Today, science considers the definition of obesity, funds a crowd-controlled space telescope, celebrates a “sheep-eating” plant, and slices up a 65-year-old woman’s brain like deli meat.
The American Medical Association (AMA) declares obesity a disease
The AMA’s decision, while controversial to say the least, doesn’t have legal authority, but supporters hope it will push insurance companies to provide better coverage for treating and preventing obesity. Some health professionals say it’s a fuzzy declaration anyway, because obesity and disease themselves don’t necessarily have universally agreed-upon definitions.
It’s hard to tell with this multi-faceted problem, but former FDA commissioner David Kessler (who also authored “The End of Overeating”) said that while the decision could help people, the real key to dealing with obesity is helping individuals retrain the neural circuitry that cues them to overeat.
A US asteroid mining company raises more than $1M on Kickstarter for a public-access space telescope
Planetary Resources aims to develop technology for mining asteroids (for everything from water to platinum). In the process, they’re set to launch an orbital telescope called ARKYD in 2015 or so, which will scout for promising asteroid candidates, as well as treat students and Kickstarter donors to perks like time controlling the telescope, or a “space selfie” with Earth in the background.
The South American Puya chilensis plant traps sheep in its razor-sharp spines
This towering 10-foot plant only blooms once every 15-20 years, and it’s flowering this week at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) in the UK. The plant’s spiny leaves tend ensnare sheep and other animals, which become its nourishing fertilizer as they decompose. Aww, how resourceful. The RHS’s plant is being fed a liquid diet, and kept away from children.
A research team made a “brain atlas” by slicing a woman’s brain more than 7,400 times
This brain map, a 3D digital model called BigBrain, will be 50 times more detailed than anything available today, and was created by scanning the slices and reconstructing the whole brain. This cellular-level model will soon be available online for the public to explore. In this video, a special slicer called a “microtome” is used to cut the brain into pieces thinner than one strand of human hair: