Newsy - Sci/Health The Latest Videos From <![CDATA[Trump's Energy Department Questionnaire Has Some People Worried]]> Sat, 10 Dec 2016 16:06:00 -0600
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Donald Trump's transition team reportedly issued a questionnaire to the U.S. Department of Energy — and it has some people worried.

The 74-question document asks for a list of the top 20 salaried employees of the National Labs and staff members who have been involved in international and domestic climate talks.

SEE MORE: Ivanka Trump, Chief Climate Change Advocate?

It also asks which department programs are "essential" to meeting the goals of President Barack Obama's Climate Action Plan.

Trump and his administration have promised to undo some of the Obama adminstration's climate change efforts.

He's said he wants to ditch the Paris Agreement, has called climate change a hoax and outlined his plans to "unleash" America's natural gas, oil and coal reserves.

Because of that, Energy Department employees, various lawmakers and environmental groups speculate the questionnaire could be targeting those who helped implement policies during the Obama administration.

And their concerns might not be unfounded. Trump hasn't exactly been an advocate for fighting rising temperatures. In late November, GOP chairman Reince Priebus said the candidate still thought climate change is mostly "a bunch of bunk."

But if, as some people speculate, the administration is looking to act against those who worked on fighting climate change, Trump and co. could run into some resistance.

Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey wrote if the list is used to demote or terminate certain employees who were lawfully doing their jobs, it could "violate U.S. law that protects employees against such wrongful acts of retaliation."

<![CDATA[A Japanese Spacecraft Could Make Space A Little Cleaner]]> Sat, 10 Dec 2016 13:26:00 -0600
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Humans have really cluttered up the cosmos. It's estimated we've left behind over 100 million pieces of space junk since we first started exploring in 1957.

But Japan wants to clean up our act. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched a craft called Kounotori, which they hope will help collect some of that space debris.

SEE MORE: These Robots Want Earth (And Space) To Be A Cleaner, Greener Place

The launch is just a test, but here's how it should work: A magnetic tether about six football fields in length will be released from the ship. Then the energy the tether creates should slow space junk enough that it'll naturally fall back to Earth and burn up in the atmosphere.

The Kounotori craft is also on a mission to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. The space debris portion of its mission will happen after it leaves the ISS.

Space junk can zip around Earth at speeds as high as 17,500 mph, and that's risky for the stuff in orbit we still use. Plus, junk can create more junk by breaking up into smaller pieces.

In fact, in August 2011 the crew aboard the International Space Station almost had to evacuate because a small piece of debris shot by the station with very little warning. Not long after, the National Research Council said space debris reached a "tipping point."

The European Space Agency is planning a similar mission for 2023 but will use a giant net to capture debris and burn it up in the atmosphere.

<![CDATA[The Underwear Oversight Of The Early US Space Program]]> Fri, 09 Dec 2016 16:31:00 -0600
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Nature doesn't care if you're busy making history with the U.S. space program. Sometimes, you really have to go.

Normally, this isn't a problem. There was a piece of technical equipment in early space suits called a urine collection device. But Alan Shepard, the first American in space, didn't have one.

SEE MORE: The Space Poop Challenge Is Something You Might Actually Want To Win

Shepard's flight aboard Freedom 7 in 1961 lasted just 15 minutes, so mission planners didn't account for the possibility that he might need a bathroom break. But he was sealed in the suit for hours beforehand. And he was strapped into his chair for a while, waiting for a launch that got delayed several times. Eight hours is a long wait.

According to an account of the launch from author Tom Wolfe, Mission Control told Shepard, "Just do it in the suit!" So he did. Computers in mission control reported several sensors in Shepard's suit shorted out. This was dramatized in the film adaptation of "The Right Stuff" — because of course it was.

Suit designers fixed this problem, but it still took them a few months to figure out a permanent solution. Gus Grissom, the second American in space, wore nested layers of rubber pants. 

John Glenn got the first official urine collection device during his flight in February 1962. It's now on display at the National Air and Space Museum.

<![CDATA[Monkeys Could Talk If They Had The Brains — But It Would Sound Creepy]]> Fri, 09 Dec 2016 12:59:00 -0600
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One of the big things that sets humans apart from other primates is spoken language. And new tests on macaques show the divide is even smaller than we thought: If they had the brainpower to use language, monkeys might be able to talk to us.

Researchers put macaque monkeys in an MRI scanner and measured the way they move their vocal tract. They built a computer model of a macaque from the measurements and ran human speech through it — the phrase, "Will you marry me?"

It sounds like something out of a horror movie, but it's easy to hear the words in there — and that's big news for biology. We didn't think monkeys had the anatomy to produce humanlike sounds in the first place.

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

Of course, to a macaque, that proposal is still going to sound like noise, because their brains aren't wired to use and understand words like ours are.

Humans can organize their noises into language thanks to a region of the brain called Broca's area. Monkeys and great apes have a version of it, too. It's tied to their body language and communication the same way — it's just not as evolved as a human's.

Our advantage might have to do with our better command of gestures. Some researchers think all that time we spent waving our hands around while we made noise at each other helped language form.

And it suggests that given enough time, it could be something that other primates evolve, too.

<![CDATA[Heroin-Related Causes Are Killing More Americans Than Gun Homicides]]> Fri, 09 Dec 2016 09:21:00 -0600
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For the first time in American history, heroin-related causes are killing more people than gun homicides.

According to data obtained by multiple media outlets from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 12,989 heroin deaths in the U.S. in 2015. That's just slightly higher than the number of gun homicides, which totaled 12,979.

That's a pretty big jump from just a few years ago. In 2007, gun homicides outnumbered heroin deaths by more than 5 to 1.

Heroin isn't the only opioid causing a spike in fatalities. Overdose deaths from powerful synthetic opioids jumped more than 73 percent in 2015, and fatal overdoses involving prescription opioids went up 4 percent. More than 33,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2015.

SEE MORE: Meet The People Battling For Better Access To HIV-Fighting PrEP Drugs

As Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden said in a statement: "Prescription opioid misuse and use of heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl are intertwined and deeply troubling problems. We need to drastically improve both the treatment of pain and the treatment of opioid use disorders and increase the use of naloxone to reverse opioid overdose."

Heroin deaths have been rising for years in the U.S. In June, the Drug Enforcement Administration found that heroin-related deaths more than tripled between 2010 and 2014.

That sharp increase has had lawmakers scrambling to find solutions. Congress passed several bills in 2016 to help combat the U.S.' opioid problem. And in mid-December, President Barack Obama plans to sign the 21st Century Cures Act, which will invest $1 billion in expanded access to drug treatment.

This comes at a time when health and well-being in the U.S. aren't looking as good as they used to. Researchers recently found American life expectancy has decreased for the first time in decades.

<![CDATA[John Glenn, Astronaut And Former US Senator, Dies At Age 95]]> Thu, 08 Dec 2016 14:26:00 -0600
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Former U.S. senator and astronaut John Glenn has died. He was 95 years old.

Glenn served as a military pilot during World War II and the Korean War, and he was one of the seven pilots selected to be in NASA's first group of astronauts.

SEE MORE: 56-Year-Old Astronaut Becomes Oldest Woman In Space

Glenn launched into space aboard the Friendship 7 spacecraft on Feb. 20, 1962. He circled the Earth three times before re-entering, making him the first American to orbit the planet.

Glenn left the space program to pursue a career in politics as a Democrat. He was elected as a U.S. senator for Ohio in 1974, and he served until 1999.

Glenn returned to space aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1998. He was 77 at the time, and he holds the record for being the oldest person to travel in space.

Correction: An earlier version of this video mistakenly used footage of a Russian rocket. The video has been updated.

<![CDATA[Meet The People Battling For Better Access To HIV-Fighting PrEP Drugs]]> Thu, 08 Dec 2016 13:59:00 -0600
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Truvada is also known as PrEP. PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, and when taken daily, it's up to 99 percent effective at preventing the contraction of HIV.

PrEP has been used in HIV prevention since 2012. Since gay and bisexual men account for 83 percent of the estimated new HIV diagnoses among males 13 and older, it's changed the game for the LGBTQ community. 

But these little blue pills come with several barriers, like price. Without insurance or financial assistance, Truvada can cost upward of $1,700 for a one-month supply. It's a price that can easily discourage an at-risk person, until you meet someone like Owen Davis, who is a PrEP navigator at Chicago House and Social Service Agency. It's an organization that serves individuals and families who are disenfranchised by HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ marginalization, poverty, homelessness and/or gender nonconformity.

Newsy's Cody LaGrow sat down with Davis, who says his role is to be like a client's best friend but with better information.

NEWSY'S CODY LAGROW: Why is PrEP so important to you?

OWEN DAVIS: We know condoms work really well if you use them like you're supposed to. We know that abstinence is cute, I mean. But we also know we've had these things for a large amount of time, and we know that HIV is a present epidemic. Anything we have in the arsenal to use in the fight against HIV, we should use. And if it's someone who has a number of barriers to where they can't think about PrEP, I would address those first.

LAGROW: Gilead, the drug's manufacturer, does offer a copay card that covers up to $3,600. But, if you're uninsured or underinsured, that may not be enough. How do you address that?

DAVIS: There are other foundations besides the Gilead copay card that can help you pay for your copays. So it's just a process, but it's a process that I'll be there with you.

LAGROW: But what if it's not about the money for someone? Why would they be afraid to discuss PrEP with their doctor?

DAVIS: There's a lot of slut-shaming attached to PrEP. That bothers me so much. 

LAGROW: You said you're sex positive here?

DAVIS: We're super sex positive. We don't care what you're doing; we just want to help you do it in a safe way.

For Davis' clients, he may take them to Howard Brown Health Center to meet someone like Kristin Keglovitz Baker. She is the chief operating officer and a physician's assistant and helps get PrEP in the hands of thousands of patients.

LAGROW:  Has PrEP made the conversation about sex better between patient and doctor?

KRISTIN KEGLOVITZ BAKER: The value of PrEP isn't always in writing the prescription. Sometimes there's a great conversation that happens about prevention and sexual health and people really feeling empowered to sort of take on their own prevention story and message.

LAGROW: How does Howard Brown knock down barriers and help its clients?

KEGLOVITZ BAKER: We have case managers who can help with a lot of the navigation of the health care system — insurance, copay, we have a pharmacy right on site at all of our locations where we'll able to get through those sort of barriers to treatment and get access.

LAGROW: What do you see for the future of PrEP?

KEGLOVITZ BAKER: I think Truvada, which is approved for PrEP now, will go generic in the next couple of years. That's going to be a game-changer in terms of affordability. I do think it's something that I hope we will be talking to people at a much younger age so they at least know what's in the toolbox.

Critics of Truvada say the drug promotes unsafe practices and can be linked with a rise in sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis. PrEP doesn't protect you from STDs.

LAGROW: What do you say to the critics who link PrEP with a rise in STDs?

KEGLOVITZ BAKER: Those are all treatable diseases. And although we don't want patients to necessarily have higher rising rates in the US of those three, they are things I can easily manage and treat and cure. And I think that if I can still have benefit to preventing new HIV infections, which is chronic and doesn't have a cure, we still have benefit.

For Davis, he sees firsthand the impact this drug has on his clients.

LAGROW: Do your clients feel like they took control of their sex lives again?

DAVIS: They trust sex again. Honestly. They trust sex again. It's like they get this brand-new feeling: "I am in control. I have it. I know what I'm doing."

LAGROW: Where would you like to see the future of PrEP go?

DAVIS: I just want better access. I want cheaper access. I want easier access. I want more positive access.

<![CDATA[Paris Bans Cars To Fight Pollution — Again]]> Thu, 08 Dec 2016 13:27:00 -0600
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Paris is back to banning cars to fight the city's air pollution.

Authorities implemented a temporary ban on vehicles this week. According to France 24, cars with odd-numbered license plates were not allowed on the roads on Tuesday, and those with even-numbered plates couldn't be out on Wednesday.

SEE MORE: 3 Hybrid, Electric Cars That Can Get You A Speeding Ticket

To help out people with a daily commute, public transportation was reportedly made free in the cities and suburbs.

A sharp spike in the city's pollution spurred the ban. Officials blame the spike on a combination of things, including cold weather, a lack of wind and people burning wood for heat.

And that spike's not good for public health. Globally, the World Health Organization reports 3 million deaths a year are linked to outdoor air pollution.

This ban isn't the first of its kind in the French capital. Paris held daylong bans on vehicles in parts of the city center in September 2015 and 2016.

And earlier this year, officials banned cars made before 1997 from driving during daylight hours on weekdays.

SEE MORE: The Words 'Climate Change' Are Tricky On Tangier Island

This comes almost a week after the C40 Mayors Summit, which is focused on cutting carbon and fighting climate change, announced four major cities across the globe want to nix diesel cars by 2025, including Paris.

One expert told the Guardian: "Without [the ban], the air would be even more polluted. It's an emergency solution to an urgent problem."

<![CDATA[In Case You Forgot, Dinosaurs Were Actually Feathery]]> Thu, 08 Dec 2016 11:01:00 -0600
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Paleontologists just unearthed a 99 million-year-old chunk of dinosaur tail preserved in amber. It came from a relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex and the velociraptor — and it's covered in feathers.

This is the latest example of how paleontologists have had to change their thinking about what dinosaurs looked like. The popular image of them as scaly, like reptiles, has turned out to be wrong in a lot of cases.

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

Instead, fossil evidence suggests both meat-eating and plant-eating dinosaurs sported feathers. Now, scientists think they were a widespread dino trait: Even T. rex, scourge of Jurassic Park, might have had some colorful plumage.

It just took us a while to figure that out because traditional fossils don't usually preserve the delicate feathers — and we only started finding them trapped in amber like this a few years ago. 

And when we do find them, the feathers don't always look like feathers. The ones on this preserved tail don't have the stalk you see running down the middle of a modern bird's feather. That took time to evolve.

<![CDATA[Life Expectancy In The US Has Dropped For The First Time In Decades]]> Thu, 08 Dec 2016 10:46:00 -0600
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For the first time in decades, life expectancy for Americans has decreased.

According to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the overall life expectancy for the U.S. population dropped from 78.9 years in 2014 to 78.8 years in 2015.

That might seem like a pretty small difference on paper. But it has researchers worried about Americans' health and well-being.

As one expert told NPR, "This is a big deal. There's not a better indicator of well-being than life expectancy ... It's remarkable. There are lots of things about this that are unexpected."

SEE MORE: Modern Life Is Too Clean For Fighting Allergies

Another expert told NPR the decrease could be a one-time thing and that more data analysis is needed.

Scientists believe a spike in 8 of the top 10 leading causes of death are to blame. These include heart disease, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease, unintentional injuries, Alzheimer's disease and intentional self-harm.

It's unclear exactly what's behind this increase in fatalities. But at least one major cause of death saw a decline in 2015 — cancer.

<![CDATA[Giraffes Are Under Threat Of Extinction]]> Thu, 08 Dec 2016 09:05:00 -0600
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The world's tallest land mammal is slowly dying off — but you may not have realized it.

Giraffes have been marked "vulnerable" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature "Red List," which tracks species threatened with extinction.

Giraffe numbers have dropped up to 40 percent in the past 30 years. There were more than 150,000 giraffes in 1985. That number sat around 97,000 in 2015.

The IUCN says illegal hunting and habitat loss from humans caused the drop.

SEE MORE: Humans Could Hunt 301 Species Of Mammals Into Extinction

The lanky animals have gone somewhat under the radar over the past few decades — mainly because scientists focused more on rhino and elephant extinction.

Poaching has decimated those populations. The black rhino population alone is down almost 98 percent since 1960.

And African elephant numbers dropped 30 percent from 2007 to 2014.

As for giraffes, the IUCN calls the current population loss a "devastating decline."

<![CDATA[A Hexagonal Storm Really Is Over Saturn's North Pole]]> Thu, 08 Dec 2016 08:53:00 -0600
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NASA's Cassini spacecraft has sent its first images from its new orbit of Saturn, including some of a mysterious hexagon near the planet's north pole.

SEE MORE: 56-Year-Old Astronaut Becomes Oldest Woman In Space

Each of the hexagon's sides are as wide as our planet. Scientists believe a storm is causing the pattern, but don't exactly know how.

The mystery might have to wait. NASA's spacecraft is running out of fuel and has another gutsy mission: grazing the edge of Saturn's rings.

Not only will Cassini go closer than ever to the layers of dust, rock and ice, the craft will have unprecedented views of some of Saturn's moons.

<![CDATA[Trump's Choice To Lead EPA Has A History With The Agency]]> Wed, 07 Dec 2016 18:40:00 -0600
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Donald Trump has tapped Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Pruitt has a long history with the EPA, but it's not a friendly one. 

SEE MORE: Ivanka Trump, Chief Climate Change Advocate?

Pruitt has argued against environmental regulations and played a role in the 28-state lawsuit against President Obama following his new effort to cut carbon emissions. 

Pruitt has called the EPA a "byzantine regulatory regime." He's also called any antagonism toward climate change nonbelievers "un-American."

Addressing climate change is one of the EPA's top priorities. But conservatives like Pruitt have accused the agency of federal overreach.

SEE MORE: OPEC Made A Deal To Cut Back Oil Production In 2017

"We believe that is a form of coercion by the EPA, forcing the states to take action — to do what? Accomplish the shifting of electricity generation to other sources," Pruitt said during a Federalist Society panel discussion. 

Trump's pick has been denounced by progressives as a step backward in the fight against climate change.

<![CDATA[Climate Change Is Melting Away Polar Bears' Chance Of Survival]]> Wed, 07 Dec 2016 14:44:00 -0600
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The global polar bear population could decline by more than 30 percent in as little as 35 years. That's according to a new study in The Royal Society's Biology Letters.

Researchers looked at the effect of climate change on the Arctic Sea and calculated the likelihood of this projected population drop is 71 percent.

SEE MORE: 'World's Saddest Polar Bear' Gets A Break From Chinese Mall

That's because polar bears stand on Arctic Sea ice when hunting for seals. According to NASA, even the thickest ice in the Arctic Ocean has "either thinned or melted away."

And just this week, scientists reported sea ice levels in the area were at a record low for this time of year.

This all adds up to not great news for polar bears. With an estimated population of 26,000, the bears are already listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

<![CDATA[One Way To Help The World's Overfishing Problem: Buy American]]> Wed, 07 Dec 2016 14:31:00 -0600
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If you don't want the world to run out of seafood, you might want to buy American.

The World Wildlife Fund estimates 85 percent of the world's fisheries are unsustainable, but U.S. fisheries have tried to tackle the problem head-on.

Compared to other animals, getting marine populations up is usually relatively easy, as long as you enforce quotas.

To keep certain species sustainable, scientists have long recommended caps for fishermen, but enforcing those quotas has been a different story.

SEE MORE: Fishing Illegally? Google's All-Seeing Eye Is Watching You

The U.S. has been one of the most successful countries when it comes to sustainable fishing.

Last year, the country saw an all-time low in overfished stocks.

In fact, 39 fish stocks have been rebuilt in the U.S. since 2000.

But here's the problem: The U.S. still imports about 90 percent of the seafood it eats.

While American fishermen have gotten much better at sustainable fishing, what they do or don't do to their catches might be part of the problem.

Experts told Quartz that ironically, consumers can often get fresher fish flown in from around the world because those fisherman use techniques that keep their catches fresher longer.

If current worldwide overfishing trends continue, WWF says all fish stocks used for food will collapse by the year 2048.

<![CDATA[Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Leader Asks Activists To Go Home]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 21:19:00 -0600
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The leader of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has told Dakota Access Pipeline activists camping near the proposed route to go home.

Dave Archambault II told Fargo radio station KFGO that the activists' "purpose has been served."

SEE MORE: Standing Rock Celebrates As US Army Corps Stops Pipeline Construction

The message came a day after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it would not approve an easement for the nearly $4 billion pipeline, which was slated to run under a lake. 

The Standing Rock Tribe was concerned the pipeline could contaminate the water supply and defile sacred land.

The Corps said it wants to look at alternative routes, and the environmental studies of those routes could take months or years.

Monday was the deadline the Corps gave activists to leave the campsite. But in recent days, the Corps has said it "has no plans for forcible removal."

SEE MORE: The Battle Over The Dakota Access Pipeline Might Not Be Over Just Yet

Archambault urged activists who planned on staying over concerns the decision could be reversed to leave.

He said nothing would happen over the winter and noted that even if President-elect Donald Trump ends up pursuing the original pipeline route, it will take time.

<![CDATA[Google Sets Goal To Be 100 Percent Green By 2017]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 17:48:00 -0600
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By this time next year, Google hopes to be 100 percent green.

The internet giant says it plans to pay for enough renewable energy to power all of its data centers and offices around the globe by 2017.

SEE MORE: Google's Search Results May Have A Liberal Bias

Google calls itself the "largest corporate buyer" of green energy in the world. The company is currently buying up 2.6 gigawatts — or just over two DeLoreans — of renewable power.

The facilities will still be hooked up to the regular power grid, so there's no way for Google to guarantee the power they're running on comes from renewable sources. But the company says it will purchase enough renewable energy credits to pump as much green energy into the grid as it takes in.

It's also made a point of supporting renewable energy projects that it thinks will continue to grow the green energy sector.

SEE MORE: Lightning Makes For A Terrible Renewable Energy Source

The environment isn't the only thing pushing Google away from conventional energy sources. The company notes prices for renewable energy have plummeted over the past six years.

Plenty of other tech companies have also pledged to achieve 100 percent reliance on green energy. Even some small towns rely almost entirely on renewable energy.

<![CDATA[Modern Life Is Too Clean For Fighting Allergies]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 16:57:00 -0600
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Allergies are getting more common. In 2012, more than 73 million kids in the U.S. had a reaction to something. Scientists say it's because modern life is too clean for children. Their immune systems get complacent without infections to fight. But there are still ways to cut down on children's allergies — especially if prevention starts early.

What an expectant mother eats can offer some protection. Eating peanuts and wheat and drinking milk can lower the risk that her child will be allergic to them. And if kids eat these foods four to six months after they're born, their immune systems are more likely to accept them without a fuss.

SEE MORE: Food Allergies Could Soon Be Turned Off By Tiny Bits Of Plastic

Getting a dog or cat early in life can prevent reactions to pet dander.

And growing up on a farm instead of in an urban environment exposes kids to a higher microbe load and makes them more resistant to allergies. A study of Amish children on isolated dairy farms showed they had especially low risk of asthma.

Even having more brothers and sisters or going to daycare seems to boost kids' resistance to allergies. We still aren't sure why it happens. 

So while there isn't a cure for food allergies or asthma, early prevention is one of the best ways to keep the problems from growing. 


<![CDATA[AAA Wants You To Know Just How Dangerous Drowsy Driving Is]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 11:12:00 -0600
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You already know not to get behind the wheel if you've had too much to drink, but a lack of sleep might put you in just as much danger.

A new report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says drivers who get just five to six hours of sleep the night before are about twice as likely to get into an accident as those who slept seven hours or more.

SEE MORE: Losing Sleep Isn't Just Bad For Your Health — It's Bad For The Economy

The risk keeps increasing for every hour of sleep that's lost. The study says those who sleep less than four hours the night before they drive have over 11 times the risk of crashing.

"If you sleep less than four hours in a given 24 period, you are as impaired as you would be if you are twice the legal limit of alcohol," a AAA spokesperson told NBC.

Even if you're used to getting less sleep, it doesn't necessarily mean you're in less danger. AAA's study found drivers who regularly got four to five hours crashed over five times as much as those who consistently got at least seven hours.

Yet even seven hours might not be enough if you usually sleep longer. The study found drivers who shaved just one hour off their normal sleep schedule crashed 1.3 times more often the next day.

AAA admitted some of its findings may be skewed by small sample sizes. The number of people crashing after sleeping just three hours isn't a very large group.

But AAA noted its study may actually underestimate the risks of driving while tired since it didn't look at crashes that happen between midnight and 6 a.m. — a prime time for sleep deprivation.

Past research has shown about 20 percent of fatal accidents involve a sleep-deprived driver. 

<![CDATA[C-Sections Could Be Changing How Humans Evolve]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 10:27:00 -0600
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new study says cesarean sections, or C-sections, could be changing how humans are evolving.

C-sections have been around hundreds of years, but the surgical procedure has become more successful in recent decades. And the number of babies born by C-section has been on the rise.

According to the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, about 1 in 3 births in the U.S. is by C-section.

Researchers in Austria say this tendency to opt for C-sections could be contributing to a startling rise in obstructed births, where the baby's head is too big or the mother's pelvis is too narrow for childbirth.

SEE MORE: The US Birth Rate Is Dropping, But Other Countries Have It Much Worse

As the study's lead author told the BBC, "Women with a very narrow pelvis would not have survived birth 100 years ago. They do now and pass on their genes encoding for a narrow pelvis to their daughters."

It's unclear why the human pelvis has not evolved to grow bigger over the years. But scientists believe newborn babies have gotten bigger because it helped the human race survive.

Medical data has shown that larger newborns have higher survival rates and are more likely to fight off several diseases.

Researchers predict that this rise in the number of C-sections will continue but not to the point where natural births will become extinct.

<![CDATA[Al Gore Had An 'Extremely Interesting' Meeting With Donald Trump]]> Mon, 05 Dec 2016 16:50:00 -0600
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"I found it an extremely interesting conversation. And, to be continued," former Vice President Al Gore told the press.

And that's pretty much all we know for sure about Al Gore's meeting with the president-elect. 

The former vice president and prominent climate activist met with both Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka on Monday.

SEE MORE: Ivanka Trump, Chief Climate Change Advocate?

We don't know for sure what they talked about, but Gore previously pledged to work with Donald Trump on tackling climate change.

Since winning office, Trump has somewhat softened his campaign trail stance of denying man-made climate change.

And a recent Politico article suggests Ivanka Trump might advocate for climate issues in whatever formal or informal role she ends up playing in her father's administration.

But given that Donald Trump's transition team includes several climate change doubters, Gore's "extremely interesting" conversations might not amount to much.

<![CDATA[Experts Have Finally Identified These Ancient Mummified Knees]]> Mon, 05 Dec 2016 10:26:00 -0600
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Who did these knees belong to? That's a question scientists have been trying to figure out for decades. 

And according to a new study, they might have finally found the answer.

The mummified leg bones were first discovered in 1904 inside Queen Nefertari's royal tomb in Egypt. Archaeologists had always assumed they were the queen's, and new evidence suggests that might actually be the case.

A team of researchers conducted a thorough study of the bones, including X-rays, radiocarbon dating, chemical analysis and more.

SEE MORE: There's A Good Chance King Tut's Tomb Has Hidden Chambers

They determined that the legs' owner was a woman who was about 5 feet, 4 inches tall, had mild arthritis and died somewhere between the ages of 40 and 60 years old.

And one of the researchers told The Guardian the careful way the bones were mummified suggests the body belonged to someone very important.

He told the outlet: "She has been reduced to knees. But because we don’t give up — it's like: 'We have got the knees, well, let's do what we can with them.' ... The expertise that had gone into that mummification — even judging from the legs — the care, the attention, the wrapping, the materials employed; they are strongly suggestive someone of incredibly high status."

There's no way to know for sure if the mummified knees did belong to Queen Nefertari. But after all of the tests were completed, the research team determined that the identification is "highly likely."

<![CDATA[The Battle Over The Dakota Access Pipeline Might Not Be Over Just Yet]]> Mon, 05 Dec 2016 08:51:00 -0600
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Some protesters are packing up camp after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Sunday it will not allow the Dakota Access Pipeline to be built along its current route.

It was a huge victory for the Native Americans and environmental groups who have been protesting the construction for months. But their fight might not be over just yet.

The decision to stop the $3.7 billion pipeline from running under Lake Oahe comes just weeks before President-elect Donald Trump is set to take office.

SEE MORE: The Keystone Pipeline Is Back On The Table With Trump Presidency

The Corp's decision calls for an environmental study of alternate pipeline routes. That study could take months or even years to complete.

But the Trump administration could decide to move forward with the original route. His camp has yet to comment on the announcement, but he has previously voiced support for the project.

In the meantime, many of the thousands of protesters — who prefer to be called water protectors — at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation are packing up. That's good news for the Corps, who previously gave protesters until Dec. 5 to leave or face arrest.

But several campers have insisted on staying, saying they won't go home until authorities have left the area and the pipeline is shut down.

<![CDATA[These Four Major Cities Want To Ban Diesel Vehicles]]> Sun, 04 Dec 2016 15:54:00 -0600
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Four of the world's major cities want to nix diesel cars by 2025.

It's part of a plan the mayors of Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens, Greece, have to cut pollution in their respective cities.

Diesel vehicles contribute 15 times more emissions to the environment than gasoline-powered vehicles.

SEE MORE: Did The Paris Climate Agreement Forget About Something?

The burning of fossil fuels is a large contributor to climate change. It also contributes to outdoor air pollution, which health officials have linked to around 3 million deaths per year.

This move is just the latest in a series of efforts to battle pollution — Madrid and Paris have both temporarily restricted the number of cars on the road to fight air pollution before.

Now, the four cities are urging bus and car manufacturers to join that fight.

The mayor of Madrid said, "As we reduce the greenhouse gas emissions generated in our cities, our air will become cleaner, and our children, our grandparents and our neighbors will be healthier."

