Nell Greenfieldboyce http://publicradioeast.org en Big Data Peeps At Your Medical Records To Find Drug Problems http://publicradioeast.org/post/big-data-peeps-your-medical-records-find-drug-problems No one likes it when a new drug in people's medicine cabinets turns out to have problems — just remember the Vioxx debacle a decade ago, when the painkiller was removed from the market over concerns that it increased the risk of heart attack and stroke.<p>To do a better job of spotting unforeseen risks and side effects, the Food and Drug Administration is trying something new — and there's a decent chance that it involves your medical records.<p>It's called <a href="http://www.mini-sentinel.org/">Mini-Sentinel</a>, and it's a $116 million government project to actively go out and look for adve Mon, 21 Jul 2014 09:27:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 46880 at http://publicradioeast.org Big Data Peeps At Your Medical Records To Find Drug Problems The Little Spacecraft That Couldn't http://publicradioeast.org/post/little-spacecraft-couldnt An audacious quest to reconnect with a vintage NASA spacecraft has suffered a serious setback and is now pretty much over.<p>The satellite launched in 1978 and has been in a long, looping orbit around the sun for about three decades. Thu, 10 Jul 2014 07:28:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 45982 at http://publicradioeast.org The Little Spacecraft That Couldn't As Engines Sputter To Life, Vintage Spacecraft Turns Toward Moon http://publicradioeast.org/post/engines-sputter-life-vintage-spacecraft-turns-toward-moon A gung-ho group of <a href="http://spacecollege.org/isee3/">space enthusiasts</a> has started the process of putting a vintage NASA spacecraft on a new flight path, so that this venerable piece of hardware will be able to do useful science once again.<p>The old spacecraft, called ISEE-3, launched back in August 1978. Its original job was to hang out between the Earth and the Sun and study their interactions. Wed, 09 Jul 2014 00:30:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 45886 at http://publicradioeast.org As Engines Sputter To Life, Vintage Spacecraft Turns Toward Moon A Shocking Fish Tale Surprises Evolutionary Biologists http://publicradioeast.org/post/shocking-fish-tale-surprises-evolutionary-biologists The electric eel's powerful ability to deliver deadly shocks — up to 600 volts — makes it the most famous electric fish, but hundreds of other species produce weaker electric fields. Now, a new genetic study of electric fish has revealed the surprising way they got electrified.<p>Consider a 6-foot-long electric eel: It is basically a 6-inch fish attached to a 5-1/2-foot cattle prod, says <a href="http://www.biochem.wisc.edu/faculty/sussman/">Michael Sussman</a>, who directs the biotechnology center at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Thu, 26 Jun 2014 18:03:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 44945 at http://publicradioeast.org A Shocking Fish Tale Surprises Evolutionary Biologists How To Become A Neanderthal: Chew Before Thinking http://publicradioeast.org/post/how-build-neanderthal Scientists have long puzzled over the origin and evolution of our closest relative, the Neanderthal. Thu, 19 Jun 2014 18:03:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 44376 at http://publicradioeast.org How To Become A Neanderthal: Chew Before Thinking Is Collecting Animals For Science A Noble Mission Or A Threat? http://publicradioeast.org/post/collecting-animals-science-noble-mission-or-threat Behind the scenes at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, there's a vast, warehouse-like room that's filled with metal cabinets painted a drab institutional green. Inside the cabinets are more than a half-million birds — and these birds are not drab. Wed, 18 Jun 2014 07:25:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 44230 at http://publicradioeast.org Is Collecting Animals For Science A Noble Mission Or A Threat? Big Flightless Birds Come From High-Flying Ancestors http://publicradioeast.org/post/big-flightless-birds-come-high-flying-ancestors Big, flightless birds like the <a href="http://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/ostrich">ostrich</a>, the <a href="http://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/emu">emu</a> and the <a href="http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/greater-rhea/">rhea</a> are scattered around the Southern Hemisphere because their ancestors once flew around the world, a new study suggests.<p>That's a surprise, because it means birds in Australia, Africa and South America independently evolved in ways that made them all lose the ability to fly.