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Your World This Week: Nov. 29 – Dec. 5

This week in health: Coffee-drinkers may live longer, brain researchers unlock the scientific secret to happiness, utant mosquitoes will help eradicate malaria, AIDS could be conquered within 15 years.

Malaria Mosquito

Image Source: Flickr

The New Mutant Mosquito That Could Eradicate Malaria Forever

Malaria is such a persistent blight to mankind that Nobel-prize winning scientist Baruch S. Blumberg went as far as to suggest that it may be responsible for half of all the human deaths that have ever happened. With no reliable cure or vaccination, a radical new direction was needed, and that’s exactly what’s being suggested by researchers from the University of California.

Rather than working on a cure for humans, they have instead suggested fixing the problem at the source: The mosquitos that carry the disease. By genetically manipulating the bugs, they have created a mutant strain whose genes are not only resistant to malaria, but also able to ensure any descendants would inherit the same trait. Thanks to the critters’ short life cycle, it’s thought that this could wipe out the disease in a matter of months.

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Photo Of The Day: Meet Enos, The First Chimp To Orbit Earth

Enos Space Chimp

Enos, the first chimpanzee to orbit the Earth, strapped into his flight seat. Image Source: Enos NASA Chimp – Pics about space

In the 1960s, space was the ultimate frontier. No quest was more honorable than exploring that vast expanse of stars, orbiting the planet or rocketing through the dangers of the unknown to plant a celebratory flag on Earth’s biggest satellite. But it was a chimp, not a human, who first braved a trip to space and back in an American vessel.

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Video Of The Day: The Surprising Science Behind Food Tastes

“75-95% of what we call taste is really smell.”

Charles Spence, a professor in Oxford University’s psychology department and head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory, studies neurogastronomy–how our brains perceive the flavor of food.

Through his scientific research, Spence is re-shaping both the culinary world–influencing some of the world’s greatest chefs–and the average diner’s experience. Essentially, Spence is proving that our brains play a much greater role in the way we engage with foods than many of us think.

According to neurobiologist Gordon Shepard, “the brain draws on all senses to assemble a complex flavor image that lingers in our memory.” Memory plays a large role in our perception of food, activating dopamine reward centers that lead us to crave certain flavors.

Whether we’d like to admit it or not, our modern food environment has spoiled us in ways our ancestors never knew. The variety of foods that provide us pleasure (i.e. desserts, sweets) is far greater than what was offered even a century ago. As a result (in combination with other factors), our society has developed unhealthy eating habits.

As scientists continue to make tremendous strides in research on taste, will they help solve our problems and find a way to make broccoli taste as good as chocolate?

Media Of Day: Aside From Black Friday, Malls Are Dying–And Not For The Reason You’re Thinking

Abandoned Mall Dark Mess

Photo by Brett Levin. Image Source: Flickr

As we sit on the Black Friday perch, the state of the American mall looks just fine. After all, this weekend, some 135 million Americans will spend some $50 billion on retail purchases–an enormous chunk of which still takes place in malls. And the Black Friday shopping extravaganza is only growing, with stores opening earlier and earlier and sales carrying on longer and longer.

But when you realize that nearly a third of annual retail sales take place in the mere four weeks between Black Friday and Christmas, you start to wonder how malls are faring the other 48 weeks of the year. Now, enormous holiday sales spikes are not at all new, but the extent to which malls are suffering outside the holiday season is.

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