<![CDATA[DAPL Protesters Plan To Stay Despite The Risks Of A Harsh Winter]]> Sun, 04 Dec 2016 11:43:00 -0600
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The people resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline say they aren't going anywhere — despite evacuation orders, freezing temperatures and nearly 2 feet of snow.

The protesters' main campsite is on federal land. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has warned them that public access to the site will be cut off Monday.

But the people appear to be preparing for a longer stay. With more snow forecast for the coming weeks, they spent their time building and reinforcing structures to keep out the cold.

SEE MORE: Alabama Pipeline Leak Echoes Concerns Over Dakota Access Pipeline

group of U.S. veterans also made the trip to the Oceti Sakowin Camp to act as human shields between protesters and police.

In a letter to President Obama dated Friday, Amnesty International said its teams observed "an over-militarization of law enforcement in response" to the protests and called for an end to the pipeline's construction.

The protesters, who call themselves "water protectors," are worried the pipeline could leak oil into their water supply. They've been calling for an end to the project for months.

That call has gotten louder since the election of Donald Trump, who has voiced support for the pipeline being built.

Multiple reports have claimed Trump also owns stock in Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline, though a spokesperson for Trump has disputed some of those claims.

<![CDATA[The Right Volcanic Eruption Can Cancel Summer]]> Sat, 03 Dec 2016 15:23:00 -0600
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Cold weather isn't something we associate with summer in the Northern Hemisphere, especially these days. But it is possible to get snow in June; all it takes is the right cataclysm.

Ah, 1816 — also known as "the year without a summer." Skies dimmed. Frost decimated food crops in the Northern Hemisphere. Global temperatures fell, and instead of sunny weather, heavy rains hit Europe, and New York had snow on the ground in June.

It was all because of the 1815 eruption of Indonesia's Mount Tambora — the most significant volcanic event in modern human history.

SEE MORE: The Volcano Under Yellowstone Is Way Bigger Than We Thought

Tambora launched several cubic miles of material into the sky. A lot of it was gases that shot into the stratosphere where steady winds carried them all over the planet.

These gases formed fine aerosols that reflect sunlight, which cooled down the atmosphere and the surface. The research conflicts on exactly how much average temperatures dropped — anywhere from 1.5-3 degrees Celsius.

There's nothing really stopping another volcanic winter, either. Because we watch and measure the world's volcanoes now, we'd probably see a severe eruption coming. But we can't do much if another big one starts dumping ash and gases into the atmosphere.

If it does happen, maybe pick up a hobby so you don't get cabin fever; it worked in 1816. The gloomy weather is said to have inspired Mary Shelley to write "Frankenstein," and the shortage of food for horses reportedly led to the development of the early bicycle.

<![CDATA[Want To Design A Rocket? Here's Your Chance]]> Sat, 03 Dec 2016 13:01:00 -0600
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If you've ever thought to yourself, "I'd like to design a rocket someday," now's your chance.

The United Launch Alliance now has a website that lets customers design their own.

You can choose a launch date, type of rocket, orbit and several other customizations.

SEE MORE: Elon Musk's Plan To Colonize Mars Starts With This Rocket Engine

Although that might sound like fun-and-games, the interactive site is actually meant to drum up more commercial business for ULA.

The U.S. government is already a big fan of ULA's Atlas rockets, but the company is on a mission to branch into the commercial side of things, just like Elon Musk's SpaceX venture.

SpaceX is ULA's main competitor, and it already has a hold on a lot of the commercial market.

Both companies tout the affordability of their products. But Atlas rocket prices start at $109 million, while SpaceX's main launcher — the Falcon 9 — is estimated to hover around $61 million.

So ULA's rockets might come with a heftier price tag, but the company says that's because they're more reliable. SpaceX had a rocket explode back in September. Atlas rockets haven't failed in over two decades.

And, hey, for that money, at least you can have some fun choosing what you want.

<![CDATA[We're Trying To Use Gravitational Waves As Cosmic Tape Measures]]> Fri, 02 Dec 2016 13:43:00 -0600
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Last year, scientists listened to two black holes smack together. The gravity waves they detected confirmed that, yes, gravity and energy work the way Albert Einstein theorized they would back in 1915.

And now that they've proved these waves exist, they finally have a way to test other long-held ideas about gravity.

SEE MORE: The Space Poop Challenge Is Something You Might Actually Want To Win

Scientists are trying to build a precise map of where black holes are, so they want to start using data from LIGO (that's shorthand for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory). They could use the collisions as yardsticks to see if dark energy affects the expansion of the universe.

They're also hoping to confirm the equivalence principle, which says gravity has the same effect on different masses. It's why a hammer and a feather fall at the same speed when there's no air resistance to slow them down. Now they want to see if gravity works the same way over huge distances.

Engineers at LIGO have just finished some upgrades to their gravity-measuring hardware that should help. The detector in Louisiana is more sensitive now, meaning it can "see" farther into space. And the one in Washington state is more resistant to wind and earthquakes, which used to cause a bunch of junk data in LIGO's readings.

Regular upgrades are planned until LIGO reaches full sensitivity in 2019. It will be able to see as much as five times farther than it did when it detected its first gravity waves.

<![CDATA[Domino's Tries (And Fails) To Deliver Pizza Via Reindeer In Japan]]> Fri, 02 Dec 2016 13:37:00 -0600
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This just in: Reindeer and pizza do not mix.

American pizza chain Domino's announced it would be using reindeer to deliver pizza to customers in Japan.

In an ideal world, the reindeer would pull sleds carrying fresh pizza. Each sled would have a GPS that tells customers where their pie is — just like with human deliveries.

SEE MORE: Domino's Is Testing An Actual Pizza Delivery Robot

Starting in December, the normal delivery icon would have reportedly switched to a reindeer.

But it turns out, reindeer can't really be trained. Shocker.

After a rough test run, the company said the animals were "difficult" to control. 

Rather than give up the idea entirely, Domino's is dressing up delivery scooters to look like reindeer.

Domino's in Japan, we salute you. It was a valiant effort.

<![CDATA[7 In 10 Americans Are Overweight, And Many May Not Even Realize It]]> Fri, 02 Dec 2016 12:35:00 -0600
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There are more overweight people in the U.S. than ever before. But according to a new poll, many people don't think they're overweight.

According to the most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 71 percent of U.S. adults over the age of 20 are overweight or obese.

But, in the Gallup poll, only 37 percent of participants described themselves as overweight.

SEE MORE: Trying To Lose Weight? That Standing Desk Isn't Helping Much

That's a pretty big difference from just two decades ago. Around 1990, about 56 percent of American adults qualified as overweight or obese, and 44 percent considered themselves to be overweight.

In the Gallup poll, Americans also reported higher ideal weights. In the past three decades, the average ideal weight has gone up by 8 pounds.

As one expert told The Washington Post, "What seems to be happening is a resetting of norms" about weight.

<![CDATA[Australia Is Going To Spend A Lot Of Money On The Great Barrier Reef]]> Fri, 02 Dec 2016 09:58:00 -0600
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The Australian government is about to spend a lot of money on the Great Barrier Reef: about $1.3 billion over the next five years.

The money, which will be used for protection efforts, was detailed in a report the government released to the United Nation's World Heritage Committee.

The report comes in response to the committee almost putting the reef on its "in danger" list — and that doesn't make Australia look good.

SEE MORE: Ivanka Trump, Chief Climate Change Advocate?

So, at the request of the committee, the government put together a project to improve the reef's health over the next few decades.

But the reef's health is in a lot of trouble right now. Earlier this week, it was announced the reef had suffered the biggest coral die-off ever recorded. Experts say stress from rising water temperatures and human-caused climate change are to blame.

Still, the government hopes the money pledged will be enough to keep the reef off the committee's list.

<![CDATA[House Passes Cures Act And Obama Administration Supports It]]> Thu, 01 Dec 2016 21:10:00 -0600
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Wait, there's something the Obama administration and the House agree on? Apparently so.

In a 392-26 vote Wednesday, the House passed a massive health reform bill.

The bi-partisan 21st Century Cures Act includes half a billion dollars in funding to the Food and Drug Administration over 10 years to modernize its drug approval process. It also provides $4.8 billion over 10 years to the National Institutes of Health for biomedical research. On top of that, the act provides $1 billion in grants over two years to help combat the opioid epidemic.

SEE MORE: The FDA Wants To Create An App That Could Save Opioid Users' Lives

"This bi-partisan bill will ensure that our health system can keep pace with incredible advances in science and technology. In Cures, we've got a medical innovation game changer that will deliver hope to patients across the country," Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, the sponsor of the bill, said on the House floor Wednesday.

The House previously passed a version of the bill in 2015, but it stalled in the Senate. Now, the new version is headed to the Senate — and this time, it's expected to pass.

But some legislators, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have been critical of the bill. She said the bill "has only a tiny fig leaf of funding" for research and fighting the opioid crisis.

SEE MORE: There's A New War On Drugs At The Center Of America's Heroin Epidemic

"This funding is political cover for huge giveaways to giant drug companies," Warren said on the Senate floor Monday. 

Critics have also expressed concern that the bill would lower the standard of evidence needed for FDA drug approval.

<![CDATA[Stephen Hawking Says Only Cooperation Can Save The Planet]]> Thu, 01 Dec 2016 18:44:00 -0600
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Lately, Stephen Hawking has been less focused on scientific breakthroughs and more worried about warning people what the future of Earth could be if it continues on the present trajectory.

The Guardian published a letter from Hawking where he warned that recent divisive votes like the election of Donald Trump and the U.K.'s decision to leave the EU are backlashes against growing inequality across the world.

In the letter, Hawking argues that now is the time to come together to support the poorest among us by working together as a global community, instead of insulating ourselves in nationalism, as Brexit and Trump aim to do.

SEE MORE: Stephen Hawking Gives Earth An Expiration Date

Hawking is worried isolationism will make it more difficult to address issues like climate change on a global scale. He writes, "We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it."

Hawking recently said in an Oxford University lecture that mounting environmental challenges and the depletion of natural resources means that humanity has at most 1,000 years left on Earth.

The renowned astrophysicist did say he was hopeful that humans would be able to figure out a way to travel to Mars or other suitable planets before that happens. 

NASA is currently looking across space for planets beyond our solar system that could host human life. Elon Musk estimated that SpaceX will be able to send humans to Mars within the next decade.

Hawking said that automation in factories is unavoidable at this point but will lead to higher income inequality and that people who used to hold manufacturing jobs will need to adapt to more mechanization in the working world.

<![CDATA[Ivanka Trump, Chief Climate Change Advocate?]]> Thu, 01 Dec 2016 13:40:00 -0600
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Ivanka Trump might champion climate change during her father's time in the Oval Office.

A source told Politico the president-elect's daughter plans to use her spotlight to speak out about global warming.

She hasn't officially spoken on the subject. But if she does end up advocating a more liberal climate agenda, it would go against what her father has preached.

If you've followed the president-elect at all, you know Donald Trump has called climate change a hoax on a number of occasions.

On his website, there's no climate change policy. The page does list energy policies that include revamping the coal industry and using oil and shale — all of which contradict global warming efforts.

SEE MORE: What Could Trump's Policies Mean For Climate Science Efforts?

He's also repeatedly said that he plans to nix the Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to cap temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.

And his incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus said Trump's stance hasn't changed.

"He has his default position, which is that most of it is a bunch of bunk," Preibus said on "Fox News Sunday."

We don't know exactly where Ivanka Trump stands on climate change or if this is an issue she cares about.

But we do know she's been a vocal advocate for other items usually left out of the Republican agenda — like child care policy reform and pay equality for working mothers.

A source told Politico these are the issues Ivanka has "always talked about," and she's "creating a bridge to the other side.”

<![CDATA[Tornado Outbreaks Are More Common — But We Don't Know Why]]> Thu, 01 Dec 2016 13:00:00 -0600
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The most dangerous tornadoes are the ones that touch down one after the other. Most tornado deaths in the U.S. happen when six or more tornadoes affect a relatively small area — and new research shows these outbreaks are getting more severe.

We've seen that the frequency of these outbreaks is rising faster than expected. The chances of seeing a string of tornadoes has more than doubled in the past 50 years.

SEE MORE: Meet The Small Town Destroyed By A Tornado And Rebuilt On Green Energy

And it's not that we're just seeing more of them thanks to smartphones and social media. While it's true that tornadoes are now more likely to be spotted and reported than ever, the researchers adjusted for this phenomenon and the counts still increased.

And we're still not sure why. The increase doesn't seem to be driven by climate change. The warming planet has more energy available in the atmosphere to whip up fierce storms, but the models show this isn't associated with the frequency of the outbreaks.

Researchers think it could be long-term cycles in ocean temperatures instead. We know these natural changes can influence everything from glacier mass in the Swiss Alps, to the frequency of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, to U.S. droughts.

But those swings take a long time. If they're responsible, the best way to know for sure might be to wait and see if the frequency of tornado clusters declines as the oceans cool down in the next few decades. If tornado outbreaks are linked to climate change after all, the frequency might just keep climbing.

<![CDATA[Teenagers Recreated A $750 Drug For Just $2 Per Dose]]> Thu, 01 Dec 2016 12:14:00 -0600
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Martin Shkreli just got shown up by a bunch of teenagers.

Last year, the so-called "pharma bro" purchased the rights to the life-saving drug Daraprim and then jacked its price up to $750 per pill.

But now, a group of teenage students in Australia say they were able to recreate the same drug for a fraction of the cost.

SEE MORE: Martin Shkreli Could Have More Beef With The Feds

According to several reports on Wednesday, the Sydney Grammar School students made 3.7 grams of the active ingredient in Daraprim, an anti-parasitic medication used by malaria and AIDS patients.

The experiment only cost about $15 — about $2 per dose, but the end result was about $100,000 worth of Daraprim in the U.S. market.

Of course, the teens were pretty excited about their accomplishment.

"It was ecstatic, it was bliss, it was euphoric. After all of this time spent working and chemistry being such a high and low, after all the lows, all the downs, being able to make this drug, it was pure bliss," Milan Leonard, one of the students involved in the project, told ABC Australia.

But Shkreli himself didn't seem too pleased. He responded to several excited tweets on the subject, writing, "Almost any drug can be made at small scale for a low price," and "Yea uh anyone can make any drug it is pretty ez."

The students can't sell the drug in the U.S. because Shkreli's former company still has exclusive rights to it.

<![CDATA[We Lie To Whole Generations Of Kids About Santa, And That's Fine]]> Thu, 01 Dec 2016 11:31:00 -0600
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You might want to make sure your kids aren't listening in on this story — we're about to discuss some uncomfortable truths about Santa Claus.

Between the stories, songs and movies, there's more than a century of cultural weight behind the guy who lives at the North Pole. He even has his own government conspiracy: NORAD's tongue-in-cheek Santa-tracking campaign dates back to the 1950s. And it's all to lie to children.

