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In the last three years, 33 U.S. states have passed laws aimed at helping dying people get easier access to experimental treatments that are still in the early stages of human testing. Supporters say these patients are just looking for the right to try these treatments.

Such laws sound compassionate, but medical ethicists warn they pose worrisome risks to the health and finances of vulnerable patients.

It's not clear when or where life on this planet began, but scientists are working hard to find out.

Now, researchers writing in the journal Nature say they found fossils of what could be some of the earliest known creatures to grace the Earth, embedded in rocks that are at least 3.7 billion years old.

The private company SpaceX has announced that it plans to send two passengers on a mission beyond the moon in late 2018.

If the mission goes forward, it would be the "first time humans have traveled beyond low Earth orbit since the days of Apollo," as NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce told our Newscast unit.

The two private citizens approached the company about the idea and have already paid a sizable deposit, CEO Elon Musk told reporters in a conference call. These private individuals will also bear the cost of the mission.

Jennifer Fontaine kisses her daughter Morgan in Methuen, Massachusetts on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. After Fontaine's standard prenatal screening suggested her fetus might have Edwards syndrome, a doctor suggested a fetal DNA test, which said she was fine.
AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Science writer Bonnie Rochman says she likes as much information as she can get — she finds it empowering. But she knows not everyone feels the same way.

Wildfires can start when lightning strikes or when someone fails to put out a campfire. New research shows that people start a lot more fires than lightning does — so much so that people are drastically altering wildfire in America.

Fire ecologist Melissa Forder says about 60 percent of fires in national parks are caused by humans: "intentionally set fires, buildings burning and spreading into the forest, smoking, equipment malfunctions and campfires."

Initially, Clint Perry wanted to make a vending machine for bumblebees. He wanted to understand how they solve problems.

Perry, a cognitive biologist at Queen Mary University of London, is interested in testing the limits of animal intelligence.

"I want to know: How does the brain do stuff? How does it make decisions? How does it keep memory?" says Perry. And how big does a brain need to be in order to do all of those things?

Flickr Photo/NASA Goddard Photo and Video

The command module that took humans to the moon for the first time is coming to Seattle.

The Apollo 11 module went to the moon in 1969. It's coming to Seattle's Museum of Flight in 2019 for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

A small, faint star relatively close by is home to seven Earth-size planets with conditions that could be right for liquid water and maybe even life.

The discovery sets a record for both the most Earth-size planets and the most potentially habitable planets ever discovered around a single star.

Welcome to the bat cave. No, we're not talking about the secret headquarters of a superhero.

This is Gomantong — an ancient cave carved out of 20 million-year-old limestone in the middle of the Borneo rain forest in Malaysia. It's part of a vast network of tunnels and caverns. And it's the perfect hideout for bats.

Up at the top are millions of bats. Literally millions. They hang upside down all day long from the cave's ceiling, sleeping and pooping.

Plants that feed on flesh have fascinated scientists going all the way back to Charles Darwin, and researchers now have new insight into how these meat-eaters evolved.

Even plants that evolved continents away from one another rely on strikingly similar tricks to digest their prey.

Genetically engineered crops are nothing new. But emerging technology that allows scientists to alter plants more precisely and cheaply is taking genetically engineered plants from the field to the kitchen.

The first version of the Arctic Apple, a genetically modified Golden Delicious, is headed for test markets in the Midwest in February, according to the company that produced it. It is the first genetically engineered apple, altered so that when it is cut, it doesn't turn brown from oxidation.

An archaeologist has launched a citizen science project that invites anyone with an Internet connection to help look for evidence of archaeological site looting.

This week, President Trump's transition team put new restrictions on government scientists' freedom to communicate. The restrictions are being characterized as temporary, and some have already been lifted.

Biologist Shaun Clements stands in the winter mist in a coastal Oregon forest. He’s holding a small vial of clear liquid.

“We should be safe mixing it now, right?” he asks his colleague Kevin Weitemier above the sound of a rushing stream a few feet away.

Weitemier brings a second vial, full of stream water. In deliberate, seeming choreographed movements, usually associated with ritual, they pour the liquid back and forth between the small containers to mix -- two, then three times — never spilling a drop.

Clements looks down at the clock. It’s 12:29 pm.

The first results from a major project to measure the reliability of cancer research have highlighted a big problem: Labs trying to repeat published experiments often can't.

