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L.A. Times - Science

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

Last Build Date: Tue, 23 Jan 2018 11:49:23 -0800

Copyright: ©2018 Los Angeles Times

Military families bolster the case that obesity is indeed contagious

Tue, 23 Jan 2018 07:00:00 PST

Members of the military serve their country in myriad ways. That includes helping researchers figure out whether obesity is a contagious disease.

A new study involving thousands of military families suggests that the answer is yes.

The idea that fatness can spread like chicken pox or the flu may...


Less smartphone time equals happier teenager, study suggests

Tue, 23 Jan 2018 04:00:00 PST

A precipitous drop in the happiness, self-esteem and life satisfaction of American teens came as their ownership of smartphones rocketed from zero to 73% and they devoted an increasing share of their time online.

Coincidence? New research suggests it is not.

In a study published Monday in the journal...


Scientists smash thousands of proteins to find four ‘Legos of life'

Mon, 22 Jan 2018 15:55:00 PST

By “smashing” proteins and looking at the broken bits, scientists at Rutgers University say they’ve discovered four basic building blocks that can be stacked like Legos to build all kinds of different proteins.

The results described in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences could help...


New Caledonian crows are famous for crafting sticks into hooked tools. Here's why they do it

Mon, 22 Jan 2018 12:35:00 PST

New Caledonian crows are famous for their ability to craft sticks into hooked tools, which they use to probe for larvae and insects hidden in trees. But why they do this has been anyone’s guess — until now.

As anyone who has ever struggled to open a bag of chips knows, grabbing a pair of scissors...


Forget concussions. The real risk of CTE comes from repeated hits to the head, study shows

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 19:05:00 PST

For more than a decade, researchers trying to make sense of the mysterious degenerative brain disease afflicting football players and other contact-sport athletes have focused on the threat posed by concussions. But new research suggests that attention was misguided.

Instead of concerning themselves...


2017 was one of the three hottest years on record, NASA and NOAA scientists say

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 14:30:00 PST

Even without the help of El Niño, 2017 was a top-three scorcher for planet Earth.

Global temperatures last year were the third-highest since scientists began keeping records in 1880, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Measurements from NASA placed it even...


Watch Earth's temperature rise for 138 years

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 11:35:00 PST

Earth's average temperature has been rising for the past 138 years. (Credit: NASA/GSFC Scientific Visualization Studio)


Media Files:,standalone.html

This new blood test can detect early signs of 8 kinds of cancer

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 11:15:00 PST

Scientists have developed a noninvasive blood test that can detect signs of eight types of cancer long before any symptoms of the disease arise.

The test, which can also help doctors determine where in a person’s body the cancer is located, is called CancerSEEK. Its genesis is described in a paper...


To reduce the risk of opioid addiction, study suggests higher doses but fewer refills

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 19:05:00 PST

Health experts have an intriguing suggestion for reducing opioid overdoses and deaths — asking doctors to prescribe bigger doses of the powerful painkillers.

It may sound counterintuitive, but providing more pain relief to patients right away might allow them to stop taking the pills sooner. And...


British government targets a modern public health scourge: Loneliness

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 19:05:00 PST

The country that put the starch in “stiff upper lip” has made companionship, conversation and human contact a national priority.

On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced the creation of a new ministerial portfolio in her Cabinet: combating loneliness.

With more than 9 million...


When it comes to treating obesity, is fitness more important than fatness?

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 10:15:00 PST

After nearly four decades of rising body weights in the United States and across the world, medical experts are still casting about for the best way to treat obesity and the diseases that come with it.

The answer may depend on which contributes more importantly to ill health: not enough fitness,...


Scientists see evidence of iridescent rainbow feathers on a dinosaur

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 08:55:00 PST

A team of Chinese, American and Belgian scientists have unearthed a 161-million-year-old dinosaur fossil showing that the animal may have had vibrant, iridescent plumage like that of peacocks and other birds today.

The fossil of the dazzling dinosaur, described in the journal Nature Communications,...


