Scientists who study why species vanish are increasingly looking for ancient DNA. They find it easily enough in the movies; remember the mosquito blood in Jurassic Park that contained dinosaur DNA from the bug's last bite? But in real life, scientists haven't turned up multi-million-year-old DNA in any useable form.
Fortunately, a team at the Smithsonian Institution has now found something unique in a 46-million-year-old, fossilized mosquito — not DNA, but the chemical remains of the insect's last bloody meal.
Originally published on Tue October 15, 2013 10:03 am
Somebody should be watching Daniela Rus and her pals at MIT, because what they are doing is so crazy, so potentially important, people need to know about them. Not because they're dangerous, but because what they're doing might be changing the world and nobody should change the world without the world noticing.
The scene: Two men in a chilly Soviet apartment converse in whispers, careful to protect their plans from enemy ears. Little do they know, the benign-looking raven outside their window is not merely a city scavenger hunting for food, but a spy for the U.S. government.
Research season was just getting started when the government shutdown put McMurdo Station into "caretaker" mode, halting data collection. Host Scott Simon speaks to Gretchen Hofmann, a professor at University of California, Santa Barbara, about the government shutdown's impact on research in Antarctica.
You've no doubt heard of Senior Meals on Wheels preparing hot meals delivered to the elderly. But there's a different meal program that's been put on hold because of the partial government shutdown. It's the USDA's Commodity Supplemental Food Program.
In Michigan's western Kent County alone, more than 1,300 low-income seniors depend on the program. For them, it's a nutrition lifeline: They can't just go to a food pantry for similar assistance.
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One of the side effects of the government shutdown is the closure of many federal websites. The big ones, like the IRS and the White House, are still up and running. But there are others that have shut down, such as those of NASA or the Library of Congress. NPR's Sonari Glinton reports that while shutting the sites is likely to save money in the short run, it could create hassles down the road.
A warning, this next story contains some explicit content. It's about SmartPhone apps that help people track their sexual activity. We're not talking about hookup apps for sex around the corner. Rather, these apps help you get pregnant. And they're becoming very popular. From member station KQED in San Francisco, Aarti Shahani reports.
Originally published on Tue October 15, 2013 11:47 am
Alzheimer's disease can be tough to diagnose, especially early on. Doctors can order brain scans and assay spinal fluids. But existing tests are imperfect and some can be invasive.
So you might understand the appeal of an alternative that researchers at the University of Florida in Gainesville tried. They had asked patients to sniff a dab of peanut butter during a routine test of cranial nerve function. Later, the team wondered if it could help them figure of it someone might be in the early stages of Alzheimer's.