Science

Science news

Lately, we've been learning more and more about the teeming masses of bacteria inside our bodies - essentially trillions of tiny organisms that make us sick and keep us healthy.

Now two scientists at the University of Colorado have dared to ask what kinds of bacteria lives inside our mouths. And they're finding some pretty surprising things in there.

Nerds, rejoice! It's Nobel season — the Oscars for lab rats, peacemakers and cognoscenti alike. Every fall, big thinkers around the world wait for a middle-of-the-night phone call from Sweden, dreaming of what they might do with the $1.2 million prize.

Tell us you can resist clicking on this headline from Florida's Sun Sentinel:

"Huge Eyeball From Unknown Creature Washes Ashore On Florida Beach."

It's big, it's blue and the newspaper says "among the possibilities being discussed are a giant squid, some other large fish or a whale or other large marine mammal."

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has sent the eye off for study.

Brittney Tatchell

For one thing, Kennewick Man – the 9,500-year-old remains found in the shallows of the Columbia River more than 16 years ago – was buff. We’re talking beefcake.

So says Doug Owsley, head of physical anthropology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Owsley led the study of the ancient remains.

Scientists have discovered a world much fancier than our homely, little Earth.

New research that will published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters details a planet that is eight times heavier than Earth and with twice its radius. But instead of being covered in water and granite, it is encrusted in graphite and diamond.

MATTAWA, Wash. – Kennewick Man spent most of his life on the coast, not in the region on the Columbia River where he was found. So says the federal scientist who fought for nearly 10 years to study the 9,500 year old bones. The scientist released some of his findings at a conference this week with Northwest tribes

Kennewick Man’s bones give an indication of what he ate, and how he lived. The research shows he wasn’t fond of oysters or clams but instead his menu included big sea creatures like seals.

The Associated Press

Here’s a solution for space junk – gas it.

A Boeing engineer from Seattle, Michael Dunn, has filed a patent for a method of dragging parts, pieces and defunct satellites into the atmosphere where they will burn up.

Geek speak: “… the method comprising hastening orbital decay of the debris by creating a transient gaseous cloud at an altitude of at least 100 km above Earth, the cloud having a density sufficient to slow the debris so the debris falls into Earth's atmosphere,” according to the document.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

Even if you never smoke marijuana, Initiative-502 could make it much more a part of our society, like alcohol. In our series “If it’s legal: Five ways legal pot could affect your life,” we consider some ways things could change for all of us. Today, we look at what sort of advertising and public messages we might expect to see.

If you turn on the TV today, beer and wine are everywhere. A typical commercial for Corona Light, for example, features a guy whose life improves with girls, dancing, lively music, a great time – all thanks to a frosty beer.

This sort of commercial is what Denise Walker was imagining, when she started thinking about the possibility of marijuana advertising in the future.

For the past decade, scientists have been toying with the notion of encapsulating medicine in microscopic balls.

These so-called nanospheres could travel inside the body to hard-to-reach places, like the brain or the inside of a tumor. One problem researchers face is how to build these nanospheres, because you'd have to make them out of even smaller nanoparticles.

David Wineland is the American half of the scientific duo celebrating the award of the Nobel Prize in Physics today.

Wineland and French scientist Serge Haroche developed new ways for scientists to observe individual quantum particles without damaging them. This may not sound so impressive, but the work opens a world of possibilities— including the development of a quantum computer and super-precise clock.

But who needs a better clock? Don't we have pretty good ones already?

The 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to Serge Haroche of France and David Wineland of the United States for their work on the "fundamental interactions between light particles and matter."

"The Nobel laureates have opened the door to a new era of experimentation with quantum physics by demonstrating the direct observation of individual quantum particles without destroying them," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement.

The two scientists who won this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine discovered that cells in our body have the remarkable ability to reinvent themselves. They found that every cell in the human body, from our skin and bones to our heart and brain, can be coaxed into forming any other cell.

Columbus, they say, crossed the Atlantic at a speed of roughly four knots. That's four-plus miles an hour. When the wind gusted, he could hit 9.2 mph. In 1492, that was speedy.

This is how we do it.

This is how they do it.

Scientists in Japan report they have created eggs from stem cells in a mammal for the first time. And the researchers went on to breed healthy offspring from the eggs they created.

While the experiments involved mice, the work is being met with excitement — and questions — about doing the same thing for humans someday.

