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Most potential new drugs fail when they're tested in people. These failures are not only a major disappointment, they sharply drive up the cost of developing new drugs.

A major reason for these failures is that most new drugs are first tested out in mice, rats or other animals. Often those animal studies show great promise.

But mice aren't simply furry little people, so these studies often lead science astray. Some scientists are now rethinking animal studies to make them more effective for human health.

Admit it. You only clicked on this story because of the photo of that insanely cute mountain lion kitten. You just wanted to gaze into her (yes, it's a her) milky blue eyes.

That's fair.

But there's more to the story of this kitten. Researchers have named her P-54. She's no more than a few months old. And – this is the sad part – it's likely that she's the product of inbreeding.

The meat on an adult human's bones could feed another person for over two weeks, or maybe a whole Stone Age tribe for a couple of days, according to a new report on the practice of Paleolithic cannibalism. No wonder, then, that evidence of cannibalism in ancient humans pops up in the archaeological record from time to time.

Viruses are supposed to be tiny and simple — so tiny and simple that it's debatable whether they're even alive.

They're minimalist packets of genetic information, relying entirely on the cells the infect in order to survive and reproduce.

But in 2003, researchers identified a new kind of virus that that turned scientific understanding of viruses upside down, and tested the boundary of what can be considered life.

A surprising medical finding caught the eye of NPR's veteran science correspondent Richard Harris in 2014. A scientist from the drug company Amgen had reviewed the results of 53 studies that were originally thought to be highly promising — findings likely to lead to important new drugs. But when the Amgen scientist tried to replicate those promising results, in most cases he couldn't.

If you have trouble getting a good night's sleep, it could be in your DNA. A team led by Washington State University-Spokane researchers has discovered a gene that influences the quality of sleep across species.

This story starts with the mystery of a missing cow.

University of Utah researchers placed seven cow carcasses in Utah's Great Basin Desert, and set up cameras to learn about the behavior patterns of local scavengers.

But a week later, researcher Evan Buechley returned to one of the sites and found no sign of the cow.

A rain forest sings with the sounds of insects, birds, maybe a howler monkey or two. But scientists are discovering that some forest dwellers also communicate in ways humans usually can't hear — via ultrasound.

A team from Dartmouth College has recorded these signals in treetops on a pristine Panamanian island called Barro Colorado, and slowed them down to make sense of them.

What do listening to music, hitting a baseball and solving a complex math problem have in common? They all activate less gray matter than drinking wine.

Don't be tricked by their appearance — fangblenny fish aren't just a cute face. They use special opioid-based venom to avoid being eaten.

The fish are 2 inches long and live in places such as Australia's Great Barrier Reef. When one is caught and swallowed up by a predator, the blenny literally bites its way out. The venom disorients the bigger fish, and the blenny escapes to freedom.

The astronomer Carl Sagan said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Last week, a physician made the extraordinary claim that he had an effective treatment for sepsis, sometimes known as blood poisoning.

Sepsis is a bodywide inflammation, usually triggered by infection, and the leading cause of death in hospitals, taking 300,000 lives a year. So, even a 15 percent improvement in survival would save 40,000 lives — the number of Americans who die on the highway each year, or from breast cancer.

Scientists say they've made a device in the lab that can mimic the human female reproductive cycle.

When we think about dishonesty, we mostly think about the big stuff.

We see big scandals, big lies, and we think to ourselves, I could never do that. We think we're fundamentally different from Bernie Madoff or Tiger Woods.

But behind big lies are a series of small deceptions. Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, writes about this in his book The Honest Truth about Dishonesty.

Breast-feeding has many known health benefits, but there's still debate about how it may influence kids' behavior and intelligence.

Now, a new study published in Pediatrics finds that children who are breast-fed for at least six months as babies have less hyperactive behavior by age 3 compared with kids who weren't breast-fed.

But the study also finds that breast-feeding doesn't necessarily lead to a cognitive boost.

For a girl growing up on a one-lane dirt road in a Connecticut town, it seemed the only way to look was up.

