Nell Greenfieldboyce http://www.kplu.org en Big Data Peeps At Your Medical Records To Find Drug Problems http://www.kplu.org/post/big-data-peeps-your-medical-records-find-drug-problems No one likes it when a new drug in people's medicine cabinets turns out to have problems — just remember the Vioxx debacle a decade ago, when the painkiller was removed from the market over concerns that it increased the risk of heart attack and stroke.<p>To do a better job of spotting unforeseen risks and side effects, the Food and Drug Administration is trying something new — and there's a decent chance that it involves your medical records.<p>It's called <a href="http://www.mini-sentinel.org/">Mini-Sentinel</a>, and it's a $116 million government project to actively go out and look for adve Mon, 21 Jul 2014 17:40:08 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 17820 at http://www.kplu.org Big Data Peeps At Your Medical Records To Find Drug Problems A Shocking Fish Tale Surprises Evolutionary Biologists http://www.kplu.org/post/shocking-fish-tale-surprises-evolutionary-biologists The electric eel's powerful ability to deliver deadly shocks — up to 600 volts — makes it the most famous electric fish, but hundreds of other species produce weaker electric fields. Now, a new genetic study of electric fish has revealed the surprising way they got electrified.<p>Consider a 6-foot-long electric eel: It is basically a 6-inch fish attached to a 5-1/2-foot cattle prod, says <a href="http://www.biochem.wisc.edu/faculty/sussman/">Michael Sussman</a>, who directs the biotechnology center at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Thu, 26 Jun 2014 18:16:26 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 17419 at http://www.kplu.org A Shocking Fish Tale Surprises Evolutionary Biologists How To Become A Neanderthal: Chew Before Thinking http://www.kplu.org/post/how-build-neanderthal Scientists have long puzzled over the origin and evolution of our closest relative, the Neanderthal. Thu, 19 Jun 2014 18:52:22 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 17265 at http://www.kplu.org How To Become A Neanderthal: Chew Before Thinking Why This Octopus Isn't Stuck-Up http://www.kplu.org/post/why-octopus-isnt-stuck Octopus arms keep from getting all tangled up in part because some kind of chemical in octopus skin prevents the tentacles' suckers from grabbing on.<p>That was the surprise discovery of scientists who were trying to understand how octopuses manage to move all their weird appendages without getting tied in knots.<p>Unlike humans, octopuses don't have a constant awareness of their arms' locations. It's kind of like the eight arms have minds of their own. Thu, 15 May 2014 16:22:14 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 16580 at http://www.kplu.org Chemists Expand Nature's Genetic Alphabet http://www.kplu.org/post/chemists-expand-natures-genetic-alphabet For the first time, scientists have expanded life's genetic alphabet, by inserting two unnatural, man-made "letters" into a bacterium's DNA, and by showing that the cell's machinery can copy them.<p>The advance means that scientists have a new tool for exploring how life encodes information, which could help them understand life's origins.<p>What's more, this is a step towards giving living cells new abilities, like being able to make more and better medicines, cheaper and faster.<p>The instructions in DNA really are written in a kind of code. Wed, 07 May 2014 18:24:08 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 16438 at http://www.kplu.org Chemists Expand Nature's Genetic Alphabet Who's Protecting Whom From Deadly Toxin? http://www.kplu.org/post/whos-protecting-whom-deadly-toxin Questions are swirling around a science journal's decision last year to publish a description of a newly discovered botulinum toxin while omitting key genetic details that researchers would normally disclose.<p>The <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/10/11/230957188/why-scientists-held-back-details-on-a-unique-botulinum-toxin">unusual case</a> highlights important unresolved issues in how to balance scientific openness with the worry that biological information could potentially be misused.<p>NPR has learned that the scientist at the center of this controversy has not been sharing ma Tue, 22 Apr 2014 17:15:30 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 16200 at http://www.kplu.org Scientists Spot A Planet That Looks Like 'Earth's Cousin' http://www.kplu.org/post/scientists-spot-planet-looks-earths-cousin Scientists who have been hunting for another Earth beyond our solar system have come across a planet that's remarkably similar to our world.<p>It's almost the same size as Earth, and it orbits in its star's "Goldilocks zone" — where temperatures are not too hot, not too cold, and maybe just right for life.<p>But a lot about this planet is going to remain a mystery, because it's 500 light-years away.<p>Researchers detected the planet while poring over data collected by <a href="http://kepler.nasa.gov/">NASA's Kepler Space Telescope</a>. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 19:03:59 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 16113 at http://www.kplu.org Scientists Spot A Planet That Looks Like 'Earth's Cousin' Scientists Publish Recipe For Making Bird Flu More Contagious http://www.kplu.org/post/scientists-publish-recipe-making-bird-flu-more-contagious The Dutch virologist accused of engineering a dangerous superflu a few years ago is back with more contentious research.<p>In 2011, <a href="http://www.erasmusmc.nl/MScMM/faculty/CVs/fouchier_cv?lang=en">Ron Fouchier</a> and his team at Erasmus Medical Center took the H5N1 flu virus and made it more contagious. Now the team has published another study with more details on the exact genetic changes needed to do the trick.