SEE MORE: Why Does NORAD Stalk Santa's Epic Sleigh Ride Across The Globe?

That has to be bad, right? Some psychologists argue that when children learn the truth about Santa, it can damage the trust they have in their parents. But that's not what studies so far have shown.

It's true that kids are impressionable. The more parents push the Santa myth, the more the kid will believe in it. Young children tend to trust the things they're told aloud. And if kids of the right age see evidence that supports a claim — like, say, the cookies and milk left out for Santa getting eaten overnight — they're more likely to believe.

But as kids get older, they tend to get more skeptical about Santa, regardless of what their parents tell them. At 6-9 years old, they've usually started to grow out of it.

And it's not a harmful process. In fact, realizing and thinking through why Santa doesn't exist can actually help kids build their reasoning skills. They might not know the aerodynamics behind that sleigh, for example, but they start to grasp that he can't possibly fly fast enough to hit every house on Earth overnight.

Chances are they won't hold a grudge, either. In one study, kids weren't all that broken up when they learned the truth. Their parents were the ones who felt worse.

<![CDATA[Magic Mushrooms Could Help Treat Severe Depression And Anxiety]]> Thu, 01 Dec 2016 10:30:00 -0600
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Magic mushrooms could make people with severe mood disorders feel better for months at a time.

Two new studies found that a single dose of psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms, helped relieve the symptoms of depression and anxiety in cancer patients for at least six months.

Researchers at New York University and Johns Hopkins University performed the studies; the results were published Thursday in The Journal of Psychopharmacology.

A professor at Johns Hopkins said mood disorders in cancer patients possibly occur because "people are facing their own mortality, their own demise."

SEE MORE: The Number Of Women Dying Of Cancer Could Double By 2030

Mood disorders can increase the risk of suicide and become a sort of roadblock for cancer treatment. Thus far, the effect of antidepressants on cancer patients has been pretty weak.

But after a single dose of psilocybin, a majority of the patients in these new studies reported a major shift in mood and outlook on life.

About six months into the Johns Hopkins study, 78 percent were reportedly less depressed than when they started the study, and 83 percent were less anxious.

One woman described her trip as "spectacularly gorgeous" and concluded "there's still beauty in life."

In May, results of a study from researchers at  Imperial College London also showed psilocybin reduced symptoms of depression.  

The effects of magic mushrooms have been studied for quite some time — the psychological community has had an interest in psychedelics since the 1950s.

In the '70s, the U.S. government criminalized most psychedelics, and researchers ran into financial and legal barriers.

Still, these new studies are showing "unprecedented" promise.

<![CDATA[4 Newest Elements On The Periodic Table Just Got Their Names]]> Thu, 01 Dec 2016 09:50:00 -0600
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Four of the newest elements on the periodic table just got their names.

The newbies on row seven are nihonium, moscovium, tennessine and oganesson — all named after a scientist, region or country important to the field.

SEE MORE: UVA Workers Unearth Early Thomas Jefferson Chemistry Lab

Nihon is one of two ways to say "Japan" in Japanese, hence the name nihonium; moscovium and tennessine are nods to the Moscow region and the state of Tennessee, respectively; and oganesson recognizes Russian physicist Yuri Oganessian for his efforts in element research. 

The elements were added in late 2015. But now that they're named, the seventh row of the periodic table is finally complete. That probably kept you up at night.

<![CDATA[Philip Morris International Could Snuff Out Traditional Cigarettes]]> Wed, 30 Nov 2016 18:52:00 -0600
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One of the world's largest cigarette companies could someday phase out its chief product. 

The CEO of Philip Morris International, the company behind Marlboro cigarettes, told the BBC the company could stop producing its conventional cigarettes and replace them with smokeless cigarettes. 

SEE MORE: Are E-Cigarettes Healthier? Depends On Who's Funding The Research

"We produce a product that causes disease, and I think the primary responsibility we have once the technology is available ... is to develop products like this as soon as possible and commercialize them," CEO André Calantzopoulos said.

He's talking about products like the company's heated tobacco cigarettes, which launched in the U.K. on Wednesday. Philip Morris' competitors are also looking to provide consumers with alternatives to traditional cigarettes. 

But Philip Morris' CEO didn't say when they could stop manufacturing traditional cigarettes, and he said conversion rates from those cigarettes are still pretty low. The World Health Organization says tobacco kills about six million people each year. And despite efforts to give consumers alternatives to smoking, the organization estimates there will still be more than a billion smokers worldwide by 2025. 

<![CDATA[Nestle's New Process Will Make Chocolate Sweeter With Less Sugar]]> Wed, 30 Nov 2016 18:05:00 -0600
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Chocolate might be getting a bit more healthy. 

Nestle — the company behind candy bars like KitKat and Butterfinger — says it's found a way to reduce sugar in chocolate by up to 40 percent.

SEE MORE: The FDA Wants To Know About Your Nutella-Eating Habits

The company says its new process alters the structure of sugar to make it sweeter, so it'll need less. 

The company claims its new method will mimic natural, unprocessed foods by distributing sugar less uniformly throughout the chocolate. 

The discovery comes at a good time for Nestle as some countries — and a few U.S. cities — have started implementing sugar and soda taxes. 

SEE MORE: Soda Is About To Get More Expensive In Some Cities

Nestle's chief technology officer says the company will begin selling products using the new process next year.

<![CDATA[Residents Won't Be Able To Smoke In Public Housing Much Longer]]> Wed, 30 Nov 2016 17:34:00 -0600
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People living in public housing soon won't be able to smoke in and around their residences.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the new rule Wednesday. 

It will impact people living in 940,000 public housing units.

SEE MORE: Philip Morris International Could Snuff Out Traditional Cigarettes

Residents won't be able to smoke any lit tobacco products or hookahs in their units, common areas and outdoor areas within 25 feet of housing and administrative offices.

HUD touted the health benefits it will have for the elderly, as well as 760,000 children living in public housing. 

But it'll also benefit HUD. It said the new policy will save public housing agencies $153 million annually.

Citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency said the rule will reduce preventable fire, building repair and smoking-related health care costs.

Public housing agencies have about 18 months to implement the new policy. But 600 public and tribal agencies have already put in place smoke-free policies.   

SEE MORE: Are E-Cigarettes Healthier? Depends On Who's Funding The Research

According to The New York Times, HUD Secretary Julián Castro said he doesn't foresee the new policy resulting in evictions. 

With a new administration coming in less than two months, it is possible the rule could end up being overturned.

<![CDATA[How This Shipping Company Ensures Your Gifts Arrive In One Piece]]> Wed, 30 Nov 2016 15:58:00 -0600
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A lot of holiday gifts are fragile.

But some are more precious than others, so a lot of companies test their packages for durability.

Here's a behind-the-scenes look at how FedEx — which can ship up to 25 million boxes daily during the holidays — gives its boxes a beating.

Boxes are intentionally dropped from various heights to simulate forces experienced during sorting.

And we all know sorting is the real Grinch of shipping and handling.

Worried your box may get crushed?

The company conducts compression tests to ensure its boxes withstand the pressure.

FedEx even does a vibration test to see how boxes will fare on a plane or in the back of a truck.

We're still waiting for the package polka-resistance test.

<![CDATA[Losing Sleep Isn't Just Bad For Your Health — It's Bad For The Economy]]> Wed, 30 Nov 2016 13:15:00 -0600
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Like many people, you probably haven't been getting enough sleep. And it's not just bad for your health — it's also bad for the global economy.

Lack of sleep can cause reduced productivity and is linked to a higher mortality rate. According to a report from research institute RAND Europe, that has a price tag. And it could be costing the U.S. economy roughly $411 billion a year. 

The report also estimated insufficient sleep is costing the country about 1.2 million working days. 

Of the five countries RAND Europe evaluated — the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Germany and Japan — it reported the U.S. would have the largest financial losses from sleep-deprived employees. 

SEE MORE: Daylight Saving Time Is Good For Sleep But May Be Bad For Your Brain

You'll have to take all of these estimations with a grain of salt, though. 

Researchers extrapolated their sleep data from a survey of 62,000 British employees. Those workers were asked to self-report information on their behavior and health. 

RAND Europe then used the U.K. survey and a 2013 National Sleep Foundation study to draw conclusions about the other four countries. 

Still, the report's message that people need to get more sleep is a pretty sound one. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than one-third of Americans aren't getting at least seven hours of sleep each night. And it has named insufficient sleep a "public health problem."

The amount of sleep needed each day varies by person, but the National Institutes of Health recommends adults get an average of seven to eight hours of sleep each night. 

<![CDATA[At Least Three Dead In Tennessee Wildfires]]> Tue, 29 Nov 2016 09:29:00 -0600
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"It's a little numbing, to be honest with you, to see the extent of the damage," Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters.

At least three people are dead and 14 injured after devastating wildfires swept through the town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Newsy's partners at WTVF report more than 100 structures, including homes, have been damaged or destroyed by the massive flames.

SEE MORE: Maybe We Should Just Let Wildfires Burn

According to Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials, the fire affecting Gatlinburg grew from 10 acres on Sunday night to about 500 acres by Monday morning, thanks to strong wind gusts in the area.

The gusts are showing no signs of stopping, making things very difficult for firefighters.

"We're dealing with the worst possible conditions imaginable," Gatlinburg Fire Department Chief Greg Miller said in a news conference.

Tennessee and other parts of the South have been dealing with a significant drought for weeks. Fortunately, rain is in the forecast for Gatlinburg.

<![CDATA[Did The Paris Climate Agreement Forget About Something?]]> Tue, 29 Nov 2016 09:21:00 -0600
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While the Paris climate agreement has been heralded as a landmark decision in the fight against climate change, new research suggests the deal left out one vital group.

The agricultural sector is responsible for nearly a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. But in 2014, only 4 percent of public financing to combat climate change was earmarked for farms.

And according to the Rural and Agricultural Finance Learning Lab, farmers who work with a single plot of land can make a big difference.

SEE MORE: Al Gore Says He'll Work With Donald Trump On Climate Change

There are roughly 450 million of those farmers worldwide. Small farmers, often seen at local farmers markets, are expected to play a big role in meeting the world's food production needs.

But climate change will likely affect food security at the local, regional and even global level, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Climate change is also more likely to negatively affect small-farmers. With smaller fields, they have fewer crops to fall back on when times get tough.

The concentrated group could have a positive impact on climate change and food security. But the study says farmers need assistance, like government incentives and other financial help, to make it happen.

<![CDATA[Republicans Might Fight To Keep One Part Of Obamacare]]> Mon, 28 Nov 2016 17:32:00 -0600
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If President-elect Donald Trump follows through with his promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, some Republican governors might fight to keep one part of it.

One of the Obama administration's main strategies to reduce the number of uninsured Americans was to expand Medicaid — the federal health insurance program for the poorest U.S. citizens.

SEE MORE: A Texas Elector Quit His Job Instead Of Voting For Donald Trump

Medicaid provides health care for more than 60 million low-income Americans. It's funded by both federal and state governments.

But a Supreme Court decision in 2012 gave individual states the right to decide whether they wanted to participate in Medicaid expansion.

The law dictated that the federal government would cover the cost of expansion for the first three years in states that expanded eligibility to those earning as much as 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

When the first round of expansion began in 2014, 17 Democrat-controlled states and the District of Columbia took part. Seven Republican governors, including former GOP presidential candidates John Kasich and Chris Christie, broke party ranks to participate.

Opponents say expansion will hurt states' finances over time, since the federal government will require states to pick up 5 percent of the tab in 2017. That will rise to 10 percent in 2020.

Some experts say Republican-led states are now reluctant to repeal the expansion because it provides federally funded health care to so many.

SEE MORE: The GOP Dominated State Elections In 2016

Thirty-one states and Washington, D.C., have adopted Medicaid expansion. Nine of them elected a Republican governor and state legislature in this year's election.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence adopted a modified version of the expansion in Indiana last year.

<![CDATA[China's Smog Could Make It More Difficult To Fight Off Some Infections]]> Mon, 28 Nov 2016 08:12:00 -0600
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China's smog could make it more difficult for people to fight off some infections. The air pollution has traces of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

A team from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden took over 800 samples of DNA from humans, animals and various environments across the globe. 

In Beijing, the air samples contained DNA from genes that make bacteria resistant to some "of the most powerful antibiotics we have" — including carbapenems.

SEE MORE: China's Smog-Eating Tower Isn't Getting The Job Done

Carbapenems are a sort of "last resort" antibiotic doctors can prescribe to treat certain infections caused by resistant bacteria.

China's smog was already a major health hazard — 2013 was a particularly bad year that sent thousands of children into hospitals because of respiratory problems.

The team notes there's probably a mix of live and dead bacteria in the air. And it's the live bacteria that could be "a real threat."

<![CDATA[The National Zoo's Baby Panda Is Recovering From Lifesaving Surgery]]> Sun, 27 Nov 2016 09:35:00 -0600
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Bei Bei, the Smithsonian National Zoo's resident baby panda, is recovering from lifesaving surgery. 

The baby bear had to undergo surgery after a lemon-sized clump of bamboo got stuck in his bowel.

SEE MORE: The Panda Population Is Perking Up, But It Still Has A Long Way To Go

Zookeepers noticed Bei Bei was acting a little funky earlier this week — the cub was sleeping more, not eating and showed some signs of a stomach problem. 

A doctor at the zoo gave the bear an ultrasound and found something lodged in his small intestine. And unfortunately there was no way it would fix itself.

So the zoo removed the mass and now Bei Bei is recovering. Eventually he'll be back on a normal diet and reunited with his mother, Mei Xiang.

Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, Bei Bei's father, also have another cub named Bao Bao. In October, the zoo announced that Bao Bao would be moving to China sometime during the winter as part of an agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association.

The agreement says all cubs born at the zoo have to move to China before their fourth birthday — Bei Bei will make the move in 2019.

<![CDATA[Dakota Pipeline Protesters Ordered To Vacate Standing Rock]]> Sat, 26 Nov 2016 15:24:00 -0600
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The Dakota Access Pipeline standoff could be coming to a head.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said everyone camped near the Cannonball River in North Dakota must leave by Dec. 5 or face arrest. It cited public safety — including harsh winter conditions and violent incidents — as the reason for the order.

SEE MORE: The Keystone Pipeline Is Back On The Table With Trump Presidency

But the protesters don't seem likely to leave. The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said in a statement, "Our Tribe is deeply disappointed in this decision by the United States, but our resolve to protect our water is stronger than ever."

Members of the tribe are concerned the $3.8 billion pipeline project could leak oil into their water supply. They also say the project is desecrating some of their sacred lands.

The standoff between protesters and authorities has grown more confrontational as of late, with some protesters reporting they've been hit with nonlethal bullets, tear gas and water hoses while temperatures were below freezing.

