Nell Greenfieldboyce http://wesa.fm en Big Data Peeps At Your Medical Records To Find Drug Problems http://wesa.fm/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 32924 at http://wesa.fm Big Data Peeps At Your Medical Records To Find Drug Problems The Little Spacecraft That Couldn't http://wesa.fm/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 32360 at http://wesa.fm The Little Spacecraft That Couldn't As Engines Sputter To Life, Vintage Spacecraft Turns Toward Moon http://wesa.fm/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 32290 at http://wesa.fm As Engines Sputter To Life, Vintage Spacecraft Turns Toward Moon A Shocking Fish Tale Surprises Evolutionary Biologists http://wesa.fm/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 31636 at http://wesa.fm A Shocking Fish Tale Surprises Evolutionary Biologists How To Become A Neanderthal: Chew Before Thinking http://wesa.fm/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 31228 at http://wesa.fm How To Become A Neanderthal: Chew Before Thinking Is Collecting Animals For Science A Noble Mission Or A Threat? http://wesa.fm/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 31116 at http://wesa.fm Is Collecting Animals For Science A Noble Mission Or A Threat? Big Flightless Birds Come From High-Flying Ancestors http://wesa.fm/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 19:59:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 29688 at http://wesa.fm Big Flightless Birds Come From High-Flying Ancestors Why This Octopus Isn't Stuck-Up http://wesa.fm/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 29272 at http://wesa.fm 'Past The Point Of No Return:' An Antarctic Ice Sheet's Slow Collapse http://wesa.fm/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 29094 at http://wesa.fm Chemists Expand Nature's Genetic Alphabet http://wesa.fm/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 28842 at http://wesa.fm Chemists Expand Nature's Genetic Alphabet Scientists Spot A Planet That Looks Like 'Earth's Cousin' http://wesa.fm/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 27737 at http://wesa.fm Scientists Spot A Planet That Looks Like 'Earth's Cousin' Climate Change Adjustments Must Be Fast And Major, U.N. Panel Says http://wesa.fm/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 27495 at http://wesa.fm Climate Change Adjustments Must Be Fast And Major, U.N. Panel Says Scientists Publish Recipe For Making Bird Flu More Contagious http://wesa.fm/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 27363 at http://wesa.fm Scientists Publish Recipe For Making Bird Flu More Contagious Smithsonian's Air And Space Museum To Get $30 Million Spiffier http://wesa.fm/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 26968 at http://wesa.fm Smithsonian's Air And Space Museum To Get $30 Million Spiffier Ethicists Tell NASA How To Weigh Hazards Of Space Travel http://wesa.fm/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 26900 at http://wesa.fm Ethicists Tell NASA How To Weigh Hazards Of Space Travel New Dwarf Planet Found At The Solar System's Outer Limits http://wesa.fm/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 26523 at http://wesa.fm New Dwarf Planet Found At The Solar System's Outer Limits Space Thief Or Hero? One Man's Quest To Reawaken An Old Friend http://wesa.fm/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 08:44:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 26035 at http://wesa.fm 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://wesa.fm/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 24891 at http://wesa.fm At 4.4 Billion Years Old, Oz Crystals Confirmed As World's Oldest If Yellowstone Could Talk, It Might Squeak. Blame The Helium http://wesa.fm/post/if-yellowstone-could-talk-it-might-squeak-blame-helium A huge amount of ancient helium is rising up from the rocks beneath Yellowstone National Park — about enough to fill up a Goodyear blimp every week.<p>The gas comes from a vast store of helium that's accumulated in the Earth's crust for hundreds of millions of years, scientists report in the journal <a href="http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v506/n7488/full/nature12992.html">Nature</a> this week.<p>The helium is being released because in the past couple of million years — very recently, in geologic time — that old part of the crust has been feeling the heat from a huge volcano that is now s Wed, 19 Feb 2014 20:39:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 24668 at http://wesa.fm If Yellowstone Could Talk, It Might Squeak. Blame The Helium Drugmakers And NIH Band Together To Speed Up Research http://wesa.fm/post/drugmakers-and-nih-band-together-speed-research The National Institutes of Health is teaming up with major drug companies in a new effort to identify disease-related molecules and biological processes that could lead to future medicines.