, like scientists creating working heart tissue –– albeit two-dimensional sheets of it. (Video via Vienna University of Technology)

But Dr. Bruce Conklin and his fellow researchers at the universities of California-Berkeley and San Francisco, recently discovered how to make these heart models three-dimensional.

Conklin compared building a microchamber of a 3-D heart to a hot-air balloon slowly filling up.

This research gives scientists a better understanding of not only how heart cells come together, but also the order they're applied and how they replicate.

"You have to realize that the genomes inside every single cell in your body are essentially the same. It's just a matter of which genes are turned on and off that really make the difference between them so that if you force the genes on that are going to be like a different cell type, then the cells start taking on that identity, and then that becomes self-reinforcing," Conklin says.

"Remarkably that blueprint sits inside each of our genomes so that the one cell that we began with becomes our entire body," Conklin says.

Conklin's goal is to learn how heart abnormalities are created, as he says heart disorders are the most reported birth defect.

And Dr. Flora Vaccarino and her team at Yale University recently became the first researchers to use stem cells to create 3-D models of the brain for autism research.

And they found a likely cause of the disorder is an over-expression of a certain gene.

But these two studies should be highlighted for another innovation –– their use of adult stem cells.

Popular opinion toward stem cell research in the past has been mixed, to put it mildly. 

To do research with stem cells, you essentially have to destroy them. 

Some argue embryonic stem cells have the potential for life –– so they say stem cell research is an act of murder.

Stem cells exist in living bodies, but how we could use them was limited, especially for organoid research.

"Compared with stem cells from embryos, adult stem cells give rise to a smaller number of cell types –– usually those of the organ or tissue in which they're found," BBC reports

But what embryonic stem cells provide in versatility, they lack in certainty.

“In other words, would it encode a person who has a heart, or does it encode a person who's got a brain. We don’t know that for the embryonic stem cells because that person was never born," Conklin says.

Both Conklin and Vaccarino's research uses recently discovered techniques to change adult skin cells into virtually any organ.

So the source of the cells is living, and if those cells come from a person who has autism or a heart disorder, abnormal activity in those cells can be linked to the disease. (Video via The New York Stem Cell Foundation)

"We're not planning on using these cells to inject them into patients; we're only looking at them to understand the disease and to try to come up with better therapeutics," Vaccarino says.

These adult stem cell models are the most complex yet to actual human tissue –– and are something we can use to find possible causes of diseases.

"The right way to look at this is not to look at the individual gene as the cause, but a variety of genes that affect a single function," Vaccarino says.  

Stem cell research still has a long way to go, but work like Conklin and Vaccarino's is creating a buzz and, perhaps, quieting social concerns.

This video includes images from Getty Images, Metrixell Huch / CC BY 4.0Gladstone InstitutesYale University and Arjun Adamson / CC BY 3.0. Music via Chris Zabriskie / CC BY 4.0.

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<![CDATA[Are Pandas Faking Pregnancies For More Food?]]> Tue, 04 Aug 2015 16:36:00 -0500
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Just like how a little kid might fake being sick to get a Popsicle, another panda has reportedly faked a pregnancy in order to get more snacks and better treatment.

Yuan Yuan, an 11-year-old panda at the Taipei Zoo, started to show pregnancy symptoms after being artificially inseminated. (Video via Taipei Zoo)

Panda fetuses are so small in the beginning stages that pregnancy is hard to detect, so doctors go off symptoms, which include loss of appetite, thickening around the uterus, and increased levels of progesterone. (Video via Zoo Atlanta)

But that's not always an accurate way to judge a pregnancy in a panda. Pandas have something called "delayed implantation" meaning the embryo doesn't attach to the uterus for several months. In other words, doctors initially have to decide if a panda is pregnant based on its hormones.

Now, it's rare for giant pandas to successfully reproduce. And since they're endangered, a panda is given special care if they're believed to be pregnant. (Video via Taipei Zoo)

When Yuan Yuan began displaying symptoms, she was transferred to an air-conditioned room with 24/7 care and a buffet fit for a panda queen. (Video via Taipei Zoo)

But after further testing determined she wasn't actually pregnant, one environmental journalist says there might be a scientific reason for the fake out besides wanting preferential treatment. 

Bryan Nelson says pandas can have phantom pregnancies — which means their hormones reflect that of a pregnant panda, but there's no cub developing in their uterus. 

This phenomenon happens in 10 to 20 percent of pandas and usually occurs when a panda isn't healthy enough to carry the cub to full term.

But if pandas have figured out how to fake a pregnancy, pet owners better keep an eye out for their furry friends so that they don't follow suit.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Bonobo 'Peeps' Could Shed Light On Evolution Of Language]]> Tue, 04 Aug 2015 13:17:00 -0500
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That little squeak might not sound like much to you, but to a bonobo mother, it carries a lot of meaning.  

Exactly how it does that is a question researchers are asking, and the answer could shed more light on the evolution of language. 

It all comes down to a concept called functional flexibility, one of language's basic building blocks. 

The researchers define it as "an individual's capacity to produce signals that are detached from a predetermined function to express different psychological and affective states in a range of situations."

For example, when a baby cries, we don't need a whole lot of other information to know it's probably unhappy. (Video via YouTube / Aaron Lauper)

But other baby noises may communicate different meanings in different situations, despite sounding the same. 

Now, bonobos are putting into question the idea that functional flexibility is exclusively human. 

Whereas most animals make noises that have one fixed function, like a squirrel's alarm call, bonobos make hard- to-distinguish "peeps" that can carry different meanings. (Video via YouTube / Jed Deadlock)

The researchers say "bonobo peep production may represent a somewhat intermediate stage between functionally fixed ... and functionally flexible signals, as seen in most human vocalisations."

And that's significant, because evolution-wise, bonobos are as close a relative as we've got — having diverged from a common ancestor some 4 to 7 million years ago. (Video via Applied Art)

The findings could show that some of the foundations of language — a fundamentally human concept — could predate humanity itself. (Video via University of Southern California)

The researchers say for more conclusive evidence, more tests need to be done to see how effectively bonobos can discriminate between positive and neutral peeps. You can find their research in the journal PeerJ. (Video via Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary)

This video includes images from Zanna Clay / Lui Kotale Bonobo Project and music from Chris Zabriskie / CC BY 4.0.

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<![CDATA[Kids Who Are Picky Eaters Might Develop Depression, Anxiety]]> Mon, 03 Aug 2015 16:08:00 -0500
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Remember the days of demanding macaroni and cheese? Only eating pizza? Insisting on hot dogs for dinner — every single night?

Our parents called us "stubborn." But today's parents might have another thing to watch for when it comes to feeding picky eaters.

According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, young kids who show extreme aversion to some foods are more likely develop anxiety disorders. 

In fact, children who were categorized as severe selective eaters were more than twice as likely to have depression or anxiety later in life. (Video via Food Network)

The study was conducted by researchers at Duke University's Center for Eating Disorders and involved more than 900 kids ages 2 to 6. Parents recorded their children's eating habits, and researchers tested the kids for mood disorders.

"I don't want to raise panic among parents. I'm hoping this research will make all of us realize that the story is more complicated than we appreciated," researcher Nancy Zucker told The New York Times.

Zucker suggests introducing children to new and exciting foods, and focusing on family at dinnertime, rather than food.

