Science & Environment

Shots - Health News
4:36 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

Experimental Tool Uses Light To Tweak The Living Brain

A technique called optogenetics is being used in the laboratory to observe and control what brain circuits are doing in real time.
Henning Dalhoff Getty Images/Science Photo Library RM

Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 8:09 am

When President Obama announced his BRAIN Initiative in April, he promised to give scientists "the tools they need to get a dynamic picture of the brain in action."

An early version of one of those tools already exists, scientists say. It's a relatively new set of techniques called optogenetics that allows researchers to control the activity of brain cells using light.

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The Salt
3:18 am
Thu December 26, 2013

More People Have More To Eat, But It's Not All Good News

The Brazilian agricultural sector exported for a value of $94,590 million in 2011. One of its largest exports is soybeans, like these in Cascavel, Parana.
Werner Rudhart DPA /Landov

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 9:03 am

Among the things to celebrate this holiday season is the fact that there are fewer hungry people in the world. Just how many? Well, since 1965, researchers in Europe have been tracking the world's food supply and where it's going.

The good news is: The percentage of the world's population getting what the researchers say is a sufficient diet has grown from 30 percent to 61 percent.

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Shots - Health News
1:03 pm
Wed December 25, 2013

Diabetes Gene Common In Latinos Has Ancient Roots

The skull of a female Neanderthal, who lived about 50,000 years ago, is displayed at the Natural History Museum in London.
Rick Findler/Barcroft Media Landov

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 11:02 am

When it comes to the rising prevalence of Type 2 diabetes, there are many factors to blame.

Diet and exercise sit somewhere at the top of the list. But the genes that some of us inherit from Mom and Dad also help determine whether we develop the disease, and how early it crops up.

Now an international team of scientists have identified mutations in a gene that suggests an explanation for why Latinos are almost twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes as Caucasians and African-Americans.

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Krulwich Wonders...
8:03 am
Wed December 25, 2013

This Is Bo, Who's Putting New Beats In New Places. You Should Meet Him

boburnham YouTube

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 9:34 am

Every so often — and it isn't often, because while I'm always looking, always hoping, it's so rare to find — but this week it happened. A friend sent me an email that said, "You've got to check out this video."

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Number Of The Year
5:56 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

Beyond Cuteness: Scientists Deliver A Panda Baby Boom

(Clockwise, from left) Yuanzai, Mei Huan, Happy Leopard, Mei Lun, Xing Bao and Bao Bao — six of the 49 pandas born in captivity in 2013.
(Clockwise, from left) Xinhua/Landov; Courtesy of Zoo Atlanta; Animal Press/Barcroft Media/Landov; Courtesy of Zoo Atlanta; EPA/Sergio Barrenechea/Landov; Abby Wood/UPI/Landov

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 8:02 pm

This year, Zoo Vienna welcomed Fu Bao, or "Happy Leopard." Madrid celebrated the birth of Xing Bao, or "Star Treasure." And in Washington, D.C., the arrival of Bao Bao, or "Precious Treasure," had panda fans glued to panda cams.

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Space
4:35 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

Space Station Gets Fixed In Christmas Eve Space Walk

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 8:02 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Flying above the Earth today other Christmas Eve mission, surfing the globe of thousands of miles an hour, were two astronauts. In a spacewalk today, they replaced a pump that is crucial for normal operations aboard the International Space Station.

NPR's Joe Palca has more.

JOE PALCA, BYLINE: The pump circulates ammonia coolant around the station in one of two independent cooling systems. Having two systems is essential for removing the heat generated by all the station's electrical equipment.

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Shots - Health News
3:40 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

Could Pot Help Veterans With PTSD? Brain Scientists Say Maybe

There's data to support the notion that pot, or a drug based on its active ingredient, could help ease the fears of PTSD.
Ted S. Warren AP

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 11:50 am

Veterans who smoke marijuana to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder may be onto something. There's growing evidence that pot can affect brain circuits involved in PTSD.

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The Salt
11:43 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Hair Dryer Cooking: From S'mores To Crispy Duck

Ready for a blowout: Blasting the duck with the dryer before roasting dehydrates the flesh so the skin gets firm and crispy.
Michaeleen Doucleff NPR

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 9:54 am

This past year, we've introduced you to some wacky cooking methods. We've made an entire lunch in a coffee maker and even poached salmon and pears in the dishwasher.

But a few weeks ago, we stumbled upon a crazy culinary appliance that may be the most legitimate of them all: the hair dryer.

Now, before you think we've fallen off the kitchen stool from too much eggnog, check out the science and history behind the idea.

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NPR Story
5:16 am
Tue December 24, 2013

What Does The Future Hold For Climate Change?

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 7:24 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And in these last days of 2013 we've been having conversations about the future. Rather than grand predictions, we've been seeking a realistic assessment of what lies ahead. So far we've explored cybersecurity, we've looked at the changing electorate. When it comes to climate change, the topic for today, Andrew Steer of the World Resources Institute told my colleague Steve Inskeep that the trends don't look very good.

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The Two-Way
8:52 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

Alan Turing, Who Cracked Nazi Code, Gets Posthumous Pardon

Detail of a Turing Bombe machine in Bletchley Park Museum in Bletchley, central England. The device, the brainchild of Alan Turning, was instrumental in cracking the German code during World War II.
Alessia Pierdomenico Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 4:18 pm

British mathematician Alan Turing, who helped crack Nazi Germany's 'Enigma' code and laid the groundwork for modern computing, was pardoned on Tuesday, six decades after his conviction for homosexuality is said to have driven him to suicide.

Following his singular contributions toward winning the war against Adolph Hitler, Turing's 1952 conviction is believed to have led two and a half years later to him taking his life by ingesting cyanide.

The Associated Press reports:

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