Health & Science

Ways to Connect

Exactly 15 months after it completed a seemingly impossible journey to land on the surface of a comet, the Philae lander now faces "eternal hibernation," as officials at the European Space Agency say the craft doesn't get enough sunlight to power its batteries.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

One of the world's most famous and oldest spacecraft is revealing some of its past. Apollo 11 was the first mission to land humans on the moon. As Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the lunar surface, Michael Collins circled above in the command module called Columbia.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Dr. Paul Kalanithi was preparing to wrap up his medical residency in neurosurgery when, in 2013, a CT scan revealed tumors throughout his body. He had stage 4 lung cancer.

In his last two years of life, he continued caring for patients. He and his wife became parents. And Kalanithi, a gifted writer, wrote a book, When Breath Becomes Air, a reflection on being a doctor with a terminal illness.

He died March 9, 2015. He was 37 years old.

If you've ever seen what a Neanderthal is supposed to have looked like, it might be hard to imagine mating with one. But modern humans did. We know because, a few years ago, scientists found stretches of Neanderthal DNA in living humans.

And now there's evidence, from a study published Thursday in Science, that some of that DNA might help shape our health.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The odds of getting Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia are declining for people who are more educated and avoiding heart disease, a study finds. The results suggest that people may have some control over their risk of dementia as they age.

This isn't the first study to find that the incidence of dementia is waning, but it may be the best so far. Researchers looked at 30 years of records from more than 5,000 people in the famed Framingham Heart Study, which has closely tracked the health of volunteers in Framingham, Mass.

Melissa Melby, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Delaware, was pleased to hear a pre-med undergraduate excitedly describe participating in a brief medical outreach program to an impoverished Central American community. That is, until the student proudly recounted how she had performed a pelvic exam on a patients at the local clinic.

Deep in the heart of the arcane laws that give farmers a helping hand, there's something called "crop insurance." It's a huge program, costing taxpayers anywhere from $5 billion to $10 billion each year.

It's called an insurance program, and it looks like insurance. Farmers buy policies from private companies and pay premiums (which are cheap because of government subsidies) to insure themselves against crop failures and falling prices. It's mainly used by corn, soybean, cotton and wheat farmers. Defenders of the program call it a safety net.

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode To Endure

About Lord Martin Rees' TED Talk

Astronomer and cosmologist Lord Martin Rees asks whether our species will endure despite the many existential threats we face.

About Lord Martin Rees

Lord Martin Rees is an emeritus professor of cosmology and astrophysics at University of Cambridge.

In the summer of 2014, a 23-year-old pregnant woman entered the military hospital at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan with a cut on her left cheek. The wound had been stitched up elsewhere, but she still wasn't quite right.

She said she'd been hit in the face by a ricochet back in her home village. What hit her exactly, she couldn't say for sure. She was upset, though, because the vision was bad in her left eye, even though there had been no apparent trauma to it.

Don't get pregnant.

That's the advice given to women by the governments of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and El Salvador in light of a possible link between the Zika virus, which is spreading in those countries, and a birth defect called microcephaly, which results in an abnormally small head and possible brain damage. Brazil has reported thousands of cases of microcephaly since the outbreak began there last spring; researchers are trying to determine whether the virus is the cause.

For the Midwesterner who likes to eat local, this time of year is a challenge. Browse the produce shelves in middle America — or any place where snow falls in winter — and you'll find carrots from Mexico and peppers from Peru.

The push by Syrian government forces and their allies has put about 300,000 civilians in the northern city of Aleppo at risk of being placed under siege and cut off from food and humanitarian supplies, according to the U.N.

Since the start of last week, the offensive has displaced some 51,000 civilians from what was Syria's biggest city before the start of the war, the United Nations says.

When 28-year-old Charis Hill discovered that the cost of medication to treat her degenerative arthritis had risen to $2,000 a month, she chose to be in pain instead.

