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It's easy to think that evolution led inevitably to modern humans, the cleverest of apes. But there were some strange excursions along the way. Take, for example, the Hobbits.

That's the nickname for a 3-foot-tall human relative that once lived in what is now Indonesia. A new discovery suggests that it was island life that created this dainty creature.

Anthropologists first found the bones of the Hobbits in 2004 on the Indonesian island of Flores. Their scientific name is Homo floresiensis.

The first time Kit Parker's phone rang, everything seemed fine. It was January 2006, and Parker's old Army buddy Chris Moroski was calling to say hi.

Parker and Moroski had jumped out of airplanes together in the 1990s when they were paratroopers in the National Guard. But after the attacks on Sept. 11, Parker had been deployed to Afghanistan, his friend to Iraq. They'd lost touch.

A powerful new technique for changing genes in insects, animals and plants holds great promise, according to a report from an influential panel of scientists released Wednesday. But the group also says it's potentially very dangerous.

Zunika Crenshaw cringes as a tire swing whips her children around in circles just a little too fast. It's a sunny afternoon in the park, in Pleasanton, Calif. As her children play, she keeps a close watch on their breathing.

She says asthma is in her genes.

"You have a family, a person who has four kids, and all of them have it, including me," she says. "And then my mom has it, and my sister's two kids."

A little girl, 3-year-old Jhase, runs over to her, wheezing. Crenshaw grabs an inhaler, and her daughter breathes deeply from it.

WATCH: Mosquitoes Use 6 Needles To Suck Your Blood

Jun 7, 2016

It's not just idle curiosity that's got scientists hunting down all the bloody details of a mosquito bite. Bites from these bugs are more dangerous to humans than those of any other animal; mosquitoes kill hundreds of thousands of people each year worldwide, and sicken millions more.

A seizure caused by a fever in a young child can be terrifying, and some parents worry that the occasional fever that can follow a vaccine may cause one. But febrile seizures after vaccines are rare, a study finds, affecting 3 children out of 10,000. And children almost always recover completely.

Since 2014, the U.S. Army has gradually been deploying the latest version of a hearing protection system that protects users from loud noises while still letting them hear the world around them.

The system is called TCAPS, or Tactical Communication and Protective System, and about 20,000 of the new TCAPS devices have been deployed in the field so far.

One of my fondest childhood memories is of eating tomatoes. We picked them in the garden and ate them in sandwiches, sitting on a picnic table under the trees outside our house. That juicy, acidic taste is forever lodged in the pleasure centers of my brain.

For anyone with similar memories, supermarket tomatoes are bound to disappoint. Indeed, the classic supermarket tomato — hard, tasteless, sometimes mealy — has inspired countless bitter complaints.

Take a closer look at the tomato display in your local grocery store, though, and you'll notice some big changes.

"Women belong in all places where decisions are being made," U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said.

Thanks to scientists from The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, it might be time for an update:

Move over, human hipsters, you're not the only ones growing outrageous facial hair.

For years, farmers have noticed that some chickens have tufts of elongated feathers around their face and beak, making it appear like they had grown a beard. The cause of the feather beards was a mystery. Now, thanks to scientists in China, the mystery of the bearded chicken has been solved.

An elderly woman died and more than two dozen people were treated for possible rabies exposure after her family failed to realize that a nighttime encounter with a bat put her at risk of rabies.

Last August, the woman awoke in her Wyoming home and felt a bat on her neck. She swatted it away and washed her hands. Her husband captured the bat with gloved hands and released it outside.

Lindsey McFarland was born without a uterus. So she and her husband, Blake, created their family by adopting three boys. But they always dreamed that she could somehow become pregnant and give birth to a baby.

"We just wanted that experience," Lindsey says. "We wanted that connection."

She longed to feel a baby kick and develop inside her. She wanted the thrill of discovering the sex of the fetus during a routine sonogram. She even wanted to go through morning sickness and labor.

Flowers generate weak electric fields, and a new study shows that bumblebees can actually sense those electric fields using the tiny hairs on their fuzzy little bodies.

"The bumblebees can feel that hair bend and use that feeling to tell the difference between flowers," says Gregory Sutton, a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.

You can't help but notice that Scott Pitnick has a big tattoo. It's a sperm with a long tail that winds down his right arm.

