Nell Greenfieldboyce en Big Data Peeps At Your Medical Records To Find Drug Problems No one likes it when a new drug in people's medicine cabinets turns out to have problems — just remember the Vioxx debacle a decade ago, when the painkiller was removed from the market over concerns that it increased the risk of heart attack and stroke.<p>To do a better job of spotting unforeseen risks and side effects, the Food and Drug Administration is trying something new — and there's a decent chance that it involves your medical records.<p>It's called <a href="">Mini-Sentinel</a>, and it's a $116 million government project to actively go out and look for adve Mon, 21 Jul 2014 09:15:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 65004 at The Little Spacecraft That Couldn't An audacious quest to reconnect with a vintage NASA spacecraft has suffered a serious setback and is now pretty much over.<p>The satellite launched in 1978 and has been in a long, looping orbit around the sun for about three decades. Thu, 10 Jul 2014 07:28:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 64174 at A Shocking Fish Tale Surprises Evolutionary Biologists The electric eel's powerful ability to deliver deadly shocks — up to 600 volts — makes it the most famous electric fish, but hundreds of other species produce weaker electric fields. Now, a new genetic study of electric fish has revealed the surprising way they got electrified.<p>Consider a 6-foot-long electric eel: It is basically a 6-inch fish attached to a 5-1/2-foot cattle prod, says <a href="">Michael Sussman</a>, who directs the biotechnology center at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Thu, 26 Jun 2014 18:03:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 63341 at How To Become A Neanderthal: Chew Before Thinking Scientists have long puzzled over the origin and evolution of our closest relative, the Neanderthal. Thu, 19 Jun 2014 18:03:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 62901 at Is Collecting Animals For Science A Noble Mission Or A Threat? Behind the scenes at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, there's a vast, warehouse-like room that's filled with metal cabinets painted a drab institutional green. Inside the cabinets are more than a half-million birds — and these birds are not drab. Wed, 18 Jun 2014 07:25:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 62801 at Big Flightless Birds Come From High-Flying Ancestors Big, flightless birds like the <a href="">ostrich</a>, the <a href="">emu</a> and the <a href="">rhea</a> are scattered around the Southern Hemisphere because their ancestors once flew around the world, a new study suggests.<p>That's a surprise, because it means birds in Australia, Africa and South America independently evolved in ways that made them all lose the ability to fly.<p>These related birds — known as <a href="http://sciencewise.anu. Thu, 22 May 2014 19:59:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 61189 at Why This Octopus Isn't Stuck-Up Octopus arms keep from getting all tangled up in part because some kind of chemical in octopus skin prevents the tentacles' suckers from grabbing on.<p>That was the surprise discovery of scientists who were trying to understand how octopuses manage to move all their weird appendages without getting tied in knots.<p>Unlike humans, octopuses don't have a constant awareness of their arms' locations. It's kind of like the eight arms have minds of their own. Thu, 15 May 2014 16:18:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 60775 at 'Past The Point Of No Return:' An Antarctic Ice Sheet's Slow Collapse Transcript <p>MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: <p>Antarctica is covered with the biggest mass of ice on earth. The part of the ice sheath that's over West Antarctica is thought to be especially vulnerable to climate change. Scientists now say a slow collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is both underway and irreversible. Mon, 12 May 2014 20:02:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 60599 at Chemists Expand Nature's Genetic Alphabet For the first time, scientists have expanded life's genetic alphabet, by inserting two unnatural, man-made "letters" into a bacterium's DNA, and by showing that the cell's machinery can copy them.<p>The advance means that scientists have a new tool for exploring how life encodes information, which could help them understand life's origins.<p>What's more, this is a step towards giving living cells new abilities, like being able to make more and better medicines, cheaper and faster.<p>The instructions in DNA really are written in a kind of code. Wed, 07 May 2014 18:18:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 60269 at Who's Protecting Whom From Deadly Toxin? Questions are swirling around a science journal's decision last year to publish a description of a newly discovered botulinum toxin while omitting key genetic details that researchers would normally disclose.<p>The <a href="">unusual case</a> highlights important unresolved issues in how to balance scientific openness with the worry that biological information could potentially be misused.<p>NPR has learned that the scientist at the center of this controversy has not been sharing ma Tue, 22 Apr 2014 01:01:05 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 59039 at