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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: Thu, 22 Feb 2018 09:24:42 -0800

Copyright: ©2018 Los Angeles Times

An amateur astronomer testing a new camera happens to catch a supernova as it's being born

Wed, 21 Feb 2018 18:45:00 PST

Peering at a distant galaxy, an amateur astronomer in Argentina managed to capture a star in the act of going supernova. The chances of this discovery, scientists say, are 1-in-a-million at best.

This lucky find, described in the journal Nature, offers the first images of the sudden brightening...


Instead of nagging your spouse to lose weight, try going on a diet yourself

Wed, 21 Feb 2018 12:55:00 PST

Tired of nagging your spouse to lose a few pounds? You might get better results by going on a diet yourself.

Health experts have seen that the weight status of couples tends to move in sync. It is often similar when they get married, and if one partner gains weight over time, the other does as...


Salt marshes will vanish in less than a century if seas keep rising and California keeps building, study finds

Wed, 21 Feb 2018 11:00:00 PST

On one side, there’s the rising ocean. On the other, rising buildings.

Squeezed between the two are California’s salt marshes — a unique ecosystem filled with pickleweed and cordgrass, shorebirds and many endangered species.

Coastal wetlands such as Bolinas Lagoon in Marin County, the marshes along...


Your DNA won't determine the best diet to help you lose weight

Tue, 20 Feb 2018 17:20:00 PST

Trying to lose weight? Researchers have some good news: You can chose either a low-fat or low-carb diet. As long as you stick with it, you can slim down no matter what your genetic make-up or metabolic particulars.

And here’s an added bonus: You won’t even have to count your calories.

The findings...


The U.S. healthcare system needs more skills for paying bills, study shows

Tue, 20 Feb 2018 09:45:00 PST

Healthcare in the United States is really expensive, and one of the reasons is that managing healthcare bills is really, really expensive.

Just how expensive? At one large academic medical center, the cost of collecting payments for a single primary-care doctor is upward of $99,000 a year.



Medic! Ants injured while hunting for termites get help from paramedic-style triage system

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 17:10:00 PST

Move over, ant farms — ant hospitals are where the real action is. Scientists studying the behavior of African Matabele ants in Ivory Coast have found that the insects act like paramedics in a crisis, triaging and treating the wounds of their injured peers.

The discovery, described in the Proceedings...


In mice, a single vaccine prompts the immune system to fight breast, lung and skin cancers

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 12:30:00 PST

In the field of regenerative medicine, induced pluripotent stem cells have a lot of neat tricks up their sleeves. One of them may be teaching the immune system how to beat back cancer.

In research that could open a new frontier in the young field of cancer immunotherapy, Stanford University scientists...


Mad about L.A.'s air quality? Blame common products like hairspray and paint, not just cars

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 11:10:00 PST

When it comes to air quality, the products you use to smell nice or keep your kitchen clean could do just as much damage as the car you drive. A new study of the air around Los Angeles finds that consumer and industrial products now rival tailpipe emissions as a source of harmful atmospheric pollutants.


The much-maligned flu shot has reduced the risk of serious illness this year by 36%, CDC says

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 10:00:00 PST

This year’s flu shot is far from perfect, but it’s certainly better than nothing, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Preliminary data from five sites around the country suggest that people who got vaccinated this flu season reduced their risk of getting...


FDA approves first blood test that can help diagnose a concussion

Wed, 14 Feb 2018 16:00:00 PST

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved a first-ever blood test to detect the telltale signs of serious brain injury, bringing to fruition a long quest to make the diagnosis of concussions simpler and more precise.

After deliberations that took less than six months, the FDA approved...


Even with pledges to fight global warming, you'd better brace yourself for more extreme weather

Wed, 14 Feb 2018 11:05:00 PST

Scientists have some sobering news about the future of our planet: Even if humans manage to meet the temperature target set forth in the Paris climate change agreement, record-breaking weather events will become increasingly common around the world.

And that’s the good part.

The Paris plan seeks...


Scientists take an atomic clock on the road and use it to measure the height of a mountain

Tue, 13 Feb 2018 05:00:00 PST

Most of us think of time as a way to measure things like the length of our days and the span of our lives. But if you had access to a pair of extremely high-precision clocks, you could use time in a different way — to measure the height of mountains.

This week, scientists described a major step...


In soil-dwelling bacteria, scientists find a new weapon to fight drug-resistant superbugs

Tue, 13 Feb 2018 03:00:00 PST

It’s a new class of antibiotic that promises to live up to its rough Latin translation: killer of bad guys.