"I felt like an invalid," said Hill, who lives in Sacramento and at the time had only catastrophic health coverage. She said the month without the medicine made it hard to get out of bed.

Paying for drugs isn't a problem for Hill now. She has a more robust Covered California health plan, and she gets assistance from a drug company.

Multitasking is a myth, says Daniel Levitin.

This was the premise underlying the first of the tasks posed by WNYC's Note to Self podcast. I had signed up for their five-day set of challenges in hopes of decluttering my brain of the uselessly consumed Internet detritus to get a boost of creative energy. And now my first elimination target was multitasking.

Far from our galaxy, in the vast darkness of space, two massive black holes merged into a single, larger hole.

And now researchers say they have detected rumblings from that cataclysmic collision as ripples in the very fabric of space-time itself. The discovery comes a century after Albert Einstein first predicted such ripples should exist.

Who is among the least likely to use online dating sites?

A few years ago, you would have been correct to guess college students or those in their early 20s, a group surrounded by peers and in the prime of their bar-hopping years. But a newly released Pew Research Center study finds the use of online dating sites by 18- to 24-year-olds has nearly tripled just since 2013, making this group now the most likely to use the Web to find partners.

In a far-reaching ruling, India has prohibited telecom service providers from charging different prices to consumers to access content on the Internet — a blow to Facebook and its aggressive bid to offer a free but stripped-down version of the Internet aimed at India's poor.

Tiny eggs have started hatching this week at the San Diego Zoo, and scientists there are celebrating the arrival of baby tree lobsters.

It's all part of a conservation effort for the Lord Howe Island stick insect. The huge, black, shiny creature, also known as a tree lobster, is a superstar of the entomological world, because its history is such a strange saga of passion and commitment.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

A massive gas leak in the Los Angeles area that was first announced in October is still leaking. The company that operates the storage facility where the leak happened says the leak could be capped as early as the end of the week.

Most of the leaking gas is the greenhouse gas methane, which is harmful to the environment. But how harmful is it?

Aedes aegypti is the dog of the mosquito world. It acts as if it's man's best friend.

"It's been with us for a long time, probably for at least 5,000 years when we started keeping water next to our homes [ideal for laying eggs] and it's adapted to people," says Marten Edwards, an entomologist at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa. "It loves us. It loves our cities. It loves our blood. It functions very well with us."

There's just one problem. This mosquito makes us sick.

There's been a male tilt to biomedical research for a long time.

The National Institutes of Health is trying to change that and is looking to bring gender balance all the way down to the earliest stages of research. As a condition of NIH funding, researchers will now have to include female and male animals in their biomedical studies.

As late as the 1990s, researchers worried that testing drugs in women who could be pregnant or become pregnant might lead to birth defects, so experimental drugs were mainly tested in men. Research in animals followed the same pattern.

Remember the story scooting around the Internet earlier this week about a man in India who was reportedly killed by a meteorite? If you need a refresher, we wrote a post about it, creatively titled, "Did A Meteorite Kill A Bus Driver In India?"

Well, it turns out the answer is probably not.

It took Sen. Ted Cruz to finally persuade me to answer a riddle that's bothered me for years. Suppose somebody yanked away the law that currently props up the nation's ethanol industry, as Cruz has proposed. What would actually happen?

It was a rumor that had many Twitter old-timers up in arms: Twitter is changing its signature structure of real-time posts in reverse chronological order.

It's true. The company now says it's got a new algorithm to predict which tweets you might not want to miss. Those selected tweets, minutes or hours old, will display at the top when you log in after an absence. The rest of the tweets below will remain in real-time and reverse chronology.

Wisdom, a Laysan albatross that researchers first tagged in 1956, has hatched what could be her 40th chick, leading the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to call her "an iconic symbol of inspiration and hope."

Born at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge (which is part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument), the new (adorable) chick has been named Kūkini — the Hawaiian word for messenger.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Pages