Morsels For The Mind – 01/08/2014

Every day we provide you with Six Incredible Things Before Breakfast to nibble away at. Here you can fill your brain with the most intellectually stimulating “amuse bouches” from the past week – a veritable smorgasbord for the cranium. They’re all here for you to load up your plate – this week’s “Morsels for the mind”. Enjoy!

If you do nothing else, make sure to check out the “Reads / views / listens of the week”.


Feather, fur & fin – birds, beasts, fishes, and the things they do

"Bonobos give hope that we can find a way to escape our xenophobic & murderous tendencies." Quote by Brian Hare, considering the failings of "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" when it comes to bonobos.

Hail Caesar. Elevating an iconic ape in "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes". Interesting look at the movie, by Carole Jahme.

"It would be more like Woodstock - a completely different movie." Quote by Frans de Waal, addressing proper bonobo portrayal in latest "Planet of the Apes" film, from a piece by Paul Rincon on the science in that film.

Monkey business. Human presence perceived by some monkeys as risk reducer. Superb look at some recent research, by Anne-Marie Hodge. Read of the week.

Whale of a difference. Saving whales by battling the biggest Navy. Amazing story, covered by Brandon Keim, featuring Joshua Horwitz on his book "War of the Whales".

Ship shape? We could help blue whales immensely by shifting shipping lanes, explains Melissa Cronin.

Dining at a dive. Whale cam reveals bottom feeding. View of the week.

Heads up! Might beaked whale males assess competitors based on skull ornamentation? Fantastic hypothesis, perfectly explained by Ed Yong. Read of the week.

"Now the Sahel has again become a killing ground." Joshua Hammer from a gripping, must read on elephant poaching. Incredible. Read of the week.

Canine chronometers? Can dogs tell time? Excellent consideration, by Adam Mann.

The look of learning. Dog's attentive stare relates to mastering training. Great take by Zazie Todd.

Paws for assistance. Of "charity dogs" & a coat of many colours. Great story, by Justin Parkinson.

Cool, for cats. Track your fave feline with citizen science. Great projects, nicely described by Caren Cooper.

Putting a price on a family member. How much should one pay for companion animal healthcare? David Grimm considers the difficulties for companion animal owners and veterinarians alike.

No kidding around. Baby boom stresses mongooses, explains Hazel Nichols.

What's eating you? If you're a pangolin, it's us. And we're eating you to extinction. John Platt has the grim story.

What's on the menu? Shouldn't be pangolin. Killed for food & TCM, they're going extinct. Adam Vaughan on a ridiculous situation.

Kissing to be clever. Matt Shipman on what kiss greetings tell about prairie dog social networks.

The social network. Even prairie dogs have a form of Facebook. And that's important, explains Jason Goldman.

Makes scents. Mothers' odour of fear teaches rat pups to be fearful of same stimulus.

Beastly business. The part played by non-human animals in World War I. Simon Worrall considers part of the "Great War" that was decidedly not great.

Penguins and tigers and bears, oh my! Jason Bittel on studying animals via satellite.

What the flock?! Massive gatherings of birds make freaky circles on weather radar. Great story, by Ben Richmond.

Split the difference. Hybrid birds, hybrid migratory route. Fantastic biology story, by Elizabeth Preston. Read of the week.

Winging it. Hummingbirds out hover helicopters. Amazing biology wins again, as Bob Grant explains.

'Burbs for the birds? If you're looking for avian activity, that's where you'll find it, as Robert Krulwich explains.

Little missed sunshine. Eggshells shape sunlight exposure, explains Michelle Warwicker.

Go with the flow. Marcus Woo explains how Bird flocks fly like liquid helium.

Bird brained? Clever corvids conquer cognitive challenge. They're better than kids, finds Katie Langin.

Fantastically feathered. Beautiful birds. Amazing photographs, curated by Steve Boyes.

Dinosaurs walk among us. A blue heron's reminder. Jason Goldman shares a stunning video.

