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Preview: L.A. Times - Science

L.A. Times - Science

In-depth science news coverage of space exploration, medical science, climate change, technological breakthroughs and more.

Last Build Date: Sun, 22 Jan 2017 21:01:07 -0800

Copyright: ©2017 Los Angeles Times

Fearing climate change databases may be threatened in Trump era, UCLA scientists work to protect them

Sat, 21 Jan 2017 16:45:00 PST

On a rainy Inauguration Day morning, dozens of students, archivists, librarians, professors and other concerned citizens gathered in a UCLA classroom, poring over the Department of Energy website. They sifted through pages covering a broad spectrum of topics, from energy-efficient buildings and...


Psychologists ask: What makes some smart people so skeptical of science?

Sat, 21 Jan 2017 03:00:00 PST

In Washington, D.C., revelers and protesters are marking the ascendance of a new president and the populist movement he says he has mobilized.

Some 1,600 miles away in San Antonio, thousands of psychologists from around the world are also marking the dawn of the Trump era by focusing their attention...


On Trump's White House website, no more mention of climate change

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 17:05:00 PST

Well, that was fast.

Scientists, environmentalists and other concerned citizens were quick to notice that there is no longer any mention of climate change on the new White House website

It’s a significant departure from how the site looked Friday morning, when President Obama was still in charge....


The last time the oceans got this warm, sea levels were 20 to 30 feet higher than they are today

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 04:00:00 PST

Ocean temperatures today are about the same as they were more than 100,000 years ago — at a time when sea levels were 20 to 30 feet higher.

The findings, published in the journal Science, highlight the key role that human activity has played in global warming and underscore concerns about the future...


For teens, a higher minimum wage could be an effective form of birth control

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 19:40:00 PST

It doesn’t work to stop pregnancy like the birth control pill or an intrauterine device. But for teenage girls flipping burgers, sorting widgets or working retail, a bit more bling in the paycheck appears to reduce the likelihood of becoming a mother before her time.

In an analysis that looked...


City devastated by OxyContin use sues Purdue Pharma, claims drugmaker put profits over citizens' welfare

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 16:20:00 PST

A Washington city devastated by black-market OxyContin filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against the painkiller’s manufacturer Thursday, alleging that the company turned a blind eye to criminal trafficking of its pills to “reap large and obscene profits” and demanding it foot the bill for widespread...


California scientist names moth species after Donald Trump

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 11:25:00 PST

A scientist in California has named a newly discovered moth species after President-elect Donald Trump, saying the white and yellow scales on the insect's head are reminiscent of Trump's blond hairdo. 

The moth was named Neopalpa donaldtrumpi by evolutionary biologist Dr. Vazrick Nazari, who discovered...


Wildfires, sea level rise, coral bleaching: Climate change is already here

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 15:50:00 PST

From extreme wildfires in the Western United States to melting ice sheets in Antarctica, the effects of rising temperatures on Earth have not gone unnoticed.

On Wednesday, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced 2016 was the hottest year on record. Before that, the...


Earth sets heat record in 2016 - for the third year in a row

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 14:55:00 PST

It’s official: 2016 was the hottest year on record since scientists began tracking Earth’s temperature more than 100 years ago, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The 1.69-degree jump over the 20th-century average, according to NOAA,...


Using lasers, scientists turn mice into ferociously efficient hunters

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 06:00:00 PST

A blue light affixed to a mouse’s skull flicks on. In less than a second, the rodent charges toward a scuttling plastic bug, grabs the toy and ferociously nibbles at it.

Researchers at Yale University used this blue light to hijack the brains of mice. With the flip of a switch, the indifferent...


How your racial biases can change in a heartbeat

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 17:50:00 PST

In humans, the distance between the brain and heart can be a foot or more. But when it comes to processing such raw emotions as fear and racial prejudice, new research finds the two organs are closer than we may want to believe.

A study has demonstrated that the snap judgments many of us make about...


Scientists discover that white rhino dung has a lot in common with a Facebook post

Sat, 14 Jan 2017 04:00:00 PST

Here’s a social networking site you can find with your nose. Scientists studying the communal pooping areas of white rhinos in South Africa have found that the animals use them like social messaging boards — to leave notes about their status and to read the “posts” of others.

The discovery, published...


This forecasting tool aims to keep ships and blue whales from colliding

Fri, 13 Jan 2017 19:15:00 PST

A new forecasting tool will help scientists predict blue whale traffic, as the ocean behemoths make their annual migration.

