Science

NPR Science
4:39 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

'Zombie' Ants And The Fungus That Saves Them

A zombie ant with the brain-manipulating fungus (Ophiocordyceps unilateralis s.l.) having been castrated by an hyperparasite fungus (white with yellow material).
David Hughes Penn State University

Originally published on Wed May 2, 2012 4:59 pm

As you can probably tell, at least one person on this blog's masthead likes ants.

So we've always been bummed that we haven't had the opportunity to tell you about zombie ants, but today we are glad to report there is a new development in the field. Luckily, it's a good-news report about a fungus that limits the fungus that turns ants into zombies.

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health politics
10:27 am
Wed May 2, 2012

Even without health law, some reforms will stay, predicts former Obama official

A controversial former Obama health-care administrator was in Seattle this week, speaking to 1,000 people about what can be learned from medical mistakes--saying patient safety should be an ethical imperative .

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immunizations
11:10 am
Mon April 30, 2012

Federal campaign reaches out to Northwest's vaccine-shy parents

File photo courtesy Centers for Disease Control

Originally published on Fri April 27, 2012 5:15 pm

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho - The federal government’s top health officers are making an appeal to the Northwest’s medical community to boost vaccination rates. The deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control’s immunization branch spoke at a public health conference in Coeur d’Alene Friday as part of the national campaign.

Last year, Washington and Oregon immunization rates were among the lowest in the nation. Idaho’s was average. That’s according to a CDC survey.

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food safety
6:08 am
Mon April 30, 2012

Lavender farmers want attention from foodies

Hidecote Pink Variety of culinary lavender.
Sequim Lavender Farmers Association

The area around Sequim on Washington's Olympic peninsula is known as one of the top lavender growing regions in the nation. Most of that lavender ends up as dried flowers or scented potpourri.

Nowadays, it’s also ending up in food. The growers are meeting today (April 30th) to discuss the safest ways to make those flower buds edible, using a certification process.

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space exploration
11:02 am
Wed April 25, 2012

Before attacking asteroids, they'll surround Earth with telescopes

This computer-generated image provided by Planetary Resources, a group of high-tech tycoons that wants to mine nearby asteroids, shows a conceptual rendering of satellites prospecting a water-rich, near-Earth asteroid.
The Associated Press

Whether they ever manage to get any platinum out of an asteroid, Bellevue-based Planetary Resources could become known for surrounding Earth with telescopes.  

That’s the first item in the “prospecting” stage of the space company’s effort to get precious metals from asteroids, using robotic space-craft.

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NPR Science
9:30 am
Sat April 21, 2012

Lights off, eyes open: New moon darkens skies for meteor shower

A composite of Lyrids over Huntsville, Ala., in 2009. This year, the meteor shower will hit its peak before dawn Sunday morning.
Danielle Moser/MSFC NASA

Originally published on Sat April 21, 2012 7:58 pm

Tonight is a good night for a meteor shower. The Lyrids aren't known for their flashy shows, but this year they're getting help from a new moon.

The dark skies will be "ideal for meteor watching from the ground," NASA says.

Kelly Beatty, senior contributing editor for Sky and Telescope magazine, tells Weekend Edition host Scott Simon the best views are from the darkest places.

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earthquakes
10:25 am
Wed April 18, 2012

Prototype early warning system worked during Calif. quake

This GPS station near the summit of Mount Olympus in Olympic National Park could be part of a future earthquake detection and early warning system. Courtesy of Tim Melbourne, CWU

Originally published on Tue April 17, 2012 5:00 pm

A prototype earthquake early warning system worked as designed when an actual quake gently shook California last Friday. Researchers reported the results Tuesday at the annual meeting of American seismologists.

Last year, a private foundation in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey gave a multimillion dollar grant to create an automated earthquake warning system for the Pacific Coast states.

The idea is to provide advance notice to prepare people for severe shaking. It could come via a cell phone alert or a pop-up on your computer or TV screen.

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NPR science
8:32 am
Wed April 18, 2012

Can you think your way to that hole-in-one?

Bo Van Pelt celebrates his hole-in-one during the final round of the Masters on April 8. New research suggests that golfers may be able to improve their games by believing the hole they're aiming for is larger than it really is.
Andrew Redington Getty Images

Originally published on Wed April 18, 2012 4:50 am

Psychologists at Purdue University have come up with an interesting twist on the old notion of the power of positive thinking. Call it the power of positive perception: They've shown that you may be able to improve your golf game by believing the hole you're aiming for is larger than it really is.

