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Why people yawn is a mystery. But yawning starts in the womb.

Past studies have used ultrasound images to show fetuses yawning, but some scientists have argued that real yawns were getting confused with fetuses simply opening their mouths.

So Nadja Reissland, a researcher at the University of Durham in the United Kingdom, used a more detailed ultrasound technique to get images of fetal faces that could distinguish a true yawn from just an open mouth.

Scientists working on NASA's six-wheeled rover on Mars have a problem. But it's a good problem.

They have some exciting new results from one of the rover's instruments. On the one hand, they'd like to tell everybody what they found, but on the other, they have to wait because they want to make sure their results are not just some fluke or error in their instrument.

Hamilton Cty, NY Public Health

Washington’s worst epidemic of whooping cough in 70 years appears to be winding down. The number of cases is a fraction of the peak last May.

A briefing Wednesday afternoon at the State Board of Health highlights the ongoing investigation into what happened.

A team of about 50 federal scientists spent the summer visiting doctors' offices, reviewing patient records, and compiling evidence.

There were two minutes of stunning astronomical coincidence over Australia today.

It was a total solar eclipse and the images are just stunning:

The AP reports that people across Australia waited on boats, hot air ballons, hill tops and beaches waiting for the sublime moment. Some worried that clouds would obscure it.

But totality, or the point at which the moon completely covers the surface of the sun, lasted 2 minutes and 5 seconds and it was spectacular.

Picture, if you can, a prehistoric Bobby Flay — an inventive 3 million-year-old version of the Food Network star chef. He's struggling to liven up yet another salad of herbs and twigs when inspiration strikes. "We've got grass here, and sedge," he says. "Grass and sedge, that's what this dish needs!"

His pals take a tentative taste of this nouvelle cuisine. Sedges usually aren't considered gourmet fare, after all, by these human ancestors. They're tough grasslike plants that grow in marshes. But wow! Not only is this a new taste sensation, it's found in many places.

The same brain system that controls our muscles also helps us remember music, scientists say.

When we listen to a new musical phrase, it is the brain's motor system — not areas involved in hearing — that helps us remember what we've heard, researchers reported at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in New Orleans last month.

In Oliver Sacks' book The Mind's Eye, the neurologist included an interesting footnote in a chapter about losing vision in one eye because of cancer that said: "In the '60s, during a period of experimenting with large doses of amphetamines, I experienced a different sort of vivid mental imagery."

He expands on this footnote in his new book, Hallucinations, where he writes about various types of hallucinations — visions triggered by grief, brain injury, migraines, medications and neurological disorders.

Keith Seinfeld / KPLU

If you’ve been to downtown Seattle, you’ve probably seen people talking to themselves on street corners, or shouting at strangers. Now there’s a fresh face trying to help those in psychiatric crisis.

He’s a roaming mental health counselor, hired by the Union Gospel Mission and downtown’s business-funded Metropolitan Improvement District.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

On Mars, Curiosity took a moment or two for self-identification, as if to say, this is me on Mars. The composite image however, almost looks as if Curiosity had a visitor.

I've been hearing strange wind stories all my life. The best ones are both wildly improbable but still true, like how the Empire State Building gets hit by wafts of barley flying in on jet streams from Iowa, or how tons of sand from the Saharan desert rain down every year onto Brazilian rainforests. You never know what the wind will bring. The wind decides.

Scientists say an Asian elephant at a South Korean zoo can imitate human speech, saying five Korean words that are readily understood by people who speak the language.

The male elephant, named Koshik, invented an unusual method of sound production that involves putting his trunk in his mouth and manipulating his vocal tract.

"This is not the kind of sound that Asian elephants normally make, and it's a dead-on match of the speech of his trainers," says Tecumseh Fitch of the University of Vienna in Austria.

Adam Gerard / Flickr

If you have a condition or injury that leaves you in non-stop pain, for months or years, your doctor might prescribe a powerful painkiller, such as Vicodin or OxyContin. Many doctors are looking for alternatives to these narcotics, and they're sharing approaches this week at a “National Opioid Summit” in SeaTac. 

Concerns about painkillers are rising, because abuse, addiction and overdose deaths are up.

How rare is the Earth? Kepler satellite sheds light

Oct 31, 2012

Now that we are fairly sure that there are many Earth-like planets in our galactic neighborhood, the time is ripe (or almost so) to wonder whether these new worlds do indeed have a high probability of hosting new forms of life.

Science and religion alike grapple with some of our deepest questions: What is the purpose of life? Why is the natural world just so? Why does the biological world strike us as so exquisitely designed?

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