Science

3:30am

Wed May 20, 2015
The Salt

Pollinator Politics: Environmentalists Criticize Obama Plan To Save Bees

Originally published on Wed May 20, 2015 12:09 pm

The White House announced an action plan Tuesday aimed at reversing dramatic declines in pollinators like honeybees, which play a vital role in agriculture, pollinating everything from apples and almonds to squash.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

The buzz around bees has been bad lately. As we've reported, beekeepers say they lost 42 percent of honeybee colonies last summer.

Read more

3:25am

Wed May 20, 2015
Goats and Soda

She's Got One Of The Toughest Diseases To Cure. And She's Hopeful

Originally published on Wed May 20, 2015 2:44 pm

Jenny Tenorio Gallegos, 35, in Lima, Peru, is being treated for drug-resistant TB. The treatment lasts two years and may rob her of her hearing.
Jason Beaubien/NPR

Drug-resistant tuberculosis is not only airborne and lethal; it's one of the most difficult diseases in the world to cure.

In Peru, 35-year-old Jenny Tenorio Gallegos wheezes even when she's sitting still. That's because of the damage tuberculosis has done to her lungs. The antibiotics she's taking to treat extensively drug-resistant TB nauseate her, give her headaches, leave her exhausted and are destroying her hearing.

"At times I don't hear well," she says. "You have to speak loud for me to be able to understand."

Read more

8:03pm

Tue May 19, 2015
Science

Earth's First Snake Likely Evolved On Land, Not In Water

Originally published on Wed May 20, 2015 12:09 pm

The most recent common ancestor of all today's snakes likely lived 120 million years ago. Scientists believe it used needle-like hooked teeth to grab rodent-like creatures that it then swallowed whole.
Julius Csotonyi/BMC Evolutionary Biology

Some scientists have speculated that snakes first evolved in water and that their long, slithery bodies were streamlined for swimming. But a new analysis suggests that the most recent common ancestor of all snakes actually lived on land.

This ancestral protosnake probably was a nocturnal hunter that slithered across the forest floor about 120 million years ago. And it likely had tiny hind limbs, left over from an even earlier ancestor, says Allison Hsiang, a researcher at Yale University.

Read more

6:14pm

Tue May 19, 2015
Goats and Soda

Home-Brewed Morphine Is Around The Corner

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 9:09 pm

Families harvest poppy bulbs in the Badakhshan province of Afghanistan. To collect the opium, they score the bulbs and let the milky substance ooze out. The dried residue contains about 10 percent morphine.
David Guttenfelder AP/National Geographic

Making morphine — or heroin*, for that matter — isn't easy. You have to know a bunch of fancy chemistry to synthesize the drug from scratch. Or you have to get your hands on some opium poppies and extract morphine from the flowers' milky juice.

The latter is tougher than it sounds. Sure, the beautiful flowers grow across millions of acres around the world. But farming and trading poppies are tightly regulated both by laws and by drug kingpins.

Read more

4:49pm

Tue May 19, 2015
Politics

As States Ready Disaster Plans, Feds Urge Them To Consider Climate Change

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 7:06 pm

Demolition crews remove the last remains of a house that was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy, which battered parts of the East Coast, in 2013.
Wayne Parry AP

The Atlantic hurricane season starts next month — a time when coastal states have their disaster plans at the ready. Now, the federal government wants states to consider the potential effects of climate change in those blueprints.

States lay out strategies for reducing harm from a whole host of calamities that might strike, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, or drought.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, gives states money to mitigate those risks — grants that might help pay for tornado safe rooms, or to elevate buildings in a flood zone, for instance.

Read more

4:30pm

Tue May 19, 2015
Goats and Soda

Eyes In The Sky: Foam Drones Keep Watch On Rain Forest Trees

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 7:46 pm

A man and his drone: Carlos Casteneda of the Amazon Basin Conservation Association prepares to launch one of his plastic foam planes.
Jason Beaubien NPR

A couple of toy planes are out to catch illegal loggers and miners in the Amazon.

It's an awesome responsibility.

Every year, illegal logging and mining in the Peruvian Amazon destroy tens of thousands of acres of rain forest. The deforestation in remote parts of the jungle is difficult to detect while it's going on.

Read more

12:35pm

Tue May 19, 2015
The Two-Way

Plan Bee: White House Unveils Strategy To Protect Pollinators

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 3:50 pm

The federal government hopes to reverse America's declining honeybee and monarch butterfly populations.
Andy Duback AP

There is a buzz in the air in Washington, and it's about honeybees. Concerned about an alarming decline in honeybee colonies, the Obama administration has released a National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.

Read more

11:14am

Tue May 19, 2015
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

One Concept That Gives Physicists A Casper-Like Haunting

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 3:25 pm

Here at 13.7: Cosmos & Culture, we strive to bring you only the finest, most complete "big answers" to life's enduring "big questions."

And when there is more than one point of view to be explored, we lock our jaws onto the issue like a metaphysical pit bull and stay that way until someone calls animal control on us. It is that relentless commitment to the truth that brings us back today to the eternal question of why, exactly, your butt doesn't fall through your chair.

Read more

3:24am

Tue May 19, 2015
Goats and Soda

They're Going Door To Door In The Amazon To See Why People Get Sick

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 10:14 am

Researchers meet participants: (from left) investigator Jose Luis Roca; Dr. Ernesto Ortiz; study participants Rainer Leon and his mother, Rina Leon Chanbilla; and nurse Jennifer Rampas.
Jason Beaubien NPR

Is it the mercury or the malaria?

Or maybe it's something else entirely that's making people sick in the Peruvian Amazon.

Those questions are bedeviling researchers from Duke University who have been studying gold mining in the region. Illegal mining has exploded in the area in the past decade, and the people living downriver have a variety of medical issues, from malaria to anemia to high blood pressure.

Read more

6:07pm

Mon May 18, 2015
The Salt

Urban Farmers Say It's Time They Got Their Own Research Farms

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 1:56 pm

Mchezaji "Che" Axum stands in a hoop house at the University of the District of Columbia's Muirkirk Research Farm, a resource for urban farmers in the city.
Whitney Pipkin for NPR

About 80 percent of Americans now live in urban areas, and more and more of us are growing food in cities as well.

But where's an urban farmer to turn for a soil test or when pests infiltrate the fruit orchard?

Read more

Pages