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10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries This Week

Are we on the verge of a vaccine for cocaine addiction and Facebook for animals?

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"There might be a kind of life that works in liquid hydrocarbons," says astrobiologist Jonathan Lunine (who was not involved in the study) and the subsurface oases could expand the possibilities of life on Titan.

Not very much of that dry region has been analyzed at high resolution -- only 17% -- but it’s always intriguing to know the possibility for life exists elsewhere and Lunine got wonderfully poetic about it: "There's a place on Titan named Xanadu, and if you go back to the Coleridge poem on Xanadu, he talks about 'caverns measureless to man'.” Lunine said that he would like to find such caverns filled with methane on Titan.

Charming, right? But if it’s too frothy for you, watch this clip from the great British TV quiz show QI where instead of poetry about Titan’s methane lakes they make fart jokes. You’ll get addicted to QI. There’s no vaccine. You’re welcome. 

6. Lego my plastic skin suit!

Some people are squeamish when it comes to gas humor and other impolite aspects of human anatomy. For them Lego anatomy may be more tolerable.

Actually, for anyone, Lego anatomy -- artist Jason Freeny’s interpretation what an 18-inch Lego man might look like under his plastic skin -- is jaw-droppingly cool. Here are some of Freeny’s sculptures via Robert T. Gonzales at io9 , on his Facebook page and on his Web site you can see what some other pop culture icons, like Hello Kitty and that one mouse from Mercury would look like if you folded their skin back and saw what was inside.

What’s inside are painstakingly crafted skeletons, guts and teeth, beautiful, clever and definitely not as ooky as human bodies. If only our pieces-parts snapped on and off for easier viewing and replacement.  

7. Breast milk blocks oral transmission of HIV

The human body can also do some pretty amazing things. It brings us great pleasures, often heals itself nicely and now there’s a study showing that human breast milk  has the ability kill HIV and block its oral transmission in humanized mice, as reported by Science Daily .

The mice in the breast milk study have had human bone marrow, liver and thymus tissues introduced to them and are thus called BLT mice; sounds like something you’d find in a filthy diner, true, but their fully functioning human immune system gives researchers greater opportunity to study human infections. 

J. Victor Garcia of the UNC Center for Infectious Diseases and the UNC Center for AIDS Research, “pioneered the 'BLT' mouse model,” SD says and was also the senior author of the breast milk research study. The researchers on that team determined that the BLT mice had the same cells that enable oral transmission of the virus and “transmitted the virus to the mice through these pathways.” But when the mice were given the virus in breast milk from HIV-negative women, the virus could not be transmitted.

"This study provides significant insight into the amazing ability of breast milk to destroy HIV and prevent its transmission," Garcia said. "It also provides new leads for the isolation of natural products that could be used to combat the virus.” 

That sounds like the beneficial properties of breast milk can be synthesized into a form that would allow you to get those benefits without having to go to their source which, let’s face it, might be a little socially awkward for adults. 

Though a girlfriend of mine did recently announce that she had tasted her own breast milk and it was really sweet. 

 
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