Jessica Witt, who studies how perception and performance are related, decided to look at golf — specifically, how the appearance of the hole changes depending on whether you're playing well or poorly.

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Shots - Health Blog
9:16 am
Mon April 16, 2012

Why Women Suffer More Migraines Than Men

A vintage ad for a headache remedy plays to women.
The National Library of Medicine

Originally published on Mon April 16, 2012 5:52 am

One in four women has had a migraine. And, it turns out, the debilitating headaches affect three times more women than men.

But why?

Decades ago, these headaches were attributed to women's inability to cope with stress, a sort of hysteria. Now experts are starting to figure out the factors that really make a difference.

Today scientists know a migraine is all in your head — but not in that old-fashioned sense. Migraines are biologically based, and they play themselves out as a wave of electrical activity traveling across the brain.

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Virus controversy
10:33 am
Tue April 10, 2012

Bird Flu Studies Mired In Export Control Law Limbo

An electron microscope view of the bird flu virus.
PR Newswire

Originally published on Tue April 10, 2012 4:50 am

Scientists who created mutant forms of bird flu want to see their research published, and an influential advisory committee recently gave them the green light after a debate that lasted for months.

But one of the manuscripts is now being blocked from publication because of Dutch legal controls on the export of technology that could potentially be used for weapons.

It's just the latest example of how complicated international export control laws have affected the debate over what to do about two studies on bird flu.

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Science
12:27 pm
Thu April 5, 2012

Autism researchers zeroing in on a genetic cause

If the wrong genetic switch gets flipped, it could trigger autism
danmachold flickr

Scientists have been pretty sure autism must begin very early in development, possibly even at the moment a sperm meets an egg. New research, conducted partially in Seattle, supports two interesting theories:

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Science
10:50 am
Wed April 4, 2012

Confirmation: Pressing the chest saves lives

American Red Cross "hands-only" CPR training, using an inflatable mannequin.
The Associated Press

Focus on your hands. 

That underlying message is getting reinforcement from new research on how to save someone who has a sudden heart attack. Victims who get CPR that emphasizes chest compressions have a survival rate that's nearly double those who get older types of CPR, according to a study from King County.

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Shots - Health Blog
8:31 am
Sat March 31, 2012

Scientific Journals Plan To Publish Contentious Bird Flu Research

Originally published on Fri March 30, 2012 3:12 pm

A government advisory committee has reconsidered its advice to keep certain details of bird flu experiments secret.

Revised versions of manuscripts that describe two recent studies can be openly published, the committee now says. The decision could help end a contentious debate that has raged within the scientific community for months.

In response, the editors of two journals immediately said they planned to publish the research soon.

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heart transplant
1:39 pm
Thu March 22, 2012

Man walks out of Seattle hospital with no heartbeat (just a pump)

Chris Marshall shows off the mobile pump and battery pack for his artificial heart, with his wife Kathy and surgeon Dr. Nahush Mokadam at his side (Mokadam is also holding a sample of an artificial heart), at UW Medical Center.
Keith Seinfeld KPLU

Of all the organs to take out of your body, the heart is the most dramatic. About 90 people in the Pacific Northwest are on a wait-list for a heart transplant. While they're waiting, many are confined to bed, for months or even years at a time, with an artificial heart connected to a 418-pound pump. 

A new artificial heart allows them to walk around, and, now, even leave the hospital. It’s still considered experimental, although it’s been used more than 1,000 times around the world.

The first person to walk onto the streets of Seattle with an artificial heart—plus its external battery pack—exited the University of Washington Medical Center on Wednesday.

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Shots - Health Blog
12:00 pm
Thu March 22, 2012

What your gynecologist doesn't know about your sex life, but should

Having trouble in bed? Don't expect your gynecologist to ask.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu March 22, 2012 11:48 am

If your OB-GYN doesn't ask you about your sex life, who will?

That's the question that comes to mind on reading about a new survey of the women's health specialists and what they don't talk about with their patients.

Most gynecologists did ask a patient if she was sexually active. A measly 14 percent asked about sexual activity and pleasure. Only 28 percent asked about a patient's sexual orientation. Yet one-quarter of the doctors say they had expressed disapproval of their patients' sexual practices.

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