People sometimes stare. "And when I tell them what it is, they either are very interested or they pivot on their heel and walk away," says Pitnick, an evolutionary biologist at Syracuse University. "All eye contact ceases."

Some people just don't like talking about sperm. But not him. He's spent his career trying to unravel the mystery of giant sperm.

Whenever I'm out reporting in the field, I can tell many ranchers have a powerful connection with their cattle — it seems they can almost understand them. But researchers today are digging deeper to figure out exactly what cows are saying — and how they communicate through their moos.

I drove out to the research farm at the University of Missouri to ask cattle geneticist Jared Decker to share his expert insights.

Antibiotics can save lives, but sometimes they can work too well.

Most antibiotics can't tell the difference between good and bad bacteria. That means the medicines kill helpful bacteria in your gut while they're obliterating the bacteria making you sick.

In a lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, all the work that happens in a vast pharmaceutical manufacturing plant happens in a device the size of your kitchen refrigerator.

Over 150 pregnant women in the United States appear to have been infected with Zika virus. That's in addition to more than 120 women affected by Zika in U.S. territories, mainly Puerto Rico.

Those are the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, which has been keeping track of all pregnant women in the U.S. and its territories who have lab tests suggestive of Zika virus infections.

Inside a lab near Washington, D.C., there is a stack of stainless steel that weighs a million pounds.

It's part of a unique machine that was built in 1965 and just refurbished for the first time. And in the world of metrology, the science of measurement, this giant is a source of national pride.

We've all been caught in that hazy tug of war between wakefulness and sleep. But the biology behind how our brains drive us to sleep when we're sleep-deprived hasn't been entirely clear.

Researchers in Arizona are fighting fire with fire. They're collecting new data on a wasp that may help slow the spread of citrus greening, a plant disease that has devastated millions of acres of citrus crops, particularly in Florida.

Gently bouncing up and down in microgravity aboard the International Space Station, NASA's Jeffrey Williams delivered a message to the people of Earth.

"Monday, May 16, 2016, at 06:10 at GMT, the ISS will begin its 100,000th orbit as it crosses the equator," Williams said in a video, calling the feat a "significant milestone."

Pork shoulder, cauliflower and cheese curds are all trending in 2016, according to Google's tracking of food-related searches. That list might either nauseate you or make your mouth water.

Last year, in an operating room at the University of Toronto, a 63-year-old woman with Alzheimer's disease experienced something she hadn't for 55 years: a memory of her 8-year-old self playing with her siblings on their family farm in Scotland.

It's not easy being a dung beetle.

Besides the obvious fact that they eat, well, dung, the act of just getting a meal is an involved process.

Companies like Google and Fitbit gather all kinds of data on how people behave. Why couldn't scientists use an app to do the same thing?

Two years ago, mathematicians at the University of Michigan released an app called Entrain to help people get over jet lag. Users entered data on their time zone, when they sleep, what kind of light they're exposed to, and the app gives them an ideal schedule to recover.

Scientists have found a microbe that does something textbooks say is impossible: It's a complex cell that survives without mitochondria.

Mitochondria are the powerhouses inside eukaryotic cells, the type of complicated cell that makes up people, other critters and plants and fungi. All eukaryotic cells contain a nucleus and little organelles — and one of the most famous was the mitochondrion.

Cows are notoriously gassy creatures. Globally, more than a third of methane generated by human activity comes from livestock farming, a good deal of it in the form of bovine belching (yes, belching — not the other end). This is a serious problem, given that methane is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat.

Enter a Danish research team that is testing out one potential solution in the form of an unassuming herb: oregano.

A few weeks ago, Dr. James Bale saw a series of MRI images in a medical journal of MRI scans of babies infected with Zika in the womb.

They scans showed something Bale had seen only a few times in his 30-year career: a phenomenon called fetal brain disruption sequence.

As the fetus's brain starts to grow, it creates pressure, which pushes on the skull and causes it to grow. But if something stops brain growth — such as a virus — pressure on the skull drops. And the skull can collapse down onto the brain.

NASA announced Tuesday the discovery of an unprecedented number of planets beyond our solar system — astronomers have confirmed the existence of 1,284 new worlds orbiting distant stars.

These planets beyond our solar system — exoplanets — were discovered with the help of NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, which launched in 2009.

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