Health & Science

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If this were a Sherlock Holmes story, its title would surely be "The Case of the Disappearing Quasar."

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Last December, NASA asked people if they wanted to be astronauts. The overwhelming answer was yes.

ANNE ROEMER: We had a record number of applications - roughly 18,300.

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Streetcars are rumbling back to life in cities across the country from Portland to Salt Lake City and Atlanta, with New York becoming the latest city to hop on the bandwagon. But as these new streetcars run into unexpected roadblocks, critics say this mode of transportation might not be the answer to great public transit.

New York City has an ambitious, multibillion-dollar plan to connect Brooklyn and Queens with a streetcar. It would bring convenience to residents from Red Hook, an isolated area cut off from the rest of Brooklyn by water and a major highway.

A western lowland gorilla at the Bristol Zoo Gardens successfully gave birth by a risky and rare emergency cesarean section.

The U.K. zoo released a video of the new baby, who is now 11 days old and weighs just over 2.2 pounds.

A warning: The beginning of the video shows a few seconds of the operation. You can skip to 0:20 for footage of the cute gorilla.

At age 9, Nice Nailantei Leng'ete ran away from home so she wouldn't have her genitalia cut as part of a coming­-of-­age ceremony.

For her defiance, she was shunned by family and community.

That was 16 years ago. The ritual cutting away of part or all of the external female genitalia continues in force around the world. A new UNICEF report estimates that at least 200 million women alive today have undergone what's known as female genital mutilation (FGM).

To help prevent the spread of the Zika virus in Puerto Rico, government officials on the island have declared condom price-gouging illegal.

In early February, during a media briefing at the governor's mansion, Puerto Rico's Secretary of the Department of Consumer Affairs Nery Adames Soto announced that his agency has added prophylactics to the price-freeze list. Stores on the island also aren't allowed by DACO to raise the price on mosquito repellent, window screens, larvicides and other mosquito-killing products.

The Zika outbreak is aggravating an already tense relationship between Venezuela and Colombia. In Colombia, more than 37,000 people have fallen sick. Venezuela reports fewer than 5,000 cases — a number that Colombian officials find suspiciously low.

Juan Bitar heads the health department of a state in Colombia that shares a long border with Venezuela. "A lot of people who are sick with Zika in Venezuela are coming [to Colombia] for medical attention," he says.

Hillary Clinton wants you to know that she was doing health care before health care was cool.

"You know, before it was called Obamacare it was called Hillarycare," Clinton said recently at a rally in Elko, Nev.

It's a stock line these days in her stump speeches and debates.

The term Hillarycare was coined back in the 1990s, when Clinton tried and failed to restructure the U.S. health care system during her husband's first term as president. It was supposed to be an insult, but now she's embracing it.

In a study powered by the labor of medical students, my colleagues and I found that two-thirds of clinical trials led by scientists at our finest academic institutions didn't share their results publicly within two years of the study's completion.

Moreover, none of these research institutions has a good record of sharing results. Many are much worse than the average.

A new study suggests that sea levels are rising at an unprecedented rate and that the problem will continue well into this century.

"Sea level rise in the 20th century was truly extraordinary by historical standards," says Bob Kopp, an associate professor of Earth and planetary sciences at Rutgers University, and who is lead author on the study, which appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Finding bread alternatives may seem like a thoroughly modern obsession. (Can someone pass the chia-millet rolls?) But the widespread search for substitutes to white flour, in particular, dates back at least a century, to World War I, when Allied forces aggressively urged consumers to change their starchy habits for nationalistic reasons.

On one hand, bread was symbolically important: It conjured up ideas of comfort that were especially welcome during a time of fear and turmoil. The act of sharing a loaf — literally breaking bread together — carried psychological weight.

Apple should comply with the FBI's request to extract data from an iPhone as part of a terrorism case, Microsoft founder Bill Gates says, staking out a position that's markedly different from many of his peers in the tech industry, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

The two titans aired their views on what's become a public debate over whether Apple should be compelled to unlock an iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook.

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DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg turned up this week in Barcelona. He was attending the World Mobile Congress - the annual meeting of phone and Internet companies. And NPR's Aarti Shahani reports on what he's been up to.

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One cold Monday this month, all the students of Park Ridge High School stayed home: wearing their PJs, munching on pretzels and Oreos, hanging out on the couch.

It wasn't a snow day or measles epidemic. It was the school's first Virtual Day, where in-person classes were replaced with written lessons and real-time video chats delivered online.

The idea arose because the school, just north of New York City in Park Ridge, N.J., issued every student a Mac laptop last year, says Tina Bacolas, the school's head of instructional technology.

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Patients looking for home health care services will be impressed if they check out the federal government's ratings of Brookdale Senior Living. Four of the company's home health agencies — in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island — each earned five stars, the top quality score, primarily based on Medicare's assessment of how often patients got better.

But further research may lead to confusion. Medicare also posts stars to convey how patients rate agencies after their care is over. There, these same four Brookdale agencies earned no more than two stars.

When Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders stumps for health care for everyone, it always gets huge applause.

"I believe that the U.S. should do what every other major country on Earth is doing," he told a crowd at Eastern Michigan University on Feb. 15. "And that is, guarantee health care to all people as a right."

The Democratic presidential hopeful basically wants to nationalize the U.S. health insurance industry, and have Uncle Sam foot the bill for medical bills, office visits and prescriptions.

Get rid of copays. Get rid of deductibles. Get rid of lots of forms.

In 2006, Derek Amato suffered a major concussion from diving into a shallow swimming pool. When he woke up in the hospital, he was different. He discovered he was really good a playing piano. Yes, we're serious. Derek is one of just a few dozen known "sudden savants" or "accidental geniuses"—people who survive severe head injuries and come out the other side with special gifts for music or math or art. We were skeptical, so we brought Derek into a studio and asked him to play. He can't read music or even play "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," but the music he improvises is beautiful.

If news headlines were all you read about the Saturday shootings in Kalamazoo, Mich., you might know only the basic details: that six people were killed, that the shootings appeared random, and that the suspect was driving for Uber at the time.

In fact, in many cases, that has been the identifier in news coverage: "Uber driver suspected," "Uber driver accused," "Uber driver arraigned," "Uber driver charged."

What's Next For Self-Driving Cars?

Feb 22, 2016

Would you have a computer drive for you?

Some say yes if the computer is accurate and has no bugs in it, while some say no because they want to be in control and they enjoy driving.

A University of Michigan survey found that about 90 percent of Americans have some concerns about the concept of self-driving cars. But most also say that they do want some aspects of the car to be automated.

When it comes to the dispute over San Bernardino, Calif., shooter Syed Rizwan Farook's iPhone, new findings show that public support is on the side of the Justice Department.

Data from the Pew Research Center show that the majority of Americans — 51 percent — think Apple should cooperate with a federal court order. Thirty-eight percent say Apple should not help; 11 percent say they don't know.

Some $25 billion is headed to the five Gulf states that were devastated in the 2010 BP oil disaster. Just a fraction of the government fines and court settlements have been paid — but not all of it will end up repairing the damaged ecosystem.

You might expect the middle of the Pacific Ocean to be a pretty quiet place, especially a thousand feet down. But it turns out that huge parts of the ocean are humming.

Scientists have puzzled over the source of the sound for several years. Now, a marine biologist reporting Monday at a meeting of ocean scientists in New Orleans says she thinks her team may have figured it out.

The nation's gynecologists say that breast cancer survivors should have the option of using topical estrogen to relieve symptoms such as painful sex and urinary tract infections.

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We begin today with this week's edition of All Tech Considered.


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