Science & Environment

The Salt
5:57 pm
Wed October 24, 2012

Data Linking Aspartame To Cancer Risk Is Too Weak To Defend, Hospital Says

Diet soda
Maggie Starbard NPR

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 6:06 pm

We almost brought you news today about a study that appeared to raise some troubling questions about aspartame, the popular sugar substitute found in many common foods like diet soda. Note the key word — almost.

A study due to be published at 3 p.m. Wednesday in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and released to reporters earlier in the week under embargo found some correlation between drinking diet soda and an increased risk of leukemia and Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, as well as a few other rare blood-related cancers.

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Animals
4:56 pm
Wed October 24, 2012

In Animal Kingdom, Voting Of A Different Sort Reigns

A school of manini fish passes over a coral reef at Hanauma Bay in 2005, in Honolulu. Researchers say schooling behavior like the kind seen in fish helps groups of animals make better decisions than any one member of the group could.
Donald Miralle Getty Images

Originally published on Thu October 25, 2012 9:57 am

As part of NPR's coverage of this year's presidential election, All Things Considered asked three science reporters to weigh in on the race. The result is a three-part series on the science of leadership. In Part 1, Alix Spiegel looked at the personalities of American presidents.

Voters could learn some things about choosing a leader from a fish. Or a chimp. Or an elephant.

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Krulwich Wonders...
12:25 pm
Wed October 24, 2012

When You're Almost Extinct, Your Price Goes Up

Illustration by NPR

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 12:35 pm

When a species gets rare, its market value rises. The higher its price, the more it's hunted. The more it's hunted, the rarer it gets. Not a happy cycle, and this keeps happening ...

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The Salt
10:36 am
Wed October 24, 2012

When Fire Met Meat, The Brains Of Early Humans Grew Bigger

Actors Stan Laurel and Edna Marlon play at socializing around the campfire. It turns out that early man's brain developed in part thanks to cooking.
Hulton Archive Getty

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 1:08 pm

If you're reading this blog, you're probably into food. Perhaps you're even one of those people whose world revolves around your Viking stove and who believes that cooking defines us as civilized creatures.

Well, on the latter part, you'd be right. At least according to some neuroscientists from Brazil.

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Science
5:36 pm
Tue October 23, 2012

Italian Seismologists Convicted Of Manslaughter

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 4:18 am

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Scientists around the world were stunned yesterday when a judge in Italy found six Italian earthquake experts and a government official guilty of manslaughter. The judge found that the men downplayed the risk of a major earthquake in the city of L'Aquila. A 6.3 magnitude quake struck in early April 2009 and killed more than 300 people. Shortly before that earthquake struck, the scientists had held a meeting in L'Aquila to examine a recent spate of tremors, a so-called swarm of seismic activity.

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Animals
1:53 pm
Tue October 23, 2012

Baby Beluga, Swim So Wild And Sing For Me

This image, from an archival video, shows the white whale NOC swimming around and under researchers' boats.
Current Biology

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 4:18 am

Whales are among the great communicators of the animal world. They produce all sorts of sounds: squeaks, whistles and even epic arias worthy of an opera house.

And one whale in particular has apparently done something that's never been documented before: He imitated human speech.

The beluga, or white whale, is smallish as whales go and very cute, if you're into marine mammals. Belugas are called the "canaries of the sea" because they're very vocal.

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Krulwich Wonders...
1:21 pm
Tue October 23, 2012

See No Evil, Say No Evil. But As for Hearing? Hmmm

Dorit Hockman Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, University of Cambridge

Originally published on Tue October 23, 2012 3:07 pm

These are baby bats — embryos actually. They remind me of those See No Evil, Say No Evil, Hear No Evil monkey pictures I saw growing up, but these little guys are much, much cuter. And, of course, being bats, the hearing thing doesn't apply. Bats don't hear with our kind of ears, so of course, there's no covering-ears-up picture. That wouldn't make bat sense.

This photograph was taken by Dorit Hockman of Cambridge University. It's the 20th place winner in the Nikon Small World 2012 Photomicrography Competition.

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Krulwich Wonders...
12:33 pm
Mon October 22, 2012

How Human Beings Almost Vanished From Earth In 70,000 B.C.

Robert Krulwich NPR

Add all of us up, all 7 billion human beings on earth, and clumped together we weigh roughly 750 billion pounds. That, says Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson, is more than 100 times the biomass of any large animal that's ever walked the Earth. And we're still multiplying. Most demographers say we will hit 9 billion before we peak, and what happens then?

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Science
8:11 am
Mon October 22, 2012

Research Highlights Strengths Of Adolescent Brain

Adolescent brains have gotten a bad rap, according to neuroscientists. It's true that teenage brains can be impulsive, scientists reported at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in New Orleans. But adolescent brains are also vulnerable, dynamic and highly responsive to positive feedback.

Science
8:11 am
Mon October 22, 2012

Amateur 'Planet Hunters' Find One With Four Suns

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Now is the moment in the program when I admit that I am a total Star Wars nut. Those of you with me, you might recall that Luke Skywalker's home planet of Tatooine enjoyed the warmth of not one but two suns. That dramatic scene, you remember Luke at dusk gazing at the weird peaceful sunset.

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