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Science 

New Report Shows Weather Disasters In 2017 Cost More Than $300 Billion

Enlarge this image Hurricane Harvey put vast swaths of Texas under water. Elsewhere, fires, tornadoes and extreme weather caused hundreds of billions in damages. Emily Kask/AFP/Getty Images hide caption toggle caption Emily Kask/AFP/Getty Images Before it got cold this winter, it was warm. Very warm. In fact, new data out Monday shows 2017 was the third warmest year recorded in the lower 48 states. And it was also a smackdown year for weather disasters: 16 weather events each broke the billion-dollar barrier. First, the heat. Last year was 2.6 degrees…

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Science 

Pfizer Halts Research Efforts Into Alzheimer’s And Parkinson’s Treatments

Enlarge this image Pfizer said it would be abandoning its neuroscience development programs and allocating its spending elsewhere. Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images hide caption toggle caption Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images Pfizer has announced plans to end its research efforts to discover new drugs for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. The pharmaceutical giant explained its decision, which will entail roughly 300 layoffs, as a move to better position itself “to bring new therapies to patients who need them.” “As a result of a recent comprehensive review, we have made the decision to end our…

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Science 

Gut Check: Gas-Sniffing Capsule Charts The Digestive Tract

Enlarge this image These large capsules, which can be swallowed, measure three different gases as they traverse the gastrointestinal tract. Courtesy of Peter T. Clarke/RMIT University hide caption toggle caption Courtesy of Peter T. Clarke/RMIT University To study the human gut and the microbes that live within it, scientists have a couple of options. They can grab a small piece of tissue from the gastrointestinal tract or collect a sample of fecal matter. Neither way is ideal, says Jack Gilbert, a microbiologist and director of the Microbiome Center at the…

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Science 

Are Gummy Bear Flavors Just Fooling Our Brains?

Enlarge this image Color really does impact our perception of taste — even if the ingredients are otherwise the same, scientists say. It’s something candy companies use to their advantage. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images hide caption toggle caption Justin Sullivan/Getty Images Fun fact about the newsroom at WFPL, the NPR member station in Louisville, Ky., where I work: It is fully stocked with lots of candy. Mini-chocolate bars, peanut butter cups, Jolly Ranchers — the list goes on and the candy bowl is constantly being refilled. Then last week, a gigantic…

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Science 

What History And Fiction Teach Us About Women And Power

Enlarge this image FotografiaBasica/Getty Images/iStockphoto Two recent books, one a manifesto by British classicist and Cambridge professor Mary Beard, the other a work of fiction by novelist and game designer Naomi Alderman, address — in different ways — the difficult relationship between women and power. When are women’s voices heard? When and how do women have influence in public and private spheres? On the face of it, their messages are starkly at odds. Beard points to a possible future in which we reconceptualize what it means to be powerful, and…

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Science 

Soaring Popularity Of Grass-Fed Beef May Hit Roadblock: Less Nutritious Grass

Enlarge this image Joe Craine grabs a handful of late-winter Kansas prairie plants. Cattle need the nutrient-rich green grass to grow. Alex Smith/Harvest Public Media hide caption toggle caption Alex Smith/Harvest Public Media A few years ago, Kansas City restaurateur Anton Kotar surveyed the local and national restaurant scenes and concluded his town’s reputation as a steakhouse paradise had slipped. The problem, he says, is the way conventional beef is raised – bulked up with grain on feedlots, making it cheap and plentiful and changing what Americans expect to taste….

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Technology 

What’s next for the Aurelia JavaScript framework

This should be a busy year for Aurelia, a JavaScript client framework that emphasizes use of focused modules. It is being groomed for improvements ranging from server-side rendering to state management. Developers of the project also have ambitions to improve the platform’s user experience framework, Aurelia UX. A full conversion of Aurelia to TypeScript is being considered as well, although that could happen after 2018. [ Go deeper at InfoWorld: Beyond jQuery: An expert guide to JavaScript frameworks • The complete guide to Node.js frameworks • The 10 essential JavaScript developer tools •…

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Science 

As Cracks Widen In Washington State, Government Prepares For A Landslide

Nearly 70 people live on a sliver of land wedged between Interstate 82 and Rattlesnake Ridge in central Washington state. In a depression below the cracked ridge just east of the interstate, two firefighters go door to door among mobile homes, trying to get the residents here to leave quickly. One of the residents, farm worker Janeth Solorio, says it’s a difficult time. “We have to move and we don’t have enough money,” Solorio says. “And that’s why I’m worried. I’m alone with my son and I’m pregnant, so it’s…

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Science 

SpaceX Rocket Launches Secret Government Payload Into Orbit

Enlarge this image A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft await liftoff from NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Cape Canaveral, Fla., in August. Kim Shiflett/AP hide caption toggle caption Kim Shiflett/AP SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched a top secret U.S. government satellite into orbit, while returning its first-stage booster to the ground for reuse. The Falcon lifted off at 8 p.m. ET from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. As the first-stage of the Falcon returned to Earth for an upright landing, the upper stage lofted…

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