Science

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The skies over Alaska lit up with “one of the best displays (of the northern lights) seen in recent memory” last Saturday, according to the photographer who captured it.

Last October, a freshman at Washington State University passed out after consuming hard liquor and an energy drink. The student later died in the hospital. His blood alcohol level was about five times the legal limit.

That led to some soul-searching on the campus in Pullman, Wash.

It turns out an average of 200 students each year end up in the ER at Pullman Regional Hospital for alcohol poisoning and alcohol-related injuries.

ESA and the Planck Collaboration

New results from looking at the split-second after the Big Bang indicate the universe is 80 million years older than previously thought and provide ancient evidence supporting core concepts about the cosmos — how it began, what it's made of and where it's going.

The findings released Thursday bolster a key theory called inflation, which says the universe burst from subatomic size to its now-observable expanse in a fraction of a second. The new observations from the European Space Agency's $900 million Planck space probe appear to reinforce some predictions made decades ago solely on the basis of mathematical concepts.

LasseSH / Flickr

Game designer Jane McGonigal thinks gaming can save the world, or at least help make it a better place.

“I know you’d rather hear that these games are turning kids into brain-dead zombies,” McGonical told a packed room at the University of Washington today, for the School of Social Work’s annual breakfast.

But the evidence suggests otherwise and that gaming is better than harmless. It could be a powerful force for good. Gaming is building a library in Ghana, for starters. More on that in a bit. 

Washington State University Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center

Good news for fans of the Honeycrisp apple: a similar variety is being developed right here in Washington state. 

Scientists at Washington State University have created a new apple variety specifically designed to thrive on the eastern slopes of the Cascades and win over consumers. It's a cross between the Honeycrisp with a variety called Enterprise, and is described as crisp and slightly sweet. 

"I was very excited by it. It’s a really nice eat," says Kate Evans, an apple breeder and horticulture professor at WSU's Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center.

CERN / Associated Press

The search is all but over for a subatomic particle that is a crucial building block of the universe.

Physicists announced Thursday they believe they have discovered the subatomic particle predicted nearly a half-century ago, which will go a long way toward explaining what gives electrons and all matter in the universe size and shape.

Teen smoking rate drops below pot usage

Mar 14, 2013
Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

Washington high school students who participated in a statewide health survey say they are twice as likely to smoke marijuana as cigarettes.

Overall, though, the trends show teenagers are drinking, smoking and abusing prescription drugs less than in the past.

In fact, 8th and 10th graders are half as likely to drink alcohol compared to those in 1998.

The group of scientists working with NASA's Curiosity rover made a big announcement during a press conference today: "We have found a habitable environment that is so benign" if there was water there, "you be able to drink it," John P. Grotzinger, professor of geology at Caltech, said summing up the rover's latest findings.

That is, at one point Mars had the right conditions to support living microbes.

Gun control proposals are having trouble getting majority support in the state legislature. But when it comes to people in a mental health emergency – who may pose a threat to themselves or others -- lawmakers appear more united.

They unanimously approved several measures late Monday aimed at making it easier to hold someone involuntarily.

They have the support of family members who’ve had to deal with a loved one who’s out of control.

It's not the first study that finds the lowly aspirin may protect against the deadliest kind of skin cancer, but it is one of the largest.

And it adds to a mounting pile of studies suggesting that cheap, common aspirin lowers the risk of many cancers — of the colon, breast, esophagus, stomach, prostate, bladder and ovary.

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/treehouse1977/">treehouse1977</a> / Flickr

Researchers who study injuries at Harborview Medical Center are asking the Seattle City Council to take on the federal government's role -- and fund an investigation into gun violence. They say gun-related injuries are a solvable problem, from a public health perspective.

IHME

Americans are likely to live longer than we might have in the past – but the quality of our golden years appears to be getting worse, when it comes to health.

A new study by Seattle researchers shows Alzheimer’s, depression, and back pain have been increasing dramatically since 1990.

NASA

Washington companies could have a major role in future trips to the moon, an asteroid or Mars. NASA engineers are in Seattle this week meeting with contractors working on the Orion program, designed to launch astronauts far into space, well beyond where the space shuttle traveled.

