Health & Science

Ways to Connect

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Sarah Stewart likes to think about what happens when planets collide. She uses two actual cannons to simulate those massive impacts. Here's one firing in her lab at UC Davis.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Firing in three, two, one.

Have you ever noticed that when something important is missing in your life, your brain can only seem to focus on that missing thing?

Life lately in the tiny northern Minnesota town of Gilbert has resembled a scene out of an Alfred Hitchcock film. Birds, lots of birds, have been "flying into windows, cars and acting confused," according to the city police department, which has been fielding reports from anxious residents.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello had just moved to New York when Hurricane Sandy blew in from the Atlantic and buffeted the East Coast.

She heard that the labs at New York University, where she was working — and its freezer — were losing power. So she ran to the failing freezer, took the microbiota samples she'd gathered as a researcher in Puerto Rico over the past 14 years and stored them elsewhere.

Microbiota are the bacteria colonizing the human body — the gut, skin, mouth, and so on — that often help regulate your health. Researchers call them "beneficial germs."

Gregg Gonsalves took a wild, meandering path to the Ivory Tower. His route to becoming a professor at Yale started in street protests and spanned the globe.

On Thursday he was honored with a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship.

Gonsalves is one of this year's MacArthur "geniuses." The award from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation comes with a $625,000 no-strings-attached stipend.

Last week, Facebook announced the most serious security breach in its history, in which unknown hackers were able to log onto the accounts of nearly 50 million Facebook users.

Updated at 3:57 p.m. ET

What could possibly bring together a painter, an economist, a pastor and a planetary scientist? If you ask the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the answer is simpler than you may think: They've all shown creativity, potential for future achievements — and the likelihood that $625,000, meted out over five years, will help them complete their grand designs.

Despite a warning to wear rattlesnake shin guards when walking through the Hill Country, the only sound I hear is the ticking of grasshoppers, crickets and dragonflies on this 100-degree day in Spicewood, Texas.

I'm hunting mesquite trees, and they bite. Their branches, spiked with two-inch thorns, hold desert-colored, seed-hugging beans that rattle when they're ready to pick. If you break one open and put it in your mouth, it tastes lightly sweet.

You Don't Have To Pass Out To Be Blackout Drunk

Oct 4, 2018

Sign up for the CommonHealth newsletter to receive a weekly digest of WBUR's best health, medicine and science coverage.

Unless you've been blissfully unplugged, you must have come across the term "blackout" lately. And you may have thought it means inebriated to the point of unconsciousness. Falling-down drunk. Blotto.

The story Nicole Chung was told about her adoption was always the same: "Your birth parents had just moved here from Korea. They thought they wouldn't be able to give you the life you deserved."

Her adoptive parents were white Catholics living in Oregon who told the story with joy: explaining that Chung was born 10 weeks premature, that her birth parents worried she would struggle all her life, that they believed adoption was the best thing for her.

The wrenching testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, who is accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of a sexual assault years ago, raises questions about the long-term emotional and physical toll this kind of trauma takes on survivors and how our society responds to those who come forward long after the assault.

Updated at 2 p.m. ET

A federal grand jury in Pennsylvania has indicted seven Russian military intelligence officers, accusing them of hacking into U.S. and international anti-doping agencies and sports federations and of accessing data related to 250 athletes from about 30 countries.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Most of the Twitter accounts that spread disinformation during the 2016 presidential campaign remain active now, according to an ambitious new study released on Thursday.

Knight Foundation researchers examined millions of tweets and concluded that more than 80 percent of the accounts associated with the 2016 disinformation campaign are still posting — even after Twitter announced back in July that it had instituted a purge of fake accounts.

Capitol Police have arrested a man accused of publishing to the Internet restricted personal information about South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.

At 17 years old and partly blind and deaf, Lady is in the twilight of her life. But thanks to the keen eye of an animal control officer and some uncanny canine scrappiness, Lady will be able to live out the remainder of her days in the comfort of home in Brooklyn, Conn.

Copyright 2018 New Hampshire Public Radio. To see more, visit New Hampshire Public Radio.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

As a researcher looks on, a lemur takes a long whiff of a fruit growing from a tree in an eastern Madagascar rainforest. It passes the animal's test. The lemur takes a bite.

Seconds later it sniffs at another fruit on the same tree. This time, it's not interested.

Scientists may have detected the first moon orbiting a planet in a far-off solar system, though they caution that they still want to confirm the finding with another round of telescope observations.

"The fact is, it's so strange and it's the first of its kind," says David Kipping, an astronomer at Columbia University. "That demands a higher level of rigor and skepticism than you would normally apply to a run-of-the-mill detection."

Travelers arriving in New Zealand may be asked to enter their passcode or fingerprint to allow customs agents to search their electronic devices. And if they don't comply? They could be fined up to 5,000 New Zealand dollars — about $3,270 U.S.

This is due to new legislation called the Customs and Excise Act 2018, which updates language from a 1996 law. The law, which went into effect this week, also gives agents the authority to copy or clone any data on searched devices.

Fall has arrived, which means seasonal scents will start wafting across the United States. Dried leaves in the Northeast. The dusty Santa Ana winds of California. Pumpkin-spice everything at your local hipster hangout.

But residents in the American Southwest probably consider their aroma the best: the intoxicating, eye-watering eau de roasted chile.

Cow Dung Soap Is Cleaning Up In India

Oct 3, 2018

The shelves in Umesh Soni's little store in downtown Mumbai are neatly stacked with soaps. There are handmade translucent bars, brightly colored circular soaps in tropical variants and square black bathing bars. It looks like any other soap shop.

Except all the soaps include cow dung and cow urine as ingredients.

Why make soap from this stuff?

Writer and director Tamara Jenkins was in her early 40s and struggling with infertility when she and her husband began what she calls a "by any means necessary" campaign to have a child.

It was an emotionally draining time. They looked into international adoption and also began in vitro fertilization treatment. A friend in whom Jenkins confided encouraged her to write about her experiences, but Jenkins demurred.

"I was horrified and just repulsed," she says. "I would never write about this stuff."

The Mascot lander floated down to the surface of an asteroid hurtling through space, capturing photographs and other data, according to the German Aerospace Center. The lander sent a photo of its descent — showing its own shadow on the asteroid's surface.

The craft's Twitter feed echoed Alice in Wonderland, declaring: "And then I found myself in a place like no place on Earth. A land full of wonder, mystery and danger!"

Why Infanticide Is A Problem In Senegal

Oct 3, 2018

Editor's note: This story is about infanticide — the killing of a newborn baby — and includes graphic descriptions of that practice.

The trauma of sexual assault or harassment is not only hard to forget; it may also leave lasting effects on a woman's health. This finding of a study published Wednesday adds support to a growing body of evidence suggesting the link.

Updated 9:25 a.m. ET

American Frances H. Arnold has won half of the 2018 Nobel Prize in chemistry for her work in changing how chemists produce new enzymes, sharing the prize with another American, George Smith, and Sir Gregory Winter of the U.K. for research that has led to new pharmaceuticals and cancer treatments.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It is Nobel Prize week. So far, Nobels have been handed out for physics and medicine, and today is chemistry. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the winners in Stockholm.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking in Swedish)

When they're sick, Americans seem to know what they want: antibiotics. And if they don't get them, their doctors' reputations may suffer.

A study published Monday finds that patients rated themselves happiest with their doctor's visit when they got an antibiotic after seeking care for a respiratory tract infection, such as a common cold, whether they needed the drug or not.

Pages