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10 Amazing Things the World Learned This Week

The naked face-eater in Miami stole the news, but there was a whole lot more going on this week. Here's a peek.

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But Simona Minozzi, physical anthropologist at the University of Pisa in Italy, doesn’t think that because some people bought into those myths back then that we should conclude that such a burial took place. The other researchers, she thinks, didn’t have enough evidence to support their hypothesis. Bricks, stones and tiles were found to surround the gravesite and sometimes objects fall into the gaping mouth of a skeleton, “for instance, they note a skeleton with a thighbone in its mouth was found in the cemetery of Vecchio Lazzaretto in Venice,” Choi writes.

Whichever side is correct it’s interesting to hear about the natural events that can disturb antique corpses and superstitions that might have caused people to fear the undead, especially now when the undead are a huge source of amusement to us. 

Besides, everyone knows it’s the werewolves you’ve really got to be afraid of. 

3. Don’t needle me.Cannibals and vampires might be scary, but unless you’re on a movie set you’re not likely to encounter one. They’re nothing like everyday fears people have including spiders, clowns or public speaking. Some people -- those who have trypanophobia, or fear of needles -- would rather fight a vampire than get an injection from a doctor or dentist.

Those who hate being needled could one day be far more relaxed about going to the doctor. In fact they can just pretend they’re on "Star Trek" and getting one of those air-puff injections from Bones because thanks to some researchers at MIT those needle-free injections could be closer than you think.

This new device, writes Jennifer Chu of the MIT News Officedelivers a speed-of-sound jet of medication through the skin without the use of a needle. The new jet-injector device can deliver various doses at various depths and is more easily controllable. Chu writes that the device is built around, “a Lorentz-force actuator — a small, powerful magnet surrounded by a coil of wire that’s attached to a piston inside a drug ampoule. When current is applied, it interacts with the magnetic field to produce a force that pushes the piston forward, ejecting the drug at very high pressure and velocity (almost the speed of sound in air) out through the ampoule’s nozzle — an opening as wide as a mosquito’s proboscis.” (There’s video and animation of the instrument and process on the Web site.)

There is an initial high-pressure phase of the injection to get it through the skin and then a lower pressure phase that delivers the drug inside more slowly so the surrounding tissue can absorb it. 

Needleless injections will cut down on accidental needle sticks (the CDC estimates that medical professionals accidentally stick themselves 385,000 times a year) and will also make it a lot easier for patients who have to self-inject medications like insulin. 

The new device doesn’t appear to have a name yet. We’d like to suggest " The Real McCoy."

4. The power of the smiley face. Once upon a time in a Kinko's in midtown Manhattan a clerk said to me “Where are you from?” 

“How do you know I’m not from here?” I asked.

“Because you smile at everybody.”

He had me there. Smiling randomly at strangers is a habit of mine, one sometimes remarked upon more than once when I visit larger, colder places than the one I live in. It never did me me any harm and may have done others a world of good. 

In “ Why You Should Smile At Strangers,” LiveScience’s Stephanie Pappas reports that researchers at Purdue University did a sneaky experiment on 239 pedestrians in a busy area of the campus. The unwitting targets were passed by a stranger who either ignored them, or acknowledged them politely or with a smile. A fourth group didn’t pass any strangers. By having one person ignore them “the researchers were aiming to create a feeling the Germans call "wie Luft behandeln," or "to be looked at as though air."

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