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The first American to orbit the Earth has died. John Glenn was the last surviving member of the original Mercury astronauts. He would later have a long political career as a U.S. senator, but that didn't stop his pioneering ways.

Glenn made history a second time in 1998, when he flew aboard the shuttle Discovery to become the oldest person to fly in space.

Glenn was 95 when he died; he had been hospitalized in an Ohio State University medical center in Columbus since last week.

One of the fundamental ways scientists measure the well-being of a nation is tracking the rate at which its citizens die and how long they can be expected to live.

So the news out of the federal government Thursday is disturbing: The overall U.S. death rate has increased for the first time in a decade, according to an analysis of the latest data. And that led to a drop in overall life expectancy for the first time since 1993, particularly among people younger than 65.

Federal land managers are getting their scientific ducks in a row before updating the most important forest management plan in the Northwest.

The Northwest Forest Plan covers 24 million acres of public land run by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management. It went into effect 22 years ago.

“Since that time, there’s been a wealth of new science, a tremendous focus on new issues,” says Tom Spies of USFS Pacific Northwest Research Station in Corvallis.

In the quest to help the poor, it's difficult to know whose needs are the greatest. Without clear data, it's tough to know who to help first.

The traditional way to look for the poorest of the poor is with household surveys. That's the primary source of data for policy decisions, but it has drawbacks.

A single tornado can cause a lot of damage. But even worse are tornado outbreaks. Just this week, a cluster of at least 18 tornadoes struck the Southeast over two days.

Scientists are seeing bigger clusters in recent years, and they're struggling to figure out what's happening.

In 2011, when North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il died, the state news agency reported that Mount Paektu took on a supernatural glow, and that at its summit, Heaven Lake shook with cracking ice.

Those reports were pretty unscientific. But several years earlier, between 2002 and 2005, Mount Paektu had experienced a swarm of little earthquakes.

A nonprofit research group is giving scientists a new way to study the secret lives of human cells.

On Wednesday, the Allen Institute for Cell Science provided access to a collection of living stem cells that have been genetically altered to make internal structures like the nucleus and mitochondria glow.

Puget Sound with the Olympic Mountains.
Flickr Photo/Ryan Manuel (CC BY NC 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/jCewEL

Bill Radke speaks with University of Washington oceanography professor LuAnne Thompson about a recent blog post she wrote  about why scientist need to be better at communicating their ideas outside of the academic world. She talks about how now after the election of Donald Trump, people need to understand the science behind climate change more than ever.

When it comes to assessing the possible risks and benefits of science and technology, who is the relevant authority?

University scientists? Industry scientists? Religious organizations?

R
NASA

A new report warns that current levels of Arctic ice melting could trigger key "tipping points" leading to catastrophic and uncontrollable climate change. If these tipping points are reached, the effects would become their own drivers of global warming, regardless of human attempts to reduce carbon emissions.

NASA is looking for some help making the solar system's most portable port-a-potty.

So if you think you know the best way to poop in a spacesuit, the agency is ready to hear it ... and you might make $30,000 for your trouble.

Biomedical research is going big-time: Megaprojects that collect vast stores of data are proliferating rapidly. But scientists' ability to make sense of all that information isn't keeping up.

This conundrum took center stage at a meeting of patient advocates, called Partnering For Cures, in New York City on Nov. 15.

On the one hand, there's an embarrassment of riches, as billions of dollars are spent on these megaprojects.

Kale Is About To Have An Identity Crisis

Nov 28, 2016

Kale is getting a makeover, and the very essence of kaliness may hang in the balance.

To develop a new variety of kale tailored to American palates, horticulture professor Philip Griffiths of Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Science and graduate student Hannah Swegarden are soliciting consumers' kale reflections — the good, the bad, and the ugly. The scientists face a philosophic question for the ages. Asks Swegarden:

The next generation of great space telescopes is heading into its final round of ground tests. The nearly $9 billion James Webb Space Telescope will replace the aging Hubble Space Telescope. It's designed to provide unprecedented images of the earliest stars and galaxies that formed in the universe.

But before the telescope can get to work, there are still a lot of engineering challenges to overcome.

