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Most of us have been tempted at one time or another by the lure of sugar. Think of all the cakes and cookies you consume between Thanksgiving and Christmastime!

But why are some people unable to resist that second cupcake or slice of pie? That's the question driving the research of Monica Dus, a molecular biologist at the University of Michigan. She wants to understand how excess sugar leads to obesity by understanding the effect of sugar on the brain.

Yoshinori Ohsumi of the Tokyo Institute of Technology has won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discoveries about "autophagy" — a fundamental process cells use to degrade and recycle parts of themselves.

Ohsumi, 71, is a professor emeritus at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Yokohama, Japan. As the sole winner, Ohsumi will receive more than $930,000.

Billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk says his space transport company, SpaceX, will build a rocket system capable of bringing people to Mars and supporting a permanent city on the red planet.

"It's something we can do in our lifetimes," he said in a speech at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico that was streamed online and watched by more than 100,000 people. "You could go."

Congratulations are in order, kind of, for a few exemplary researchers and one massive multinational corporation.

This year's Ig Nobel awards — the rather-less-noble-than-the-Nobel awards for "improbable" research and accomplishments — were announced Thursday night.

The honorees included a man who lived as a goat, a man who lived as a badger, a man who put tiny pants on rats and tracked their sex lives, a team who investigated the personalities of rocks, and Volkswagen.

People born without sight appear to solve math problems using visual areas of the brain.

A functional MRI study of 17 people blind since birth found that areas of visual cortex became active when the participants were asked to solve algebra problems, a team from Johns Hopkins reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers from the University of Washington and NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center found the opposite of what they expected when they used a new scientific method to sample the waters of Puget Sound.

From anthrax outbreaks in thawing permafrost to rice farms flooded with salty water, climate change seems to play a bigger and bigger role in global health each year.

Saying it wants to make football safer for current and future athletes, the NFL is pledging to spend $100 million for "independent medical research and engineering advancements." A main goal will be to prevent and treat head injuries.

Announcing the pledge Wednesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said it is in addition to the $100 million the league already committed toward medical research of brain injuries and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the progressive degenerative disease that has been found in football players.

Sugar shocked.

That describes the reaction of many Americans this week following revelations that, 50 years ago, the sugar industry paid Harvard scientists for research that shifted the focus away from sugar's role in heart disease — and put the spotlight squarely on dietary fat.

What might surprise consumers is just how many present-day nutrition studies are still funded by the food industry.

Five people. Ten bears. One desperate call for help.

On a remote Arctic island, five researchers at a weather station found themselves "besieged" by polar bears over the weekend, Russia's TASS news agency reports.

Vadim Plotnikov, the head of the weather station on Troynoy Island, told the news agency on Monday that the staff there had seen 10 adult bears around the station, as well as several cubs.

Two weeks ago, a polar bear ate one of the weather station's two dogs — and hadn't left the station since.

Doctors Test Drones To Speed Up Delivery Of Lab Tests

Sep 13, 2016

Three years ago, Geoff Baird bought a drone. The Seattle dad and hobby plane enthusiast used the 2.5-pound quadcopter to photograph the Hawaiian coastline and film his son's soccer and baseball games.

In the 1960s, the sugar industry funded research that downplayed the risks of sugar and highlighted the hazards of fat, according to a newly published article in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Five states are voting this fall on whether marijuana should be legal, like alcohol, for recreational use. That has sparked questions about what we know — and don't know — about marijuana's effect on the brain.

Like so many brilliant innovations, the idea seems obvious in hindsight. Just combine college, coffee, and chemical engineering. Of course!

If you've ever wanted to watch a superbug evolve before your very eyes, you're in luck. Researchers filmed an experiment that created bacteria a thousand times more drug-resistant than their ancestors. In the time-lapse video, a white bacterial colony creeps across an enormous black petri dish plated with vertical bands of successively higher doses of antibiotic.

Writer Charles Mudede at Smoke Farm.
Courtesy of Jason Evans

The 8th Smoke Farm Symposium featured talks by professor Tanya Erzen, writer and filmmaker Charles Mudede, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist Ken Williford and historian and MacArthur Fellow Mott Greene.