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[Will Obama's Carbon-Emissions Cuts Be As Strict As He Plans?]]> Sun, 02 Aug 2015 11:36:00 -0500
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The White House says it'll release a new carbon emissions plan Monday, and it could be the strictest yet. (Video via The White House)

Coal-fired power plants are the main targets. Bloomberg reports about 40 percent of  U.S. electricity comes from coal-fueled power plants. And the Environmental Protection Agency says electricity accounts for about a third of greenhouse gas emissions.

Anonymous officials told The Washington Post the plan gives states 15 years to cut carbon dioxide emissions by a third of the levels in 2005.

President Obama said July 29 he'll veto any bill that goes against him, a position that'll likely be put to the test. The Guardian reports half a dozen states have said they'll challenge the EPA in court.

It doesn't mean Obama and the EPA aren't still hoping to get everyone on their side.  (Video via The White House)

The EPA is using the Clean Air Act from the 1970s to change the perception that environmental protection and economic growth are at odds. (Video via U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

That act, which got stricter in the 1990s, targeted both power plant and motor vehicle emissions. According to a 2011 EPA study, the benefits from the 1990s amendments will exceed the costs 30-to-1 by the year 2020.

The agency says the law also saved the government money because less was spent on medical treatment for illnesses caused by pollution.

But other studies undercut those claims. For instance, a 2012 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research estimated the Clean Air Act led to an almost 5 percent drop in productivity and a nearly 9 percent reduction in national manufacturing profits from 1972 to 1993.

And this isn't the only case of cost-benefit analyses differing from the EPA's.

Just this June, the Supreme Court ruled against the limits the EPA recently placed on mercury and other toxic pollutants, saying because the agency didn't first do a cost-benefit analysis before regulating, it actually violated the Clean Air Act.

Both sides agreed the limits would cost the energy industry $9 billion annually. But while the EPA said the annual benefits were in the tens of billions each year, the court sided with industry groups' estimates that the benefits were a meager $6 million. (Video via GOP)

This could mean in the face of all the economic concerns, even President Obama's veto powers might not be enough to keep his new carbon emission plan as strict as he'd like. (Video via The White House)

This video includes images via Getty Imagesjoiseyshowaa / CC BY SA 2.0 and Cathy / CC BY NC 2.0

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<![CDATA[New Reports Say Jericho, Cecil The Lion's Ally, Is Alive]]> Sat, 01 Aug 2015 16:23:00 -0500
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Less than a week after news surfaced that Cecil the Lion was killed after he was lured outside a Zimbabwean national park, there were conflicting reports if Cecil's ally, Jericho, had also been killed.

But the Oxford Wildlife Conservation Research Unit confirmed Jericho was alive Sunday morning after a team searched for him.

The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force also posted a statement on its Facebook page confirming Jericho had been seen Saturday night.

Male lions often have coalition partners, which allows prides to compete for territories and fend off rivals. After Cecil's death, Jericho adopted his partner's cubs, so if Jericho had died, it could have put the young lions in danger.

Since Cecil was killed, Zimbabwe officials have asked the U.S. to turn over Walter James Palmer, who has admitted he killed the beloved lion. (Videos via University of Oxford, YouTube / River Bluff Dental)

A White House petition calling for Palmer's extradition to Zimbabwe had over 220,000 signatures as of Sunday morning.

On Friday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said an investigation is ongoing and that Palmer's representative had contacted the agency.

Hunting lions, leopards and elephants has been suspended in the area near the Hwange National Park. (Video via NBC

This video includes images from Vince O'Sullivan / CC BY NC 2.0 and music by Birocratic / CC by 3.0.


Correction: A previous version of this video said Cecil the lion was killed in late July. He was killed July 1. The video has been updated.

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<![CDATA[8,000 Firefighters Trying To Control California Flames]]> Sat, 01 Aug 2015 11:11:00 -0500
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California is in a state of emergency as wildfires continue to burn across the drought-stricken state.

At least 23 large fires were reported in California by the state's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

Eight thousand firefighters have been called in to battle the flames. On Friday, a U.S. Forest Service firefighter from the Black Hills in South Dakota was found dead after he went missing in the line of duty.

And hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes. Despite the increase in fires this year, fire officials have told reporters the total number of acres burned has actually been lower due to swift responses from firefighters and forgiving weather.

Many of the fires are believed to have been sparked by lightning, and California officials warn even more dry thunderstorms are expected in the coming days. (Video via NBC)

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[What Exactly Does NASA Use Its Earth Sciences Money For?]]> Sat, 01 Aug 2015 09:37:00 -0500
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NASA makes a lot of headlines for the outward exploration it does, and rightly so. But it also spends a lot of time looking at Earth. (Video via NASA)

The pale blue dot is so important to NASA, it gets its own category on the agency website next to those for the International Space Station and NASA’s Mars initiatives.

But earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an annual budget that slashed NASA’s Earth sciences funds by 25 percent.

It calls for NASA to get $1.45 billion toward Earth sciences in 2016. (Video via NASA)

With this money, NASA will keep running its fleet of 20 Earth-facing satellites, and continue the development of another 10 for the years ahead. (Video via NASA)

The data from these orbiters informs a constant stream of research studies and other analysis — on everything from rainfall and ice reserves to hurricane behaviors and emissions tracking.

A six-month analysis to show the effects of this year’s rainfall so far? Thank the Global Precipitation Measurement satellite constellation. (Video via NASA)

Drought and wildfire tracking in California? That’s GRACE, and instruments aboard the Aqua satellite

Flood prediction tools to improve safety and minimize economic damage come from GPM satellites. 

And researchers even use these eyes in orbit to help predict the movements of endangered whales.

Keeping all of these going is a high priority for NASA administration. In April and May when the House was weighing its cuts, NASA head Charles Bolden said for all the exploration NASA spearheads to other planets, "none is more important than the one on which we live." (Video via NASA)

The whales probably agree. (Video via National Geographic)

This video includes images from Getty Images and music by Frenic / CC BY 3.0.

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<![CDATA[NASA Visualizes Just How Much Rain We've Endured — Or Missed]]> Fri, 31 Jul 2015 15:21:00 -0500
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Depending on which part of the country you live in, the rain — or the lack of rain — has been bad this year. Now, NASA has released data showing exactly how much some states are suffering.

NASA just released six months of composite data from its Global Precipitation Measurement mission. The joint operation with Japan’s space agency gathers data from a constellation of rain-tracking satellites around the globe. (Video via NASA)

It shows a harshly divided U.S., where parts of the country got way too much rain, and others didn't get nearly enough. (Video via NASA)

The South Central U.S. got swamped, with as many as 40 inches of rainfall in the first six months of the year. (Video via CNBC)

This year to date, the Dallas-Fort Worth area has seen 32.6 inches of precipitation. That’s more than the annual totals for each of the last 10 years.

Meanwhile, most of the other side of the Rockies has seen less than 20 inches of precipitation all year. California in particular is now looking at a year’s worth of “rain debt.”

Typically, the bursts of moisture that get pushed in off the Pacific Ocean water the region over the course of the wet season. (Video via NASA)

But for the last three years, they’ve been so anemic, California now needs need a year’s worth of precipitation just to get back to its average levels.

There’s a stronger-than-usual El Nino brewing in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, which could bring more rainfall to the state. (Video via KABC)

But NASA researchers say it will take years of higher-than-average precipitation for California to recover.