<p>The <a href="http://www.npr.org/tags/146924995/h5n1">H5N1</a> bird flu is known to have sickened 650 people worldwide, and of those, 386 died. Thu, 10 Apr 2014 20:22:21 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 15902 at http://www.kplu.org Scientists Publish Recipe For Making Bird Flu More Contagious Ethicists Tell NASA How To Weigh Hazards Of Space Travel http://www.kplu.org/post/ethicists-tell-nasa-how-weigh-hazards-space-travel NASA is hoping to soon venture out farther into space than ever before. Wed, 02 Apr 2014 17:13:11 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 15604 at http://www.kplu.org Ethicists Tell NASA How To Weigh Hazards Of Space Travel New Dwarf Planet Found At The Solar System's Outer Limits http://www.kplu.org/post/new-dwarf-planet-found-solar-systems-outer-limits Scientists have spotted a new dwarf planet at the edge of our solar system. It's a kind of pink ice ball that's way out there, far beyond Pluto.<p>Astronomers used to think this region of space was a no man's land. But the <a href="http://www.nature.com/news/dwarf-planet-stretches-solar-system-s-edge-1.14921#/ref-link-1">new findings</a> suggest that it holds many small worlds — and there are even hints of an unseen planet bigger than Earth.<p>"We used to think there's just not much out there. Wed, 26 Mar 2014 19:30:58 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 15342 at http://www.kplu.org New Dwarf Planet Found At The Solar System's Outer Limits Space Thief Or Hero? One Man's Quest To Reawaken An Old Friend http://www.kplu.org/post/space-thief-or-hero-one-mans-quest-reawaken-old-friend More than 30 years ago, Robert Farquhar stole a spacecraft.<p>Now he's trying to give it back.<p>The green satellite, covered with solar panels, is hurtling back toward the general vicinity of Earth, after nearly three decades of traveling in a large, looping orbit around the sun.<p>If Farquhar, a former mission design specialist for NASA, gets his way, the agency will command the spacecraft to fire its thrusters, veer close to the moon, and slip back into the spot where it was intended to be when it was launched in 1978 — and where it was when Farquhar and his accomplices "borrowed" it.<p>Bac Tue, 18 Mar 2014 17:35:46 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 14991 at http://www.kplu.org Space Thief Or Hero? One Man's Quest To Reawaken An Old Friend If Yellowstone Could Talk, It Might Squeak. Blame The Helium http://www.kplu.org/post/if-yellowstone-could-talk-it-might-squeak-blame-helium A huge amount of ancient helium is rising up from the rocks beneath Yellowstone National Park — about enough to fill up a Goodyear blimp every week.<p>The gas comes from a vast store of helium that's accumulated in the Earth's crust for hundreds of millions of years, scientists report in the journal <a href="http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v506/n7488/full/nature12992.html">Nature</a> this week.<p>The helium is being released because in the past couple of million years — very recently, in geologic time — that old part of the crust has been feeling the heat from a huge volcano that is now s Wed, 19 Feb 2014 21:52:23 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 13835 at http://www.kplu.org If Yellowstone Could Talk, It Might Squeak. Blame The Helium Drugmakers And NIH Band Together To Speed Up Research http://www.kplu.org/post/drugmakers-and-nih-band-together-speed-research The National Institutes of Health is teaming up with major drug companies in a new effort to identify disease-related molecules and biological processes that could lead to future medicines.<p>The public-private partnership is called <a href="http://www.nih.gov/science/amp/index.htm">AMP</a>, for the "Accelerating Medicines Partnership," and it will focus first on Alzheimer's disease, Type 2 diabetes, and two autoimmune disorders: rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.<p>This is a five-year, $230 million venture. NIH is splitting the cost with industry. Tue, 04 Feb 2014 20:48:44 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 13226 at http://www.kplu.org Drugmakers And NIH Band Together To Speed Up Research Grand Canyon May Be Older (And Younger) Than You Think http://www.kplu.org/post/grand-canyon-may-be-older-and-younger-you-think In recent years geologists have hotly debated the age of the Grand Canyon. Some think it's young (just 6 million years old), while others argue that it dates back 70 million years — to the days of dinosaurs.<p>Now one group says the Grand Canyon is neither young nor old. Instead, these geologists say, it's both.<p>In the journal <em>Nature Geoscience</em>, <a href="http://epswww.unm.edu/facstaff/kek1/">Karl Karlstrom</a>, of the University of New Mexico, and some colleagues describe a new creation story for the Grand Canyon. Mon, 27 Jan 2014 17:31:03 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 12919 at http://www.kplu.org Grand Canyon May Be Older (And Younger) Than You Think In Search For Habitable Planets, Why Stop At 'Earth-Like'? http://www.kplu.org/post/search-habitable-planets-why-stop-earth In their hunt for potentially habitable planets around distant stars, scientists have been so focused on finding Earth-like planets that they're ignoring the possibility that other kinds of planets might be even friendlier to life, a new report says.<p>So-called superhabitable worlds wouldn't necessarily look like Earth but would nonetheless have conditions that are more suitable for life to emerge and evolve, according to the <a href="http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/ast.2013.1088">study</a> published this month in the journal <em>Astrobiology</em>.<p>"In my point of view, astrono Thu, 16 Jan 2014 20:41:53 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 12659 at http://www.kplu.org In Search For Habitable Planets, Why Stop At 'Earth-Like'?