<![CDATA[Climate Change Is Causing A Lot Of Cold And Snow — For Now]]> Sat, 26 Nov 2016 15:10:00 -0600
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It's not your imagination: The snow in the northern U.S. has been bad these past few years. Parts of New York are already seeing record totals, and it's not even winter yet. You can thank climate change.

Remember 2014's headlines about the polar vortex? That's the cold air that sits over the poles. Melting sea ice has shifted and weakened it, and researchers think that can contribute to cooler temperatures.

A weaker polar vortex also leads to a more erratic jet stream — which research has shown causes colder weather when that air dips south.

SEE MORE: Jonas Is NYC's Second Largest Snowstorm Since 1869

And when La Niña shows up in the Pacific, it tends to cause colder temperatures and precipitation in the northwestern U.S. — and that's exactly what NOAA is forecasting for this winter.

Enjoy using snowballs to argue against climate change while you still can, though, because the research suggests in the long term, snow and cold weather are going to get much rarer.

It won't happen immediately. Forecasts show winter storms might actually get worse before they lighten up. But the average global temperature is climbing, and as it does, cold weather events will get less likely.

By the end of the century, for every day of record cold we get, researchers expect we'll see 15 that set record highs — and snow cover in the northern hemisphere will start to disappear.

<![CDATA[Melting Arctic Ice Could Cause Major Changes Everywhere]]> Sat, 26 Nov 2016 14:54:00 -0600
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Arctic sea ice is melting at such an alarming rate that scientists are warning it might trigger uncontrollable changes across the globe.

The Arctic Resilience Report, published Friday following a five-year study, warns of 19 "tipping points" — conditions that, once met, fundamentally alter the function of an ecosystem.

One of the biggest points of no return in the Arctic would be a change in the thermohaline circulation — an ocean current that distributes heat and ocean water around the globe.

Large amounts of warm fresh water — like what comes off melting glaciers and ice caps — could disrupt or even stop that current. But the scientists admit this happening is highly unlikely.

SEE MORE: Arctic Sea Ice Is Melting, And It's Partly Your Fault

The last time the thermohaline circulation stopped was at the end of the last ice age.

We're already seeing isolated incidents of a few tipping points, though. In parts of the Arctic, scientists have seen collapses of food webs where large predatory fish almost completely vanish and leave only their prey.

Most of the tipping points are actually shifts in ecosystems. Tundra to forest, marshes to tidal flats, coniferous to deciduous forests — that sort of thing.

But shifts like those are a pretty big deal. Usually only a small subpopulation of a species has the genes to survive such shifts — leading to a major loss in genetic diversity.

And, as ecosystems dominated by permafrost begin to thaw, methane — an incredibly strong greenhouse gas — gets released into the atmosphere, speeding up climate change.

<![CDATA[Should President-Elect Trump Get A Pet?]]> Fri, 25 Nov 2016 17:34:00 -0600
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The upcoming Donald Trump presidency promises to throw a lot of political traditions out the window. Among them: Trump doesn't have a pet.

For more than a century, every president has had a four-legged friend of some kind. Andrew Johnson was the last president without a pet.

Johnson and James K. Polk were the only presidents who went petless for their entire term. Commanders in chief have had everything from dogs and cats to bears, tigers and even a pygmy hippopotamus.

SEE MORE: Trump Could Prevent NASA From Researching Climate Change

Presidential pets are good for more than just photo-ops, though that is a big part of their job. They can help soften a president's image, which could improve Trump's low likability ratings.

But Trump has eschewed plenty of other traditional aspects of elections and campaigns, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him skip out on another presidential tradition.

<![CDATA[How The Strongest Earthquakes Can Rewrite Our Maps]]> Fri, 25 Nov 2016 15:34:00 -0600
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There's no force of nature quite like an earthquake. They shake up our buildings, and they can cause landslides or tsunamis that wash away whole towns. And when they're strong enough, they can redraw whole maps.

During the recent quakes in New Zealand, one side of a fault line pushed up against the other, lifting parts of the coastline up out of the ocean. They're now almost 20 feet higher in places. 

SEE MORE: A Major Earthquake — And Hundreds Of Aftershocks — Hit New Zealand

Earthquakes can also cause entire islands to appear. In 2013, shaking in Pakistan disturbed pockets of natural gas and methane, which bubbled to the surface. The gas pushed what used to be the seafloor up into an island.

These bubble islands tend to be temporary: They disappear over the course of months or years as the gas underneath them escapes.

But a big enough earthquake can change the whole planet. When overlapping tectonic plates triggered the 2011 quake in the Pacific Ocean, parts of the Japanese island of Honshu moved several feet east.

It had a subtle effect on the rest of the world, too. The quake moved so much mass that Earth's axis of rotation — the point it's balanced around as it spins — changed by more than 6 inches.

<![CDATA[China's Smog-Eating Tower Isn't Getting The Job Done]]> Fri, 25 Nov 2016 13:32:00 -0600
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Turns out, China's smog-eating tower isn't quite up to the job.

The tower was unveiled in September in Beijing. It stands about 23 feet tall and creates jewelry — we're talking rings and cuff links — from air pollution.

The purifier sucks in smog, captures the particles and compresses them. At the same time, the tower cleans the air around it.

SEE MORE: Are China's Leaders Taking Smog Seriously?

The tower's creator claimed it could clean over 1 million cubic feet (30,000 cubic meters) of air every hour. But after months of testing, the installation isn't hitting the bar.

The tests show the tower cleans only its immediate surroundings, not "a small neighborhood" worth of air as its creator anticipated.

Not only that, the World Health Organization says particulate matter, or hazardous air particles, shouldn't exceed 25 micrograms per cubic meter in a 24-hour period. But recent tests showed the air within 5 meters of the tower contained 89 micrograms per cubic meter.

Still, China's keeping it. The tower will reportedly be renamed to "Smog Alert Tower" and will be used for educational purposes.

<![CDATA[Obama Does More To Protect The Planet Before He Leaves Office]]> Fri, 25 Nov 2016 12:25:00 -0600
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President Barack Obama is on a mission to save the planet. 

OK, maybe not the whole planet, but he definitely wants to save as much land as he can before his term is up. On Monday, his administration banned gold mining on about 30,000 acres near Yellowstone National Park. 

SEE MORE: Sea Ice Levels Have Hit Record Lows At Both Poles

This is just the latest in a long series of environmental protection efforts from the president.

In August, the administration designated what was, at the time, the largest marine protected area on the planet in the Hawaiian islands. 

The month after, the administration created the Atlantic Ocean's first U.S. marine monument. Oil drilling and most commercial fishing will be banned in the area.

SEE MORE: A Giant Stretch Of Sea Near Antarctica Is Now Universally Protected

And in mid-November, Obama canceled 25 oil and gas leases in western Colorado.

Some speculate that the spike in federal protections is due, at least in part, to Donald Trump and his campaign for presidency.

Trump made his stances on environmental protection pretty clear throughout the campaign cycle, and they don't exactly align with the current administration's views. 

Aside from calling climate change a "hoax," Trump has pledged to open onshore and offshore leasing for coal and shale energy and has said he plans to "encourage the use of natural gas."

<![CDATA[Your Body Isn't Built For Thanksgiving]]> Thu, 24 Nov 2016 13:00:00 -0600
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Thanksgiving traditions are great, but let's not pretend they're totally healthy. Even aside from the overeating, Thanksgiving can wreak havoc on our bodies' internal clocks, and that's a bigger deal than you might think.

Humans, like most living things, are wired to run on a routine that follows the rising and setting of the sun. Research shows these circadian rhythms go all the way down to our genes. And they regulate almost everything: Most of the cells in our bodies keep track of the light-dark cycle somehow.

Everything works better when we stay on schedule. Our immune systems are most efficient when following these patterns. Our meal schedules determine how well our metabolisms work. And regular sleep helps our brains stay healthy — it cleans out proteins that can cause disease.

SEE MORE: A Scientific Strategy For Surviving Thanksgiving Politics

But if you eat a whole lot of food all at once and sleep weird hours — like, say, on Thanksgiving — it starts to mess this up.

Consuming three times your daily calories in one meal makes it hard for your body to process the energy. Napping after all that food — plus maybe to get up early for Black Friday shopping — disrupts the natural sleep cycle.

Luckily, a day or two of this won't do long-term damage, but if you make a habit of throwing your body's rhythms out of balance, it can contribute to obesity and blood sugar problems, a weaker immune system and even neurological diseases like Alzheimer's.

So maybe be thankful Thanksgiving only comes around once a year. Your body probably is. 

<![CDATA[Your Dog Might Remember A Whole Lot More Than You Think]]> Thu, 24 Nov 2016 10:18:00 -0600
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Your dog might remember a whole lot more than you think.

According to a new study, dogs can remember things they've done or seen in the past, even when they haven't been instructed to do so.

This is otherwise known as "episodic memory." For humans, it's the ability to consciously recall personal experiences and events, and it's linked to self-awareness.

The researchers say this is the first time evidence has been found that a non-human species also has this type of memory.

SEE MORE: Dogs Understand Language A LOT More Than We Give Them Credit For

As the study's lead author told The Guardian, "Traditionally, episodic memory has been linked to self-awareness, but as we do not know whether dogs are self-aware, we call it episodic-like memory."

To come to this conclusion, researchers in Budapest studied 17 dogs that were trained to copy their owners' actions, also known as the "do as I do" training technique. They found that the dogs could recall the technique at an unexpected time, which proved that those memories were similar to episodic ones.

And it's possible that dogs aren't the only animals with this talent. This new research suggests other animals, like parrots, dolphins and whales, might be able to form episodic memories, too.

<![CDATA[Trump Could Prevent NASA From Researching Climate Change]]> Wed, 23 Nov 2016 16:54:00 -0600
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One of Donald Trump's first orders of business as president could be slashing NASA's Earth science budget.

Some of Trump's top science advisers claim climate change research is "politicized," and Trump has said he wants NASA to focus more on deep-space exploration.

SEE MORE: What Could Trump's Policies Mean For Climate Science Efforts?

They plan to ask the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Science Foundation to handle Earth science research. But those agencies have much smaller budgets than NASA. That would make it tough for them to build and launch the satellites needed to do climate research.

NASA's resources give scientists a cosmic perspective of Earth and its climate that they would have a hard time getting otherwise. Without NASA's data, it would be much harder for the world to understand humanity's effects on the environment.

An overwhelming majority of scientists who study the atmosphere have confirmed climate change is a real and urgent issue, and humans are contributing to it. 

It's tough to know exactly where Trump stands on climate change. In the past, he's called climate change a hoax and promised to try to beef up coal production by rolling back environmental regulations.

But on Tuesday, when Trump was asked if humans contributed to temperatures heating up, he said, "I think there is some connectivity. … It depends on how much. It also depends on how much it’s going to cost our companies."

<![CDATA[Thanksgiving In Space Isn't As Glamorous As It Sounds]]> Wed, 23 Nov 2016 16:25:00 -0600
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NASA wants to wish you a happy Thanksgiving — from space!

Astronaut Shane Kimbrough explained, "Our food's a little bit different. So here's our turkey right here."

SEE MORE: Looks Like Our Backs Really Aren't Made For Space Travel

The International Space Station crew is celebrating Thanksgiving in low-Earth orbit. And it's become traditional for the astronauts to share the details of their holiday meals with the rest of us down on Earth.

Their feast is prepared by food scientists at Texas A&M. It's thermostabilized and/or dehydrated so it can survive the trip into space. 

Here's what's on the menu this year: turkey, candied yams, mashed potatoes, green beans and cherry blueberry cobbler.

SEE MORE: The Space Poop Challenge Is Something You Might Actually Want To Win

It'll be shared among NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Shane Kimbrough, Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy, Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrei Borisenko, and the European Space Agency's astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

Eating and drinking out of pouches doesn't look quite as appetizing as a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal. Hopefully, the amazing view makes up for it.

<![CDATA[A Scientific Strategy For Surviving Thanksgiving Politics]]> Wed, 23 Nov 2016 10:00:00 -0600
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Ah, Thanksgiving traditions: turkey, strangely shaped cranberry sauce and bitter political arguments. How can you hope to find common ground after such a heated presidential election?

You shouldn't arm yourself with comprehensive lists of facts and figures. Research shows people — and that includes you — tend to cite information that supports their existing beliefs. But trotting out facts to show how right you are and how wrong they are actually makes people double down.

Instead, try tweaking your own arguments so they appeal to the other person's values. Researchers call this "moral reframing." 

SEE MORE: When It Comes To Environmental Damage, Thanksgiving Leftovers Add Up

For example: They found conservatives are more likely to support liberal pro-environment legislation when it's presented in terms of keeping nature pristine instead of focusing on the harm humans are doing. 

Same with health care. When researchers present universal coverage as a way to keep people disease-free and productive instead of as a universal human right, more conservative thinkers support it.

It works the other, way, too. More liberals support making English the official language of the U.S. when it's framed in terms of fairness, say, by improving immigrants' job prospects.

It sounds simple, but reframing might be harder than you think. People are more likely to make arguments that align with their own values instead of the other person's. You're also going to be distracted by turkey and stuffing. But in the interest of keeping the peace, give it a try. 

<![CDATA[Cheers! (Moderate) Drinking Could Be Good For Your Heart]]> Tue, 22 Nov 2016 18:09:00 -0600
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Moderate alcohol consumption could be good for your heart.

A research team from Pennsylvania State University and Kailuan Hospital in China found knocking back a cold one each day could help keep "good" cholesterol levels high.

SEE MORE: Millions Of US Kids Aren't Seeing A Doctor Regularly

Here's why that's a good thing for your heart: There are two types of cholesterol — low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, and high-density lipoprotein, otherwise known as HDL. LDL is the kind of cholesterol you don't want. It can cause plaque to build up in the arteries, which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. But HDL cholesterol actually helps take LDL cholesterol out of the arteries and carry it back to the liver, where it's broken down and flushed out of the body — thus the nickname "good" cholesterol.

SEE MORE: Why Your Favorite Craft Brewers Are Selling Out To Big Beer

The researchers studied the drinking habits and HDL levels of 80,000 healthy Chinese adults over the course of more than six years. At the end of the study, they found that HDL levels decreased over time in all of the participants. But moderate alcohol consumption "was associated with a slower decline compared to non-drinkers or heavy drinkers."

Good news for brew lovers: The study found declines in HDL levels were slower among those who drank beer, compared to hard liquor consumers.

There weren't enough wine drinkers included in the research to test its effect on HDL. Sorry, winos.

Don't run out to the bar just yet. The study's authors say heavy drinking basically eliminates the HDL benefits here. Cheers to moderation.

<![CDATA[Tsunami Warning Issued For Japan Following Earthquake]]> Mon, 21 Nov 2016 17:47:00 -0600
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A tsunami warning has been issued for part of Japan following a strong earthquake.

