Science news

'Overeating doesn't make you fat. The process of getting fat makes you overeat.'

Jan 27, 2016

Dr. David Ludwig, a practicing endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and a professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Health in Boston, says our conventional wisdom about losing weight may be completely incorrect. 

“Overeating doesn't make you fat. The process of getting fat makes you overeat,” Ludwig says. 

The health expert has just written a book called “Always Hungry” in which he lays out a series of new guidelines on dieting, healthy eating and weight maintenance. 

What can we learn from obsolete medical equipment — or is it pure quackery?

Jan 26, 2016

For more than 30 years, Steve Erenberg has collected early scientific and medical instruments. Victorian medical masks, surreal anatomical models, and futuristic test prostheses pack the display cases of his store/museum in Peekskill, New York.

There are giant eyeballs, a life-size paper mache model of a horse and disembodied faces. 

“I mean, there’s nothing sinister in this collection,” Erenberg says. “People look and they say, ‘Oh, what is that? Is that S&M?’ Or, ‘Is that a torture device?’ No. They’re medical devices or they’re life-saving devices.”

South Dakota State University

Immunologist Eduardo Huarte is working on how to use probiotics to help immunotherapies that fight cancer cells.  His work focuses on how a person's diet affects the bacteria within the digestive system, known as the gut microbiome, and in turn, how the immune system's ability to fight cancer is affected.  Huarte is an assistant research professor with South Dakota State University's Department of Food Science and Nutrition.

Wound Healing

Jan 22, 2016
South Dakota State University

Mark Messerli, Assistant Professor of Biology and Microbiology at South Dakota State University, focuses his research on the building and rebuilding of tissues and organs.  He works on skin and how cells get injured, how they communicate during injury and the mechanisms they use for repair.  Wounds can have a huge impact on animals and humans.

South Dakota State University

South Dakota State University assistant professor Natalie Thiex's lab focuses on figuring out how the vesicles and organelles within the cytoplasm of white blood cells, or macrophages, work.  These include endosomes, macropinsomes and lipid droplets.  She joined Cara Hetland on Innovation to he work which looks at how understanding basic cell function can help improve human health.

South Dakota State University

Michael Gonda, Associate Professor of Animal Science at South Dakota State University, is seeking to understand biological differences between bulls with high and low fertility.  It appears that certain molecules called "small RNAs" can be linked to differences in male fertility.  Evidence suggests that small RNAs are involved in spermatogenesis.  Gonda's lab has begun to identify small RNA molecules that are associated with male fertility.

Katie Schoolov/KPBS

Elena Gomez, 9, is the meteorologist on a live televised newscast at her magnet elementary school in Vista.

“I’ve learned that I have to speak up because otherwise people who are watching the video will not hear me at all,” says the student of the Casita Center for Technology, Science and Math.

Gomez speaks English as a second language. Her Mexican parents raised her with Spanish. As part of the fourth-grade news crew at Casita, Gomez has quickly improved her English fluency.

Zika virus may be responsible for shrinking babies' heads in Brazil

Jan 21, 2016
Jim Gathany/CDC/Reuters

Parents in Brazil are nervous.

There's an increase in microcephaly, a condition when babies are born with unusually small heads. And the increase is being linked to a surge in cases of Zika.

But what exactly is Zika?

"It's related, quite distantly, to yellow fever virus," says virus researcher Derek Gatherer at Lancaster University in England. "Zika was also discovered in Uganda in 1947 in the great lakes region. But there we no reports of any serious illness associated with it."

Today, The World launches a new series on climate change and the future of food.  Host Marco Werman speaks with The World's environment editor Peter Thomson about the inspiration for the series and some of what we'll hear over the next couple of months.

Marco Werman: What's for lunch?

It’s one of my favorite questions, always.

You listeners have been helping us with answers in recent days, Instagramming your meals using the hashtag #whats4lunch, and telling us how what you eat has might be changing because of climate change.