This video includes images from Getty Images and NASA. 

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<![CDATA[We're Getting Closer To Stopping Ebola]]> Fri, 31 Jul 2015 11:11:00 -0500
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Described as a potential "game changer," a new Ebola vaccine could save countless lives. (Video via World Health Organization)

VSV-EBOV underwent a trial in Guinea between April 1 and July 20 of this year. 

The vaccine had a 100 percent success rate in preventing new Ebola cases.

Once it was determined a person had Ebola, the researchers vaccinated a "ring" of family and friends close to the diseased person. Some were vaccinated immediately, while others received delayed vaccinations.  (Video via World Health Organization)

None of the patients who were vaccinated immediately contracted the virus. Of the group who received delayed vaccinations, 16 contracted Ebola.

The World Health Organization said the research, which was published in the British medical journal The Lancet, was an "extremely promising development." (Video via World Health Organization)

The trial will now expand its patient criteria to children ages 13 to 17. It'll also be given immediately to all of the patients, rather than having a separate group receiving a delayed vaccination. (Video via Doctors Without Borders)

Since its outbreak early last year, Ebola has killed more than 11,000 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea — the three countries hit hardest by the disease. (Video via World Health Organization)

This video contains images from World Health Organization / S. Hawkey and music from Birocratic / CC BY ND 3.0.

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<![CDATA[How Pro Athletes Fared When Returning From Cancer]]> Thu, 30 Jul 2015 23:49:00 -0500
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"There was many times when I was like, 'Man, I don't know if I'm going to wake up tomorrow.' I'd just be up thinking, scared to go to sleep. Then it'd be a point where I'd be like, 'Forget it. I'm going to sleep. If I don't wake up, I don't wake up," Berry said in a press conference. 

Kansas City Chiefs all-pro safety Eric Berry returned to the practice field Wednesday after an eight-month battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma. (Video via KSHB)

Now that Berry's back, he can draw inspiration from other athletes who beat cancer and led successful professional lives.

In 2009, doctors diagnosed Boston College linebacker and 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year Mark Herzlich with a rare bone cancer. Herzlich came back in 2010 for Boston College and made 65 tackles that season. (Video via ESPN)

"When I picture my fight through all this, the end result is me running out of the tunnel with the team behind me going through that banner," Herzlich said.

Herzlich eventually signed with the New York Giants, where he won a Super Bowl in his rookie season and where he still plays as a backup linebacker. (Video via USA Network)

Former NFL punter Josh Bidwell sat out the 1999 season after being diagnosed with testicular cancer.

He then bounced back, won the starting punting job and had an 11-year NFL career. He was selected to the pro bowl once following the 2005 season.

Athletes from other sports have also proved it's possible to return to all-pro form after a cancer diagnosis.

NHL legend Mario Lemieux won his battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma, the same type of cancer Berry had, in 1993. (Video via Mario Lemieux Foundation)

He missed 24 games because of radiation treatments, then came back in the middle of the season to lead the league in scoring.

And finally, MLB first baseman Andrés Galarraga came back in 2000 after sitting out the 1999 season from non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He blasted a home run in his first at-bat of the year and went on to hit .302 and earn comeback player of the year honors.

Galarraga actually beat a return of the same cancer in 2004, and retired the year after with a 20-year-long career in the majors.

Fans will have their first chance to see Berry in action Aug. 15 when the Chiefs play their preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals. (Video via KSHB

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Friday's Lunar Event Happens Once In A Blue Moon]]> Thu, 30 Jul 2015 11:44:00 -0500
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Look up at the sky Friday night, and you'll see a moon so rare, it lives up to that old saying.

Okay, so you won't actually see a blue moon Friday night — more like a whitish-gray one.

Still, it's pretty rare. If you miss this year's, you won't see another until January 2018. While each month usually has only one full moon, a blue moon is a second, sneaking its way in.

The cause is really just the difference between the lunar calendar and the solar one that months are based on.

And while Friday's moon may not necessarily be blue, NASA says moons can actually appear blue.

The secret lies with volcanic eruptions and forest fires. Specifically, the ash they release into the sky; each can be a millionth of a meter in size. (Video via National Geographic)

That's about the same size as red light on the electromagnetic spectrum, making the ash particles perfect for scattering red light and letting blue and green reach our eyes.

Something similar happens when the moon sits low on the horizon, only in this case, the moon looks red.

Just like volcanoes or forest fires, other particles in the air can also affect the color. Except in this case, those particles match the size of the wavelength of blue light and filter it out.

Be sure to check out the "blue moon" on Friday — even if it is white. You won't see something like this again for two and a half years.

This video includes images via Daniel / CC BY NC ND 2.0Luis Vásquez / CC BY NC ND 2.0, Carl Jones / CC BY NC 2.0, davidsancar / CC BY 2.0 and David Yu / CC BY NC ND 2.0 and music from Revolution Void / CC BY 3.0.

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<![CDATA[Learning A Skill? Raw Talent Might Trump Hard Work]]> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 13:56:00 -0500
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Conventional wisdom says if you want to play at Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden –– even your local talent show –– it's going to take a lot of practice. 

But too much faith may be put in the saying "practice makes perfect."

Researchers from McGill University recently published a study in the journal Cerebral Cortex saying while certain parts of your brain get molded by experience, others are based on talent.

The researchers studied 14 adults between the ages of 20 and 34 who wanted to learn how to play the piano.

Music gives interesting insights into learning since there's both the bottom-up, sensory information in the notes you hear, as well as the top-down, abstractly reasoned rules you learn for what makes or breaks a melody.

Past studies have shown certain areas of the brain can be characterized as having more bottom-up roles and others have more top-down functions.

You need both types to learn a new skill. But the researchers showed not all parts of your brain change for the better with practice, so what you start with can affect how well you learn.

The study design went something like this: Brain scans measured activity in both bottom-up and top-down regions. Next came six weeks-worth of piano training, with participants progressing through harder and harder levels. (Videos via Cambridge Brain Sciences and Pianist Magazine

Then a final brain scan with auditory tests. In these, music was played (bottom-up, sensory information) and participants judged if notes fit with the overall melody (the top-down ability to imagine music). 

The researchers found the abstract parts of the brain improved with participants' piano skills. But the sensory-encoding parts of the brain didn't. 

But most importantly, how active or "good" the participants' sensory-encoding  aspects were before they started playing the piano predicted how quickly or slowly they'd learn how to play.

The study shows which parts of the brain predispose you to the speed at which you learn. We should note though, the study was a short-term one, and more brain changes may occur in the long-run. 

This video includes images from Getty ImagesMorgan / CC BY 2.0Russ Allison Loar / CC BY NC ND 2.0 and music from Little Glass Men / CC BY 4.0.

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<![CDATA[Utah Teen Is Allergic To Proteins In All Solid Foods]]> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 12:32:00 -0500
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For the past four years, a Utah man hasn't been able to eat solid food because he's allergic to the proteins found in it. 

19-year-old Alex Visker told People: "I can't even put something in my mouth just to taste it, and that's hard because I remember what food tastes like. ... But I don't want to feel miserable."

WebMD reports about 4 percent of teens and young adults have food allergies. 

"Somebody eats a peanut and their immune system causes an immediate response. They might get hives, shortness of breath, coughing, sneezing, persistent vomiting, even low blood pressure," said Dr. Karen Demuth from Emory University

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says the foods that the majority of those with food allergies react to are eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy. 

