Science + Technology

You know that feeling when your body is really craving a nice salad, but the only thing in your fridge is day-old pepperoni pizza? And you don't want to go through all the trouble of heading to the grocery store to gather all the ingredients for salad, so you settle for the pizza?

Well, Neanderthals feel you — kind of.

See, researchers are finding that Neanderthals and early humans weren't all that different — they even got together and made babies every now and then.

Its name will be "Red Dragon." And if the latest partnership between SpaceX and NASA works out, the privately funded craft will land on Mars to collect scientific data — possibly within the next two years. The plan is to use the Dragon capsule, but without a human crew.

"SpaceX is planning to send Dragons to Mars as early as 2018," the company said via Facebook Wednesday. "These missions will help demonstrate the technologies needed to land large payloads propulsively on Mars."

People who sustain a concussion or a more severe traumatic brain injury are likely to have sleep problems that continue for at least a year and a half.

I love viral animal videos as much as anyone. Sometimes I share them here, because the good ones can be a way to raise awareness about animal welfare, tune in to animals' intelligence or just enjoy a laugh.

Scientists have unveiled a fossilized skull from a new species of sauropod — an enormous dinosaur that walked the Earth roughly 95 million years ago. The skull found in Argentina is just the latest in a series of discoveries teaching scientists about how sauropods were once so successful as a group.

If there ever was a "nice" dinosaur, it would be the sauropod. In dinosaur movies, they're the plant-eating giants with impossibly long necks and big, cowlike eyes.

Back in the day, astronomers studied galaxies one at a time.

Data about each metropolis of stars had to be pieced together slowly. These individual studies were then combined so that a broader understanding of galaxies and their histories as a whole could slowly emerge.

Hidden Brain host Shankar Vedantam takes you on vacation with him to Alaska. You'll hike on top of a glacier, drink from a cool stream, and talk with fellow tourists from around the world. But the trip comes with an upsetting observation: Glaciers in Alaska are retreating. The Mendenhall glacier, visited by tens of thousands of tourists each year, has receded more than a mile and a half in the last half century.

"It's sort of just collapsed in on itself," says John Neary, director of the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.

The National Institutes of Health has suspended work in two facilities that manufacture products given to people who are enrolled in research studies, saying the facilities haven't complied with safety standards designed to protect already-sick people from inappropriate risks.

With the Zika virus spreading through Latin American and into U.S. territory, lots of researchers want to pursue projects to help fight the disease.

But there's one problem: money.

Or rather, getting money to researchers. President Obama has requested $1.9 billion from Congress to fight Zika, but this appeal is being held up by a vote in Congress. In the interim, the White House redirected $510 million from federal money left over from the response to Ebola.

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

On Tuesday, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced a plan to send interstellar probes to the Alpha Centauri star system. The audacious project would use a giant laser on Earth to accelerate scores of postage-stamp-size spacecraft to nearly the speed of light. They would cross the void in just 20 years — virtually no time on the scale of interstellar travel.

Finding a new planet that orbits a distant star isn't such a big deal anymore — astronomers have discovered around 2,000. But no one knows if any of these planets has a moon.

That might change this year, if a moon-hunting project goes as planned.

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

Mark Zuckerberg has laid out a 10-year master plan for Facebook. It's bold. It's savvy. And it glosses over a key detail: the dark side of making the world more connected.

Physicist Stephen Hawking and billionaire Yuri Milner have a vision of interstellar exploration — taking place over the course of not thousands of years, but decades.

Together with a team of scientists, they suggest that within a generation, humans could send a probe to Alpha Centauri — more than 4.3 light-years away, or 25 trillion miles — on a trip that would take just over two decades. That's 1,000 times faster than the current fastest spacecraft, the scientists say.

They're thinking big — by thinking very small.

Artificial limbs have come a long way since the days of peg legs and hooks for hands. But one thing most of these prosthetics lack is a sense of touch.

Zhenan Bao intends to change that.

Days after they declared a spacecraft emergency over the Kepler space telescope, NASA engineers say the craft has now recovered and that they're working to figure out what happened.

Kepler, which is currently nearly 75 million miles away from Earth, placed itself into Emergency Mode sometime in the middle of last week. But it wasn't until a scheduled contact on Thursday that mission engineers discovered the problem. That led NASA to declare a wider emergency, giving the mission priority access to communications through its Deep Space Network.

The number of tigers in the wild has risen from an estimated 3,200 in 2010 to about 3,890 in 2016 — a gain of more than 20 percent after a century of decline, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The group says the tiger populations have grown in at least four countries: India, Russia, Nepal and Bhutan.

A research team is now working to put a massive drill into the the Gulf of Mexico's seafloor to help peel back 65 million years of history. Their goal: to secure a nearly mile-deep core sample from the Chicxulub crater that's commonly linked to the end of the dinosaur era.

"There's a lot of questions about mass extinction events, including all the extinction or kill mechanisms out there," says one of the research team's leaders, Sean Gulick of the University of Texas, Austin.

Poaching and destruction of habitat have decimated wild tiger populations around the world, especially in Cambodia.

There are no longer any breeding tigers left in the wild in that country, and the species is considered "functionally extinct" there, according to the World Wildlife Foundation.

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