Turning over an old leaf. Leaf-tailed gecko's camo. Matt Simon continues his features on amazingly bizarre creatures. View of the week.

Satellite of love. Gecko space romance is good to go as systems restored in their sex orbiter. Lee Hutchinson on the story that had everyone collectively breathing "phew".

Turtle talk. Morgan Erickson-Davis finds that the shelled reptiles are actually very vocal.

Hatching a plan. Sea turtle hatchlings coordinate. Brianna Elliott looks into it.

Bad move. Problems when sea turtles migrate out of Marine Protected Area, explains Hassan Durant.

Nothing to sniff at. Andrew Durso describes the remarkable 3D sense of smell in snakes' tongues.

Perfecting pairs. Jonathan Losos looks at how hemiphalluses arise.

Hooked on paddlefish. Remarkable story of illegal caviar poaching, by Michelle Nijhuis. Read of the week.

Scale of diversity. Fish parasites are immensely diverse...and uncharacterised. Tommy Leung looks at some recent discoveries.

Building mussels. John Platt looks at efforts to restore a mollusc that was nearly extinct .

Motherly love? Female octopus oversees her clutch of eggs for over 4 years. They hatch. She dies. Katherine Courage reports on the sad story.

Parental prenatal persistence. Mom octopus makes ultimate sacrifice. Amazing story, by Amy West. Read of the week.

Family first. Female octopus slowly declines as she awaits hatching of her young. Bethany Brookshire brings you the sad story.

Marathon maternity. Ed Yong on an octopus mom's amazing dedication.

The gang's all here. Katherine Courage explains how social cephalopods are a going concern (for researchers).

No copycats! Wonderpus octopus strangles mimics. Katherine Courage on the colourful killer.

Wondrous worms. Parchment worms: mystery home building. Susan Milius examines the remarkable creatures.

Fallen star. Crown-of-thorns starfish decimating coral reefs. Good backgrounder by Lucy Anderson.


Bugs’ life – insects and other things that creep, crawl and otherwise delight – the arthropods

Busy as a bee? Some bees, not so much. Elizabeth Preston on workers that don't.

Raspberry beret. What a beetle sports. Nice story by Gwen Pearson.

Animal artistry. Caddisflies make astonishing ornaments. Wow! Amazing artwork done by insects in collaboration with Hubert Duprat, shared by Christopher Jobson.


Fossil finds – organisms of times past – palaeontology, archaeology, anthropology, history and the like

The life aquatic. Ichthyosaurs & their weird nostrils. Darren Naish looks at the latest research.

Tremendously terrifying. Brian Switek takes a look at ancient crocodilians.

Oh crap. Auctioned phenomenal fossil faeces likely fauxBrian Switek on the coprolite that wasn't.

Tough luck. Brian Switek discusses how timing & other circumstances may have played out for big dinosaur demise.

Bad timing. When the asteroid hit Earth, it wasn't ideal from a dinosaur point-of-view, as Dan Vergano explains.

Impact factor. When the asteroid hit, dinosaurs were particularly susceptible to extinction, explains Pallab Ghosh.

Double whammy.  Ian Sample finds that dinosaur-destroying asteroid could hardly have hit at a worse time.

Wrong place, wrong time. Alexandra Witze consider how dinosaur demise likely a case of horribly bad timing.

The incredible shrinking dinosaur. Birds. Darren Naish beautifully describes the recent conclusions drawn by he and his colleagues. Read of the week.

Small change. Over 50M years, dinosaurs got smaller en route to becoming birds, explains Ian Sample.

Shrink wrapped. Andy Coghlan explains how dinosaurs shrank for 50M years on the route to birdom.

There's shrinkage? Yep, it's how birds evolved from dinosaurs, as Zoe Gough explains.

Big things in small packages. Charles Choi explains how dinosaur down-sizing led to bird evolution.

Solid discovery. Stored amber a treasure trove. Includes insect from 20MYA. Awesome story, by Gwen Pearson. Read of the week.