The tool allows researchers to post online maps showing likely “hot spots” for blue whales that will help ship captains avoid collisions with the animals.

“We can both see...


Scientists solve a whale of a mystery: Why orcas have menopause

Fri, 13 Jan 2017 13:50:00 PST

Sifting through more than four decades of data on two killer whale populations in the northwest Pacific, an international team of scientists says they’ve discovered why killer whales go through menopause: their complicated relationships with their daughters.

The findings, described in the journal...


Experts have only a hazy idea of marijuana's myriad health effects, and federal laws are to blame

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 16:55:00 PST

More than 22 million Americans use some form of marijuana each month, and it’s now approved for medicinal or recreational use in 28 states plus the District of Columbia. Nationwide, legal sales of the drug reached an estimated $7.1 billion last year.

Yet for all its ubiquity, a comprehensive new...


Vowel sounds made by baboons show that the roots of human speech may go back 25 million years

Wed, 11 Jan 2017 19:20:00 PST

Listen closely to those baboon calls. They may tell you a thing or two about human speech.

Scientists who studied baboons’ wahoos, yaks, barks and other vocalizations have found evidence of five vowel-like sounds — a sign that the physical capacity for speech may have evolved over much longer timescales...


PG-13 movies showcase the most - and the most unrealistic - gun violence, study shows

Tue, 10 Jan 2017 21:05:00 PST

The last three years’ worth of Hollywood blockbusters represent an escalation of gun violence depicted in film, and have exposed more families and younger teens to mayhem devoid of consequence, a team of researchers has found. 

Gun violence — albeit largely bloodless and free of such troubling...


Rallying support for economic fairness? Better chase off the needy

Mon, 9 Jan 2017 17:35:00 PST

It is an odd quirk of human nature that humans do not always respond to the misfortunes of other humans in the most humane way. 

A new study tosses some fresh experimental findings for that observation onto a mounting pile of research evidence. Among the affluent people in affluent neighborhoods,...


Meet the 'Hidden Figures' mathematician who helped send Americans into space

Mon, 9 Jan 2017 15:10:00 PST

Before they were machines based on silicon, “computers” were actually women — though their colleagues would often refer to them as “girls.”

The film “Hidden Figures,” which opened to wide release Friday and picked up two Golden Globe nominations, tells the story of three black computers who dealt...


How much rain did we get? Ask the iRain app, created at UC Irvine

Sat, 7 Jan 2017 13:05:00 PST

With forecasters predicting the most powerful storm in a decade in Northern California this weekend — and more precipitation likely throughout the state in the coming days — UC Irvine engineers are hoping researchers, hydrologists and weather enthusiasts will make the most of their iRain mobile...


'Hidden Figures' may feature NASA's history, but it resonates in the present

Fri, 6 Jan 2017 18:25:00 PST

When NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson asks to join a high-level briefing in the run-up to astronaut John Glenn’s historic 1962 flight in the film “Hidden Figures,” an engineer rushes to shut the idea down.

“There’s no protocol for women attending,” he replies — an excuse that Johnson quickly...


Science explains why humans may never see the world through a hummingbird's eyes

Fri, 6 Jan 2017 03:00:00 PST

Hummingbirds don’t see the world like you or me.

And it turns out they don’t see it in the same way as any other known bird, mammal or reptile, either.

In a study published Thursday in Current Biology, scientists reveal that the humming bird’s pea-sized brain processes visual cues in a way that...


Death rate from cancer now 25% lower than it was 25 years ago, report says

Thu, 5 Jan 2017 20:45:00 PST

In the year to come, an estimated 1,688,780 people in the United States are expected to get a cancer diagnosis, and cancer will claim the lives of a projected 600,920.

That death toll, however grim, represents a death rate from cancer that is 25% lower than it was a quarter-century ago — a drop...


Give peanut-based foods to babies early to prevent allergies, new guidelines say

Thu, 5 Jan 2017 08:45:00 PST

Most babies should start eating peanut-containing foods well before their first birthday, say guidelines released Thursday that aim to protect high-risk tots and other youngsters, too, from developing the dangerous allergy to peanuts.

The new guidelines from the National Institutes of Health mark...


In a first, scientists detect 'fast radio bursts' from beyond the Milky Way galaxy

Wed, 4 Jan 2017 14:35:00 PST

Sifting through the heavens like prospectors panning silt for a glint of gold, astronomers say they have finally pinpointed the source of so-called fast radio bursts – brief, powerful and mysterious flashes of light.

The discovery, described in a paper in Nature and two others in Astrophysical...