A new study in the journal The Lancet outlines 10 key nutrition interventions that could save the lives of almost a million children a year. 

These interventions include giving vitamin A and zinc supplements to toddlers, and offering calcium to pregnant women. 

Host Marco Werman speaks with the study's lead author, Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta of the Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan.

Read the Transcript

The Trouble With Renewables for Post-Nuclear Germany

Jan 21, 2016

The blades on a 300 foot tall wind turbine spin over farmland outside the northern German town of Brunsbüttel. Hundreds more stand out against the skyline. And more are being built every day, onshore, and in huge wind farms at sea.

Germany is living a wind boom. It’s already helped push renewables to 17 percent of the country’s total energy supply. And many here hope that’s just the beginning.

In Ecuador, striking it rich by keeping oil in the ground

Jan 21, 2016

Biologist Kelly Swing strides down a windy path in the daytime twilight of Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park. Only a few thin shafts of sunlight make it through the multiple layers of vegetation in this rain forest reserve the size of Puerto Rico in the eastern foothills of the Andes Mountains.

Swing directs the Tiputini Biodiversity Station, run by Ecuador’s Universidad San Francisco. He heads up the steel stairway of an observation tower, climbs more than 130 feet through the trees, and finally steps through the canopy’s leafy cap to behold a breath-taking sight.

Iain Kerr squints in the sun as he fiddles with a small camera mounted to the bottom of what looks like a remote control helicopter with four small propellers — he’s looking for whale DNA.

If you’re getting your DNA tested for some reason, all a researcher or doctor has to do is take a blood sample or even just swab the inside of your cheek. But it’s a little trickier when the research subject weighs more than 400 pounds and lives underwater.

Kerr is among researchers in Gloucester, Massachusetts who have developed a very innovative way to get information about whales.

Too cold to garden? Not true.

Jan 19, 2016
aTarom/<a href="">Wikimedia Commons</a>

Most people tend to think to think of gardening as a summer activity. Horticulturist Gerard Lordahl, however, says winter is the perfect time to pay attention to your garden. 

“In the wintertime, right now I mean, people are protecting their plants,” Lordahl says. “Soil mulching is really important, and lots of our community gardeners are composting, and these are all things that can be done now. Protecting your plants through the winter, giving as much water to them as possible on those mild days, and then mulching.” 

Brian Snyder/Reuters

Would you like paper or plasma? That's the question book lovers face now that e-reading has gone mainstream. And, as it turns out, our brains process digital reading very differently.

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library

Searching for a 14th Century manuscript for a school report? How about an old baseball photo for your stash of sports memorabilia? You might try the New York Public Library’s Digital Collections.

It's Not Just The Big Blasts Damaging Veterans' Brains

Jan 13, 2016

Researchers from Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System and UW Medicine are looking into the effects of repeated explosions on veterans with mild traumatic brain injury. 

A new study of veterans found that the more blasts they’re exposed to, the more the brain is affected. The findings were similar to brain changes found in boxers and football players.

Researchers think DNA from veterans could revolutionize medicine

Jan 11, 2016

What could be the biggest genetic research project in history is underway in a surprising place: the roughly 1,700 medical facilities run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. 

The quest to create the first dumpling emoji

Jan 11, 2016

This week on the World in Words podcast it's all about emojis! (Though this blog post does not have them because emojis make our CMS angry!)

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Catch our podcast: The World in Words Each week on The World in Words, Patrick Cox and Nina Porzucki tell stories about languages and the people who speak them. Subscribe

U of M Libraries to digitize black history documents

Jan 10, 2016

The University of Minnesota Libraries plans to digitize about a half-million pages of print documents on the experience of African-Americans.

The university will use a $225,000 grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources for the two-year project.

The grant also will allow the university to make audio, video and image resources available online.

The jerboa is a rodent that looks like a mouse with crazy, springy hind legs. Some have compared it to a kangaroo crossed with a mouse or a tiny, fuzzy rodent t-rex. It’s native to Asia and Africa, and has developed strong hind legs to help it evade predators in barren desert areas with few places to hide. 

