Today I Learned…

…that there’s no such thing as cello scrotum.

Go figure, right?  I had no idea.

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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…

…about this guy who can’t get fat:

Mr Perry, 59, can eat whatever he likes – including unlimited pies, burgers and desserts – and never get fat. He cannot put on weight because of a condition called lipodystrophy that makes his body rapidly burn fat.

He used to be a chubby child, but at age 12 the fat dropped off “almost over night”. He initially tried to eat more to gain weight, but it had no effect. Mr Perry, of Ilford in Essex, endured a decade of tests before the illness was diagnosed. It finally emerged that his body produces six times the normal level of insulin. Doctors have admitted that the condition would be a “slimmer’s dream”. (from http://www.oddee.com/item_96473.aspx — check it out for more weird medical conditions, like the girl who is allergic to water and the small boy who doesn’t sleep.)

Also, I learned today that apparently the US “Womens” Gymnastics team (when I could be arrested for looking at them the wrong way, they’re girls) is living on the edge.  Injuries and mis-steps abounded tonight in team qualifiying, and they have their work cut out for them if they want to fend off the Chinese “women” (even YOUNGER!  Like, against-the-rules young, apparently) and defend their gold from Athens.

NOTE: Some have requested that I post the actual algorithms that I learned to solve the Rubik’s Cube, as outlined in yesterday’s post.  When I’m positive that I have all of them memorized, I will post them, along with links to pages I found helpful.  They will be edited into the original post, but I will post a note letting you know that they’re there and linking to it.

***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…

Today I Learned…

…that scientists may have discovered an Achilles’ Heel for HIV, the virus which causes AIDS.  The secret apparently lies in a particular protein in the virus, which is necessary for HIV to attach itself to host cells.

Since HIV changes so quickly and limits the body’s ability to create antibodies, traditional preventative vaccines which stimulate antibody production are not really viable options.  The identification of this protein has opened up avenues of research into new therapies which target the virus’s ability to infect host cells.

The article (from ScienceDaily.com) is quite technical in parts, but I encourage you to read it if you’re so inclined and want more details about the research or the lab team at the University of Houston which has performed this promising research.  Here’s hoping their next step in this process is fruitful.

Further Reading…