This holiday season I'm sure is finding many of us on airplanes, flying around the country. It could take tedious hours of body scans, the crummy back-of-the-seat TV and scary airplane bumps and noises. But if you marvel at nature and technology, though, you can turn this torturous event into a more enjoyable learning experience.
This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. You know that nice feeling you get when you listen to your favorite tune? What about music that can actually be medical therapy? It does exist. It's prescribed for illnesses from speech disorders to autism, Alzheimer's, even cancer.
Take the case of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. After she was shot in the head earlier this year, one way she learned to talk again was by singing her favorite songs, like this Cyndi Lauper tune.
Researchers at New York University are studying flight with a speaker, a soup pot, straws and a box full of paper aircraft. Emeritus professor Stephen Childress describes the experiment and what he and his colleagues have learned about flight from their homemade flying objects.
Writer Christopher Hitchens, who died on Thursday from complications of cancer at the age of 62, leaves behind some 18 books and countless essays on politics and public figures. But his most lasting legacy may be his atheism and his long-running duel with what he considered the world's most dangerous threat: religion.
We need a heart-warming story and this fits the bill:
"At Kmart stores across the country," The Associated Press writes, "Santa is getting some help: Anonymous donors are paying off strangers' layaway accounts, buying the Christmas gifts other families couldn't afford, especially toys and children's clothes set aside by impoverished parents."
Six former top executives of the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) "knew and approved of misleading statements claiming the companies had minimal holdings of higher-risk mortgage loans, including subprime loans" and have now been accused of securities fraud in a civil suit, the Securities and Exchange Commission just announced.
Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 12:13 pm
Sugary drinks like soda are a big cause of obesity, but public health types haven't had much luck convincing the public of that.
But what if you knew that it would take 50 minutes of jogging to burn off one soda?
When researchers taped signs saying just that on the drink coolers in four inner-city neighborhood stores, sales of sugary beverages to teenagers dropped by 50 percent. That tactic was more effective than a sign saying that the drinks had 250 calories each, or a sign saying that a soft drink accounts for 11 percent of recommended daily calories.
Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 10:20 am
An "astonishing" scene has already played out at the just-opened military court hearing about the case against Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who stands accused of giving classified information to WikiLeaks, The Guardian reports.
Here's the conventional wisdom about the U.S. troop surge in Iraq: By 2006, Iraq was in chaos. Many Americans called for the U.S. to get out. Instead, President Bush sent in 30,000 additional troops. By the end of 2007, Iraq started to stabilize, and the move took on an almost mythic status.
Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 8:48 am
Each year, one-quarter of adults don't see a primary care doctor, so odds are they're not being checked for high blood pressure, diabetes and other major health risks. That's 55 million people who are missing out.
But a lot of them — around 13 million — do go to the dentist. So what if the dentist could screen them instead?
(Note: There is graphic testimony about the alleged sexual abuse of a young boy in this post.)
Mike McQueary, a key witness in the case against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky — who stands accused of sexually abusing at least 10 young boys over more than a decade — is testifying this morning at a court hearing about the scandal that has rocked the university.
NPR's Jeff Brady is covering the Pennsylvania court proceeding and is posting updates on his Twitter page.