<p>These related birds — known as <a href="http://sciencewise.anu. Thu, 22 May 2014 20:34:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 42078 at http://publicradioeast.org Big Flightless Birds Come From High-Flying Ancestors Why This Octopus Isn't Stuck-Up http://publicradioeast.org/post/why-octopus-isnt-stuck Octopus arms keep from getting all tangled up in part because some kind of chemical in octopus skin prevents the tentacles' suckers from grabbing on.<p>That was the surprise discovery of scientists who were trying to understand how octopuses manage to move all their weird appendages without getting tied in knots.<p>Unlike humans, octopuses don't have a constant awareness of their arms' locations. It's kind of like the eight arms have minds of their own. Thu, 15 May 2014 16:18:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 41449 at http://publicradioeast.org 'Past The Point Of No Return:' An Antarctic Ice Sheet's Slow Collapse http://publicradioeast.org/post/past-point-no-return-antarctic-ice-sheets-slow-collapse Transcript <p>MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: <p>Antarctica is covered with the biggest mass of ice on earth. The part of the ice sheath that's over West Antarctica is thought to be especially vulnerable to climate change. Scientists now say a slow collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is both underway and irreversible. Mon, 12 May 2014 20:02:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 41196 at http://publicradioeast.org Chemists Expand Nature's Genetic Alphabet http://publicradioeast.org/post/chemists-expand-natures-genetic-alphabet For the first time, scientists have expanded life's genetic alphabet, by inserting two unnatural, man-made "letters" into a bacterium's DNA, and by showing that the cell's machinery can copy them.<p>The advance means that scientists have a new tool for exploring how life encodes information, which could help them understand life's origins.<p>What's more, this is a step towards giving living cells new abilities, like being able to make more and better medicines, cheaper and faster.<p>The instructions in DNA really are written in a kind of code. Wed, 07 May 2014 18:18:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 40792 at http://publicradioeast.org Chemists Expand Nature's Genetic Alphabet Who's Protecting Whom From Deadly Toxin? http://publicradioeast.org/post/whos-protecting-whom-deadly-toxin Questions are swirling around a science journal's decision last year to publish a description of a newly discovered botulinum toxin while omitting key genetic details that researchers would normally disclose.<p>The <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/10/11/230957188/why-scientists-held-back-details-on-a-unique-botulinum-toxin">unusual case</a> highlights important unresolved issues in how to balance scientific openness with the worry that biological information could potentially be misused.<p>NPR has learned that the scientist at the center of this controversy has not been sharing ma Tue, 22 Apr 2014 00:41:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 39482 at http://publicradioeast.org Scientists Spot A Planet That Looks Like 'Earth's Cousin' http://publicradioeast.org/post/scientists-spot-planet-looks-earths-cousin Scientists who have been hunting for another Earth beyond our solar system have come across a planet that's remarkably similar to our world.<p>It's almost the same size as Earth, and it orbits in its star's "Goldilocks zone" — where temperatures are not too hot, not too cold, and maybe just right for life.<p>But a lot about this planet is going to remain a mystery, because it's 500 light-years away.<p>Researchers detected the planet while poring over data collected by <a href="http://kepler.nasa.gov/">NASA's Kepler Space Telescope</a>. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 19:02:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 39168 at http://publicradioeast.org Scientists Spot A Planet That Looks Like 'Earth's Cousin' Climate Change Adjustments Must Be Fast And Major, U.N. Panel Says http://publicradioeast.org/post/climate-change-adjustments-must-be-fast-and-large-un-panel-says A new report from the United Nations' panel on climate change says major action is needed, and fast, if policymakers want to limit global warming to acceptable levels.<p>There's an international target to control climate change: keeping the global temperature rise to just 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — that's 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The <a href="http://mitigation2014.org/">Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change</a> now says it's technically possible to meet that goal. Sun, 13 Apr 2014 13:40:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 38821 at http://publicradioeast.org Climate Change Adjustments Must Be Fast And Major, U.N. Panel Says Scientists Publish Recipe For Making Bird Flu More Contagious http://publicradioeast.org/post/scientists-publish-recipe-making-bird-flu-more-contagious The Dutch virologist accused of engineering a dangerous superflu a few years ago is back with more contentious research.