Science & Technology

The Salt
5:42 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

Inside A Tart Cherry Revival: 'Somebody Needs To Do This!'

At Michigan State University's Clarksville Research Station, researchers apply pollen by hand to tart cherry blossoms, in order to breed new varieties.
Dan Charles NPR

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 10:29 am

Some fruits, like apples, you can find anywhere. But others have gotten a little bit lost in today's global food business.

Take tart cherries, also known as sour cherries. Unlike sweet cherries, America's tart cherries are too fragile to ship very far, so most people never get to taste a fresh one.

They're typically frozen, then baked into that iconic American dessert, the cherry pie — and cherry pies aren't as popular as they used to be.

Yet the humble sour cherry is experiencing an unlikely renaissance — and the best may be yet to come.

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The Two-Way
5:41 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

Descending Into The Mariana Trench: James Cameron's Odyssey

James Cameron traveled to the bottom of the Mariana Trench last year — a depth of nearly seven miles.
Courtesy of Mark Thiessen/National Geographic

Originally published on Fri May 24, 2013 7:44 am

At nearly seven miles below the water's surface, the Mariana Trench is the deepest spot in Earth's oceans. And the site north of Guam is where director and explorer James Cameron recently fulfilled a longtime goal of reaching the bottom in a manned craft.

For the dive, Cameron designed a 24-foot submersible vehicle, the Deepsea Challenger — "this kind of long, green torpedo that moves vertically through the water," as he tells All Things Considered's Melissa Block. Cameron was able to watch his descent, he says, through a window that was about 9-1/2 inches thick.

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Shots - Health News
5:27 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

Why You Have To Scratch That Itch

The origin of itch has confounded scientists for decades.
Oktay Ortakcioglu iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri May 24, 2013 10:20 am

Everybody itches. Sometimes itch serves as a useful warning signal — there's a bug on your back! But sometimes itch arises for no apparent reason, and can be a torment.

Think of the itchy skin disorder eczema, or the constant itching caused by some cancers. "A very high percentage of people who're on dialysis for chronic kidney disease develop severe itch that's very difficult to manage," says Dr. Ethan Lerner, an associate professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School.

Scientists now say they've got a much better clue as to how itch happens.

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Shots - Health News
5:03 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

The Weight Of A Med Student's Subconscious Bias

More than a third of medical students in a North Carolina study had a bias against overweight people.
iStockphoto.com

Quite a few medical school students have something against obese people, and most of those who have such a bias are unaware of it.

That's the conclusion of study appearing in the July issue of Academic Medicine. It was conducted at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. The study's author says the subconscious judgments could affect how patients are treated.

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The Two-Way
3:10 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

NOAA Predicts Above-Average Hurricane Season

Satellite image of Hurricane Sandy in October of last year.
NOAA

With memories of last year's Superstorm Sandy still fresh, NOAA is warning East Coasters and those farther inland to brace for another active Atlantic season, predicting that as many as six major storms will develop between the beginning of June and the end of November.

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Shots - Health News
2:52 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

Researchers Find Bird Flu Is Contagious Among Ferrets

Of ferrets, men and bird flu.
iStockphoto.com

Scientists have completed the first assessments of how readily the H7N9 flu virus in China can pass among ferrets and pigs. The mammals provide the best inkling of how dangerous these bugs may become for humans.

The news is both bad and good. They've found the new bird virus is easily passed between ferrets sharing the same cage.

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Shots - Health News
1:09 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

Seeing Double: Errors In Stem-Cell Cloning Paper Raise Doubts

Biologist Shoukhrat Mitalipov stands outside the monkey enclosure at his lab in Oregon. He says the mistakes in his recent paper were caused by the rush to publish quickly.
Richard Clement Reuters /Landov

This feels a bit like deja vu.

Scientists report a major breakthrough in human stem-cell research. And then just a week later, the findings come under fire.

Biologists at Oregon Health & Science University said May 15 that they had cloned human embryos from a person's skin cell.

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The Two-Way
12:53 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

3-D Printer Makes Life-Saving Splint For Baby Boy's Airway

Kaiba Gionfriddo, who breathes with help from a splint created by a 3-D printer, plays with his family dog, Bandit, at his Youngstown, Ohio, home.
Mark Stahl AP

A 3-D printer is being credited with helping to save an Ohio baby's life, after doctors "printed" a tube to support a weak airway that caused him to stop breathing. The innovative procedure has allowed Kaiba Gionfriddo, of Youngstown, Ohio, to stay off a ventilator for more than a year.

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Shots - Health News
6:47 pm
Wed May 22, 2013

Scientific Tooth Fairies Investigate Neanderthal Breast-Feeding

This model of a molar shows color-coded barium banding patterns that reveal weaning age.
Ian Harrowell, Christine Austin, Manish Arora Harvard School of Public Health

Originally published on Fri May 24, 2013 11:54 am

When it comes to weaning, humans are weird.

Our closest relatives, chimpanzees and gorillas, breast-feed their offspring for several years. Some baby orangutans nurse until they are 7 years old.

But modern humans wean much earlier. In preindustrial societies, babies stop nursing after about two years. Which raises the question: How did we get that way? When did we make the evolutionary shift from apelike parenting to the short breast-feeding period of humans?

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Shots - Health News
12:18 pm
Wed May 22, 2013

Research Reveals Yeasty Beasts Living On Our Skin

Fungi (cyan) surround a human hair within the skin. A study in the journal Nature shows the population of fungi on human skin is more diverse that previously thought.
Alex Valm, Ph.D.

Originally published on Fri May 24, 2013 10:20 am

Scientists have completed an unusual survey: a census of the fungi that inhabit different places on our skin. It's part of a big scientific push to better understand the microbes that live in and on our bodies.

"This is the first study of our fungi, which are yeast and other molds that live on the human body," says Julie Segre, of the National Human Genome Research Institute, who led the survey.

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