The 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck eastern Japan around 6 a.m. local time Tuesday. 

SEE MORE: A Major Earthquake — And Hundreds Of Aftershocks — Hit New Zealand

The Japan Meteorological Agency observed a tsunami wave about 13.6 miles off the coast of a city in the southeastern part of the Fukushima region. 

Fukushima may sound familiar to you. In 2011, an earthquake and subsequent tsunami contributed to a nuclear accident at a power plant in the northeastern part of the region. 

<![CDATA[Millions Of US Kids Aren't Seeing A Doctor Regularly]]> Mon, 21 Nov 2016 14:11:00 -0600
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There are 20.3 million American kids who aren't getting the regular checkups they need. 

There are a few roadblocks. Even with insurance, finances can deter parents. Other issues include living in rural areas or not having transportation. And getting parents the right information to encourage them to bring their kids in can be a challenge. 

SEE MORE: Step Away From The Screen: Doctors Release New Media Rules For Kids

Right now, health care coverage for kids is less expensive than it is for adults. But if adults had health care from a young age, a lot of their costs would be significantly reduced. 

But it's not just about whether kids have health care coverage. Even some who are insured aren't getting preventive care.

Over time, initiatives focusing on children's health in the U.S. have gained traction and made improvements, but advocates say there's still a lot of work that needs to be done. 

<![CDATA[More Than 18 Million People Now Have Access To Lifesaving HIV Drugs]]> Mon, 21 Nov 2016 14:01:00 -0600
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The United Nations has some promising news in the fight against AIDS.

According to a new report from UNAIDS, more than 18 million people around the world have access to lifesaving HIV medications. That's about a million more than last year.

If this trend continues, officials say they hope that the number of people receiving treatment will increase to 30 million by 2020.

And that treatment is helping more HIV-positive people live longer than ever before. Researchers found there were nearly 6 million adults over the age of 50 living with HIV in 2015.

SEE MORE: 'Patient Zero' Wasn't Responsible For The US AIDS Epidemic; NYC Was

But preventing the infection all together isn't going as well. There were more than 2 million new cases of HIV reported in 2015 — the same number recorded for the past three years.

And girls and young women are especially at risk, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the report, thousands of females between the ages of 15 and 24 are infected with HIV every week.

Health officials say that's often because they don't seek treatment out of fear that their families will discover they had a sexual relationship with an older man.

Since the AIDS epidemic began in the 1980s, 78 million people have become infected and 35 million have died.

<![CDATA[If This Hummus Recall Has You Worried About Listeria ...]]> Mon, 21 Nov 2016 13:41:00 -0600
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If you're a die-hard hummus eater, listen in — Sabra just recalled a ton of its products because of a possible listeria contamination.

The company found traces of the organism at one of its manufacturing facilities. Customers should toss certain products with a "best before" date between now and Jan. 23, 2017. 

SEE MORE: Deadly E. Coli Outbreak Is A Reminder To Wash Your Salad Mix

The side effects associated with listeria aren't pretty. In adults, listeria can cause fever, aching and confusion. In some cases, it's deadly. 

It's particularly dangerous for children and pregnant women. Listeria can cause life-threatening disease in newborns. It can also cause miscarriages.

But Sabra isn't alone in this problem — over the past several years, the food industry has had to recall a lot of products because of listeria. 

Contaminated cantaloupes from a Colorado farm in 2011 were linked to the deaths of more than 30 people.

Dole recalled all of its salad mixes from an Ohio processing plant in early 2016. And about 47 million pounds of meat and poultry products were recalled in May of this year.

SEE MORE: Nestlé Recalls Drumsticks Due To Possible Listeria Contamination

There might be some good news here, though. Experts say the recalls are a sign of progress in how the food industry collects data about food processing. 

For example, new technology allows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to link listeria cases that span a long period of time.

As for what consumers can do? Just be careful. The CDC recommends thoroughly cleaning and cooking what you eat and storing food safely.

<![CDATA[Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Could Be Let Loose In Florida]]> Mon, 21 Nov 2016 08:28:00 -0600
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Genetically modified mosquitoes could soon be released in the Florida Keys to combat Zika.

NPR reports that county residents approved a measure to allow the company Oxitec to let the bugs loose — but some residents aren't sold. 

When the modified male pests mate with regular female mosquitoes, their offspring die. That reduces the mosquito population. Oxitec's trials in Brazil and a few other countries reported massive success.

SEE MORE: A Florida Official Wants To Deploy Bats To Fight Zika

The first cases of locally transmitted Zika in Florida were confirmed in July. Since then, over 700 travel-related cases and more than 130 locally transmitted cases have been reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some residents worry the modified mosquitoes aren't safe. And while Zika is in Florida, there haven't been any locally transmitted cases in the Keys.

Still, officials in the area have given the go-ahead to try the bugs out in some parts of the Keys. 

A Key West commissioner said a big part of her job "is to kill mosquitoes and to protect the residents and the county."

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization said Zika is no longer a global health emergency — it's more of a chronic problem than a crisis. 

But that doesn't mean there's no need to worry. One WHO executive said the organization is in no way "downgrading the importance of Zika."

<![CDATA[Seabird Poop Could Help Save Arctic Sea Ice]]> Sun, 20 Nov 2016 14:18:00 -0600
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Seabird poop could help save melting Arctic ice.

A team of atmospheric scientists noted a high concentration of ammonia in the air surrounding the Canadian Arctic during the summertime. Around that same time of year, millions of birds flock to the area to breed.

So the researchers decided to mimic the chemicals in bird guano and found ammonia from seabird poop can keep temperatures cooler in the Arctic.

SEE MORE: Terns In Alaska Show The Effects Of Climate Change At Work

The magic happens when certain species of birds relieve themselves and their feces interact with sulfuric acid from seawater. 

The chemicals combine with water vapor and go into clouds that can shield Arctic ice from the sun and reflect the heat back into space.

This bird poop discovery is important because Arctic sea ice isn't doing so great right now. Earlier this year, sea ice hit its second lowest level ever recorded.

Unfortunately, the find isn't going to do much to combat the worldwide effects of climate change — but it might keep temps up north just slightly cooler.

<![CDATA[Sea Ice Levels Have Hit Record Lows At Both Poles]]> Sun, 20 Nov 2016 12:09:00 -0600
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Sea ice at both poles is at record lows for this time of year.

That might not sound surprising, but it's actually a first. While ice levels in the Arctic have been fairly consistently declining year after year, the Antarctic hasn't seen the same decline.

In fact, the amount of Antarctic sea ice hit record highs each year between 2012 and 2014.

2015 broke that streak, but that year still saw the 16th highest level of sea ice ever recorded for the Antarctic.

SEE MORE: Arctic Sea Ice Is Melting, And It's Partly Your Fault

Climate change skeptics have pointed to that trend as evidence that climate change isn't real. 

Of course it's hard to compare the Arctic with the Antarctic — they're always in opposite seasons and have different geographies.

And it's too soon to tell if the sudden decline in sea ice around Antarctica is going to become the norm — we'll need a couple more years of data for that.

But sea ice decline is still bad news for humans; major winter storms and strong cold snaps are just a few of the consequences.

<![CDATA[56-Year-Old Astronaut Becomes Oldest Woman In Space]]> Sun, 20 Nov 2016 10:33:00 -0600
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Peggy Whitson is now the oldest woman to orbit Earth.

The 56-year-old NASA astronaut arrived at the International Space Station on Saturday.

That just beats the previous record-holder, Barbara Morgan, who was 55 when she went to space. 

SEE MORE: Scientists Really Want To Smash A Spacecraft Into An Asteroid

This is far from Whitson's first record, though. She's on her third mission in space, having already become the ISS' first female commander and the only woman to ever lead NASA's astronaut corps.

She even holds the record for most time in space among female astronauts –– which actually made getting cleared this time more difficult, since NASA limits how much radiation astronauts are exposed to.

By the end of her mission, Whitson should break another record: Most days spent in space by an American, regardless of gender.

<![CDATA[Zika Is No Longer An International Health Emergency]]> Sat, 19 Nov 2016 15:20:00 -0600
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Zika is no longer a global health emergency.

The World Health Organization determined the virus is no longer an international concern — but that's not to say the virus is gone.

SEE MORE: Zika's Untold War: Power vs. The People

An official with the WHO said the announcement is "not downgrading the importance of Zika." Instead, Zika is now considered a chronic problem as opposed to an outright international crisis.

The virus was deemed a global heath emergency in February after cases of the disease spiked in the Americas.

Zika still poses a serious risk to pregnant women and babies; the virus has been linked to cases of microcephaly and other neonatal complications.

<![CDATA[We Need A Backup Plan In Case Modified Genes Go Rogue]]> Sat, 19 Nov 2016 15:04:00 -0600
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Ready or not, genetic modification of living humans is now a thing. It's mostly just in safety trials for now, but governments and scientists are already looking at the next important question: Once we change certain genes, how much control do we have over what they do next?

We're not always sure how genetic tweaks in one organism will affect the rest of its environment. And as the tools for gene editing get cheaper and easier to use, it's more likely that modified organisms will get loose — either on accident or on purpose.

The U.S. Defense Department wants to be ready to clean up after these "genetic spills" if it has to. It's asking scientists to come up with out-of-the-box ways to stop genetic changes from going rogue.

That means ways to control where and when a gene gets edited in an organism, ways to use antibodies or other molecules to prevent unwanted editing and ways to remove engineered genes from an ecosystem so things return to normal.

Consider mosquitoes. We've figured out how to tweak their genes so the insects eventually die off, which would stop the spread of malaria. But until we let those genetically altered mosquitoes loose, we won't know if they'll damage the rest of the ecosystem or if the fatal genes we gave them will spread to other insects.

SEE MORE: How Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Could Help Stop Malaria

So the scientists working with the Defense Department are coming up with a safety net. They could modify genes to do what they want — like killing malaria mosquitoes — but they propose tailoring those genes so the fatal ones also fade out over generations.

That's assuming it works as intended, of course. And that's why scientists and policymakers are tweaking genes one slow experiment at a time. Fixes to genetic modification, whether they prove to be helpful or harmful, could be as permanent and wide-ranging as the things they're trying to tweak.

<![CDATA[The Space Poop Challenge Is Something You Might Actually Want To Win]]> Sat, 19 Nov 2016 14:33:00 -0600
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You've heard of the ice bucket challenge and the mannequin challenge, but what about the space poop challenge?

It's not exactly what you think. NASA wants to upgrade the diapers its astronauts use for upcoming missions, and it's asking the public for ideas.

To win the challenge, entrants have until Dec. 20 to design and submit the best system that can move waste away from the body in zero gravity for six whole days. The winner will get the hardest $30,000 check they will ever have to explain.

Spaceships do have toilets, but astronauts use diapers when they can't use those toilets — like during spacewalks, launch and re-entry or in the event of an emergency.

NASA needs a better way to deal with waste because soon its Orion spacecraft will take humans farther from Earth than they've ever been. If something goes wrong and astronauts are confined to their suits, a standard diaper won't cut it for more than a day.

SEE MORE: NASA's DNA Sequencer Could Be A 'Game Changer' For Long-Term Missions

It would obviously be uncomfortable to relieve yourself in a diaper, but sitting in your own waste for too long can actually cause sepsis and other health problems.

This obviously isn't glamorous, but the ultimate goal of the Orion missions is to get humans to Mars, and to do that, you have to make sure every aspect of life is accounted for — even the crappy ones.

<![CDATA[Droughts Have Seriously Damaged California's Tree Population]]> Sat, 19 Nov 2016 13:32:00 -0600
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After a yearslong California drought, an "unprecedented" number of trees are dead up and down the coastal state.

And that poses a huge threat to local communities.

It's estimated 36 million trees have died since May, which would put the total number of dead trees in the state at more than 102 million.

SEE MORE: What's Killing Us? WHO Blames 1 In 4 Deaths On 'Unhealthy Environment'

Those dried-up trees fuel wildfires. Big blazes have burned over 140,000 acres in 2016 alone. To fight the problem, officials are trying to use the trees for lumber or for fuel in energy plants.

A majority of the dead trees are in the Sierra Nevada region, but they've also been found in northern California.

Authorities are predicting the die-off will last at least another couple of years. Even if California got an unusually high amount of precipitation, it wouldn't do much to curb the damage for some time.

<![CDATA[No Drilling Allowed In The Arctic Sea — At Least For A Few Years]]> Fri, 18 Nov 2016 18:26:00 -0600
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Drilling for oil and gas in the U.S.-owned portions in the Arctic Sea is off the table — at least until 2020.

The Obama administration's five-year plan for leasing offshore drilling rights won't include any Arctic waters. Tracts of ocean in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas were initially supposed to be on the list.

SEE MORE: What Could Trump's Policies Mean For Climate Science Efforts?

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the challenging environment and declining industry interest prompted the department to reconsider offering up those tracts for drilling. The department is offering 11 offshore leases — 10 in the Gulf of Mexico and one off the coast of Alaska.

Falling oil prices and the threat of harsh regulations have tempered the oil and gas industry's appetite to go prospecting in the Arctic.

Last year, Shell announced it was abandoning its $7 billion well in the Chukchi Sea after it failed to find enough energy to make the project worthwhile.

SEE MORE: Meet The Small Town Destroyed By A Tornado And Rebuilt On Green Energy

President-elect Donald Trump has promised to open up offshore drilling, but he'd need his own report in order to override President Obama's plan. And that could take a few years.

<![CDATA[Paper Could Soon Be The Way Cyclists Stay Safe]]> Fri, 18 Nov 2016 16:46:00 -0600
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The future of city bicycling could be eco-friendly, paper helmets

"I wanted to use bike-share bikes, and I was quite uncomfortable riding in the road. ... and just not having an inexpensive option available to me, I was like, this is a big gap," designer Isis Shiffer said. 

SEE MORE: How A Bike Shop Plans To Revitalize Chicago's Old 'Black Metropolis'

Here's how they work. The model is made of a unique cardboard honeycomb pattern that spreads the impact and protects the cyclist's head from a blow. 

You're probably wondering what happens if you ride in the rain. Well, the cardboard has a coating that makes it withstand water for several hours. 

While more testing would have to happen before the public can get their hands on one, the helmet materials cost less than $5 and can be recycled after using. 

SEE MORE: Researchers Dropped A Bunch Of Dummies On Their Heads For Science

Would you feel safe using this design? Let Newsy know in the comments or on any of our social media channels. 

<![CDATA[Solving One Of The Biggest Challenges This Century: Water]]> Fri, 18 Nov 2016 12:23:00 -0600
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Access to fresh water is going to become a big problem for a lot of people. The U.N. says by 2025, at least 1 in 5 people will deal with water scarcity. By 2050, the demand for fresh water will have increased by 50 percent.