But Visker's allergies are extremely rare, since eating any solid food gives him hives and extreme nausea. 

So much so, that People reports Visker missed more than 300 days of high school. His doctors have found that having Visker get nutrients through a feeding tube bypasses any allergic reactions. 

Because Visker's medical bills are so high — about $7,000 every month — his family has set up a GoFundMe page. So far, more than $6,000 has been raised. 

Visker hopes to one day attend an online college and become a computer programmer. 

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<![CDATA[The Pluto Payoff Is Helping NASA's 2016 Budget Prospects]]> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 10:42:00 -0500
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NASA was on Capitol Hill this week, making the case for its planetary exploration budget. (Video via Google Earth)

It’s holding up its New Horizons mission to Pluto as ongoing evidence for the importance of that funding.

In recent days, information from the piano-sized probe has shown a minor planet that's larger than expected, with its own hazy hydrocarbon atmosphere and evidence of an internal ocean.

Maybe even more exciting, NASA has received only 5 percent of the data New Horizons has collected so far. It will take until sometime in 2016 to transmit the rest of it back, and actual analysis is expected to take years. (Video via NASA)

Dr. John Grunsfeld of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate asked, "Are we alone? We are on the cusp of being able to answer that question … because of the investments we're making in space technology."

Rhetoric aside, he has a point, and some lawmakers seem to see it.

“It is crucial that NASA continue to explore our solar system. Planetary science teaches us about how our solar system works and provides clues about how it was formed,” said committee chairman Lamar Smith. (Video via the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology)

NASA's budget has big implications for its current and future projects: Maintenance costs on the New Horizons mission alone will have hit some $700 million by the end of 2016.

And it’s planning two more exploration-class missions to Mars and Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, for the mid-2020s — which needs funding from somewhere. (Video via NASA)

All the while, its budget is the subject of vigorous legislative discussion. 

In June, the House approved a 2016 NASA budget that increased funds for planetary exploration at the expense of its Earth sciences budget: The money it allocates to Earth-facing research. (Video via Newsy)

And then there's the president's proposed $3.99 trillion budget for 2016, of which Nasa would get… $18.5 billion, or 0.4 percent. (Video via NASAYouTube)

That proposal would slice $77 million from NASA's exploration budget. The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology would see that restored.

“I would like us, as members of Congress, to step aside and make sure we provide you the resources you need, and expect that we may not know the value of that for 50 years in the running. I am indeed okay with that,” said committee member Donna Edwards. (Video via the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology)

This video includes images from NASA.

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<![CDATA[Young Boy Undergoes First Bilateral Hand Transplant On Child]]> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 00:56:00 -0500
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Surgeons at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, or CHOP, announced they have successfully completed the world's first bilateral hand transplant on a child.

"When I was two, I had to get my hands cut off, because I was sick. I don't know what a child's hand looks like," said Zion Harvey.

Eight-year-old Zion Harvey lost both his hands and feet to a serious infection when he was just two years old. Earlier this month, doctors from Penn Medicine joined the CHOP team in a 10-hour surgical transplant of two hands for Zion. (Video via The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia)

The surgery, though completed early in July, was just announced Tuesday. L. Scott Levin, CHOP's director of the Hand Transplantation Program, said the surgeons took what they learned from the first bilateral hand transplant on an adult in 2011 and adapted that knowledge for Zion's surgery.

According to The Baltimore Sun, Zion's family was looking for prosthetics for the eight-year-old when they were introduced to Dr. Levin. The outlet quotes Zion's mom who said, "We came for prosthetics and the next thing we knew we were getting hands."

And things are looking up for the little guy. Doctors say he'll spend a few more weeks in rehabilitation before he'll be discharged. Starting with monthly checkups at first, Zion will eventually only need to be seen by a doctor annually.

Zion told NBC he's looking forward to having fun with his little sister.

"Pick up my little sister from daycare, and wait for her to run into my hands and I pick her up and spin her around," he said.

And doctors are hoping they can use what they've learned in Zion's transplant for future surgeries.

"What might we say about Zion Harvey in 10 years or 15 years? What might we say about this? I hope he's the first of literally hundreds or thousands of patients that are going to be afforded this operation," said L. Scott Levin, MD, FACS.

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Woman Hasn't Used Shampoo In More Than 3 Years]]> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 08:23:00 -0500
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When we go to wash our hair, we usually use shampoo, right?

Well, meet Lucy Aitken Read. Shampoo hasn't touched her red locks in more than three years. 

Instead, every 10 days, Aitken Read pours vinegar on her hair or cracks an egg over her head. 

"If you can't eat it, don't wash your hair with it. If you can eat it, then you should jolly well try and see what it does for your hair! It might be amazing!" Aitken Read says in a video on her blog

On her blog, Lulastic and the Hippyshake, Aitken Read wrote her hair is actually shinier and grows faster than it did when she used shampoo. 

The Huffington Post reports Aitken Read stopped using shampoo after she learned it could contain potentially harmful chemicals: "I always thought I'd used organic, healthy shampoo, but when I went upstairs and grabbed the bottle I was using I realized the ingredients were full of synthetic chemicals I'd never heard of."

So what are some other alternatives to shampoo besides eggs and vinegar?

A writer for Mother Earth Living suggests massaging baking soda into wet hair, saying it "removes styling product buildup."

And The Hippy Homemaker blog gives a few other options, such as using herbal infused tea, clay and honey in place of shampoo.

For healthier hair, Aitken Read also suggests washing your hair less often each week.

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<![CDATA[Oil Not Among Companies Giving $140B To Fight Global Warming]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 14:00:00 -0500
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The American Business Act on Climate Pledge is a new initiative by the White House, and it involves a lot of major U.S. companies. 

Thirteen in total. The list includes the holy trinity of tech companies, Apple, Google and Microsoft; both major soda companies, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo; and the world's largest company by revenue, Wal-Mart — just to name a few. 

According to the White House, the overall goal of the plan is to "increase energy efficiency, boost low-carbon investing, and make solar energy more accessible."

In more specific terms, more than $140 billion will be invested in new low carbon ventures and these companies will produce more than 1,600 megawatts of new renewable energy.

All of the companies involved have made different pledges and picked their own timelines for getting the job done. Apple, for example, says it plans to bring an estimated 280 megawatts of clean power generation online by the end of 2016.

On the other hand, metals company Alcoa is giving itself until 2025 to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent in the U.S.

This comes ahead of the landmark United Nations conference on climate change at the end of this year in Paris. Many believe President Obama is working to position the U.S. as a leader on the issue by committing to a 28 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2025.

TIME points out as great as this initiative could be, "The list of companies notably lacks an oil company, and it remains to be seen whether one will join."

And oil companies are very very important to the climate change equation, perhaps more important than any other industry. 

According to the Climate Accountability Institute, 63 percent of the carbon dioxide and methane emitted between 1751 and 2010 come from just 90 entities 

According to the White House, another round of similar pledges is expected to be announced later this fall.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Science, Tech Leaders Warn Of Worldwide AI Arms Race]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 12:24:00 -0500
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It sounds like the plot of a sci-fi flick, but major players in the tech and science industries are warning world leaders an artificial intelligence arms race could be a problem in the future.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, among other prominent figures, are warning world leaders of the potential problem as autonomous military weapons continue to grow.

