Topic: Life Science

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Current Event September 5, 2017

How Zebra Finches Learn to Sing

Life Science Education KERA

Humans and baby birds appear to be very different creatures, but scientists are studying certain birds because they learn their songs in a similar way that humans learn speech. A new study from University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center has shown similarities between how both species develop language. Listen to the lead scientist as he explains how a network of neurons in the brains of zebra finches could provide insight into how humans learn to speak.

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Current Event August 16, 2017

Tricky Spiders Avoid Predators

Life Science Evolution

Animals employ all sorts of techniques to avoid becoming prey. This is a story about one species of spider that have learned to mimic the movement of ants to avoid detection by predators. Listen to learn more about the life of a professional insect impersonator.

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Current Event July 17, 2017

Bed Bugs are an Expensive Pest Problem for Renters

Life Science KERA

An infestation of bed bugs is horrible, along with being costly to treat. They search for blood, mostly at night when people sleep, and their bites leave red welts and itchy skin. They spread easily and hide during the day, making them difficult to find. Getting rid of bed bugs is expensive and creates difficulties for low-income renters. Many tenants do not realize that their leases have sections that put the responsibility of getting rid of the bed bugs on them and not on their landlords. Listen to hear one family’s story and the options available to you when there is a bed bug infestation.

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Current Event July 12, 2017

Opium Prescriptions Still Too High

Life Science Health

The United States is in the middle of an opioid addiction crisis. Millions of Americans are addicted to prescription painkillers, and thousands are dying from overdoses. The increase in addiction is attributed to doctors overprescribing painkillers. Recently doctors have decreased the amount of opioids prescribed as a response to the crisis, but there are still a high number of prescriptions given for these drugs. Listen to hear more about the trends in opioid prescriptions and what might be done about this crisis.

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Current Event July 5, 2017

Learning about Brain Science from Phineas Gage

Life Science Psychology

In the mid 1800s our understanding of the brain was radically changed as a result of a freak accident. Phineas Gage survived an accident that drove an iron rod through his head, but he had some changes in his personality. This case highlighted the relationship between the structural parts of the brain and changes in behavior. Listen to hear more about what this case can tell us about the brain and personality.

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Current Event June 6, 2017

Bird Flu Worries Scientists

Life Science Viruses

Doctors around the world are worried about the threat of the global spread of bird flu, or avian influenza. In Hong Kong, scientists studying the virus are also concerned about how quickly the virus is evolving. The latest mutation of the virus is able to kill chickens in the lab within 24 hours. A leading scientist worries that a future mutation could be transmitted more quickly between humans, leading to a global pandemic. Listen to learn more about this research and the threat of bird flu.

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Current Event May 30, 2017

A Hero Bug Helps Scientists Develop Drugs

Life Science

Scientists have found a new bacteria in a cave 1,000 feet underground. The bacteria is resistant to 70% of antibiotics used to fight disease in humans. The fact that the bacteria is resistant to these antibiotics, despite never having been exposed to them, tells scientists that antibiotic resistance is genetically hardwired rather than developed as a result of exposure. Scientists are calling the bacteria a “hero bug” because it is not harmful to humans, and they hope that this new knowledge will lead to even more effective antibiotics. Listen to learn more about the “hero bug” and antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

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Current Event May 5, 2017

Debate: Should We Make Changes to Human DNA?

Life Science Genetics Biotechnology

Scientists say that in the future they will be able to make modifications to human DNA that can be passed down to subsequent generations. These same scientists say that such genetic modifications should only occur in cases of serious disease or disability and must be tightly regulated. However, there is fear around the idea of scientists altering the course of evolution and creating “genetically superior” humans. Listen to learn more about developments in genetic modification and debate: Should we make changes to human DNA?

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Current Event May 2, 2017

Mountain Lion Kitten

Life Science Environment Animals

A female baby mountain lion has been found in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Mountain lions in the recreation area are very isolated as the park is bordered by the Pacific Ocean, agricultural fields, and greater Los Angeles. Therefore, scientists believe that the baby mountain lion is likely a product of inbreeding among related lions with limited mating choices. This could lead to genetic defects and abnormalities in the mountain lions. Listen to learn more about the newborn mountain lion and the concerns about mountain lion inbreeding.

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Current Event April 26, 2017

Your Brain Gets Used to Lying

Life Science Psychology

A team of neuroscientists is working on studying how the brain reacts when we tell lies. What they found is that as one tells more lies, each progressive lie shows less brain activity associated with conscience or guilt. This means that being dishonest becomes easier overtime. However, facing negative consequences as a result of lying will cause the brain to react and discourage lying. Listen to learn more about the brain science behind lying.

