research

The shooting in Newtown, Conn., last December has left families of the 26 victims, most of them children, struggling to heal in different ways.

Jeremy Richman and Jennifer Hensel are one such family. They lost their only child, 6-year-old Avielle, in the shooting. In the year since, they've responded as any parents would: Asking why such a tragedy could have happened.

University of New Haven

Students at the University of New Haven are developing a DNA test that could detect contaminants in medical marijuana. Dr. Heather Coyle, a forensic botanist and associate professor at UNH, said patients using pot for medicinal purposes could be harmed by contaminants that they can't see.

An expert panel at the National Academy of Sciences is calling for an early warning system to alert us to abrupt and potentially catastrophic events triggered by climate change.

The committee says science can anticipate some major changes to the Earth that could affect everything from agriculture to sea level. But we aren't doing enough to look for those changes and anticipate their impacts.

smithereen 11 / creative commons

A new Yale study offers hope for parents who have children with autism spectrum disorders. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the double-blind, placebo-controlled study consisted of 17 children and adolescents considered to have moderate- to high-functioning autism. 

The U.S. lost an average of 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands from 2004 to 2009, according to the latest data published by federal agencies. More than 70 percent of the estimated loss came in the Gulf of Mexico; nationwide, most of the loss was blamed on development that incurred on freshwater wetlands.

"The losses of these vital wetlands were 25 percent greater than during the previous six years," NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reports for our Newscast unit. She also notes that the loss equals "about seven football fields every hour."

The first satellite ever developed by high school students to make it to space is believed to be orbiting Earth after getting a ride aboard a U.S. military rocket Tuesday night from Wallops Island, Va.

Fittingly, perhaps, you can send it a text message.

The satellite, using a voice synthesizer, is built to transform that text into an audio message that can be heard over certain radio frequencies around the globe, and in different languages.

supafly / Creative Commons

A new Yale University study suggests that social interactions are a key predictor of who becomes a victim of gun violence. According to the study, published in The American Journal of Public Health, who you hang out with may be more important than other factors like race and socioeconomic status.

Could the microbes that inhabit our guts help explain that old idea of "gut feelings?" There's growing evidence that gut bacteria really might influence our minds.

"I'm always by profession a skeptic," says Dr. Emeran Mayer, a professor of medicine and psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles. "But I do believe that our gut microbes affect what goes on in our brains."

Movies Rated PG-13 Feature The Most Gun Violence

Nov 11, 2013

Parents who rely on movie ratings to decide what their children can watch may think that PG-13 films have fewer villains flashing guns than R-rated movies.

But they're wrong.

The PG-13 movies actually show more gun violence, a study finds.

Des Colhoun / Creative Commons

One year ago on Halloween eve, there was a surprising discovery on the New Haven green. It was just days after Superstorm Sandy, and trees had blown down all around town. A giant oak tree toppled over on the green, and there, tangled in its roots, were centuries-old human bones.

What makes trick-or-treaters happy is candy. And more candy is better, right?

Well, it turns out that might not actually be the case. A few years ago researchers did a study on Halloween night where some trick-or-treaters were given a candy bar, and others were given the candy bar and a piece of bubble gum.

Anthropologist Lynne Isbell was running through a glade in central Kenya in 1992 when something suddenly caused her to freeze in her tracks. "I stopped just in front of a cobra," she says. "It was raised with its hood spread out."

Isbell, who is at the University of California, Davis, says she has spent the past couple of decades trying to understand how she could have reacted before her conscious brain even had a chance to think — cobra!

understandinganimalresearch, Flickr Creative Commons

Almost every cure and treatment of diseases exists thanks to medical research on animals. Through animal research, we can understand the addictive nature of Oreos like in a study from Connecticut College recently, and Macaques are crucial for the development of AIDS vaccine strategies. We’ll find out why certain animals work best for certain studies, some big challenges in finding the healthiest control subjects, and more.

GUESTS:

Drug overdoses are usually thought to afflict mainly the poor and troubled. But it looks like OxyContin and other opioid painkillers are changing the picture.

People in stable, middle-class neighborhoods are also dying from opioid overdoses, a study in New York City finds.

Opioids have become among the most popular drugs of abuse in the past decade, with deaths from overdoses of oxycodone, hydrocodone and codeine eclipsing those from heroin and cocaine combined.

BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

News has been pretty rough lately, between the government shutdown and the debt ceiling. Now comes word that America’s favorite cookie can produce similar effects on the brain as addictive drugs. New research from Connecticut College finds that the Oreo cookie is just as addictive as cocaine, at least for lab rats.

Do You Doodle?

Oct 11, 2013
Chion Wolf / WNPR

Today on Where We Live, we re-aired one of our favorite shows in recent memory. It was about the age-old tradition of doodling!

Not only were our in-studio guests doodling during the show, but so were listeners. During the live broadcast of the show, we did a Storify with some of our favorite doodles, links about doodles, and quotes on doodling.

Keep the doodle revolution going!

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Ever been caught doodling during a meeting a work? A boring class? You’re not alone. Did you get yelled at? “Get your head in the game! You’re distracted! You're not serious!" 

Our guest Sunni Brown, author of The Doodle Revolution: Unlock the Power to Think Differently, says doodling involves a lot of the senses... movement, sound, and visuals… and, far from being a distraction, it actually can enhance learning.

The government shutdown is likely to mean an early death for thousands of mice used in research on diseases such as diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer's.

Federal research centers including the National Institutes of Health will have to kill some mice to avoid overcrowding, researchers say. Others will die because it is impossible to maintain certain lines of genetically altered mice without constant monitoring by scientists. And most federal scientists have been banned from their own labs since Oct. 1.

Researchers in a memory lab at Texas A&M University noticed that all the older people coming in as volunteers were really worried about how they'd do.

So the scientists decided to measure how taking a memory test affects a person's subjective sense of age.

Before the test, the 22 participants felt pretty darned good. Even though their average age was 75, they said they felt about 58.

Then they were given a list of 30 nouns, told to study them for two minutes, and then asked to recall as many of them as they could in three minutes.

Staecker / Wikimedia Commons

If I were to tell you a story about the long-term outlook for the world -- our people, our resources, our air, water and food -- and what we should do about it, you might expect that the story would start with climate change. It has become the lead issue of the environmental movement, and according to many, the most important issue of our time.

Yale University

There is a brand-new Nobel Laureate in the Nutmeg State. Yale University professor James Rothman is one of three researchers to win the 2013 Nobel Prize in medicine for discoveries on how hormones, enzymes and other key substances are transported within cells.

Matanya / Flickr Creative Commons

Quinnipiac University released their latest national poll on Tuesday, looking at American voters' attitudes about the government shutdown and Obamacare. The poll of 1,497 registered voters revealed that 72 percent are opposed to the notion of shutting down the government to stop implementation of Obamacare, and 64 percent oppose blocking an increase of the debt ceiling to derail the Affordable Care Act.

Joelmills / Wikimedia Commons

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday that questions about the environmental condition of Plum Island need further study before the federal government proceeds with its sale. The island, off eastern Long Island, has been home to a federal research facility that studies infectious diseases that could threaten the nation’s livestock industry.

Declaring that "human influence on the climate system is clear," a U.N.-assembled panel of scientists reported Friday that "it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century."

During an experiment, marketing professor Remi Trudel noticed a pattern in what his volunteers were recycling versus throwing in the garbage. He then went through his colleagues' trash and recycling bins at Boston University for more data.

He found the same pattern, says NPR's Shankar Vedantam: "Whole sheets of paper typically went in the recycling, but paper fragments went in the trash."

Same type of paper, different shapes, different bins.

Wheat has been getting a bad rap lately.

Many folks are experimenting with the gluten-free diet, and a best-selling book called Wheat Belly has helped drive a lot of the interest.

"Wheat is the most destructive thing you could put on your plate, no question," says William Davis, a cardiologist in Milwaukee, Wis., who authored the book.

Scientists and government representatives are meeting in Stockholm this week to produce the latest high-level review of climate change. It's thousands of pages of material, and if it's done right, it should harbor very few surprises.

That's because it's supposed to compile what scientists know — and what they don't — about climate change. And that's left some scientists to wonder whether these intensive reviews are still the best way to go.

In the woods outside Huntsville, Texas, scientists are trying to determine whether they can use the microbes that live on the human body as microscopic witnesses that could help catch criminals.

It's a strange scene at the Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility. At first, it's easy to miss the human bodies scattered among the tall pines, wild grass and weeds.

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