Video producer Christian Baker recently spent a few hours with researchers who are studying the jerboa. 

Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

The US and other countries are scrambling to find out what kind of bomb went off in North Korea on Wednesday.

The detective work could take days or weeks, as seismic waves are more closely analyzed and US and Japanese sniffer planes try to capture and test particles from an atomic plume. 

“It’s a game, an intellectual game to try to separate fact from fantasy,” said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security.

Uncertain impact for BC's carbon tax

Jan 6, 2016

In an effort to help cut greenhouse gas pollution, British Columbia has adopted North America's largest carbon tax. But as the World's Jason Margolis reports, the tax may still be too small to be making a difference.

From PRI's The World ©2015 Public Radio International

Heinz-Peter Bader/Reuters

Hossein Derakhshan didn't expect to find himself in an Iranian prison, but that's where he spent from late 2008 to November 2014. He was sentenced to 20 years for political writing, as well as traveling to Israel, a 'hostile state' under Iranian law. Six years later, he's reemerged into a very different world. 

Before his arrest, Derakhshan was a powerhouse in Iranian blogging. He's credited with popularizing blogging, and jokingly referred to as "the blogfather" of Iran. 

Deep space travel has always been something of a Russian specialty — at least the simulated kind. The Russian space agency has been testing the effects of deep space on its cosmonauts since the Soviet Union began flying missions to the stars in the 1960s.

And yet, amid all that history, only one simulation, in the year 2000, had a mixed-gender crew.

It didn't go well. A fight broke out among male crew members after one allegedly tried to steal a kiss from his female crewmate.

Desperately seeking names for new elements

Jan 4, 2016
Mike Blake/REUTERS&nbsp;

For anyone studying chemistry, there's big news: Four new entrants to the periodic table.

If you really can't remember that far back, the periodic table is that cool chart in science class that displays all the known chemical elements. Anyway, these four new elements are man-made and highly unstable.

And they don't really have names yet, just numbers: 113, 115, 117 and 118. So what will they be called?

Jeff Thompson

College students are heading back to school after long vacations, and many of them are apparently using pharmaceuticals to help them stay focused and alert for longer periods of time. Is off-label use of so-called "smart drugs" cheating, and is it dangerous? Experts debate the benefits and the risks.

Motion: College students should be allowed to take smart drugs. YES: Dr. Anjan Chatterjee of Univ. of Penn. and Nita Farahany of Duke. NO: Nicole Vincent of Georgia State and Dr. Eric Racine of

Psoriasis? Arthritis? New designer cells might be able to stop symptoms before they start.

Jan 3, 2016

One conventional tactic for treating autoimmune diseases like psoriasis, in which the body’s immune system launches an outsized attack on the the body’s own tissues, is to tamp down the immune system with suppressant drugs.

But researchers have now devised another approach: a tiny implant of designer cells that detect inflammatory compounds before a breakout of psoriasis and then pump out anti-inflammatory compounds in response, thereby treating the flare-up before it starts.

Want to be an astronaut? Here’s your chance.

Jan 2, 2016

For the first time since 2011, you can apply to be a US astronaut. The job listing went up last month at

NASA chief and former astronaut Charles Bolden says the application requirements are not as complicated as you might think.  

How do we save the Internet for history? This group is trying.

Jan 2, 2016
Photo by Alexa Lim

There is a building in northern San Francisco that looks like a cousin to the Acropolis in Greece. It used to be a Christian Science church.

Now, however, it houses 26 petabytes of digital information in a forest of blinking, heat-generating servers. Welcome to the Internet Archive headquarters. 

“The Internet Archive is part of the vision to build the Library of Alexandria, version 2,” says digital librarian Brewster Kahle. “We hit the record button on the World Wide Web in 1996. We take a snapshot of every web site and every web page on every website.”