Courtesy of NASA

Kim Malcolm talks with GeekWire aerospace and science editor Alan Boyle about the potential impact of President Elect Donald Trump on Washington state's commercial space industry.

Many Oregon motels are sold out and reservable campsites are going fast for an event that doesn't happen until the second half of next year. If you don't want to miss a total solar eclipse, mark August 21, 2017 on your calendar.

Deborah Wang talks to Erik Vance about his book, "Suggestible You: The Curious Science of Your Brain's Ability to Deceive, Transform and Heal."  

In Trump era, a case for underdogs like Pluto

Nov 16, 2016
A 2008 photo from the Pluto is a planet protest in Greenwood.
Flickr Photo/javacolleen (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) http://bit.ly/2eHvds0

This essay, by former Mayor Mike McGinn, was first published in Encyclopedia Greenwoodia by the Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas. We happened upon the small volume at a coffee shop and were taken by its message: Seattle is adamantly, defiantly pro-little guy.

Mantis shrimp, a group of aggressive, reef-dwelling crustaceans, take more than one first-place ribbon in the animal kingdom. Outwardly, they resemble their somewhat larger lobster cousins, but their colorful shells contain an impressive set of superpowers.

Its official name is the perigee-syzygy, meaning the moon is both full and closest to Earth. But many call it the supermoon, and Monday's version will be a "showstopper," NASA says. It's the nearest supermoon in almost 70 years — and we won't see another like it until 2034.

"When a full moon makes its closest pass to Earth in its orbit it appears up to 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter, making it a supermoon," NASA says.

Here are five things to help you enjoy this supermoon:

When To See It

Federal scientists have launched another test in human volunteers of a Zika vaccine. This one uses a more traditional approach than an experiment that started in August.

Millions of Americans will cast a vote for the next president of the United States on Nov. 8 — Election Day — and for countless other offices and propositions.

In case you need the extra encouragement, here are three (more) reasons to vote, courtesy of the social sciences:

Bill Radke talks to biotech journalist Luke Timmerman about his new book, "Hood: Trailblazer of the Genomics Age." 

Three space travelers landed safely back on Earth late Saturday night.

The journey began in the evening, 5:12 p.m., ET to be exact, when the hatch to the International Space Station closed, and Kate Rubins, Anatoly Ivanishin and Takuya Onishi climbed into the cramped Russian-made Soyuz spacecraft that would bring them home.

New research finds little lies pave the way for big ones.

The Schiaparelli Mars lander got very close to the red planet before something went wrong. It entered the planet's atmosphere, managed not to burn up as it hurtled down and unfurled its parachute. It's unclear what happened in the final minute of descent, but it wasn't what the European and Russian space agencies had planned.

Scientists have discovered a new kind of spidey sense.

We already knew that jumping spiders have exceptional vision. We knew that they are great at perceiving vibrations. We even knew that they can "hear" at extremely close range.

But in research published in Current Biology, researchers at Cornell University found that a common species of jumping spider called Phidippus audax can actually hear from much farther away than we thought — at distances of 10 feet away, or more.

Developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik
Wikimedia Photo/Kathleen King (CC BY-SA 3.0) http://bit.ly/2miDSmR

The concept of "parenting" has only been around since the 1960s. Child development researcher Alison Gopnik believes our modern views on child raising do a disservice to children’s ability to thrive.

Gopnik is a professor of psychology and philosophy at University of California, Berkeley, where she directs the Gopnik Cognitive Development Lab. Her new book is “The Gardener and the Carpenter: What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us About the Relationship Between Parents and Children.”

She spoke at Town Hall Seattle on October 3. Sonya Harris recorded her talk.

Twelve years ago, a car wreck took away Nathan Copeland's ability to control his hands or sense what his fingers were touching.

A few months ago, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center gave Copeland a new way to reach out and feel the world around him. It's a mind-controlled robotic arm that has pressure sensors in each fingertip that send signals directly to Copeland's brain.

It can be tricky to determine, with any certainty, where the candidates stand on the issues, including on issues of science.

That’s why, for the second presidential election cycle in a row, Scientific American magazine has partnered with ScienceDebate.org to pose 20 questions to the candidates — questions that were developed and refined by dozens of scientific organizations that represent more than 10 million scientists.

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