Meanwhile, we're already running out of groundwater reserves. Droughts all over the world mean getting water isn't easy for everyone.

There is one solution: filter the world's oceans. We have the technology to turn salt water into fresh water. It could eliminate worldwide water shortages overnight — so why don't we?

SEE MORE: How Four Years Of Drought Has Left California Out To Dry

In a word: energy. Compared with filtering fresh water, desalination is still inefficient and expensive. Modern desalination plants use more than 10 times as much energy as plain old freshwater purification. That makes them much pricier for the same amount of water.

The process also leaves behind concentrated brine, which is typically pumped back into the ocean. But we still don't understand what this super-salty water does to the environment in the long term.

So for the most part, we don't use them if there are cheaper options available. California and Australia started up plants during long droughts and shut them down once the rains came back.

As the water crunch gets worse, desalination will get more use out of necessity — but the technology will get better, too. Researchers are building graphene filters that require less energy or using tiny, efficient electrical fields to push the salt ions out of seawater.

And in Israel, where drought has been dragging on for almost a millennium, they use rocks — specifically, porous lava rocks — to keep their plants' filters clean and cut down on expensive maintenance. Desalination already provides more than half of the country's water, sometimes for less than an average household in the U.S. pays today.

<![CDATA[Zoo's Gorilla Barrier Didn't Meet Standards When Harambe Died]]> Fri, 18 Nov 2016 09:04:00 -0600
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Federal inspectors say the barrier for the gorilla exhibit that housed Harambe was not in compliance with standards.

A response team at the Cincinnati Zoo shot and killed Harambe after a 3-year-old boy slipped through the barrier and fell into the exhibit in May.

U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection concluded the zoo followed the proper procedures during the incident.

SEE MORE: TripAdvisor Will Stop Selling Tickets For Wild Animal Attractions

But it reported there was "some slack in the cables" of the 32-inch-tall barrier that surrounded the animal enclosure.

The USDA noted the barrier had been in place since 1978, and there'd never been an issue with a member of the public slipping through it before.

In a statement released after the USDA report, the Cincinnati Zoo said, "In its 38-year-history, the barrier system at Gorilla World has always been found compliant during USDA inspections, including one conducted in April of 2016."

This summer, the zoo changed its barrier entirely, making it about 10 inches taller and covering it in mesh. Despite that, the USDA is still investigating the zoo and could hand down some disciplinary action.

<![CDATA[Scientists Could Be Closer To Increasing Global Food Productivity]]> Thu, 17 Nov 2016 21:21:00 -0600
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Researchers at the University of Illinois might be one step closer to increasing the world's food supply by modifying plants' genes. 

Thanks to funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the researchers were able to use genetic engineering to alter photosynthesis in tobacco plants, increasing their productivity as much as 20 percent.

This is a big deal because past experimentation with genetic modification hasn't gone as well. Plant breeders typically achieve gains of 1 or 2 percent with more traditional approaches.

SEE MORE: The Benefits Of Plants Go Well Beyond Photosynthesis

The scientists started with tobacco because it is especially easy to work with, but their ultimate goal is to transfer the research to food crops.

One of the project's leaders believes it'll eventually be possible to get production increases of 50 percent or more. That kind of production could transform global agriculture. 

The work is also partially an effort to secure global food supply against the possible effects of climate change. More stable and efficient food crops would be extremely beneficial if temperatures continue to rise.

The Gates Foundation wants to ensure the technology makes its way to African farmers at a low cost, should it pan out.

<![CDATA[The White House's New Carbon Reduction Plan Is Already In Trouble]]> Thu, 17 Nov 2016 21:07:00 -0600
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President Obama and his administration are trying to keep the U.S. moving forward on the issue of climate change, despite what President-elect Donald Trump has promised to do while in office. 

The White House unveiled a plan for the U.S. to emit at least 80 percent less carbon in 2050 than it did in 2005.

But with Trump winning the election, it seems unlikely that the plan will be around for much longer. He's consistently gone against the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real and needs to be addressed.

SEE MORE: What Could Trump's Policies Mean For Climate Science Efforts?

The president-elect promised to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. He's also referred to climate change as a hoax created by China, something China's government recently pushed back on.

While at a climate change conference in Morocco, Secretary of State John Kerry tried to calm fears that Trump would turn back the clock on environmental agreements.

"No one should doubt the overwhelming majority of the citizens of the United States who know climate change is happening and who are determined to keep our commitments that were made in Paris," Kerry said.

<![CDATA[Stephen Hawking Gives Earth An Expiration Date]]> Thu, 17 Nov 2016 19:30:00 -0600
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One of the world's most famous scientists, Stephen Hawking, says our planet has an expiration date. Don't freak out too much, though. It's probably not going to affect you.

Hawking said in a lecture at Oxford University he doubts humanity will last for another 1,000 years — unless we can move on and inhabit Mars or another planet.

SEE MORE: Scientists Really Want To Smash A Spacecraft Into An Asteroid

The famed physicist said dwindling resources on our big blue planet mean we humans will eventually have to find another home.

Hawking added that threats like nuclear war, climate change or artificial intelligence run amok a la "Terminator" could make humanity's time on Earth even shorter.

Fortunately, NASA's been scanning the stars for a suitable replacement planet, and it's found a few thousand potential candidates beyond our solar system.

SEE MORE: If You Want To Live On Mars, Be Prepared To Build Your Own Society

But until we have the technology to get people out that far, we'll have to settle for our nearest not-quite-habitable neighbor, Mars. SpaceX founder Elon Musk hopes humans will arrive on the red planet by 2025.

<![CDATA[Origami Might Actually Help Save Elephants]]> Thu, 17 Nov 2016 16:19:00 -0600
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These little origami elephants represent a much bigger problem. 

More than 78,000 elephants will die in the next two years from poaching and the ivory trade if action isn't taken. 

The Wildlife Conservation Society's Ninety-Six Elephants Campaign drew attention to that fact.

SEE MORE: The International Community Can't Agree On How To Save Elephants

The campaign reached its goal of breaking the Guinness World Record for largest display of origami elephants.

Share a photo of your origami elephant with Newsy on FacebookTwitterSnapchat or Instagram

You can find a how-to video here

<![CDATA[Surgeon General Urges Public To See Addiction As A Disease]]> Thu, 17 Nov 2016 13:45:00 -0600
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The surgeon general's first report on addiction urges the country to see it as a disease instead of a character flaw.

In the report released Thursday, he wrote, "It is a chronic illness that we must approach with the same skill and compassion with which we approach heart disease, diabetes and cancer."

More people in America have substance abuse disorders than all forms of cancer combined. In 2015, almost 21 million Americans –– about 8 percent of the population –– had a substance abuse disorder.

SEE MORE: There's A New War On Drugs At The Center Of America's Heroin Epidemic

Yet only about 2 million of those people received any kind of treatment.

One in 10 deaths among working adults are because of alcohol misuse. Tens of thousands of people die each year from harder drugs.

It's a strain on society, too. Between health care, criminal justice costs and lost productivity, substance abuse costs the U.S. economy $442 billion each year.

The cost is one reason the surgeon general is trying to remove the stigma. He noted every dollar invested in treatment for addiction saves $4 in health care costs and $7 in criminal justice costs.

But the report notes treatment, by itself, won't be enough to stop the addiction epidemic. It argues more prevention programs, professional counseling and even supportive relationships are also needed.

<![CDATA[When Animals Die In Masses, It's Freaky — But Not Unnatural]]> Thu, 17 Nov 2016 07:18:00 -0600
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The next time the news reports that birds are falling from the sky or schools of fish are floating belly-up, don't panic.

Mass die-offs of animals are becoming more common. But the really creepy part of these die-offs (you know, the mass part) is often the very reason why the deaths happen in the first place.

Earlier this month, thousands of fish were found dead in waterways near Long Island, New York. But far from it being a sign of the apocalypse, officials think a lack of oxygen was to blame.

SEE MORE: Scientists Really Want To Smash A Spacecraft Into An Asteroid

The fish were believed to have been chased into a canal by predators, and because it was such a big group, there might not have been enough dissolved oxygen to go around.

An even larger die-off happened in New Jersey earlier this year for likely the same reason: too many fish for all of them breathe.

Birds are also common victims of mass die-offs. Depending on the time of the year, thousands of birds will roost together as a group. If something causes mass panic, like fireworks, the birds all fly in different directions at once. Simply crashing into each other at high speeds is enough to kill hundreds at a time.

Yes, humans are sometimes responsible for the die-offs, like when habitats become over-polluted.

But in some cases, the reason is simply too many animals in the same place at the wrong time.

Even if the reason for the deaths isn't a cause for concern, the die-offs can be. They can put a sudden strain on the local ecosystems the animals were a part of.

<![CDATA[Scientists Really Want To Smash A Spacecraft Into An Asteroid]]> Wed, 16 Nov 2016 19:43:00 -0600
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Scientists at the European Space Agency and NASA want to make sure we're prepared for a potentially Earth-threatening asteroid strike.

But what could we do to actually stop an asteroid headed straight for Earth? 

SEE MORE: NASA's Asteroid Detection System Proved Its Worth

Despite what Hollywood would have you believe, the answer isn't to nuke it to smithereens, a la "Armageddon." 

Instead, NASA and the European agency basically want to shove the asteroid out of the way using a direct impact from a spacecraft.  

"We are now, for the first time in our history, at a level of technological capability to maybe detect and do something about the threat from asteroids," former astronaut Chris Hadfield said

SEE MORE: NASA Wants To Go To An Asteroid And Bring Part Of It Back

A group of scientists published a letter Monday supporting a field test of an asteroid deflection system that aims to do just that.

It's called the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment mission, or AIDA. 

Scientists made it clear that the mission needs to launch in 2020 while its target — a binary asteroid system — will be close to Earth.

Close is pretty relative when it comes to asteroids. In this case, close is about 6.8 million miles away from Earth.

Scientists believe asteroid strikes like the one that killed the dinosaurs are incredibly rare — with tens of millions of years between them. But other potentially dangerous impacts happen more often

SEE MORE: This Doomsday Asteroid Could Be Major Scientific Boon For NASA

The European Space Agency's council of ministers is meeting in December to decide whether to fund the 2020 mission.

Since most asteroids are leftovers from the early days of the solar system, AIDA has the potential to give insight into how solar system was formed — as well as acting as a potential safety net for humanity.

<![CDATA[This Breakthrough In DNA Editing Could Help Cure Diseases]]> Wed, 16 Nov 2016 13:00:00 -0600
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Gene therapy is a breakthrough that's seemed just out of reach for decades. It's based on the idea that, if you could just swap out a faulty gene for a healthy one in someone's cells, you could cure all kinds of diseases that are gene-related, like Alzheimer's.

But our best tools still only change genes one cell at a time, so the fastest way to get a lot of modified cells is to let them divide and grow on their own. This means cells that have already grown into fully formed organs are harder to treat.

SEE MORE: Gene Editing Tool CRISPR Is Making Scientists Face The Hard Questions

Until now, that is. Researchers have figured out how to edit the DNA of cells that have already stopped dividing, allowing them to change the genes of fully formed hearts, eyes or brains, right where they are. This could help treat all sorts of diseases in adults who didn't really have any options for therapy before. 

Mature cells have a way to repair breaks in their strands of DNA. Researchers at the Salk Institute added new DNA in specific spots, and then piggybacked on the natural repair process. 

The result was modified genes, with no cell division necessary. Five weeks after they tested the technique on the retinas of blind lab rats, the rats had started to respond to light and passed several other tests.

If this technique gets approval, it could make CRISPR, that gene-editing system that's driven so much research, an even more powerful tool for doctors to tackle genetic diseases. The researchers say the possibilities are "vast."

<![CDATA[Ibuprofen May Not Be The Safest Treatment For Chronic Pain]]> Tue, 15 Nov 2016 11:42:00 -0600
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Ibuprofen may not be the safest medication to treat chronic pain. 

That doesn't necessarily mean ibuprofen medications like Advil are unsafe, but a new study found celecoxib — marketed as Celebrex — may have fewer risks than other anti-inflammatory drugs.

Thousands of patients with chronic pain were put on doses of celecoxib, ibuprofen or naproxen (the drug found in Aleve) for roughly two years. 

Participants in the study were taking these drugs to treat conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. 

Many doctors have been prescribing ibuprofen or naproxen first because celecoxib and similar drugs were believed to cause heart problems. 

But in the study, celecoxib did not cause more heart attacks, strokes or deaths compared to ibuprofen, and it actually showed a lower risk for kidney problems. 

The study's lead author said, "In almost every measure, ibuprofen looks worse, naproxen is intermediate and celecoxib is the best."

Before you switch away from ibuprofen, though, here are a couple things to keep in mind. 

SEE MORE: For Rats (And Humans) Ticklish Is A State Of Mind

Those who were studied already had heart problems to begin with. And the study looked at prescription doses of the drugs, which are higher than what you'd take over the counter. 

Plus, the study didn't evaluate celecoxib's effectiveness at treating chronic pain –– researchers were just looking at whether taking the drug came with added health risks. 

Insurance companies often cover ibuprofen and naproxen, though, because previous studies have shown they're effective treatments. 

Critics have noted a high number of participants dropped out during the study, but the researchers note all three drugs had about the same proportion of people dropping out. 

<![CDATA[Trump Might Want To Rethink Pulling Out Of The Paris Agreement]]> Tue, 15 Nov 2016 08:40:00 -0600
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While on the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump promised to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The agreement was ratified earlier this year. It required at least 55 countries representing 55 percent of global emissions to ratify it. The European Union, Canada and nine other countries bumped that total over the threshold.

SEE MORE: The Paris Agreement May Not Do What It's Supposed To

"I will direct every agency in government to begin identifying all wasteful, job-killing regulations, and they are going to be removed. This will include lifting the restrictions on American energy," Trump said at a rally in North Carolina.

But because the agreement is already in full effect, Trump can't formally withdraw from it — although he could simply ignore it.

The Paris Agreement does not include any legally binding emissions goals, only a promise by each country to try to pursue and strengthen the goals it set.

But former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called for economic sanctions if Trump doesn't adhere to the agreement. 

Sarkozy's criticism is more significant than other former European leaders'. He seems to be the frontrunner for the nomination from the center-right Les Républicains party. French presidential elections are coming up, and if he wins, he would become Trump's counterpart.

According to Radio France Internationale, Sarkozy said, "I will demand that Europe put in place a carbon tax at its border, a tax of 1-3 percent, for all products coming from the United States, if the United States doesn't apply environmental rules that we are imposing on our companies."

The threat of a carbon tax, combined with a hit to the United States' international reputation, could make Trump think twice about "pulling out of the deal."

