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10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries This Week

You may have had a bad week, but you can be thankful that a squid didn't try to knock up your face. This, and other science news.

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“That’s the question on everybody’s mind,” Owen says, “but it’s probably not appropriate to ask until we know what we will do with the answer. If a patient answers ‘Yes, I want to die,’ we still don’t have a procedure for allowing that to happen.” 

The story is fraught with deep questions about patient competency and also a study about patients with  locked-in syndrome (in which patients are fully aware but can’t move and only communicate with eye movements) who Laureys and colleagues surveyed and “more than half said they were relatively satisfied with their quality of life.” There were some, though who “asked for euthanasia and we just cannot ignore that,” Laureys said, but it’s something most countries don’t have laws for. 

Judy Illes, a neuroethicist of the University of BC who is working with Owen on those issues, said one of the best questions should be “Are you in pain?” because that and other issues of comfort and preference could at least be addressed immediately. “The question,” she says, “is how can we use this technology most beneficially.”  

The brain is amazing and there’s not much cooler than stories of it finding ways to figure itself out.

7. Close-up

It’s also quite beautiful, at least according to a few contest judges. 

A photo of a living brain won the  Wellcome Image Award 2012, an annual event celebrating the most striking and informative images in medicine. Stephanie Pappas of LiveScience wrote about the awards and the winner, a close-up of a living brain during surgery by Robert Ludlow at the UCL Institute of Neurology, who took the picture during a surgical procedure on a patient with epilepsy. The initial reaction to all the scrambling veins might be “Eww” but after a moment the surreal beauty of it sinks in, especially when you realize that everything we have comes through that oh-so-delicate network. 

Beauty and Brains: Award-Winning Images is the photo gallery of dazzling micro-images of our bodies and the bodies of other creatures. Never would I have thought soil bacterium would make a beautiful fabric. Guess it pays to look beyond surfaces.

8. A little meteor

Actually there is one time you don’t have to look past the surface: most human beings can be reliably judged by their hairstyles. Otherwise, surfaces can be deceiving.

Take for example this rock (via Rob Quinn of Newser) . It looks like an pretty ordinary rock of the kind Charlie Brown gets every Halloween. But it’s not. It’s a piece of the Allende meteorite which fell in Mexico in 1969 and contains a mineral  Wired’s Alan Brown describes as “previously unknown to science: panguite.” 

Geologist Chi Ma of Caltech and his team have determined that panguite was “one of the first solid materials to coalesce in our solar system 4,567 billion years ago.” It was around before the earth was formed so can probably tell us about the conditions that brought our planet into existence and contains some commonly known elements like oxygen, magnesium and aluminum and not-so-common ones like zirconium and scandium (which is looks like gold leaf and is used in sports equipment).

So now you know that there is something new under the sun. 

Bonus: Panguite was named after Pan Gu, a giant of Chinese mythology who separated the yin from the yang with an ax. Just the way you’d think the symbol of balance and harmony would come to exist.

9. Hot primordial soup comin’ through

Speaking of the origin of the universe, Alan Boyle of MSNBC writes that physicists seeking to recreate conditions just after the Big Bang managed to get themselves -- or rather their creation -- declared the hottest thing of all time by Guinness World Records (you came in second). 

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