In a letter presented at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, the group says, "AI technology has reached a point where the deployment of [autonomous weapons] is – practically if not legally – feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms."

The argument, as The Guardian points out, is going to war would be an easier decision if robots are the ones fighting. 

Drone strikes are already a contentious issue in the U.S., but reliable statistics for how many are killed by those strikes overseas every year are tough to come by.

 Civilian deaths caused by drones are also an issue, though President Obama's defended their use

"Actually, drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties. For the most part, they've been very precise precision strikes against Al-Qaeda and their affiliates, and we're very careful in terms of how it's been applied," Obama said.  

Musk has warned of this kind of AI takeover before, including this August 2014 tweet reading "We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes." 

The letter asks the United Nations to ban the use of autonomous weapons. 

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[Calif. Water Shortage Stoking Napa Valley's Wildfire Problem]]> Sun, 26 Jul 2015 12:03:00 -0500
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Firefighters are still working to put out a wildfire threatening Napa Valley, California, which has already spread over 7,000 acres.

NBC reported over 1,800 firefighters had 55 percent of the fire contained Saturday, and a mandatory evacuation order has been lifted — though the area's hills have been major obstacles.

A spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection told the Los Angeles Times"Crews are having to hike way into there. ... It's not like we've had fire engines driving right into where the fire's at."

This map from the department shows just how bad the state's wildfire problem is; few current wildfires have been contained.

This is California's fourth year in a row of severe drought, creating the perfect conditions for fires to spark and spread.

The fire captain told KSWB"If we don’t have water to drink, we definitely won't have water to fight fires."

According to USA Today, wildfires have already burned a total of 5.5 million acres in the U.S. this year — the highest total since 2011.

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<![CDATA['Fantastic Four' Promos Explain The Science Of Superheroes]]> Sun, 26 Jul 2015 10:55:00 -0500
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"Remember, science and fantasy aren't too far away from each other," Dr. Michio Kaku says in a "Fantastic Four" featurette. 

20th Century Fox's promotions for the upcoming superhero flick "Fantastic Four" are turning heads by explaining the science behind the fiction in the film.

The studio has teamed up with renowned theoretical physicist Michio Kaku to create featurettes about the realities, and near possibilities, of the film's most fantastic elements — like alternate dimensions.

"An electron could have ended up anywhere. But only by noticing it did we pin it down to this reality. ... What about all the other realities that may coexist with ours? They vibrate at different quantum frequencies," Kaku says in a featurette.

And even the characters' powers, like invisibility, are more realistic than you might think.

"Metamaterials interact with light in bizarre ways. Here we see this Pyrex glass that seemingly disappears right before our eyes. The Pyrex and the oil have what we call, the same refractive index," Kaku says in a featurette.

Other scientists besides Kaku have long been trying to explain superhero phenomena. Physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson got a cameo in a Superman comic after identifying the real-life version of Krypton, Superman's home planet.

And a physics professor who volunteers at the National Academy of Sciences says it's in studios best interest to get some of the science right.

"They don’t want to make something that’s 100 percent scientifically accurate because that would defeat the purpose of the escapist fantasy we paid our money to see, but rather they need to get it right enough that the audience buys into and doesn't stop and question the suspension of disbelief," professor James Kakalios.

And science can make us not want a superpower. Wired magazine's calculations show the speed and strength of Spider-Man's webs would probably kill those he's trying to save. (Video via Columbia Pictures / "The Amazing Spider-Man 2")

Still, we have a lot to learn from our favorite superheroes –– even the ones as human as we are. (Video via Paramount Pictures / "Iron Man")

"Basically I'm here to announce we're building Iron Man," President Obama said at a press conference.

The Pentagon is developing suits with exoskeletons that would lift hundreds of pounds, helmets that sense hidden threats and liquid armor that hardens when struck by bullets.

If you're wondering, batteries are actually the biggest issue for real-life Iron Man suits. So far, they either last less than an hour or emit enough power for the suit-wearer to run only 2.5 mph.

It's ironic that we can make something invisible, yet can't create a long-lasting battery. But the real effect of the "Fantastic Four" featurettes might flip what we think of as "super" on its head. 

You can check out all the featurettes on 20th Century Fox's YouTube channel.

This video includes music by Podington Bear / CC BY NC 3.0.

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<![CDATA[Everything We've Learned About Pluto This Week]]> Sun, 26 Jul 2015 07:07:00 -0500
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Last time we checked on Pluto, New Horizons had just spotted a range of relatively young mountains made mostly of ice. (Video via Newsy)

In the last week or so, New Horizons has sent back a trove of new data, on more than just mountains. Here’s a rundown of its findings. (Video via NASA)

On its way past, New Horizons captured some of the best images yet of Pluto’s moons Nix and Hydra. Yes, they’re still blurry, but more data is coming. And remember: a couple weeks ago these moons still looked like a few pixels to us.

Smooth ice plains on Pluto might be the work of convective processes from beneath its surface, and suggest the planet could still be geologically active.

Some of this ice flows like glaciers, despite the balmy ambient temperature of 390 degrees below zero.

 

Though they’re shorter than the Norgay range New Horizons first spotted, these darker peaks are thought to be much older: on the order of billions of years.

This is a cleaned-up false-color image from New Horizons’ cameras on approach. Looking pretty good, considering this time a few months ago Pluto still looked like this.

You can’t see it in those images, but scientists have also found particulate haze in Pluto’s tenuous atmosphere. Once New Horizons got past Pluto and the sun shone through it, scientists found it was about 50 miles thick.

This haze starts as methane. Ultraviolet light from the sun breaks it into other hydrocarbon molecules known as tholins, which then fall on Pluto’s surface as a sort of exotic snow and give it that reddish color. (Video via NASA)

The best part is all these features are still just the tip of the iceberg. Researchers won’t even receive all of New Horizons' data until about 16 months from now.

The probe itself, meanwhile, is headed further out into the Kuiper Belt: the ring of icy debris beyond Neptune’s orbit. Researchers hope to pick at least one target there for New Horizons to visit. (Video via NASA)

This video includes images from NASA and music from Chris Zabriskie / CC BY 4.0.

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<![CDATA[Top 3 Amusing Things We Learned From Studies This Week]]> Sat, 25 Jul 2015 13:13:00 -0500
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Often, when we think of studies, our minds automatically go to more serious topics, like medical breakthroughs or technology. But this week, some of the studies released were a bit more on the lighthearted part of the spectrum. They were even — dare we say — fun. 

First, have a sweet tooth? You can blame your family for that one. 

Researchers discovered there's actually a gene that affects how sweet a person thinks something tastes. 

To come to this conclusion, they had about 250 pairs of identical twins, 450 pairs of fraternal twins, and just over 500 unpaired individuals test four different types of sugar — two were natural and two were synthetic sweeteners. 

Turns out, genes account for a 30 percent of "person-to-person variance in sweet taste perception."

"Researchers say some people are born with an inability to process sweets normally. So they need more than others to satisfy their urge," NBC's Matt Lauer reported. 

Next, striving for the perfect vacation? 

We've got you covered. Researchers in Finland studied 54 people who went on vacation for an average of 23 days and came up with this fun tip. 

First, while quick weekend trips are fun, longer vacations are more relaxing. 