The Paris Agreement was finalized quickly, in part, because of concerns about U.S. participation if Trump was elected. The president-elect has already started easing up on campaign promises, so it's unclear if he'll follow through with this one.  

<![CDATA[Japanese Repaired A Giant Sinkhole In Just A Few Days]]> Tue, 15 Nov 2016 07:31:00 -0600
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Workers in Japan took just days to fill a sinkhole that stretched across a five-lane road.

The sinkhole appeared early last week in a southwestern Japanese city outside a busy railway station. Surrounding buildings were evacuated as it threatened to take structures down with it.

One bystander told the Kyodo News Agency, "The electricity went off suddenly, and I heard a loud boom."

SEE MORE: This Sinkhole Swallowed More Than A Dozen Cars In Florence, Italy

But the quick repair — which included reinstalling electricity, water, sewage, gas and telecommunication lines and resurfacing the road — illustrates Japanese engineering and efficiency.

The speed with which the construction workers completed the task was reminiscent of the effort to reopen damaged roads after the March 2011 triple disaster. More than 18,000 people died after a tsunami was triggered by the strongest recorded earthquake ever in Japan. The tsunami destroyed whole towns and caused a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

As for this recent sinkhole, The Guardian reports that workers filled it with 6,200 cubic meters of sand and cement.

One local official told CNN that nearby construction to expand the city's subway line might have caused the collapse.

SEE MORE: As Japan's Population Ages, Its Economy Can't Keep Up

Any hole in the ground created by wear and tear and water drainage can be considered a sinkhole. They are frequently caused by natural processes but can also be the result of human activity. Their actual size does not matter, but they can be just a few feet across or large enough to swallow entire buildings.

Sinkholes also come in different varieties: Those created over time are called cover-subsidence sinkholes, and those that suddenly appear are called cover-collapse sinkholes.

No one was reported injured in the sudden collapse. The roadway reopened a week later on Tuesday.

<![CDATA[Looks Like 2016 Will Be The Hottest Year On Record]]> Mon, 14 Nov 2016 12:25:00 -0600
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2016 has been hot. So hot in fact that it's "very likely" it will be the hottest year on record.

This is the third year in a row that we've had extreme highs — 2014 and 2015 also had record-breaking temperatures. And a report from the World Meteorological Organization predicts the trend is just going to continue.

SEE MORE: What Could Trump's Policies Mean For Climate Science Efforts?

The organization reports temperatures are about 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer than preindustrial temperatures.

And that's pretty significant because it puts Earth's climate really, really close to the threshold noted in the Paris Climate Agreement signed last year. In that deal, countries pledged to work together to cap temperature increases at 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The report says an El Niño event is partly to blame for the heat wave. The event caused sea levels to rise 15 millimeters between November 2014 and February 2016 and contributed to coral bleaching.

SEE MORE: Global Warming Is Killing Corals In The Great Barrier Reef

But the main problem continues to be greenhouse gas emissions from humans. Earlier this year, carbon emissions hit a milestone Earth might not ever recover from. 

<![CDATA['World's Saddest Polar Bear' Gets A Break From Chinese Mall]]> Mon, 14 Nov 2016 08:26:00 -0600
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The "world's saddest polar bear" is moving out of a Chinese shopping mall, but only temporarily. 

The 3-year-old bear, named Pizza, will move to the park where he was born while his current home is renovated. 

Pizza gained the "saddest bear" moniker after an animal rights campaign spread the word about his living conditions.

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

Not only is Pizza's current enclosure deemed too small, but visitors pound on the glass and snap flash photos. Animal rights advocates say the bear has been showing "classic signs of mental distress." 

Pizza's renovated space will reportedly be twice as big, but other details haven't been released –– including when the bear is expected to return. 

Shoppers rushed to see Pizza after news of his move broke. On Sunday, the mall organized a going-away party for the bear.

Some wonder, though, if Pizza is being moved because his health has declined too much for him to be put on display. 

China does not have an animal welfare law in place, and malls have turned to holding wild animals to attract shoppers. 

<![CDATA[These Little Satellites Could Help Us Learn How Deadly Hurricanes Form]]> Sun, 13 Nov 2016 16:03:00 -0600
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NASA is about to launch a fleet of satellites that will help researchers understand how deadly hurricanes develop.

The Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System is made up of eight small spacecraft that are able to take measurements through the rain of a storm's inner eye, which conventional satellites can't do.

SEE MORE: Our Weather Forecasting Is About To Get A Huge Upgrade

The tiny satellites will collect data about the hurricane's core — like wind speeds, clouds and rain. Officials hope it will help them better understand how the inside of a storm works.

What scientists know now is a storm's core acts as an engine: It takes energy from warm surface water evaporating into the atmosphere. And that energy is what keeps hurricanes and cyclones going.

NASA plans to launch the satellites from Cape Canaveral Air Station in Florida on Dec. 12. Once released, the satellites will continuously monitor Earth's oceans around tropical latitudes.

<![CDATA[What Could Trump's Policies Mean For Climate Science Efforts?]]> Sat, 12 Nov 2016 15:06:00 -0600
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President-elect Donald Trump has promised to open up the American fossil fuel industry and to abandon or cancel many of the U.S.' climate commitments. By some counts when he takes office, he will be the only world leader to deny the evidence of a changing climate.

So where does that leave everyone else? Scientists agree human-caused climate change is a real threat. And now climate researchers — like the rest of the science community — will likely have to work even harder to hold their ground.

SEE MORE: Al Gore Says He'll Work With Donald Trump On Climate Change

This starts in the government agencies that watch global trends. NASA runs whole fleets of satellites and aircraft for climate research, but some who follow the issue closely speculate the Trump administration could slash Earth science funds.

The scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change don't usually take political sides. Current members say they hope U.S. researchers will keep up their contributions, no matter who's in charge.

The U.S. can't just walk away from the Paris climate agreement the way Trump wants to — but it's not legally binding, either. The rest of the parties will have to stick to their commitments to reduce greenhouse emissions and attempt to hold the U.S. to its ownChina and India have made a point to remind Trump it's in everyone's national interest at this point.

Individual states in the U.S. are expected to keep up local cooperation to cut CO2 emissions, regardless of what happens at the White House. Nonprofits and activists are stepping up opposition to Trump's policies.

And for what it's worth, climate-friendly private industry should stay mostly untouched. Renewable energy is starting to hit its stride — so much that analysts don't think policy decisions from Washington will be able to slow it down for long.

<![CDATA[Ideas Circle About How Trump Will Handle The National Parks System]]> Sat, 12 Nov 2016 11:54:00 -0600
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Apparently a few people are vying to become Donald Trump's secretary of the interior.

That speculative list includes oil company CEO Harold Hamm, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and — according to a Politico source — former Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin.

But what the Department of the Interior will look like under a Republican-controlled Congress and presidency is still up in the air.

SEE MORE: Trump Reportedly Considering Ayotte As Possible Secretary Of Defense

And some critics are particularly worried about our national parks. Rumors about what Republicans might do with the park system have been circulating since earlier this year.

Trump is on record saying he's opposed to transferring or selling federal land. But a senior campaign adviser of his told MSNBC in April that part of Trump's plan to lower the national debt would involve selling U.S. assets.

And in July, a committee within the Republican Party voted to make the return of federal lands to the states a party platform.

That proposal found new support among some Republicans after protesters took over a wildlife refuge in Oregon and called for the federal government to return public lands to the states.

It led some people to think the GOP wanted to get rid of national parks and national forests altogether.

But the proposal actually isn't that simple. For one thing, the platform only calls for "certain federally controlled public lands" to be returned to the states, but it doesn't specify what those "certain" lands are.

And the American Lands Council — an organization representing 12 states — has been working on this very issue. They want to make sure national parks aren't transferred to the states.

The Trump administration would have to overturn or weaken the Antiquities Act — which Teddy Roosevelt signed into law in 1906 — to remove protections already extended to existing national parks.

So while it's possible some federal lands could be sold off, the national parks are probably safe.

<![CDATA[These Kids In Oregon Just Won A Big Climate Change Victory]]> Sat, 12 Nov 2016 10:51:00 -0600
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A judge in Oregon just decided a group of kids can sue the government for not acting on climate change.

Judge Ann Aiken rejected a motion by the fossil fuel industry and federal government to dismiss a case brought by a climate scientist and 21 other citizens with ages ranging from 9 to 20 years old.

SEE MORE: Al Gore Says He'll Work With Donald Trump On Climate Change

The kids are supported by Our Children's Trust, an organization that advocates on the behalf of youth in the legal sphere of climate change.

The group argues the damage done to the planet by a lack of action on rising temperatures threatens their "fundamental constitutional rights to life and liberty."

Winning the case in Oregon is a huge victory because they can take their case to trial in federal court. The youngsters are going after after the fossil fuel industry, federal agencies and President Barack Obama.

Despite the U.S. making commitments like the Paris Agreement to combat climate change, the judge overseeing the lawsuit said the world has "suffered" from courts being too cautious on matters involving environmental law.

One of the plaintiffs said, "We're doing what so many people told us we were incapable of doing: holding our leaders accountable for their disastrous and dangerous actions."

<![CDATA[New Dinosaur Fossil Has A Lot In Common With Its Bird Relatives]]> Fri, 11 Nov 2016 18:16:00 -0600
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In case Steven Spielberg is running out of source material for the "Jurassic Park" franchise, scientists announced they've discovered a new kind of dinosaur.

Researchers told the journal Nature about the existence of Tongtianlong limosus, a name that has the awesome meaning "muddy dragon on the road to heaven."

SEE MORE: This Discovered Fossil Could Be The First Of Its Kind

An artist's rendering shows the new dino was roughly the size of a sheep. It most likely had a beak and feathers instead of teeth and scales.

Scientists nearly missed out on the fossil entirely. It was uncovered after construction workers in China practically blew it away with dynamite. Even though some of the skeleton was destroyed, scientists say it's still one of the best-preserved fossils of its kind. 

"One of the reasons this skeleton is so complete and it's so beautiful is because it looks like this dinosaur got stuck in the mud, and it died there. So, very sad for the dinosaur, but that's a good thing for us," University of Edinburgh paleontologist Stephen Brusatte told the BBC.

It belongs to a group of bird-like dinosaurs called oviraptorosaurs that one paleontologist describes as "basically the last group of dinosaurs to blossom before the asteroid hit."

Oviraptorosaurs share a common ancestor with birds, and they can give us a good look at how the dinosaur population diversified just before extinction.

SEE MORE: If Dinosaurs Had Telescopes, Saturn Would've Looked A Lot Different

New discoveries like this run counter to the hypothesis that dinosaur populations started to decline before they went extinct about 66 million years ago. These heaven-bound mud dragons suggest dinosaurs weren't necessarily going away — just changing.

<![CDATA[Al Gore Says He'll Work With Donald Trump On Climate Change]]> Fri, 11 Nov 2016 11:03:00 -0600
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Al Gore has offered to work with President-elect Donald Trump on combating climate change.

The former vice president posted a note on The Climate Reality Project saying he intends to do everything he can to "ensure that our nation remains a leader" in combating the "climate crisis."

Gore has long been an advocate for fighting rising temperatures, and he's talked about the potential repercussions of a Trump presidency. 

SEE MORE: This Climate Amendment May Have Helped Out Earth In A Big Way

"He has said some things on the climate crisis that I think should concern everyone," Gore said on "Today" in May.

Trump has repeatedly said climate change is a "hoax" and blamed it on everything from the Chinese trying to make U.S. industry less competitive, to "hoaxsters" using it to justify higher taxes.

The president-elect has also said he wants to nix the Paris Agreement upon taking office. The agreement was signed last year and took effect Nov. 4. It aims to stop global temps from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius.

Despite this, Gore is hopeful. He notes the businessman said he wanted to be a "president for all Americans," and he hopes Trump sticks true to his word.

<![CDATA[Kerry Becomes First Secretary Of State To Visit All 7 Continents]]> Thu, 10 Nov 2016 20:43:00 -0600
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Secretary of State John Kerry was not in Washington, D.C., on election night. He was actually traveling about as far away from civilization as possible.

Kerry is currently in Antarctica, where he plans to witness some of the greatest effects of climate change firsthand.

SEE MORE: A Giant Stretch Of Sea Near Antarctica Is Now Universally Protected

But he's also breaking a few records while he's at it.

Kerry is now the first secretary of state to visit all seven continents. According to the U.S. Department of State, he's traveled more than 1.3 million miles and spent the equivalent of 118 days in the air.

After visiting Antarctica, Kerry will fly to Marrakesh, Morocco, for the next round of climate negotiations. Combating climate change has been a pivotal aspect of Kerry's agenda.

<![CDATA[For Rats (And Humans) Ticklish Is A State Of Mind]]> Thu, 10 Nov 2016 13:00:00 -0600
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Scientists think tickling and laughter have a social role — in humans and in other animals, including rats. And just like you or me, rats have to be in the right mood to enjoy that.

Rats laugh when they're tickled, and being tickled can even make them more optimistic. Now researchers have figured out how their brains process those sensations.

SEE MORE: Bad Memories Turn Good In Weird Mouse Brain Study

They found this tickle-happiness connection seems to go through the region responsible for touch — and depending on how active that part of the brain is, it can affect how ticklish the rats are.

Tickling fired it up so much that rats jumped for joy after humans played with them. Jolting this area with electricity made them laugh even when they weren't getting tickled. But putting them in stressful situations made that part of the brain quiet down — and they didn't respond as happily to being tickled.

One other interesting detail: When you tickle a human or a rat, both of their brains light up in the same spot.

<![CDATA[A Lot Of Marine Animals Eat Plastic ⏤ Now We Know Why]]> Wed, 09 Nov 2016 21:09:00 -0600
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A lot of plastic ends up in our oceans every year, and animals love to eat it.

For a long time, scientists just assumed the animals ate the plastic because it looked like food. But it turns out, it smells like food, too.

SEE MORE: Our Oceans Are Littered With Trash — Here's How We Could Fix It

In fact, it smells so enticing that 90 percent of seabirds eat it right now. And by 2050, nearly all of them are expected to dine on it.

When algae coats plastic in the ocean, it gives off the same smell it would have if animals like krill were eating it. Since the birds like to eat krill, they're attracted to the smell of the algae. 

It's not just seabirds that are eating plastic. Over 700 species have been seen eating it. And every year, over 100,000 marine animals die from it.

One of the big problems with plastic is that it doesn't decompose. Instead, it breaks down into smaller and smaller chunks as it's weathered by the elements.

SEE MORE: These Six-Pack Rings Feed Sea Animals Instead Of Trapping Them

When an animal eats those chunks, plastic can stay in the animal's system for a long time because its stomach doesn't break the plastic down.

This discovery could help make plastic safer for marine animals. But the bigger problem is still the amount of plastic — 8 million tons — that gets dumped into Earth's oceans each year.