<p>The public-private partnership is called <a href="http://www.nih.gov/science/amp/index.htm">AMP</a>, for the "Accelerating Medicines Partnership," and it will focus first on Alzheimer's disease, Type 2 diabetes, and two autoimmune disorders: rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.<p>This is a five-year, $230 million venture. NIH is splitting the cost with industry. Tue, 04 Feb 2014 20:30:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 23894 at http://wesa.fm Drugmakers And NIH Band Together To Speed Up Research Ancient Plague's DNA Revived From A 1,500-Year-Old Tooth http://wesa.fm/post/ancient-plagues-dna-revived-1500-year-old-tooth Scientists have reconstructed the genetic code of a strain of bacteria that caused one of the most deadly pandemics in history nearly 1,500 years ago.<p>They did it by finding the skeletons of people killed by the plague and extracting DNA from traces of blood inside their teeth.<p>This plague struck in the year 541, under the reign of the Roman emperor Justinian, so it's usually called the <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22767313">Justinian plague</a>. The emperor actually got sick himself but recovered. Wed, 29 Jan 2014 07:59:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 23529 at http://wesa.fm Ancient Plague's DNA Revived From A 1,500-Year-Old Tooth Grand Canyon May Be Older (And Younger) Than You Think http://wesa.fm/post/grand-canyon-may-be-older-and-younger-you-think In recent years geologists have hotly debated the age of the Grand Canyon. Some think it's young (just 6 million years old), while others argue that it dates back 70 million years — to the days of dinosaurs.<p>Now one group says the Grand Canyon is neither young nor old. Instead, these geologists say, it's both.<p>In the journal <em>Nature Geoscience</em>, <a href="http://epswww.unm.edu/facstaff/kek1/">Karl Karlstrom</a>, of the University of New Mexico, and some colleagues describe a new creation story for the Grand Canyon. Mon, 27 Jan 2014 08:33:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 23411 at http://wesa.fm Grand Canyon May Be Older (And Younger) Than You Think In Search For Habitable Planets, Why Stop At 'Earth-Like'? http://wesa.fm/post/search-habitable-planets-why-stop-earth In their hunt for potentially habitable planets around distant stars, scientists have been so focused on finding Earth-like planets that they're ignoring the possibility that other kinds of planets might be even friendlier to life, a new report says.<p>So-called superhabitable worlds wouldn't necessarily look like Earth but would nonetheless have conditions that are more suitable for life to emerge and evolve, according to the <a href="http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/ast.2013.1088">study</a> published this month in the journal <em>Astrobiology</em>.<p>"In my point of view, astrono Thu, 16 Jan 2014 20:35:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 22940 at http://wesa.fm In Search For Habitable Planets, Why Stop At 'Earth-Like'? There She Blew! Volcanic Evidence Of The World's First Map http://wesa.fm/post/there-she-blew-volcanic-evidence-worlds-first-map A new study of volcanic rocks suggests that an ancient mural may indeed depict an erupting volcano, adding new weight to a theory that this image is a contender for the world's oldest known landscape painting or map.<p>The mural was found at a vast archaeological site in central Turkey known as <a href="http://www.catalhoyuk.com/">Catalhoyuk</a>. This Neolithic town goes back 9,000 years and was a huge settlement for a time when people were first transitioning from hunter-gatherer to agricultural societies. Thu, 09 Jan 2014 08:38:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 22563 at http://wesa.fm There She Blew! Volcanic Evidence Of The World's First Map Bon Voyage, Voyager: Old Friends Take Stock http://wesa.fm/post/bon-voyage-voyager-old-friends-take-stock For the scientists who have emotionally traveled with NASA's Voyager mission for decades, 2013 will be remembered as the year they knew Voyager 1 had finally become the first explorer from Earth to enter the mysterious realm of interstellar space.<p>Voyager 1 and its twin, Voyager 2, both blasted off in 1977, more than 35 years ago. Voyager 1 flew by Jupiter, then Saturn — and then on toward the unknown region that lies between stars.<p><a href="http://cassini-mimi.jhuapl.edu/SMK_BriefBiography_19-051.htm">Tom Krimigis</a>, 75, works at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab. Tue, 31 Dec 2013 08:26:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 22137 at http://wesa.fm Bon Voyage, Voyager: Old Friends Take Stock