Science + Technology

If you go by their declarations and promises, meat producers are drastically cutting back on the use of antibiotics to treat their poultry, pigs and cattle. Over the past year, one big food company after another has announced plans to stop using these drugs.

But if you go by the government's data on drugs sold to livestock producers, it's a different story.

Is renewable energy worth the cost? This question is central to the debates in Paris over how to address climate change. Though the conundrum has no simple answer, in South Africa the verdict is in.

Renewable energy arrived in South Africa as a green luxury. But this year, wind and solar farms turned out to be economy-saving necessities.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Good morning. I'm Linda Wertheimer. Here is a message from the silent reaches of space.

(SOUNDBITE OF BAGPIPE MUSIC)

The mysterious bright spots glowed from Ceres' dark surface like alien headlights, capturing many Earthlings' imaginations. But researchers say they're the result of mineral salts, citing data captured by NASA's Dawn mission to study the dwarf planet.

Florida's Everglades has an ecosystem known for its sawgrass, cypress trees, alligators — and perhaps soon, oil wells.

Oil drilling isn't allowed in the 1.5 million-acre Everglades National Park, but the ecosystem extends far beyond the park's boundaries — and drilling is allowed in Big Cypress National Preserve, an adjacent protected area about half the size of the park.

Seven tussling puppies could bring a smile to anyone's face. But one litter has a team of scientists beaming more than usual.

The puppies — five beagles and two "bockers," or beagle-cocker spaniel mixes — are the first ever born through in vitro fertilization.

IVF has been used successfully in other animals — including, notably, humans — for decades. But despite numerous attempts, scientists had never succeeded in using IVF in dogs.

Climate negotiators in Paris are wrangling over "country commitments," "caps" and "cuts" in greenhouse gases.

Some environmentalists, however, argue that the most important "c" word is missing: consumption. In India, they say little will change unless fossil-fuel-reliant rich countries moderate how they consume energy.

"An inconvenient truth is that we do not want to talk about consumption or lifestyle," says environmentalist Sunita Narain.

The Paris climate meeting is now heading into its home stretch, as world leaders debate what to make of a human future on a changing planet.

As an astronomer, however, I'm used to taking the long view on things. From that perspective, a startlingly different understanding of climate change appears from what I often see people talking about. From the long view — which for climate is the only view that makes sense — it's clear we're looking at climate all wrong.

What you think is funny and what you think is downright offensive says a lot about you.

In this episode of Hidden Brain, Shankar Vedantam explores why some of us think, say, jokes about nut allergies are hilarious, while others are already crafting angry emails to NPR.

Gender, race, cancer, your mom—these are touchy subjects, but also ones that garner big laughs. Why? Comedian Margaret Cho explains it this way: "You're laughing because someone is actually playing with fire, and this may erupt into something incredibly explosive."

So far, the international climate meeting in Paris has primarily been about words, as diplomats wrestle with the precise language of a treaty. But some surprising climate science was unveiled this week, too — a new measurement of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere that suggests the world's production of the globe-warming gas has taken a small dip.

On PBS's Newshour last week, Jon Schull, a research scientist at the Rochester Institute of Technology, made some points about disability.

He said that in a world with lots of small print, the inability to see fine detail is a disability (though some might consider it minor in the range of "disability"). And, he said, this disability becomes a mere nuisance when you have affordable, easy to use reading glasses.

Whether you play an instrument, sing or sculpt, "everyone does some kind of art," Pindar Van Arman says.

What if you could never get a good night's rest? Some low-income people around the world face that challenge. A team of researchers is investigating whether sleep deprivation keeps some in poverty. (This piece originally aired on All Things Considered on Dec. 2, 2015.)

The best photos from the New Horizons spacecraft that buzzed Pluto earlier this year are now making their way back to Earth, providing resolutions of less than 100 yards per pixel.

Negotiators at COP21, the U.N. climate change conference in Paris, have settled on a rough blueprint for approaching the complex and contentious task of reining in emissions and reducing global warming. But many issues will need to be resolved by the summit's end next Friday.

"It always seems impossible until it's done," French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal told the conference Saturday, quoting Nelson Mandela. She then added, "We will do it."

You can read the 48-page draft accord farther down in this post.

From Paris, NPR's Christopher Joyce reports:

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have found a field of dinosaur footprints on the Isle of Skye. The footprints were made by giant dinosaurs 50 feet long that weighed nearly 20 tons. (This piece initially aired on Dec. 3, 2015, on All Things Considered.)

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

The term "space race" will take on new meaning in a few months, if a British astronaut carries out his plan of running the 2016 London Marathon while he's nearly 250 miles above the Earth's surface. Astronaut Tim Peake says he got the idea after being assigned to the International Space Station.

For the developing countries at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris, it's more than a chance to talk. It's a chance to be heard — and their representatives are taking advantage of the world stage by airing their grievances and proposing potential fixes.

Just over a decade ago, Iran had a multi-faceted research program to develop a nuclear warhead that would fit on top of a ballistic missile. That's the bottom line of a new report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The coordinated program ended in 2003, but some sporadic work continued until 2009, the new report says.

For more than 20 years, world leaders have been trying to craft a solution to global warming, without a lot of success. During that time, the U.S. government has been like the big-ticket movie star who has been offered the lead role, but won't commit.

President Obama, though, thinks he has figured how the United States can once again star, even without the support of the U.S. Congress.

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