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Astronomers made a surprising announcement today: They have found a spiral galaxy that existed very early in the universe — the oldest spiral galaxy ever seen.

The galaxy is special because such a well-formed spiral wasn't thought to have existed this early on, when the universe was tumultuous.

Prostate cancer surgery shows no benefit for many men

Jul 18, 2012

Finally, the results from a decades-long study that compared surgery for prostate cancer to careful monitoring have been published.

Overall, the researchers found no difference in rates of death from any cause, including prostate cancer, among men who had their prostates surgically removed compared to those who didn't.

Preliminary results were released more than a year ago.

The newly published conclusion:

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has produced a record-breaking laser beam at its National Ignition Facility. The lab's system of 192 beams produced more than 500 trillion watts and 1.85 megajoules of laser light onto a 2-millimeter in diameter target.

And we know, those numbers sound like gibberish. But the laboratory puts it in every-day terms:

While you're enjoying your coffee this morning, half a dozen scientists are already at work. They're not sitting at desks, however, but a few miles off the Florida Keys, 60 feet down on the ocean bottom.

Assuming you can't spend a heat wave bobbing up and down in some cool body of water, the next best option is to hunker down inside with air blowing on you, right?

Preferably it's from an air conditioner set on arctic chill.

But if there's no AC, then an electric fan would be the next best thing, wouldn't you think?

Well, it turns out health experts aren't so sure about electric fans. And they say using one in a really brutal heat wave can sometimes do more harm than good.

The Seattle area biotech and medical device industry is not likely to produce any companies as big as Microsoft or Amazon. But smaller companies, with strange names, keep popping up—like Etubics, Numera, Obenomics, and NanoString.

And, apparently, this sector is adding jobs.

That’s the word at the annual Life Science Innovation Northwest conference, in Seattle this week.

It's well-known that exercise is good for our bones, even as we age, but how about that nightly glass of wine?

A new study of women in their 50s and early 60s finds that moderate alcohol consumption may help prevent bone loss. The women in the study consumed about 1 1/2 drinks per day.

We're not quite sure what to make of it. Is it an honor? Is it an insult?

Either way, a biologist and a fan of Bob Marley has decided to name a new species in honor of the Jamaican singer.

Not as many people are dying from prescription drug overdoses in Washington – but heroin abuse appears to be spiking higher. Those figures come from an annual report on drug abuse in the state.

Heroin abuse peaked in the 1990s. Since then, it's been a problem primarily for aging drug-addicts. But Caleb Banta-Green of the UW’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute says it's making a comeback among younger people:

It sounds to us like someone's banging on a pipe. Others think it's like a clap.

Melinda Gates is promoting access to contraceptives around the world, and urging everyone to believe it's not a controversial step.

She's co-hosting a global summit on Wednesday in London, along with the British government.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation hopes to overcome religious and cultural resistance by saying birth control is simply one option that women want.

Diabetes is on the rise, especially among ethnic minorities. Hispanics and blacks are nearly twice as likely as whites to die of diabetes, and the rate is even higher for and Native Americans. Even Japanese Americans, despite their healthier image, have a higher than average risk of diabetes.

Scientists have discovered a new subatomic particle with profound implications for understanding our universe. On Wednesday, they announced they've found a particle believed to be the long-awaited Higgs boson. Nicknamed the "God particle," it represents the final piece in a theory that explains the basic nature of our universe.

In this video, shot just after results of the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research or CERN were announced, University of Washington physics scientist Gordon Watts declares – "We've got the Higgs."

Jake Ellison / KPLU

A University of Washington physics professor with connection to the experiments at the CERN Large Hadron Collider said a Higgs-like particle has been discovered.

"We have discovered something ... and quite frankly I can't see how it can be anything other than the Higgs but  we need scientific proof to close that door," said Gordon Watts, a physics professor at UW, at a tavern-based seminar tonight in lower Queen Anne with nearly 150 colleagues and science aficionados. "We just do not have the data yet to determine what the flavor of Higgs it is that we see.

"I am positive. My gut tells me that is what this is."

The Associated Press

Maybe you're planning your summer vacation and want something totally impractical to worry about (just to keep your mind off of real problems ... like money, say). And, we've still got more than a month to go to Discovery Channel's 'Shark Week', but ...

Great white sharks have been seen off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass; and on e off the coast near San Diego.

Bald Eagle: A Mighty Symbol, With A Not-So-Mighty Voice

Jul 3, 2012

Few sounds symbolize American patriotism like the piercing shrill of a bald eagle. But just like George Washington and his cherry tree, that majestic call … is a myth. The screech associated with the bald eagle, in fact, belongs to a different bird.

Bird expert Connie Stanger blames Hollywood. You know the scene:

Stanger describes it: “You’ve got John Wayne riding through the sunset and you hear the jingle of spurs and often that piercing, loud cry.”