Spectacularly shaggy. Woolly rhinos. Nice overview by Jan Freedman.

Cool cats. Joseph Stromberg takes a look at the oldest big feline fossil.


Beautiful botanicals – wonders of the photosynthesising world – that is, mainly plants

Breathe easy. If you have trees in your urban neighbourhood, they're making the air better, explains James Hamblin.

If a tree falls in a forest, does anyone hear? Maybe not, but biodiversity hit hard, explains Sarah Zielinski.

Not merely dead wood. The life found in a fallen log. Lovely look, by Dani Tinker. Read of the week.


Microscopic marvels – smaller than the eye can see, but big in action – bacteria, fungi and viruses

Finds in the rinds. Remarkable ecosystems of the edge of cheeses. Greg Miller takes a look at a fantastic find. Read of the week.

Egging things on. Microbes associated with octopus eggs. Katherine Courage finds that they may be important.

Let it whip. Microbes move by whipping flagella synchronously.

Costly contaminants. Mycoplasma infection of cultures take toll on cell research, reports Ewen Callaway.

A polluting, life-destroying species. Not who you might be thinking. Superb story by Phil Plait. Read of the week.

The whole tooth? Evolution of cavity-creating microbe. Stephanie Pappas looks at the latest research.

Not so sweet. Colon cancer in mice fuelled by carb-loaded gut microbes. Diet implications. Nsikan Akpan reports on the evidence.

Out for a spin. Microbe's spinning motion. Amazing activity, nicely presented by Ashley Yeager.


Molecular machinery – the toils of the macromolecules of life – nucleic acids and proteins (and others) – from molecules to cells to organs to organisms (including genetics, genomics & epigenetics)

"Portraits of a cancer that are much more comprehensive than the keyhole peeps that conventional biopsies provide. Quote by Ed Yong from a brilliant look at tracking cancers via DNA in blood. Read of the week.

Lingering smoke. Smoking mothers leave mark on kids' DNA, finds Jennifer Balmer.

Felling trees. miRNA method to build phylogenetic trees flawed, explains Amy Maxmen.

Same time next year. Hibernation proteins cycle in non-hibernators, as Jyoti Madhusoodanan explains.

Trouble in the sack? Pig sperm stored in plastic bag problematic. Plastic prevents porcine pregnancy, explains Stephanie Swift.

Ain't no cure for the summertime blues? Cool summer science may help beat the heat! Fun explainer by Joe Hanson. View of the week.


Forces of nature – big-ticket items – ecology, evolution & extinction

A little get together? How might multicellularity have evolved from microbes? Super story, by Kat McGowan. Read of the week.

Bad sex. When aggressive sperm of another species invades the whole body. Fascinating discovery, beautifully described by Arielle Duhaime-Ross.

Check in the male? Menno Schilthuizen takes a look at the interplay of aggressive sperm & speciation.

Resident evil? Is it time to rethink invasive species? They needn't be bad? Emma Marris considers the possibility.

Dam nuisance. As dams are removed, ecological troubles flow. Great feature, by Richard Lovett.

Farmageddon's powerful message: Industrial farming is playing havoc with nature, while it fails at its main goal.“ Quote by Barbara King from an excellent review of Philip Lymbery's "Farmageddon".

City living. Nature around us. Dan Kitwood considers it.


Earth, wind and fire – planet shaping – geology, meteorology, oceanography, the environment & climate

The hole story. Big Siberian crater being attributed to methane. It's a gas! Katia Moskvitch has the story.

Holey moly. Mysterious Siberian holes spawning interesting hypotheses re: their origins. Tanya Lewis takes a look.

Fab find: Oxygen oases. Life-changers, 2.8B years ago. Interesting discovery, nicely explained by Michael Marshall.

Paradise made. How Saharan dust & Cyanobacteria shaped the Bahamas. Fascinating story, by Douglas Main. Read of the week.

Arch enemy? Actually, gravity can work in favour of forming amazing sandstone bridges, as Charles Choi explains.