That's not to say that the original studies are wrong. But the results of a review published Thursday, in the open-access journal eLife, are a sobering reminder that science often fails at one of its most basic requirements — an experiment in one lab ought to be reproducible in another one.

Last year, global warming reached record high temperatures — and if that news feels like déjà vu, you're not going crazy.

The planet has now had three consecutive years of record-breaking heat.

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Brian Snyder/Reuters

If it sometimes seems like the idea of antibiotic resistance, though unsettling, is more theoretical than real, please read on.

Public health officials from Nevada are reporting on a case of a woman who died in Reno in September from an incurable infection. Testing showed the superbug that had spread throughout her system could fend off 26 different antibiotics.

In a tiny island laboratory in the Northwesternmost corner of Washington, one marine biologist is on a mission: scan every known fish species in the world.

It’s a painstaking and smelly task, but one that promises to fundamentally change the way scientists and educators look at marine anatomy.

A comparison of kid brains and grownup brains may explain why our ability to recognize faces keeps getting better until about age 30.

Brain scans of 25 adults and 22 children showed that an area devoted to facial recognition keeps growing long after adolescence, researchers report in the journal Science.

The 24 juniors and seniors in the astronomy class at Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Va., sink into plush red theater seats. They're in a big half-circle around what looks like a giant telescope with a globe on the end. Their teacher, Lee Ann Hennig, stands at a wooden control panel that has enough buttons and dials to launch a rocket.

Flickr Photo/Fernando Gonzalez (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/dWoJoi

Kim Malcolm talks with Sam Sommers about the science behind why we root for underdogs in sports. Sommers is associate professor of psychology at Tufts University and co author of "This is Your Brain on Sports."

Terrorist attacks, hurricanes, a divisive U.S. election, Brexit — 2016 has not been easy. With the year coming to an end, we thought it was time to get some serious perspective — from the scale of the entire universe.

We're tackling big questions: what scientists know, and what they have yet to learn.

So before you ring in another year, take a moment to contemplate the billions of years that led to 2017 and the billions more yet to come.

Here's a timely reminder for all you would-be revelers out there: Be careful with your countdowns this New Year's Eve. There will be a little extra time to bask in the glow of a retreating 2016 — or curse its name, as the case may be.

Whatever your inclination may be, one thing is certain: Before the year is out, the world's foremost authority on time will be adding one more second to the clock.

Vera Rubin, the groundbreaking astrophysicist who discovered evidence of dark matter, died Sunday night at the age of 88, the Carnegie Institution confirms.

Rubin did much of her revelatory work at Carnegie. The organization's president calls her a "national treasure."

In the 1960s and 1970s, Rubin was working with astronomer Kent Ford, studying the behavior of spiral galaxies, when they discovered something entirely unexpected — the stars at the outside of the galaxy were moving as fast as the ones in the middle, which didn't fit with Newtonian gravitational theory.

This winter brings the latest installment of the Star Wars franchise, full of familiar costumes, familiar villains, and the familiar "pew pew pew" of space guns. But you can skip the movie theatre and still hear those iconic blaster sounds if you visit a frozen lake.

The Northwest tribes feel a sense of completion knowing Kennewick Man’s ancient bones will rest again in the Earth. That’s because President Obama recently signed a law giving them control of the 9,000-year-old remains.

But scientists say they are losing a one-of-a-kind storyteller forever.

In a technological tour de force, scientists have developed a new way to probe antimatter.

For the first time, researchers were able to zap antimatter atoms with a laser, then precisely measure the light let off by these strange anti-atoms. By comparing the light from anti-atoms with the light from regular atoms, they hope to answer one of the big mysteries of our universe: Why, in the early universe, did antimatter lose out to regular old matter?

Two widely used tests to analyze the genetics of tumors often don't come to the same conclusions, according to head-to-head analyses.

Authors of two recent studies comparing these tests say doctors need to be careful not to assume that these tests are providing a complete picture of a tumor's genetic variants, when using them to select treatments for cancer patients.

The hipbone's connected to the leg bone, connected to the knee bone. That's not actually what those body parts are called, but we'll forgive you if you don't sing about the innominate bone connecting to the femur connecting to the patella. It just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Wondering if your pet rat is feeling happy? You should check its ears, researchers say.

A team of scientists in Switzerland found that a rat's ears are more pinkish and are positioned at a more relaxed angle when it is experiencing positive emotions. The researchers recently published their findings in the journal Plos One.

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