But Nancy Miorelli was nearsighted, so although she spent most days outside until dinnertime, she couldn't see the birds flying above her head.

"So I guess that left things that were crawling on the ground," the 27-year-old entomologist says.

Yep, bugs. But poor eyesight isn't the reason she puts herself in what others might feel is nightmarish proximity to bugs these days.

Cancer can be caused by tobacco smoke or by an inherited trait, but new research finds that most of the mutations that lead to cancer crop up naturally.

The authors of the study published Thursday poked a hornet's nest by suggesting that many cancers are unavoidable.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX Pacific Public Media

Dramatic cuts proposed for the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency could hit home in the Puget Sound region.

The Region 10 office here, which covers ecosystems in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska, employs more than 500 people.

In turn, many smaller firms around the Seattle area and beyond help write documents such as environmental impact statements to support EPA policies that many people fear could be wiped out by the Trump administration.

For the first time in birds, researchers say they have found evidence that a New Zealand parrot has the avian equivalent of an infectious laugh.

They call it "positive emotional contagion" — which they define as "outwardly emotional actions that spread from one individual to another." In humans, this is what happens when one person hears another laugh and also starts cracking up.

Men may soon be able to take their own sperm count — at home. With a smartphone. Yes, there's an app for that.

You may be asking yourself, why?

Low sperm count is a marker for male infertility, a condition that is actually a neglected health issue worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

How far should scientists be allowed to go in creating things that resemble primitive human brains, hearts, and even human embryos?

That's the question being asked by a group of Harvard scientists who are doing exactly that in their labs. They're using stem cells, genetics and other new biological engineering techniques to create tissues, primitive organs and other living structures that mimic parts of the human body.

Their concern is that they and others doing this type of "synthetic biology" research might be treading into disturbing territory.

Biomedical research and public health are among the big losers in the Trump administration's proposed budget.

The proposal promises:

  • A "major reorganization" in the National Institutes of Health, which supports most of the nation's research on diseases and treatments. That includes a cut of $5.8 billion, about 20 percent of NIH's $30 billion budget.

An orangutan named Rocky is helping scientists figure out when early humans might have uttered the first word.

Rocky, who is 12 and lives at the Indianapolis Zoo, has shown that he can control his vocal cords much the way people do. He can learn new vocal sounds and even match the pitch of sounds made by a person.

Should the Irish Giant be allowed to rest in peace?

That's the question swirling around the bones of Charles Byrne, a literal giant from Ireland who was an 18th century celebrity.

Oh sure, the Cassini spacecraft has been orbiting Saturn since 2004, capturing breathtaking images of the beringed gas giant and illuminating a once-obscure pocket of our solar system for the sake of scientific inquiry.

But — you're surely asking — what good is all that if the craft hasn't taken any quality photographs of space ravioli?

Scientists have taken another important step toward creating different types of synthetic life in the laboratory.

An international research consortium reports Thursday that it has figured out an efficient method for synthesizing a substantial part of the genetic code of yeast.

"We are absolutely thrilled," says Jef Boeke, a geneticist at New York University School of Medicine, who is leading the project. "This is a significant step toward our goal."

What if your friend the robot could tell what you're thinking, without you saying a word?

Updated at 3:30 p.m. ET

Spending time in space changes people: Not just their outlook on life, but also their eyesight.

For years, a North Texas doctor has been trying to find out what is causing this vision change among astronauts. His latest research provides some clues — and connects astronauts on the International Space Station, cancer patients on a roller coaster plane flight, and high-tech sleeping sacks.

Wildfires can start when lightning strikes or when someone fails to put out a campfire. New research shows that people start a lot more fires than lightning does — so much so that people are drastically altering wildfire in America.

Fire ecologist Melissa Forder says about 60 percent of fires in national parks are caused by humans: "intentionally set fires, buildings burning and spreading into the forest, smoking, equipment malfunctions and campfires."

In my head, a person with the name Danny has a boyish face and a perpetual smile. Zoes have wide eyes and wild hair and an air of mild bemusement.

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