In a report published this week in the journal Nature Microbiology, researchers describe a never-before-seen antibiotic agent that vanquished several strains of multidrug-resistant bacteria....


Trump's budget would kill NASA's WFIRST telescope. Astronomers say that would be a mistake

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 16:45:00 PST

A NASA space telescope that would probe distant planets and explore some of the biggest mysteries of the cosmos is on the chopping block in President Trump’s 2019 budget proposal released Monday.

The request would zero out funding for NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, or WFIRST, a repurposed...


Drivers beware: Risk of fatal car crashes spikes on the 4/20 marijuana 'holiday,' study says

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 08:00:00 PST

Here’s a pro tip from a couple of doctors: Be sure to make special plans on April 20.

That date, of course, is the unofficial holiday devoted to celebrating all things marijuana. (You might know it better as “4/20.”)

The two physicians — John Staples of the University of British Columbia and Donald...


What do you see when you put miniature glasses on praying mantises? A new method for robot vision

Fri, 9 Feb 2018 15:45:00 PST

If you thought praying mantises already look pretty cool, wait till you see them in these stunning shades. Scientists who put tiny 3-D glasses on these petite hunters have found that their stereoscopic vision system is unlike that of any other known animal.

The findings, described this week in...


Earthlings, get ready for a close encounter with an asteroid

Fri, 9 Feb 2018 03:00:00 PST

Heads up, Earthlings! An asteroid will zip past our planet on Friday afternoon at 2:30 Pacific time, coming five times closer to us than the moon.

This is definitely a cause for celebration, not concern. After all, it’s not every day that a space rock flies this close to the Earth, and scientists...


Trifecta of opioids, alcohol and suicide are blamed for the drop in U.S. life expectancy

Thu, 8 Feb 2018 14:25:00 PST

An epidemic of despair is disproportionately claiming the lives of rural white Americans in the prime of adulthood. And for a second year in a row, their deaths by drugs, drink and self-destruction have caused life expectancy in the United States to fall.

That milestone, suggests an editorial in...


How your brain may have shielded you from depression after the 2016 election if you didn't like the result

Thu, 8 Feb 2018 00:00:00 PST

For some people the election of Donald Trump was a glorious moment of triumph. For others, it was a debilitating moment of trauma.

And for a team of researchers at UCLA, it was the perfect opportunity to test how the brain responds to political distress.

“A lot of research on stress in the brain...


California moves ahead with one delta tunnel, scaling back ambitious water delivery project

Wed, 7 Feb 2018 19:50:00 PST

State officials Wednesday said they will press ahead with a smaller version of a long-planned water delivery project, initially building one, instead of two, massive tunnels in the heart of California’s vast waterworks.

The decision to downsize California WaterFix boils down to money. The urban...


That dinosaur-killing asteroid also triggered massive magma releases beneath the ocean, study finds

Wed, 7 Feb 2018 12:55:00 PST

The asteroid that hit Earth 66 million years ago appears to have caused huge amounts of magma to spew out of the bottom of the ocean, a new study of seafloor data finds.

The discovery, described in the journal Science Advances, adds to the portrait of an extinction event that was as complex as...


Pessimism about old age may be a risk factor for dementia

Wed, 7 Feb 2018 11:00:00 PST

People who are pessimistic about what life is like during old age may be helping to make their fears come true.

A new study finds that older Americans with negative beliefs about aging were significantly more likely to develop dementia than their peers who embraced their senior years with zeal.


Snooping around in hospital pipes, scientists find DNA that fuels the spread of superbugs

Tue, 6 Feb 2018 17:10:00 PST

The pipes carrying away the effluvia of very sick people are bound to be nasty, dirty places.

But just how unwholesome they are is made clear in a new report showing that the pipes beneath a hospital intensive care unit are a throbbing, seething hookup zone for antibiotic-resistant bacteria.



Most bugs wouldn’t survive being eaten by a toad, but these beetles get barfed to safety

Tue, 6 Feb 2018 16:05:00 PST

Bombardier beetles are known for their feisty response to predators. When confronted, the insects blast their adversary with a boiling-hot secretion of noxious chemicals.

If they get swallowed anyway, they have a back-up plan: Blast their way out from the inside.

In a messy experiment, scientists...


TRAPPIST-1 planets are rocky and have complex atmospheres, new studies show

Tue, 6 Feb 2018 10:50:00 PST

Could the TRAPPIST-1 star system host a life-friendly planet? Planetary scientists probing the bevy of small, Earth-sized worlds surrounding this not-too-distant star have found that at least a few may not look too different from our own.

The findings, described in a study in Nature Astronomy and...