Today I Learned…

…that H.M., one of the most important neuroscience patients in history, died this week.  H.M. had anterograde amnesia stemming from an experimental brain surgery he had more than 50 years ago to alleviate severe epilepsy.  Henry Molaison had been unable to create new memories for about a half century, and died without ever having any knowledge of what he contributed to the field of neuroscience.

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Today I Learned…

…there’s a young child in Michigan who has what’s called “myostatin-related muscle hypertrophy.”  This means that at 5 months old, he could do a near-perfect iron cross.  At 19 months old, he currently weighs 22 pounds and has washboard abs.  He boasts 40 percent more muscle mass than normal, almost no body fat, and eats six full size meals a day because of his ridiculously fast metabolism.

Myostatin is a protein which inhibits muscle growth — in young Liam, his muscle cells reject the myostatin that his body produces, allowing his skeletal muscles to grow much more than they would normally.  Medical experts hope that a better understanding of Liam’s condition will help with the development of new treatments for degenerative musculo-skeletal diseases such as muscular dystrophy or osteoporosis.

Further Reading: CTV.ca — Rare condition gives toddler super strength

Today I Learned…

…that there’s this crazy politician from Montana named Stan Jones, an unsuccessful Libertarian Party candidate for both the Senate and Montana’s governorship, who has developed argyria after ingesting home-made colloidal silver.  Argyria has given his skin a permanent blue-gray color.  He took the colloidal silver because of fears that the Y2K bug would make antibiotics unavailable.  Amazing.  Thanks to Hanna(h) at Borders for this one. =)

Stan Jones at a Senatorial debate in 2002.

Stan Jones at a Senatorial debate in 2002.

…I also learned that London can put together a heck of a little ceremony of their own… featuring such English things as David Beckham, Leona Lewis, Jimmy Page, a Routemaster-style bus, and people waiting for said bus in the rain.  I was a big fan.

***Special Double-Shot!***

Today I Learned…

…a new word.  Zugzwang, which is German for “compulsion to move.”  It originally comes from chess, but now applies to any situation in which you are forced to do something when not doing anything is a more advantageous decision.  Generally in chess it refers to having no move that does not worsen your position — i.e. going from a drawn position to a loss or a winning position to a draw or a loss.  I found this word on this post on Nate Silver’s electoral polling blog, FiveThirtyEight.com, one of my favorites.  If you’re a political junkie, or enjoy the kind of statistical analysis Nate does for Baseball Prospectus, it’s a fantastic one.

…I also learned a cool fact about medical research.  In 1951, a woman named Henrietta Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer, and died shortly thereafter.  Without her knowledge, her doctor took a sample of her cellular matter.  Those cells were later found to have the ability to reproduce indefinitely outside of the body — which is not normally possible.  Ms. Lacks’ cells are the only known case of cell immortality in medical history, and her line, known now as HeLa cells, have been completely invaluable to medical research.  They were used to create the cure for polio by Jonas Salk, and are found in almost every laboratory.

Further Reading…