"The Journal of Happiness Studies claims holiday happiness peaks at day eight. Leave Friday night, come home a week from Sunday. You'll only miss five days off work," an ABC reporter says

Another tip: Go somewhere new. A psychiatrist told The Wall Street Journal"Once we've already seen somewhere we're not necessarily absorbing what's new about it. People who always go to the same place will often sort of start to have memories blur."

Finally, want to know the best way to embarrass your kids? Apparently, if you're a dad, all you have to do is dance. 

The Thorpe Park Resort in the U.K. spoke with around 2,000 people to discover what caused their children discomfort. 

Besides dads dancing, it was revealed that moms dancing, parents trying to use "youthful lingo," and telling stories from their kids' childhoods all made children want to run and hide. (Video via NBC / "The Tonight Show")

The Telegraph spoke to a psychologist to try to help bridge the gap between these types of parents and their embarrassed offspring. 

Her advice for parents is, "Try to remember how embarrassing your own parents were and then vow not to repeat the cycle." While she wants to tell kids, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and copying you is their way of demonstrating how proud of you they are."

This video includes images from Getty Images and stringy / CC BY NC 2.0 and music from Pierlo / CC BY 3.0 and Kevin MacLeod / CC BY 3.0.

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<![CDATA[GMO Food Bill Moves Forward Amid Animosity And Confusion]]> Fri, 24 Jul 2015 13:39:00 -0500
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The House of Representatives passed a bill barring states from requiring GMO labels on bioengineered foods –  and the political divide is so deep it even affects the name of the bill. 

The Republican-controlled House passed H.R. 1599 under the name "The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act," but some liberal consumer groups and Congress members prefer "The Denying Americans the Right to Know," or "DARK" Act.

Supporters say it will keep food costs down and make agriculture less complicated. The bill would override state legislatures that have passed laws requiring that companies using Genetically Modified Organisms — or GMOs — include that information on food labels. 

Vermont, Connecticut and Maine have already passed such laws. 

In a Facebook post, the House Agriculture Committee said this bill "establishes a voluntary, nation-wide program that gives consumers what they want while protecting advancements in food production technology and innovation."

As you may have gathered from the name "DARK Act," detractors aren't too happy. They say it keeps consumers in the dark about the real ingredients in their food. 

The science around GMOs has been clouded in the debate. A Pew Research study showed that 88 percent of scientists think GMOs are safe for consumption, but only 37 percent of American adults think the same.

The bill now heads to the Senate, and it still carries its official name: "The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act."

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Another Concern At The Ocean: Dirty Beach Sand]]> Fri, 24 Jul 2015 11:26:00 -0500
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If you think you can protect yourself from danger at the ocean by staying on the sand, think again. A new study found that sandy beaches might not be as clean as you think. 

Dr. Marc Frischer of Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Georgia told WSAV, "There's about 100 times more bacteria in the sand, per the same amount of volume, as there was in the water."

That's right, sandy beaches are dirtier than the ocean waves.

A new study out of the University of Hawaii at Manoa found E. coli, known for causing abdominal problems, in beach sand due to sewage contamination.

The researchers found that the bacteria tends to decay more slowly on the beach than in the water.

ABC did its own experiment and took samples of sand from three different beaches to be tested at Stanford University. Its findings were similar to those in the study.

"It's not unusual. We find this bacteria in sand at beaches all over the country and all over the world," Dr. Alexandria Boehm told ABC

To prevent getting sick from the sand, here are some tips: Keep a close eye on your children to make sure sand doesn't reach their mouth, keep your hands clean, and be aware of beach restrictions.

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

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<![CDATA[Even A Grounded SpaceX Likely To Keep Its Market Advantage]]> Fri, 24 Jul 2015 11:16:00 -0500
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SpaceX says a failed strut caused the explosion of its ISS supply launch last month. (Video via NASA)

Maybe the company should hire more people familiar with the Kerbal Space Program. (Video via Kerbal Space Program)

Anyway, SpaceX's Falcon 9 series is grounded until the investigation is complete. 

But the setbacks probably won't damage SpaceX's position in the commercial space race, if only because its competition has its own set of problems.

United Launch Alliance (ULA) is arguably SpaceX's most serious competition, as it's the only other group with  government certification to launch military payloads. (Video via United Launch Alliance)

But SpaceX has undercut ULA's prices from the beginning, and that's only getting worse.

Corporate wants ULA to trim its budget. CEO Tory Bruno says, "They've had us on a very short leash" since last year, trying to catch SpaceX.

What's more, SpaceX's Merlin engines are U.S.-made, not sourced from Russia the way some of ULA's engines are. (Video via SpaceX)

That's a point of controversy and political wrangling. Congress plans to ban the import of RD-180 engines from Russia in 2019, a move ULA execs worry could hand SpaceX a monopoly on some commercial launches. (Video via United Launch Alliance)

In the meantime, Fortune reports a bunch of commercial communications providers — and NASA — are now stuck waiting. The rides to space that aren't booked for the next several years have their own share of explosive reliability issues to work through. (Video via NASAYouTube)

SpaceX, for its part, plans to inspect each individual strut it uses from now on.

When he discussed the failure, CEO Elon Musk said"To some degree I think the company as a whole became maybe a little bit complacent after 20 successes in a row."

Falcon 9 service will resume in September at the earliest.

This video includes images from Getty Images and SpaceX / CC 0.

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<![CDATA[NASA's Kepler Peers Into Space, Uncovers Earth-Like Planet]]> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 16:43:00 -0500
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Are we alone in the universe? To answer that, NASA's Kepler space program has searched the cosmos for planets like ours. On July 23, they announced they'd discovered "Earth 2.0."

They call it Kepler-452b. It's close to the same size as Earth and revolves around a star that's roughly the same surface temperature as our sun. But this star is older, thus 20 percent brighter than the sun, and Kepler 452-b orbits it every 385 days.

Now, this isn't the program's first discovery of a potentially habitable planet, but it's the most like Earth yet. Its star and our sun release the same amount of energy. And the new planet's distance from its star matches that of the Earth and the sun.

Alright, let's get back to the basics. Think of the Kepler spacecraft as a roaming telescope. 

Its mission is to search the Milky Way Galaxy for planets one-half to two times the size of Earth, revolving around their stars' "habitable zones" — more on that in a bit.

The probe estimates a planet's size by calculating how much light is blocked from our view when it crosses its star. And the time it takes a planet to cross helps us estimate the size of its orbit. 

Since evolutionary theory says life on Earth began in water, finding oceans on other planets is the next logical step.

Planets' distances from their stars have to be just right. Too close, and the water is a gas. Too far, and it's ice. Researchers call it the habitable zone, or "Goldilocks Zone."

In 2011, the Kepler mission confirmed its first potentially habitable planet, revolving around a star similar to the sun, at the perfect distance for liquid water. But having the potential for life doesn't mean a planet does.

Mainly because liquid water isn't the only thing needed for life. Space.com's recipe for a habitable planet gives us a good idea of the delicate balance of what's required. 

So you can see why Kepler's new findings are so exciting, but until more details are discovered, Earth is still one of a kind.

This video includes images from NASA and PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE / CC BY NC ND 2.0

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<![CDATA[Breathe Easy: Boa Constrictors Don't Suffocate Their Prey]]> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 09:50:00 -0500
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For years, scientists thought when boa constrictors wrap tightly around their prey, they were suffocating their dinner.