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Science Middle School

Henrietta Lacks and Patient Privacy

Life Science Cells

Cells are used in research to make scientific discoveries. A certain set of cells are among the most widely used in biomedical research worldwide. These HeLa cells have been used to research almost every disease and have played an important role in many scientific breakthroughs including the development of the polio vaccine. The cells come from a woman named Henrietta Lacks who has been mentioned in more than 70,000 published scientific papers. Listen to hear more about how these cells are used and the issues of privacy with her family.

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Current Event April 7, 2017

Debate: Should We Give People Aid in Dying?

Life Science Law Ethics

There is a debate going on in Massachusetts about whether people should have the right to seek medical aid in ending their own life if they are suffering from a terminal illness. An “end-of-life” measure did not pass in Massachusetts in 2012. Now, the debate has been reopened because a retired doctor with terminal cancer is suing the state so he can be allowed to seek medical aid in dying. Part of the debate centers around the question of whether courts should be in charge of end-of-life cases or if the legislature should create a law addressing the issue. Listen to learn more about the legality of giving medical aid in dying.

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Current Event April 5, 2017

Fixing Gender-Bias in Animal Testing

Life Science Gender Genetics

Traditionally, medical animal testing has been conducted primarily on male subjects. Several reasons have been cited, such as complications in pregnant animals and difficulties creating controlled experiments for both genders. Now, the National Institutes of Health is requiring the studies it funds to test male and female subjects. This new requirement is a response to inequalities in health outcomes between men and women. Many researchers believe that the higher incidence of negative reactions to medication found in women is a result of the gender bias in the testing phase. Listen to learn more about gender bias in animal testing.

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Current Event March 2, 2017

Eating Together Helps People Agree

Life Science Psychology Culture

New studies have found that when people eat the same food, they feel more connected, leading to greater trust and cooperation. Scientists have found that in addition to the experience of spending time together and enjoying conversation during meals, people also strengthen connections when they eat the same food. Listen to learn more about the relationship between food, trust and cooperation.

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Current Event February 15, 2017

Why Frog Tongues Are So Sticky

Life Science

Frog tongues work to quickly and effectively catch prey. According to a scientist's research, the unique softness of a frog’s tongue, along with the snot-like saliva, make the tongue super sticky. This allows frogs to catch many different kinds of prey quickly without the meal slipping off their tongues. Listen to learn more about frog biology, the research methods, and why scientists want to learn more about sticky frog tongues.

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Current Event February 13, 2017

How the Travel Ban is Affecting Science

Life Science Politics Religion

President Trump’s travel ban has already affected tens of thousands of people traveling to and from the United States. Among the affected groups are scientists. Scientific discovery often depends on the ability to communicate and collaborate with experts from around the world. However, with the travel ban in place, many are forgoing the trip to the United States entirely. Listen to learn more about specific examples of affected scientists and the impact the travel ban is having on the scientific community of the United States.

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Current Event January 17, 2017

A Breakthrough Vaccine for Ebola Virus

Life Science Biotechnology

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is under control now, according the the World Health Organization. During the outbreak in 2014, 11,000 people in Africa died of Ebola. Now scientists have discovered a vaccine against Ebola. The vaccination is different from other vaccines, which are typically given to healthy people before they are exposed to a virus. This new vaccine is given to someone after they are exposed to Ebola and can protect them. Listen to this story to learn more about this important discovery.

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Current Event January 12, 2017

Genetically Engineering Mosquitoes to Wipe Out Malaria

Life Science Biotechnology

Scientists are experimenting with genetically modifying mosquitoes to wipe out some diseases like malaria. Every year malaria kills a million people. This new technique uses genetic engineering to alter mosquitoes genes. It’s a practice called “gene drive” and it’s controversial because it can be use to eradicate disease but could also be used as a weapon. This audio story explores the science behind gene drives and the controversy surrounding the technique.

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Current Event December 1, 2016

Scientific Discovery Hard to Pin Down

Life Science Biotechnology

Scientific discoveries are rarely the result of a “eureka!” moment. A recent discovery in biotech, called CRISPR, is an example of a discovery made by many people in labs all over the world. In the CRISPR discovery, there are issues of identifying exactly what that discovery is: a way to cut and paste DNA, how to control that process, or how to make it into a tool. In science, the question of who should get the credit often depends on who gets a paper published first, and not who discovered it first. Listen to hear about the process of discovery.

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