Science + Technology

An experimental lander from the European Space Agency is making its final descent toward Mars, preparing for a controlled landing on Wednesday.

The Schiaparelli probe detached from its mothership, the Trace Gas Orbiter, on Sunday.

There was a moment of alarm when, after separating from the ship, Schiaparelli didn't send the expected signals back to scientists on earth. It did send back a "carrier signal" to show it was operational, but didn't communicate any telemetry data about its status or location.

Counting all the galaxies in the universe is hard. So hard, it seems, that it's possible to miss billions of them.

A new analysis of Hubble Space Telescope data finds there are almost 10 times more galaxies in the universe than we once thought there were — about 2 trillion of them, up from about 200 billion.

In the world of illegal wildlife trade, the most valuable appendage — even more than elephant ivory — is the horn of the rhinoceros. Investigative journalist Bryan Christy estimates that the wholesale market for rhino horn is roughly a quarter of a billion dollars.

The teenage brain has been characterized as a risk-taking machine, looking for quick rewards and thrills instead of acting responsibly. But these behaviors could actually make teens better than adults at certain kinds of learning.

Human life spans have been increasing for decades thanks to advances in treating and preventing diseases and improved social conditions.

In fact, longevity has increased so much in recent decades that some researchers began to wonder: What is the upper limit on human aging?

I start with a remarkable quote:

Some cutting-edging science today relies on the centuries-old art of glassblowing.

When researchers in chemistry, physics and medicine need special glass tools for complex experiments, they sometimes sit down with a glassblower to sketch out designs for customized beakers, flasks and condenser coils.

The largest radio telescope in the world officially opened on Sunday, according to China's official Xinhua News.

The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, is named after its diameter, which at 500 meters makes it 195 meters wider than the second largest telescope of its kind, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

In 1970, archaeologists excavating the site of an ancient synagogue in Israel dug up a cylindrical lump of charcoal that looked like the remains of a scroll.

The animal-skin document was badly burned and battered. It was so delicate, just touching its surface sent pieces flaking off. To attempt to read it by unwrapping the layers would be to destroy the artifact forever. For curious scholars hoping to know what was written inside, the so-called En-Gedi scroll was a hopeless enigma.

Until now.

When the phone rang, Rebecca Richards-Kortum thought it was a telemarketer. Instead, it was the MacArthur Foundation calling her at home to tell her she'd just won a grant totaling $625,000. And she hadn't even been aware that she'd been nominated for the prestigious award.

A scientist in Sweden has started trying to edit the DNA in healthy human embryos, NPR has learned.

The step by the developmental biologist Fredrik Lanner makes him the first researcher known to attempt to modify the genes of healthy human embryos. That has long been considered taboo because of safety and ethical concerns.

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.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

This election season, voters should be evaluating the presidential candidates' attitudes toward science.

ScienceDebate.org proposes a set of 20 science and science policy questions for all candidates, suggesting that "science impacts voters at least as much as the economic policy, foreign policy, and faith and values candidates share on the campaign trail."

A deadly fungus that's been devastating frog populations is spreading across the globe — it's helped drive the extinction of 200 species so far. In California, the chytrid fungus has moved inexorably across the Sierra Nevada, leaving thousands of frogs dead.

But scientists are trying to turn the tide against the fungus with an experimental treatment, one that could matter to frogs worldwide.

NASA sent a robotic spacecraft from Florida out to an asteroid Thursday, but that's not the only asteroid mission the space agency has in the works.

A Map To Help Cancer Doctors Find Their Way

Sep 9, 2016

What if doctors could call up a computerized map that would show them how a case of cancer is likely to progress?

Tumor cells can mutate in unexpected ways. And cancers can suddenly grow. For doctors, anticipating cancer's next moves can help guide timely, effective patient treatment.

A mapping program, called PiCnIc for short, aims to help physicians in staying a step ahead of cancer and preparing long-term treatment plans with fewer elements of surprise.

How does it work?

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.

On Aug. 15, the news broke that a Russian radio telescope detected strong signals from outer space.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


We like to think all stories are equal. But our astrophysicist thinks we did not make a big-enough deal of what he thinks is a story so important it gives him chills. So here's last week's news through the misty eyes of NPR blogger Adam Frank.