Topics included prison reform by Erzen, global migration and citizenship by Mudede, the search for microscopic life on Mars by Williford and science history by Greene.

Updated at 7:20 p.m. ET.

A rocket took off Thursday evening from Cape Canaveral, Fla., as part of a mission by NASA and the University of Arizona to send a robot to an asteroid. The goal: Bring back ancient dust.

Dogs can be trained to do a multitude of tasks. Most can learn to sit, lie and stay; others can guide the blind, rescue the injured and maybe even detect cancer. But the hardest thing of all might be to train them to do nothing. Stop scratching. Don't wag your tail. Don't drool. Don't even lick your chops.

A University of Washington Medical Center employee says researchers have sometimes claimed patient tissues before diagnosis was complete. The medical center says it is strengthening its policies on this issue.
KUOW PHOTO/AMY RADIL

When cancer tissue is removed from a patient, doctors are supposed to hand it over to someone to form diagnosis and treatment recommendations.

Leftover tissue goes to research.

Solar eclipse seen from in Yokohama in 2012.
Flickr Photo/J Lippold (CC BY NC 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/c2xvgh

Bill Radke talks with Geekwire's Alan Boyle about  North American eclipse of the sun expected August 2017. It's first of its kind in almost a hundred years. But the best places to see it in the Northwest are already getting pretty crowded. 

They aren't saying it's alien, but they are saying it's "interesting."

The SETI Institute — the private organization that looks for signals of extraterrestrial life — has announced that it is investigating reports of an unusual radio signal picked up by Russian astronomers.

The signal was detected on a much wider bandwidth than the SETI Institute uses in its searches, and the strength of the received signal was "weak," SETI Institute astronomer Seth Shostak wrote in a blog post.

Dougsley, the corpse flower at Volunteer Park Conservatory
Courtesy of Terry Huang

Volunteer Park has a fragrant new tenant. 

The University of Washington Biology Department has loaned the Volunteer Park Conservatory a so-called corpse flower that emits an odor reminiscent of a decaying body. 

Tribute: The Man Who Led The War To Kill Smallpox

Aug 25, 2016

"Anxious, pleading, pock-deformed faces; the ugly, penetrating odor of decaying flesh; the hands, covered with pustules, reaching out, as people begged for help .... And there was no drug, no treatment that we could give them."

An artist's rendering shows what Proxima b and its star, Proxima Centauri, might look like.
European Southern Observatory

The discovery of a planet that could hold life just a few light-years away is enough to make Alan Boyle teary.

"When we look back millennia from now, we're not going to be so focused on who won such and such an election or who made the most money," the GeekWire aerospace editor told KUOW's Kim Malcolm. "People are going to remember big steps that were taken on the frontier, and this could be one of them."


A major study about the best way to treat early-stage breast cancer reveals that "precision medicine" doesn't provide unambiguous answers about how to choose the best therapy.

"Precision doesn't mean certainty," says David Hunter, a professor of cancer prevention at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

That point is illustrated in a large study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, involving decisions about chemotherapy.

To a mathematician, it's a violent explosion that shoots out missiles of hot, wet air, slamming a turbulent cloud of moisture into anybody or anything that crosses its path.

To the rest of us, it's a sneeze.

Michael W. Davidson at Florida State University | Molecular Expressios.com
The Tyrannosaurus Rex skull arrives at the Burke Museum in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Paige Browning

There's a Tyrannosaurus rex in Seattle.

A team from the Burke Museum and University of Washington dug up the skull and other bones in Montana last month. It arrived at the museum Thursday.


When it comes to waves, it doesn't get much bigger than the gravitational variety. Einstein predicted that huge events — like black holes merging — create gravitational waves. Unlike most waves we experience, these are distortions in space and time. They roll across the entire universe virtually unimpeded.

Einstein first predicted the existence of gravitational waves in 1916, but none were spotted until recently. Given their incredible power, why did it take a century to locate them?

Sharks can live to be at least 272 years old in the Arctic seas, and scientists say one recently caught shark may have lived as long as 512 years.

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