Obese patients lived longer if they had weight loss surgery, study finds

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 17:30:00 PST

Bariatric surgery has become the medical profession’s go-to solution for meaningful weight loss, and new research shows why: It saves lives.

In a retrospective study of close to 34,000 Israeli patients with obesity, the 8,385 who got one of three surgical procedures were roughly two times less...


Even without nudging blood pressure up, high-salt diet hobbles the brain

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 17:15:00 PST

A high-salt diet may spell trouble for the brain — and for mental performance — even if it doesn’t push blood pressure into dangerous territory, new research has found.

A new study has shown that in mice fed a very high-salt diet, blood flow to the brain declined, the integrity of blood vessels...


A silver lining from California's drought: Water conservation led to reduced energy use and less pollution

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 12:05:00 PST

In April 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown called on the people of the most populous state to reduce their water use by 25% in response to a punishing four-year drought.

It was an audacious goal, and Californians came close to meeting it. Between June 2015 and April 2016, when restrictions were in effect,...


The same elements that made the Thomas fire such a monster also created deadly debris flows

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 04:00:00 PST

Santa Barbara County crews worked through the holidays to defend coastal communities from the second half of Southern California's familiar cycle of fire and flood.

They cleaned out the 11 debris basins that dot the Santa Barbara front country, making room for the dirt and ash and rocks that winter...


Erosion is revealing surprising amounts of water ice on Mars

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 15:40:00 PST

If future astronauts need to mine water on Mars, they may not even have to dig. Thanks to erosion wearing away the Martian surface, scientists using NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have spotted thick deposits of ice in the planet’s mid-latitudes that extend hundreds of feet deep.

The discovery,...


Nature boosts your mental health, and you don't even have to leave the city to reap the benefits

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 05:00:00 PST

Good news, urbanites! New research suggests that you don’t have to leave the city to reap some of the benefits of being in nature.

Simply listening to the chirping of birds, glimpsing the sky and even noticing a scrawny city tree can boost your mental well-being, according to a report published...


Mysterious series of fast radio bursts may have been twisted by extreme environment

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 19:30:00 PST

Astronomers watching a fast radio burst flashing from more than 3 billion light-years away say that its source lies in an extreme environment with a powerful magnetic field — perhaps a supermassive black hole, or the remains of a supernova.

The findings about the phenomenon known as FRB 121102,...


Elephants, lions and other wild animals are exquisitely sensitive to the effects of war

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 13:00:00 PST

A little exposure to armed conflict can lead to a lot of problems for wild animals like elephants, lions, giraffes and other large mammals, new research shows.(image)

One of the most promising drugs for Alzheimer's disease fails in clinical trials

Tue, 9 Jan 2018 15:55:00 PST

To the roughly 400 clinical trials that have tested some experimental treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and come up short, we can now add three more.

An experimental drug called idalopirdine failed to help people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease in a trio of trials that involved 2,525...


This USC physicist wants you to talk about science. His new graphic novel can get you started

Tue, 9 Jan 2018 06:00:00 PST

Clifford Johnson wants you to talk about physics. That goes for everyone, even those of us who can't tell a neutron from a neutrino.(image)

Banning seven words at the CDC would have at least seven serious consequences for public health

Mon, 8 Jan 2018 15:45:00 PST

“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words,” George Orwell writes in the fifth chapter of his dystopian novel, “1984.”

Four public health experts from Emory University in Atlanta, just a stone’s throw from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, beg to differ.

In an editorial published...


Why the United States is 'the most dangerous of wealthy nations for a child to be born into'

Mon, 8 Jan 2018 13:50:00 PST

It’s no surprise that the United States ranks absolutely last in child mortality among the world’s wealthiest countries — that’s been true for years. A new study examines how this sad situation came to be.

According to data from the World Health Organization and the global Human Mortality Database,...


2017 was a hot and disaster-filled year for the United States, NOAA says

Mon, 8 Jan 2018 13:25:00 PST

The year 2017 was the third-warmest on record for the United States, and featured a pileup of weather and climate disasters that cost the nation a record-breaking $306 billion, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.(image)