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.
"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.
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.
The look of learning. Dog's attentive stare relates to mastering training. Great take by Zazie Todd.
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 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.
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.
What the flock?! Massive gatherings of birds make freaky circles on weather radar. Great story, by Ben Richmond.
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.
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.
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.
Scale of diversity. Fish parasites are immensely diverse...and uncharacterised. Tommy Leung looks at some recent discoveries.
Motherly love? Female octopus oversees her clutch of eggs for over 4 years. They hatch. She dies. Katherine Courage reports on the sad story.
Family first. Female octopus slowly declines as she awaits hatching of her young. Bethany Brookshire brings you the sad story.
The gang's all here. Katherine Courage explains how social cephalopods are a going concern (for researchers).
Bugs’ life – insects and other things that creep, crawl and otherwise delight – the arthropods
Fossil finds – organisms of times past – palaeontology, archaeology, anthropology, history and the like
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.
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.
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.
Microscopic marvels – smaller than the eye can see, but big in action – bacteria, fungi and viruses
Let it whip. Microbes move by whipping flagella synchronously.
Costly contaminants. Mycoplasma infection of cultures take toll on cell research, reports Ewen Callaway.
Not so sweet. Colon cancer in mice fuelled by carb-loaded gut microbes. Diet implications. Nsikan Akpan reports on the evidence.
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.
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.
“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".
Earth, wind and fire – planet shaping – geology, meteorology, oceanography, the environment & climate
Holey moly. Mysterious Siberian holes spawning interesting hypotheses re: their origins. Tanya Lewis takes a look.
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.
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
Lunar landing? Might "fossils" of ancient Earth be found on the Moon? Earth-born meteorites? Jacob Aron considers the possibility.
Lunar lemon. Sid Perkins on the Moon's peculiar shape.
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.
A dose of medicine – science in practice in a medical setting, and health-, nutrition-, and exercise-related stories
“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.
No shot at help? Why an Ebola vaccine & other treatments aren't where they're needed. Sara Reardon on a fraught situation.
Nothing to get exercised over? Basal metabolism can burn fat without need for working out, explains Eeo.
"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.
Matters of mind – how we, and other animals, perceive our world and our place in it – neuroscience, mental health, psychology, sociology & human interest stories
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.
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.
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.
My Boston Marathon win? Might have been an all-nighter playing with my memory, as Jillian Rose Lim explains.
"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
It's not oK. "K-index" & science outreach vs publication record. Great critique, by Buddhini Samarasinghe. 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.