Rock on! Catherine Brahic explains how gravity-defying geological features form.

Stress for success. How sandstone arches form. Richard Lovett on some interesting physics.

Shocking stuff. The science of lightning, by Flora Lichtman.

A shore thing. Oceanic invasive species arrive aboard our garbage. Lucy Anderson looks into it.

Cold comfort. We now have a better idea about Antarctic glacier collapse. Not good news, reports Richard Blaustein.

Blame game. Ascribing & assuming responsibility for climate change. Fascinating research, brilliantly explained by Barbara King. Read of the week.


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

The X factor. X-rays from exploding stars. Beautiful celestial objects, curated by Emily Gertz.

Stepping it up. Pulsar flips to high energy mode, explains Jason Major.

Spectacular spiral. A galaxy in Virgo. Ethan Siegel continues his excellent profiles of Messier objects.

Dramatically dry. Jupiter-like exoplanets. Chris Sasaki on discovery that is decidedly not wet.

Very attractive. Jupiter's huge magnetic field. Adam Mann on a planet's inner beauty.

Gander at gaggle of geysers. 101 on Enceladus's surface. Dan Vergano takes a look.

Oh nothing. Just Phobos eclipsing the Sun. FROM MARS! Robert Krulwich continues his series of delightful tales on amazing things in our universe. View of the week.

Lunar landing? Might "fossils" of ancient Earth be found on the Moon? Earth-born meteorites? Jacob Aron considers the possibility.

When life gives you lemons... Think of the moon. It's shaped like one. Victoria Gill explains why.

Lunar lemon. Sid Perkins on the Moon's peculiar shape.

A real gem. Becky Oskin considers the moon's shocking pink rocks.


Getting physical – physical sciences – cosmology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computing, engineering, and technology

Stringing us along? Could new results tie superstring theory together again? Tom Siegfried considers the possibilities.

Nice pitch. The things we can learn from the really slow pitch drop experiments. Interesting post, by Jonathan Webb.

Octobot! Cephalopods inspire a new type of robot, the PoseiDrone. Amazing bit of biomimetic robotics, described by Katherine Courage.

The things we learn in schools. Alex Riley looks at wind power optimisation inspired by fish in formation.

The fabric of life. Xenya Cherny-Scanlon on materials inspired by nature.

Remarkable residues. Alcoholic beverage crystals. Natasha Geiling shares some beautiful photography.

Astounding artistry. Beauty that arises in science. Great gallery, shared by Aatish Bhatia. View of the week.


A dose of medicine – science in practice in a medical setting, and health-, nutrition-, and exercise-related stories

Painful facts. An introduction to Ebola. Super explainer, by Maren Hunsberger.

The upshot is that while in West Africa there is fear, in Ebola laboratories there is frustration.” Quote by Helen Branswell from a phenomenal piece on the struggle of Ebola treatment. Read of the week.

Going viral? Is a global Ebola epidemic to be feared? Maybe not, as by Declan Butler explains.

No shot at help? Why an Ebola vaccine & other treatments aren't where they're needed. Sara Reardon on a fraught situation.

The lessons of history. 1918 flu pandemic. Excellent post, by GrrlScientist. Read of the week.

Canine connections. Tracking Chagas spread using dogs as sentinels. Superb story, by Rebecca Kreston. Read of the week.

Life is a highway. And HIV rides it to create ongoing pandemic. Important story, by Rebecca Kreston.

Nothing to get exercised over? Basal metabolism can burn fat without need for working out, explains Eeo.

Resistance is futile? Are common chemicals compromising immunity? Claudia Miller thinks so, as she explains in this piece by Jill Neimark.

Plaguing our thoughts. The dread caused by bubonic plague - well founded? Tania Browne looks at the facts.

"My trawl netted dozens of doctors selected to work on clinical trials..who had been censured by medical boards." Quote by Peter Aldhous from an amazing piece of investigative reporting on serious problems in oversight of clinical trials. Read of the week.