But it turns out that theory was probably wrong.

Researchers from Dickinson College wanted to find out what's really happening when boa constrictors kill their food. They discovered the snake is actually cutting off the animal's blood, not its air.

National Geographic explains: "Once blood flow ceases, organs with high metabolic rates — such as the brain, the liver, and the heart itself — begin to shut down. Doctors call this ischemia. Snakes call it lunch."

"And we believe that that's a valuable piece of information, something that's interesting to know just in general how snakes function but also specifically to understand how those snakes evolved, how they came about, why they became so successful, why there are so many species to day," said lead researcher Scott Boback, associate professor of biology at Dickinson College.

In 2012, Dickinson researchers also discovered how long the snakes squeeze is based on the victim's heartbeat.

The study involved putting the rats to sleep and measuring their blood pressure as the constrictor squeezed them. The rats died, but the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee reviewed the project to "make sure [they] did not experience pain or suffer."

This study's findings will be published in the August issue of The Journal of Experimental Biology.

This video includes music by Birocratic / CC BY 3.0.

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<![CDATA[Unusual Sea Hares Spotted In Florida Waters]]> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 09:45:00 -0500
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Ever seen this slimy-looking thing before at the beach? Many of these sea creatures have been spotted recently along the Florida coast. 

"Essentially they're like a snail without a shell," Dr. Zach Jud from the Florida Oceanographic Society said. 

"They're called Atlantic black sea hares and can grow to be a foot long," a WPTV reporter said

"There were just so many of them, I – we couldn't even count them. ... They're black and kind of slimy," beachgoer Harriet Conn said. 

The good news for beachgoers, according to Newsy's partners at WPTV, is that these sea hares are harmless to humans. 

Sea hares defend themselves from predators by emitting a purple ink. It's usually their last line of defense.  

As for why it's called a sea hare?

"They have little projections on their head that make them look almost like a rabbit," Jud said. 

The Florida Oceanographic Society says that because of their extensive neural circuits — interconnecting neurons in the brain that pass messages — sea hares are often utilized in medical research. 

It also says anyone who comes across a sea hare washed up on the beach should just scoop it up and put it back in the water. 

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<![CDATA['Fat Guy' Back On The Road, Biking Across America]]> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 07:10:00 -0500
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Eric Hites is a 560-pound man taking transformation to a whole new level. In a mission he himself calls "Fat Guy Across America," he's biking from the East to West Coast to lose weight. 

Hites started in Massachusetts, and he told The Newport Daily News he lost 60 pounds in the first two weeks.

But 90 miles from where he started, equipment problems slowed him down, and for days he was stuck in Rhode Island. 

So many people have been inspired by his story, though, he's already received almost $2,500 in donations for a new bike on his GoFundMe page. 

But that money is probably going to be used for the camping aspect of his trip instead. Rhode Island bike shop owner Rob Purdy actually built Hites a new bike, which reportedly should make it all the way to California. 

Purdy told WCAU"I was pretty inspired. I was like, he's kind of crazy, you know what I mean? That's an interesting way to approach trying to lose weight and get your life on track." 

But losing weight is actually Hites' second goal. On his trip's blog, he said his No. 1 goal is "to prove things to my wife and my love." 

Hites told The Newport Daily News the more than 800 people following his trip keeps him motivated. He said, "By completing this ride I hope to encourage others to get up and get moving no matter their weight." 

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<![CDATA[Eli Lilly's New Drug Could Lead To Alzheimer's Cure]]> Wed, 22 Jul 2015 09:04:00 -0500
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On Wednesday, a new drug is being unveiled that scientists say has the potential to cure Alzheimer's, a disease that so far has only had its symptoms treated. 

The Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company will debut their new drug solanezumab at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.

The drug is said to be an antibody to amyloid plaques, a cause of the disease. These plaques are sticky proteins that bind together, blocking brain cells from communicating with one another. 

Most of the company's recent test results of the drug have been kept secret, though. 

Of the previous treatments tested by the company that were shared, one actually made the disease worse. Then trials in 2012 showed a new version slowed brain deterioration in those who took the treatment during the early stages of the disease. (Video via Eli Lilly and Company)

The director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK said in a press release"While everyone was disappointed when solanezumab failed to meet its primary outcome measures in two phase III trials, there was evidence that the treatment was slowing down the disease process in people with mild Alzheimer's."

But an analysis by the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study, published in January 2014 in the New England Journal of Medicine, compared the drug to a placebo for that same group — those with mild to moderate Alzheimer's — and found no measurable benefit for the drug.

Today's unveiling by Eli Lilly will at least put the company's research up for comparison. It is possible that the drug's efficacy has been improved in the year and a half since the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study analysis.

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[How Humans Landed In The Americas Might Not Be So Simple]]> Wed, 22 Jul 2015 07:22:00 -0500
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New research from Harvard is putting a wrench in the prevailing theory about where native North and South Americans came from. 

For years, many researchers believed a single large wave migrated through Eurasia and modern day Alaska to populate the Americas roughly 15,000 years ago. 

But now, genetic analysis from skeletal studies shows some Amazonian tribes share more in common genetically with native populations in Australia and New Guinea. 

This study, published in the journal Nature, suggests there could have been two migratory waves that populated the Americas. 

The findings go against two recently discovered genetic links to modern Native Americans. One was found in the DNA of 11,000-year-old feces in Oregon, and another in a 12,000-year-old skeleton found in a Mexican underwater cave. 

But it's in line with 2003 findings that ancient Brazilian and Colombian skulls resembled those of Australians more than other Native Americans. 

It also supports a 2012 study led by the same Harvard genetics researcher, David Reich.

The Harvard lab said genetic analysis of Amazonian tribes had been relatively sparse until now. It compared the genomes of 30 Native American groups to each other and 197 other populations from around the globe. 

The vast comparisons showed three Amazonian tribes still had more in common genetically with native people from Australia and New Guinea than any group native to Siberia. 

The study does have its critics, like geneticist Dr. Cecil Lewis Jr. of the University of Oklahoma, who argues Amazonian populations have low genetic diversity, which, "raises very serious questions about the role of chance … in creating this Australasian affinity."

However, there's never been genetic evidence linking Native Americans to groups beyond Eurasia, and at the very least, this research is making scientists wonder if the ancestry of the Americas is more complicated than previously imagined. 

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<![CDATA[NIH Body Weight Planner Cuts Through Calorie Confusion]]> Wed, 22 Jul 2015 04:11:00 -0500
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Weight loss and fitness are about a whole lot more than sticking to a 2,000 calorie diet.

And the National Institutes of Health wants to help you figure out the “whole lot more” with its Body Weight Planner, a calculator that uses your weight, sex, age, height and physical activity to help you determine what your diet and exercise should look like in order to reach your goal weight.

And here's some good news: Unlike some weight loss plans and strategies, this one's backed by actual science.

"The math model behind the Body Weight Planner ... was created to accurately forecast how body weight changes when people alter their diet and exercise habits. [It] was validated using data from multiple controlled studies in people."

If you want to calculate your calorie and weight loss goals, head over to the website and plug in your information — the planner will guide you every step of the way. And if you're a little more experienced, there's even a detailed Expert Mode.

As an example, a 25-year-old, 5'5" woman weighing 150 pounds who leads a moderately active lifestyle would need to add some light running to her exercise regimen and reduce her diet to a little over 2,000 calories in order to reach her goal weight of 132 pounds in half a year.