Anyone who says watching TV has no impact on children’s behavior is ignoring a lot of scientific research. The latest study, from pediatricians in Seattle, shows you can improve the behavior of young children by changing what they watch. 

They took this approach after about two decades of trying to get parents to turn off the TV, and severely limit screen time for young kids. They were almost ready to give up. The best they could achieve was cutting TV time for pre-school age children from four-and-a-half hours per day to four hours per day.

That hardly seemed worth the effort.

Rob Griffith / AP

The Northwest hasn’t had a killer earthquake since 1965 – and it’s been three centuries since anything massive shook this region. That’s how New Zealanders felt, until two years ago, when a quake knocked their third largest city to its knees. 

Lessons from Christchurch, NZ, and other Pacific Rim cities, are resonating at a meeting of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, in Seattle this week.

EpiPen

The idea of putting a needle of adrenaline into someone might seem intimidating – but that’s how you save their life if they’re in allergic shock. The legislature is considering empowering school staff to give injections more widely.

Last year, a girl in Virginia died after eating a peanut given to her by a friend.

Carena

The days of using an emergency room when you have a confusing late-night or weekend illness may be numbered. New telemedicine services are expanding in Washington – which allow you to see a doctor using a webcam.

It's here. A variant of norovirus first spotted in Australia is now sweeping the U.S.

The wily virus causes stomach upset, vomiting and diarrhea. The sickness is sometimes referred to as the stomach flu, though influenza has nothing to do with it.

In shorthand often used to describe the brain, fear is controlled by a small, almond-shaped structure called the amygdala.

But it's not quite that simple, as a study published Sunday in Nature Neuroscience demonstrates.

Technology has made us healthier in a lot of ways. It’s beaten back old threats from smallpox to stillbirth to scarlet fever. But many think the march of progress has gone too far, and we need to get back to nature. 

Author Nathanael Johnson says most of us are in the middle – suspicious of technology run amok, but unwilling to trade the condo for a mud hut. He investigates whether the natural approach is really better for us in his book, “All Natural.” 

Nathanael also laid out five common myths about nature versus technology. Get the gist below, or click below and listen to the full conversation:

Big science paves the way forward

Jan 31, 2013

Arguments are often heard against big (read: expensive) scientific projects, especially those without an immediate pay off. "Why spend so much money building this machine or spacecraft, when there are so many pressing social issues we must deal with?"

Microbes are known to be able to thrive in extreme environments, from inside fiery volcanoes to down on the bottom of the ocean. Now scientists have found a surprising number of them living in storm clouds tens of thousands of feet above the Earth. And those airborne microbes could play a role in global climate.

In 2007, Christoph Bartneck, a robotics professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, decided to stage an experiment loosely based on the famous (and infamous) Milgram obedience study.

If you’ve been to an emergency room in Washington in recent months, you're probably in a new database.

The goal is to treat more injuries and illnesses outside the emergency department, in a simpler setting, which should save money, curb drug abuse and also benefit patients.

Washington's hospitals and doctors have agreed to enter some basic information about their emergency patients into a computer system. Once you hit your fifth emergency visit per year, the hospital will assign a case manager to look at your records.

massdistraction / Flickr

Drug overdose deaths are on the decline across Washington, at least when it comes to prescription painkillers.

Those pills have been under scrutiny since overdose deaths rose dramatically starting in 1998. They reached a peak in 2008, killing more than 500 people that year.

It is rather rough to see that we are still in the stage of our swaddling clothes, and it is not surprising that the fellows struggle against admitting it (even to themselves).

Keith Seinfeld / kplu

Getting lost in an airport or giant hospital can be like getting lost in a giant maze. So, there's a risk when a hospital remodels and abandons its familiar landmarks.

But, Seattle Children’s hospital is hoping its new navigation system is better--and even will reduce stress and be fun. 

The Associated Press

You may have heard this year’s flu shot is about 60% effective. To be precise, the official estimate is 62%, and it's based on research conducted partially at Group Health Cooperative in Washington.

What does that mean for you? How can someone use that information?

And, how did they arrive at a number like 62%?

How evil is sugar? That's long been a hard question for researchers to answer. Most of the studies about sugar's health effects to date have been too small, too short-term, or too poorly designed to nail it one way or another.

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