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

(Press release from Fermilab)

After more than 10 years of gathering and analyzing data produced by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Tevatron collider, scientists from the CDF and DZero collaborations have found their strongest indication to date for the long-sought Higgs particle. Squeezing the last bit of information out of 500 trillion collisions produced by the Tevatron for each experiment since March 2001, the final analysis of the data does not settle the question of whether the Higgs particle exists, but gets closer to an answer.

The Tevatron scientists unveiled their latest results on July 2, two days before the highly anticipated announcement of the latest Higgs-search results from the Large Hadron Collider in Europe.

Before we get to the fireworks on the Fourth of July, we might see some pyrotechnics from a giant physics experiment near Geneva, Switzerland.

Scientists there are planning to gather that morning to hear the latest about the decades-long search for a subatomic particle that could help explain why objects in our universe actually weigh anything.

The buzz is that they're closing in on the elusive Higgs particle. That would be a major milestone in the quest to understand the most basic nature of the universe.

Photo by MilborneOne / Wikimedia Commons

NASA is making a special delivery to Seattle this weekend. If you go to the Museum of Flight on Saturday morning, you’ll see one of the world’s biggest cargo planes land in the parking lot. It’s carrying the cockpit and crew cabin of a full-sized space shuttle trainer.

Health-care providers in Washington are in the midst of changes that will speed up now that the federal health law has been sustained. The ruling was welcome news to hospitals, doctors and many others in the medical field.

They're especially glad nearly everyone will have health insurance. That’s been one of the big challenges in the current health system. People get sick and go to the hospital, even if they can’t afford it.

By 2014, when subsidies for insurance kick-in, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler predicts about 80% of the uninsured will get coverage.  

A baby robot has been born. Now, with little DeeChee's help, researchers are studying how babies transition from babbling to forming words.

Dr. Caroline Lyons of the University of Hertfordshire is one of the computer scientists who helped design DeeChee the robot. She tells Weekend Edition host Scott Simon that humans are also critical to their experiments.

Nearly 5,000 Washington residents are getting rebates on their health insurance, courtesy of the new federal health law.

If you bought an individual health plan from an out-of-state company called Time Insurance, then you should be getting money back. The plans are sold under the brand, Assurant Health. The company sells primarily high-deductible health coverage.

Meet Jake. At 500 pounds, he stands 4 feet 4 four inches tall, with a spine that stretches another foot. He has white urethane skin, a flat head sporting an array of camera lenses, and a laser scanner in his throat.

And he may be coming to a home near you.

Columbia University/Earth Institute

Updated 6/18/12, with comments and links from whale advocates.

An expensive science mission off the Washington and Oregon coasts has been scaled back, at least for now, out of concern for orca whales. A research ship is using blasts of sound to create maps of a major earthquake fault, which is considered the greatest tsunami risk along the U.S. Pacific coast.

The famous paintings on the walls of caves in Europe mark the beginning of figurative art and a great leap forward for human culture.

But now a novel method of determining the age of some of those cave paintings questions their provenance. Not that they're fakes — only that it might not have been modern humans who made them.

The first European cave paintings are thought to have been made over 30,000 years ago. Most depict animals and hunters. Some of the eeriest are stencils of human hands, apparently made by blowing a spray of pigment over a hand held up to a wall.

Anthony Posey / Flickr

Youth smoking is re-emerging as a concern in Washington. The US Surgeon General came to Seattle this week to give a pep talk to anti-smoking campaigners, who are coping with three years of drastic budget cuts.

If it seems like smoking is already on a perpetual decline, that's a mis-perception, said assistant Surgeon General Patrick O’Carroll, in an interview:

How many ways do you know to save someone who's dying?

A good first step is to call 911. If the person's heart has stopped, then it's time for CPR. And, third on your list might be the AED, or automatic external defibrillator.

Emergency responders are hoping this electronic heart-shocking device will become a standard part of the workplace.

Scientists said it was an "unexpected" discovery: There's a liquid methane filled lake near the equator of Saturn's moon Titan.

Scientists had seen lakes on Titan before, but they didn't expect them near the equator because they believed the intensity of the sun at those latitudes would evaporate the liquid.

"This discovery was completely unexpected because lakes are not stable at tropical latitudes," planetary scientist Caitlin Griffith of the University of Arizona, who led the discovery team, told the AP.

New analysis (pdf) of climate data finds that since 1912, the United States has warmed 1.3 degrees. But that warming is concentrated in certain states, some of which have "warmed 60 times faster than the 10 slowest-warming states."

All of that is according to Climate Central, a research and journalism non-profit that seeks to inform the public about climate and energy. The center looked at data from the National Climatic Data Center's U.S. Historical Climatology Network.

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