OK, that was certainly a lot to take in. We'd encourage you to give the planner a try yourself — there are quite a few knobs and gears to turn. Now, there are a lot of calorie and fitness trackers — with plenty of knobs and gears — on the market. So what makes this one any different?

TIME points out the Body Weight Planner is unique because of its detailed calculations. "Adding in a routine of light running isn't the same as starting intense swimming, and in a distinctive feature, the calculator doesn’t weigh all physical activity equally."

The planner actually asks how, when and what kind of exercise you'll incorporate into your daily life to reach your goal weight, all while giving you a timeline for that goal — 180 days for our aforementioned example.

After you've figured out your calorie count and exercise plan, the site encourages you to sign up for the USDA's SuperTracker. SuperTracker gives you a detailed meal plan and help you stay on track with your physical activity goals.

A USDA executive explains how the two work together"The NIH Body Weight Planner helps consumers make a plan to reach their goals on their timeline, and SuperTracker helps them achieve it."

According to the National Institutes of Health, more than two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Tools like the USDA's SuperTracker and the NIH's Body Weight Planner can help us achieve, and then maintain, a healthy weight. (Video via Cleveland Clinic)

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

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<![CDATA[Florida's 9 Leprosy Cases Linked To Armadillos]]> Tue, 21 Jul 2015 19:15:00 -0500
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is telling Floridians to avoid armadillos after a rise in leprosy cases. 

According to local outlets, nine cases have been reported so far this year. That's nearly Florida's annual average, within just seven months. (Video via Jim Mullhaupt / CC BY NC ND 2.0)

"What's happened this year is not necessarily concerning, but what is interesting is those cases involved people who were in direct contact with armadillos," Dr. Sunil Joshi told WFOX

The CDC says some armadillos are "naturally infected" with leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease. It's a bacterial infection that can affect the nerves and damage the skin.

"Armadillos carry it and never show any symptoms. But if a human handles it, it can be transferred to humans," Ron Magill told WFOR

To make matters worse, it's breeding season for armadillos, and Floridians could see more of them than usual.

Despite the high number of cases this year, the risk of contracting leprosy from an armadillo is still low. The CDC says the disease is treatable, and experts advise people to immediately wash their hands if they come into contact with an armadillo. (Video via Granger Meador / CC BY NC 2.0)

This video includes images from Getty Images, Jim Mullhaupt / CC BY NC ND 2.0 and Robert Nunnally / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Science Confirms The Dad Bod Exists]]> Tue, 21 Jul 2015 12:26:00 -0500
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Once again, it's time to talk about the dad bod. 

"Undefined abs and maybe even a little bit of flab are actually in. GQ's even coined it the dawn of the dad bod," ABC reports.

It's described as "a nice balance between a beer gut and working out" and really went viral thanks to a Clemson University student's article about why women supposedly love them so much. 

Now, a new study out of Northwestern University says the dad bod is real. Published in the American Journal of Men’s Health, the study followed more than 10,000 men for 20 years, starting when they were 12 years old.

It found fatherhood caused a weight gain of about 3.5 to 4.5 pounds, or a jump in body mass index of about 2.6 for men. 

At first, the findings surprised researchers who previously found dads try to clean up their act when they have kids. 

But as lead author Dr. Craig Garfield explains, "You have new responsibilities when you have your kids and may not have time to take care of yourself the way you once did in terms of exercise."

In contrast, researchers found men without kids lost 1.4 pounds over the same 20-year period.

But don't worry, single, skinny men. There's still hope if you want to jump on the dad bod train.

"You don't have to be a dad to have a dad bod. You just have to be really lazy."

The researchers suggest because many dads don't have personal physicians, pediatricians can be good sources for advice about fatherhood health.

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<![CDATA[Living In Poverty Might Physically Alter Children's Brains]]> Tue, 21 Jul 2015 12:04:00 -0500
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The deck is already stacked against children living in poverty, and now, there's growing evidence that living in poverty can negatively affect children's brains.

A study by researchers from universities in Michigan, Wisconsin and North Carolina found poverty can diminish the brain's gray matter — the tissue that processes information.

The reduction in gray matter volume was found throughout the brain but most noticeably in the frontal lobe, temporal lobe and hippocampus –– areas tied to learning.

The researchers found children in a home at one-and-a-half times the federal poverty rate had 3 to 4 percent less gray matter than the average child, and that number more than doubled once a household went below the poverty level.

That had a very real effect in the classroom. Children from low-income households scored four to seven points lower on standardized tests compared to children with higher socio-economic statuses.

The U.S. Census Bureau put the poverty rate for children just under 20 percent in its most recent 2013 finding. The researchers behind the gray matter finding have a pretty controversial solution though. 

They argued funding should be increased for programs that help those below the poverty line — but the effectiveness of those programs has been debated. 

The Head Start program said its funding has been reduced the past few years, leading to 53,000 children being cut from the program. This year, the budget has been restored, but future cuts are feared.

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<![CDATA[Teen's 12-Year HIV Remission Latest 'Functional Cure' Case]]> Mon, 20 Jul 2015 21:34:00 -0500
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Researchers at an AIDS conference say a French teen's HIV infection has gone untreated for 12 years, and yet the virus has remained under control. 

It's possible the teen, who was last treated when she was almost 6, might have some sort of natural resistance, or the results could be due to early and more aggressive treatment than what children normally recieve. 

Whatever the cause, the record remission has revived hope for a "functional" HIV cure, where the virus stays at a low level without continuing treatment. (Video via University of California, Santa Cruz)

The last such hope to be reported involved 14 Italian adults who were treated shortly after they were infected. Three years later, the group stopped taking their prescriptions. 

CNN reports"Today, 12 remain in control of their infection and without drugs and they have an average of 10 years in remission."

The French teen's case is important for two reasons: The first being the 12-year remission without treatment, which is unprecedented for such a young subject. 

Additionally, when the teen was a child her treatment was out of the ordinary. 

She received the standard six-week treatment with an anti-viral drug, but that treatment was followed up with a powerful four-drug combination. 

Doctors reporting the news did say the girl experienced one rise in virus levels when she was 11. But even then, the flare up resolved on its own. 

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<![CDATA[A Return Trip To The Moon May Be Easier Than We Thought]]> Mon, 20 Jul 2015 20:46:00 -0500
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"Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind," Neil Armstrong said when humans first reached the moon. (Video via NASA

It's been 46 years since those words were spoken, and more than 42 since anyone has walked on the moon. But a new study says humans could return soon and not even break NASA's bank. 

The study claims humans can be back on the moon in five to seven years, with a permanent base possible just 10 years later. And the cost? Ten billion dollars to go and another $40 billion to stay. That's a lot less than the current $100 billion estimate. (Video via NASA

The low cost is thanks to public-private partnerships. Basically, by using resources from privately owned companies like SpaceX, NASA's current budget will remain unchanged. It's a process NASA already uses to resupply the International Space Station. (Video via NASASpaceX

And what about NASA's plan to head to Mars? Well, researchers say a lunar base could mine resources on the moon, making travel to other destinations easier. Think of it like a space gas station. 

A return to the moon could be blocked by D.C., though. In 2010, President Obama essentially grounded a return to the moon, but that was before the huge price cut. (Video from The White House

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