by Aimee Levitt
Here in St. Louis, lots and lots of people are working tirelessly to explain the meaning of life -- not in the philosophical sense, but literally: How does the universe work? Here are some of the discoveries they've made this month, as reported in Riverfront Times and Daily RFT:
Barnes-Jewish Hospital installed its first "lean" nursing unit in the hopes of making hospital stays more efficient for everyone. Over at Washington University, researchers examined the human brain in search of early indications of impending Alzheimer's and started up the Connectome Project that will take a complete picture of a person's brain, including personality traits, memories, emotions and cognitive skills.
Meanwhile, researchers at Saint Louis University embarked on the National Children's Study that will monitor kids' health for the next 21 years. The study will eventually track 100,000 kids across the country.
Over at Mizzou, agriculture scientists are trying to engineer a strain of fungus-resistant wine grapes. Meanwhile, In-Bev sponsored a series of studies to prove that there really isn't that much binge drinking on college campus, which pissed some other researchers off.
Up in the sky, a lunar eclipse occurred on the winter solstice, the first time this happened since 1638. (Sadly, it was cloudy in St. Louis and we missed it.) Wash. U. astronomers tried to figure out what Saturn's moon Iapetus looks like a walnut, and there were exciting rumors of alternative life forms.
It was the holiday season, so a few corporations did nice things. Express Scripts Inc. decided to keep both its Bensalem, Pennsylvania, facilities open and expand its St. Louis headquarters. Monsanto, meanwhile, disproved Glenn Beck's claim that it is totally evil and spent $100,000 to fund the City Produce Project for kids who live in the "food desert" of inner-city Chicago.
Two local independent bookstores, Left Bank Books and Subterranean Books, began selling Google eBooks. The Whiz-Tech Technology Cafe opened downtown to help people with all their business technology needs while feeding them coffee and sandwiches.
A Cahokia woman learned that ovens should not do double-duty as heaters unless you want carbon-monoxide poisoning. Our fearless reporters compiled a list of the 10 dumbest things people have used to get high.
If you get all teary and nostalgic when "Auld Lang Syne" starts to play, and if you use FourSquare, plan to spend your last few minutes of 2010 looking at a map of all the places you visited this year. Or you could just look at this video, produced by Purina, which claims to be the first movie ever filmed by cats.