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Science + Technology

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.

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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.

Lizards are expected to be hard hit by climate change — and a new study suggests it might be even worse for some lizards than scientists thought.

Well, hello there, Philae.

The famous little probe — the first one to ever land on a comet — has been silent for more than a year, after a less-than-perfect landing left it struggling to get enough sunlight to recharge its batteries. And now — thanks to a high-resolution photo — we finally know where it is.

The lander, carried by the Rosetta spacecraft on a European Space Agency mission, had been eagerly watched from Earth throughout its mission. A few successful hours of communication were celebrated, and then it was clear they couldn't last.

Ever dream of creating paintings like those by Picasso or Van Gogh? These days you just need some artificial intelligence, which can be delivered through your smartphone.

Two of this summer's much buzzed-about apps are Prisma, which turns your photos into what look like paintings, and Artisto, which does the same for videos. Both are available for iOS and Android.

From the air, it looks like a 2,300-square-mile field of submerged doughnuts on the ocean floor.

The limestone circles amount to a second, deeper reef behind the Great Barrier Reef, researchers say. The scientists who discovered it off the coast of northern Australia say they're surprised by its vast size — and by the strange shapes.

Forget Hawaii or Fiji. The spot that's really got surfers talking these days is a secluded pond more than 100 miles from the ocean, in California's Central Valley.

"It's just an amazing, amazing wave," says Robert "Wingnut" Weaver, a longboarder from Santa Cruz, Calif., and one of just a handful of surfers who have ridden the wave. "It's mind-blowing."

We know a lot about the life of Lucy, the famous fossil of Australopithecus afarensis — our ancient ancestor and bridge to the ape world.

Lucy was 3 feet tall; she lived in what is now Ethiopia and she walked upright. She ate leaves, grass and maybe nuts and seeds. She probably slept in a tree nest.

Everywhere you turn, it seems, there's news about the human microbiome. And, more specifically, about the bacteria that live in your gut and help keep you healthy.

Those bacteria, it turns out, are hiding a big secret: their own microbiome.

A study published Monday suggests some viruses in your gut could be beneficial. And these viruses don't just hang out in your intestines naked and homeless. They live inside the bacteria that make their home in your gut.

Attitudes toward animals are a delicate and complicated matter.

We can group animals into vertebrates and invertebrates, into the wild and the domestic — or into those we keep as pets, those we eat and those we regard with disgust as vermin.

It's OK to love them — but only so much.

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.

Paleontologists at the University of New South Wales in Australia say they have identified a tiny new species of marsupial lion that lived around 18 million years ago.

The extinct, squirrel-size animal weighed about 1.3 pounds, very likely lived in trees and had teeth that suggest it was capable of ripping apart other small creatures with its molars.

The researchers named it Microleo attenboroughi in honor of Sir David Attenborough, the famed British naturalist who has hosted numerous documentaries on wildlife.

In 1874, when the painter and naturalist Henry Wood Elliott was observing a small crowd of walruses on the Punuk Islands off Alaska's coast, he was preoccupied with the appearance of their pustules and the precise texture of their skins.

"The longer I looked at them the more heightened was my disgust; for they resembled distorted, mortified, shapeless masses of flesh," he wrote. Almost off-handedly, he noted their number — around 150, all male — before pondering their resemblance to "so many gnomes or demons of fairy romance."

This is the second story in a three-part series. Read Part 1 here.

For the annual Kinetic Sculpture Race in Baltimore, teams must drive, pedal and push their vehicles through 15 miles of roads, mud, sand and water.

Two-dozen students at Arbutus Middle School have been working after school for months on their entry: a huge pedal-powered sculpture called Monsters of the Middle School Brain.

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?

Technologies disappear all the time.

Lead problems with the water in Flint, Mich., have prompted people across the country to ask whether they or their families have been exposed to the toxic metal in their drinking water, too.

When it comes to assessing the risk, it's important to look in the right places.

Even when municipal water systems' lead levels are considered perfectly fine by federal standards, the metal can leach into tap water from lead plumbing.

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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