What we learn about dinosaurs keeps surprising us. Today in the journal ZooKeys we get a peek into an odd, new kind of dinosaur that was lighter than a house cat and just as small but had a terrifying set of teeth and a short, birdlike beak.

The fossil used to re-create the creature was actually discovered in southern Africa in the 1960s, but it is described for the first time today by Paul Sereno, paleontologist and professor at the University of Chicago.

You are 200 miles directly above the Martian surface — looking down. This image was taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Jan. 27, 2010. (The color was added later.) What do we see? Well, sand, mostly. As you scroll down, there's a ridge crossing through the image, then a plain, then dunes, but keep looking. You will notice, when you get to the dunes, there are little black flecks dotting the ridges, mostly on the sunny side, like sunbathing spiders sitting in rows. Can you see them?

Pacific Northwest Seismic Network

The Puget Sound region is experiencing a record “episodic tremor and slip” event, according to the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network.

Parents, if nobody is watching the TV, please turn it off.

Researchers who conducted a national survey of kids' exposure to TVs droning on in the background say, "The amount of exposure for the average child is startling."

How much is it, exactly? Try just under four hours a day for the typical kid.

Do you bite your nails? For 30 years, I did. We nail biters can be "pathological groomers" — people for whom normal grooming behaviors, like skin picking or hair pulling, have become virtually uncontrollable.

As you take in your next breath of air, you can thank a form of microscopic marine life known as plankton.

They are so small as to be invisible, but taken together, actually dwarf massive creatures like whales. Plankton make up 98 percent of the biomass of ocean life.

"This invisible forest generates half of the oxygen generated on the planet," Chris Bowler, a marine biologist, tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered.

And, as climate change alters the temperature and acidity of our waters, this mysterious ocean world may be in jeopardy.

NASA's Curiosity rover has found definitive proof that water once ran across the surface of Mars, the agency announced today. NASA scientists say new photos from the rover show rocks that were smoothed and rounded by water. The rocks are in a large canyon and nearby channels that were cut by flowing water, making up an alluvial fan.

"You had water transporting these gravels to the downslope of the fan," NASA researchers say. The gravel then formed into a conglomerate rock, which was in turn likely covered before being exposed again.

U. S. Geological Survey

What would you do if you knew a major earthquake was about to strike in 10 seconds? Some scientists say even a few moments’ warning could save lives, and they’re setting up a system that might soon give Washingtonians time to act before the shaking starts.

On April 11 of this year, an extraordinary cluster of earthquakes struck off Sumatra. The largest shock, magnitude 8.7, produced stronger ground-shaking than any earthquake ever recorded. And it surprised seismologists by triggering more than a dozen moderate earthquakes around the world.

The quakes are also a sign of big changes to come in the Earth's crust.

There's more trouble for your hard-working backyard honey bee. Researchers have confirmed the first cases of "zombee" bees in Washington state and in the Portland area. Infection by a parasite prompts the bees to embark on what's being called a "flight of the living dead."

The initial Washington detection came from an observant beekeeper in the Seattle suburb of Kent.

"The odd thing is they're attracted to light. Bees normally aren't attracted to light. And they're flying at night. Bees don't normally fly at night," says Mark Hohn. He keeps bees as a hobby.

Johns Hopkins, Yale, Harvard, Columbia and Cornell. What do these medical schools have in common?

Beyond their first-rate reputations, they're also on the short list of top U.S. med schools that don't have departments of family medicine. Elite schools have long focused on training specialists and researchers, but with the federal health law's emphasis on primary care, some schools are looking harder at family medicine.

When we think about morality, many of us think about religion or what our parents taught us when we were young. Those influences are powerful, but many scientists now think of the brain as a more basic source for our moral instincts.

Group Health Cooperative says it lost money in August and needs to cut costs.  That will include some layoffs this year. 

It’s not a calamity, says CEO Scott Armstrong, but the trend could lead Group Health to finish the year in the red if it doesn't make changes.

(For the complete story, click the "listen" button above.)  

Washington state is not immune from America’s obesity epidemic. A new study looking at where the trends are headed on weight-gain shows half the population headed for obesity by the year 2030. 

Currently, 26.5% of Washington residents are already considered obese. That’s a step beyond overweight, using the standard measurement of body-mass-index (BMI). 

Ever since James Watson and Francis Crick cracked the genetic code, scientists have been fascinated by the possibilities of what we might learn from reading our genes.

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