<p>In 2011, <a href="http://www.erasmusmc.nl/MScMM/faculty/CVs/fouchier_cv?lang=en">Ron Fouchier</a> and his team at Erasmus Medical Center took the H5N1 flu virus and made it more contagious. Now the team has published another study with more details on the exact genetic changes needed to do the trick.<p>The <a href="http://www.npr.org/tags/146924995/h5n1">H5N1</a> bird flu is known to have sickened 650 people worldwide, and of those, 386 died. Thu, 10 Apr 2014 19:06:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 38607 at http://publicradioeast.org Scientists Publish Recipe For Making Bird Flu More Contagious Smithsonian's Air And Space Museum To Get $30 Million Spiffier http://publicradioeast.org/post/smithsonians-air-and-space-museum-get-30-million-spiffier Throngs of museum-goers mill through the grand entrance hall of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., every day, gawking at such treasures as the Apollo 11 capsule that carried Neil Armstrong's crew to the moon and back, as well as Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Thu, 03 Apr 2014 17:45:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 38007 at http://publicradioeast.org Smithsonian's Air And Space Museum To Get $30 Million Spiffier Ethicists Tell NASA How To Weigh Hazards Of Space Travel http://publicradioeast.org/post/ethicists-tell-nasa-how-weigh-hazards-space-travel NASA is hoping to soon venture out farther into space than ever before. Wed, 02 Apr 2014 15:23:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 37904 at http://publicradioeast.org Ethicists Tell NASA How To Weigh Hazards Of Space Travel New Dwarf Planet Found At The Solar System's Outer Limits http://publicradioeast.org/post/new-dwarf-planet-found-solar-systems-outer-limits Scientists have spotted a new dwarf planet at the edge of our solar system. It's a kind of pink ice ball that's way out there, far beyond Pluto.<p>Astronomers used to think this region of space was a no man's land. But the <a href="http://www.nature.com/news/dwarf-planet-stretches-solar-system-s-edge-1.14921#/ref-link-1">new findings</a> suggest that it holds many small worlds — and there are even hints of an unseen planet bigger than Earth.<p>"We used to think there's just not much out there. Wed, 26 Mar 2014 19:01:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 37378 at http://publicradioeast.org New Dwarf Planet Found At The Solar System's Outer Limits This Freeloading Bird Brings Help — And The Help Smells Gross http://publicradioeast.org/post/freeloading-bird-brings-help-and-help-smells-gross Transcript <p>ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: <p>From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.<p>AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: <p>And I'm Audie Cornish.<p>The great spotted cuckoo is a sneaky bird. It lays its eggs in the nests of other species such as crows. Baby cuckoos grow up side by side with the crows that belong in that nest, gobbling up food and the parents' attention. You'd think that this would be a bad thing for those crows. Thu, 20 Mar 2014 20:36:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 36928 at http://publicradioeast.org Space Thief Or Hero? One Man's Quest To Reawaken An Old Friend http://publicradioeast.org/post/space-thief-or-hero-one-mans-quest-reawaken-old-friend More than 30 years ago, Robert Farquhar stole a spacecraft.<p>Now he's trying to give it back.<p>The green satellite, covered with solar panels, is hurtling back toward the general vicinity of Earth, after nearly three decades of traveling in a large, looping orbit around the sun.<p>If Farquhar, a former mission design specialist for NASA, gets his way, the agency will command the spacecraft to fire its thrusters, veer close to the moon, and slip back into the spot where it was intended to be when it was launched in 1978 — and where it was when Farquhar and his accomplices "borrowed" it.<p>Bac Tue, 18 Mar 2014 09:24:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 36694 at http://publicradioeast.org Space Thief Or Hero? One Man's Quest To Reawaken An Old Friend At 4.4 Billion Years Old, Oz Crystals Confirmed As World's Oldest http://publicradioeast.org/post/44-billion-years-old-oz-crystals-confirmed-worlds-oldest Scientists have used a powerful new technique to prove that some tiny crystals found in Western Australia are indeed the oldest known materials formed on Earth.<p>Back in 2001, scientists reported that one of the zircon crystals was about 4.4 billion years old — so old that not everyone believed it.<p>"There have been challenges, because nothing in science goes without being questioned. Mon, 24 Feb 2014 08:27:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 35005 at http://publicradioeast.org At 4.4 Billion Years Old, Oz Crystals Confirmed As World's Oldest