Outrunning death. Want to diminish your chance of heart disease? Run. Run for your life. Rachael Rettner tells you why.

Running to an early grave? Nope. Study suggests running can benefit longevity. Good take on published research, by Alex Hutchinson.

Catching the train. How "trainability" influences running. Interesting issue, described by Michael Joyner, provided via Alex Hutchinson.


Matters of mind – how we, and other animals, perceive our world and our place in it – neuroscience, mental health, psychology, sociology & human interest stories

Something to remember. When the hippocampus liaises, memories are made. Virginia Hughes reports on the latest evidence.

90% wrong. The persistent myth that we use only 10% of our brain. Great debunk, by Christian Jarrett.

All "Lucy" goosey. Ideas about the brain in latest blockbuster are out by, oh, 90%ish, as Kyle Hill explains.

Mythed opportunity. "Lucy" lives up to only 10% of its potential. Super critique, by Annalee Newitz.

Aye, robot. How robotics are aiding rehabilitation after stroke. Great feature, by Mo Costandi.

Hope for the hype? Might there be something to neuromarketing after all? Mo Constandi considers the possibility.

Do it again. Replication not just important for psychology. It's essential for all science. An excellent, thorough analysis by Michelle Meyer & Christopher Chabris. Read of the week.

Why ask why? When you have mental illness, cause is not everything. Important contextualisation of recent research developments, by David Adam.

When the drugs don't work. Using virtual reality to treat real life addiction. Interesting treatment, nicely explored by Jordan Pearson.

Word of mouth. Babies learn loads by putting stuff in their oral orifice, as Katharine Gammon explains, and based on personal experience as well.

Face up to it. Facial features determine first impressions, as Jonathan Webb explains.

Working out differences. Exercise makes the world seem less threatening. Jillian Rose Lim looks at the evidence.

My Boston Marathon win? Might have been an all-nighter playing with my memory, as Jillian Rose Lim explains.

Conservative estimates. Liberal bias undermines research? Some social psychologists think so. Tom Bartlett looks at the issue.

You must remember this. How long-term couples reinforce memory. Lovely piece, by Alex Fradera. Read of the week.

"So our stories are not bald facts etched on stone tablets. They are narratives that move & morph." Quote by Kristin Ohlson from a beautiful, moving essay on childhood memories lost. Read of the week.

"We cannot do away with death without doing away with life." Quote by Stephen Cave from a wonderful musing on the death of a fly & what it means for humanity. Read of the week.


Behind the scenes – the workings of life’s museum of natural history – discovery, communication, and education

In a galaxy far, far away... Bringing Tatooine to life. Science comes to sci-fi. Kyle Hill has a great overview.

Sharing truth through fiction. Conveying science via sci-fi. Good overview, by Madeleine Stone.

Getting their just desserts! Literally! Science-themed cakes - including cool microbes. Mark Martin describes a great event at his university for summer science interns.

It's not oK. "K-index" & science outreach vs publication record. Great critique, by Buddhini Samarasinghe. Read of the week.

"This is what science looks like." Matt Shipman describes a fantastic way to highlight diversity in STEM, which he has been spearheading. Read of the week.

Code of conduct. Impressive digital forensics related to the "GMO Nazis" ridiculousness, via "This Week in Pseudoscience".

Credit where credit's due? Science fair project underscores importance of recognition in science. Great take on recent furore, by Bethany Brookshire. Read of the week.

The metric system. Vilified science journal impact factor to become more transparent. Richard Van Noorden looks at the changes afoot.

Lesson of note. How a music audition can prepare you for a life in science. Great story, by Michael Johnson.

Taking sides? Relationship between science, scientists, & wartime. Like Jon Butterworth's thoughtful consideration here.

"Failure is the handmaiden of wisdom in the scientific world." Vint Cerf on the nature of science. "Science is an endless frontier." Vint Cerf nails it, on the value of science.

The person behind the avatar. Value of in-person meetings for online communities. Lou Woodley is right on the mark.


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