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  • Science Visualized

    One number can help explain why measles is so contagious

    Two ongoing outbreaks have dominated headlines in the past few months. Since the beginning of the year, measles has sickened at least 940 people in 26 U.S. states as of May 24. In Congo, Ebola has racked up 1,920 cases and killed 1,281 people since August 2018.

    Those numbers are scary, but another number, or rather a range, illustrates the potential of these diseases to do damage. It’s...

    05/28/2019 - 13:00 Health
  • News

    Being bilingual is great. But it may not boost some brain functions

    Advantages of speaking a second language are obvious: easier logistics when traveling, wider access to great literature and, of course, more people to talk with. Some studies have also pointed to the idea that polyglots have stronger executive functioning skills, brain abilities such as switching between tasks and ignoring distractions.

    But a large study of bilingual children in the U.S...

    05/24/2019 - 07:00 Health, Neuroscience
  • News

    Faulty cellular antennae may cause a heart valve disorder

    Cells with faulty antennae that can’t get their signals straight may be behind a common heart valve disorder.

    Newborn mice engineered to develop a flawed heart valve had stunted primary cilia in cells that help to form the valve during development, researchers report online May 22 in Science Translational Medicine.

    The heart valve disorder, called mitral valve prolapse, “is...

    05/22/2019 - 14:00 Health
  • Soapbox

    A cognitive neuroscientist warns that the U.S. justice system harms teen brains

    A teenager’s brain does not magically mature into its reasoned, adult form the night before his or her 18th birthday. Instead, aspects of brain development stretch into a person’s 20s — a protracted fine-tuning with serious implications for young people caught in the U.S. justice system, argues cognitive neuroscientist B.J. Casey of Yale University.

    In the May 22 Neuron, Casey describes...

    05/22/2019 - 11:00 Health, Neuroscience, Science & Society
  • Feature

    How the battle against measles varies around the world

    The World Health Organization’s goal was lofty but achievable: eliminate measles from five of the world’s six regions by 2020. But recent outbreaks — even in places where elimination had been achieved — are making that goal a distant dream.

    In the first four months of 2019, 179 countries reported 168,193 cases of measles. That’s almost 117,000 more cases reported during the same period...

    05/21/2019 - 06:00 Science & Society, Immune Science, Health
  • Feature

    Measles erases the immune system’s memory

    The most iconic thing about measles is the rash — red, livid splotches that make infection painfully visible.

    But that rash, and even the fever, coughing and watery, sore eyes, are all distractions from the virus’s real harm — an all-out attack on the immune system.

    Measles silently wipes clean the immune system’s memory of past infections. In this way, the virus can cast a long...

    05/21/2019 - 06:00 Health, Biomedicine
  • Feature

    Finding common ground can reduce parents’ hesitation about vaccines

    About six years ago, Emily Adams, a mother of two in Lakewood, Colo., briefly counted herself among the vaccine hesitant. Her family had changed insurance plans, and while her older daughter was up-to-date on shots, her infant son fell behind.

    “We were no longer on schedule, just because of life,” she says. Adams remembers mentioning her son’s situation to a friend, who suggested Adams...

    05/21/2019 - 06:00 Health
  • News

    How allergens in pollen help plants do more than make you sneeze

    “Are plants trying to kill us?” allergy sufferers often ask Deborah Devis.

    A plant molecular geneticist at the University of Adelaide’s Waite campus in Australia, Devis should know the answer better than most. She is chugging through the last few months of a Ph.D. that involves predicting how grasses use pollen proteins that make people sneeze, wheeze and weep for days on end.

    What...

    05/19/2019 - 08:00 Health, Plants, Immune Science
  • News

    Does eating ultraprocessed food affect weight gain? It’s complicated

    Nutrition advice can be confusing. Studies that bolster the health benefits of a food or nutrient seem inevitably to be followed by other work undercutting the good news.

    One reason for the muddle is that nutrition studies sometimes depend on people’s self-reporting of past meals. And because people may forget or even lie about what they’ve been consuming, that data can be flawed,...

    05/16/2019 - 16:21 Health
  • Letters to the Editor

    Readers were curious about green icebergs, aliens and more

    Going green

    Researchers found iron oxides trapped in a sample of green Antarctic ice. The compounds may explain why typically blue-hued icebergs can sometimes appear green, Jeremy Rehm reported in “Tiny bits of iron may explain why some icebergs are green” (SN: 3/30/19, p. 12).

    “Since icebergs can drift for thousands of miles, and because iron is a limiting nutrient for algae, I...

    05/11/2019 - 07:00 Ecology, Astronomy, Health