Morsels For The Mind – 02/05/2014

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

It isn’t all relative. For self-control, absolute brain size is important. Great, critical look, at some recent animal behaviour research, by John Hawks.

A-mazing discovery. Mice in maze have brainwave when they remember the right route. Francie Diep on a fascinating discovery.

Do animals grieve? Looking at the evidence from a mourning marmoset. Excellent critical look at an affecting video, by Barbara King.

Marmoset memories. Extending monkey see, monkey do. Mary Bates on some amazing animal behaviour.

Monkey see, monkey do. James Gorman finds that vervet babies mimic mom.

Has the whale exploded yet? Brilliant science outreach by David Shiffman, Andrew David Thaler, and Rachel Dearborn with the support of Upwell. View of the week.

A whale of a time. Exploding cetaceans are a thing. It’s fascinatingly gross, as Svati Kirsten Narula nicely shows.

A whale of a blast. The power of an exploding cetacean.

This is a gas. Literally & figuratively. Pressure inside an exploding whale. The physics perfectly explained by Aatish Bhatia.

A whale for the killing. The fraught situation of cetacean beaching…& euthanasia. Excellent piece, by Jason Bittel. Read of the week.

Never cry wolf? What’s to be done for the wolves of Isle Royale? A difficult situation, nicely covered by Christine Dell'Amore.

Fido’s worst fears. Fearful dogs lead shorter lives. It’s the stress. Great look at the evidence, by Linda Case.

His master’s voice? Dogs can distinguish the sex of a person’s vocalisations. Cool research, nicely explained by Felicity Muth.

Just what is “natural”? Dogs rolling in worms? Maybe. Maybe not. A post inspired by Adam Welz. I wrote this.

Don’t tamper with the service. When a service dog is at work, let it do its job. Important advice, by Julie Hecht.

Feline food fickleness. Cats being choosy about their diet could be the change in seasons. Great post, by Zazie Todd.

Deer me. Moose milk likely won’t help your ulcers. It might even make them worse, as Arielle Duhaime-Ross reveals.

Not working like it otter? John Platt finds that dams meant to dramatically increase otter habitat, don’t.

Getting the point? A move away from rhino horn in TCM. Curtis Abraham on a step in right direction.

Frequent flier points. When rhinos fly. Yes, really. Paul Steyn takes a look.

Deep secret. Carbon monoxide helps diving seals, as Jessica Marshall reports.

Marvellous marsupial. Remarkable opossums. Super facts in wonderful graphic, with words by Jason Bittel, and  artwork by Adam Wilson. View of the week.

Big loss, small gain. Decline in big animals means more rats. And disease, as Meredith Root-Bernstein reveals.

The big deal. Micaela Jemison on how loss of large herbivores increases rodent-borne diseases.

Totally makes scents? Human male B.O. kills pain (in mice). David Grimm on an important find. Will change the way people do research.

Data lost in the male? Men stress mice, skewing some research results, as Alla Katsnelson explains.

Scents & sensibility. If your research involves mice, your odour is important. Excellent personal reflection, by Bethany Brookshire.

Of mice & men? Pain doesn’t kill male mouse libido. Relevance to humans? Um… Nsikan Akpan on an interesting find, where the conclusions are, well, worthy of critique. Nsikan handles this perfectly.

Odour eaters? Squirrels’ snake “perfume” scares predators.

Bird brained? Ravens have another human-like ability, explains Declan Perry.

Tripped up. For migratory birds making trips back up North, things aren’t what they used to be, as Laura Nielsen reveals, via Frontier Scientists.

Down to earth. Sarah Zielinski takes a good look at flightless birds (including a really big yellow one!).

Cuckoo coercion. Birds use “mafia” tactics, finds Elizabeth Preston.

Feathered fallout. Surprisingly, some birds gain advantages in Chernobyl’s aftermath. Thomas Sumner on a surprising discovery.

Beneath this cute exterior, an evolutionary war rages on.” Ducks. Yow! Fun video by ze frank, shared with context by GrrlScientist. View of the week.

Ruff boys..pretend to be girls to win mating game. Lesley Evans Ogden on some fascinating birds.

Owls well that ends well? Jennifer Holland looks at why barn owls “divorce”.

Here, take up a stool. Set yourself down & ponder emu poo. Super graphic, via the great gang at Buzz Hoot Roar.

Out on a limb. “Worm lizards” lack limbs. Great overview by Darren Naish.

A light touch. How LED lighting is helping sea turtles. This is a great story, beautifully rendered by John Platt. Read of the week.

Hatching a plot. Elizabeth Pennisi finds that frog eggs impacted by dad’s delinquency.

Bad news, good news. There’s been a die off involving 500k fish. They’re invasive Asian carp. Kerry Grens on the upside of a downside.

Kill bill? Ed Yong on how sailfish use their bill to wound & manoeuvre prey.

Slasher flicks. Chelsea Wald explains how sailfish use bill like sword to slash & manoeuvre prey.

Deeply committed. Hatchetfish equipped for deep sea life, reveals Bec Crew.

Bad acid trip. Acidified seawater messes with reef fish behaviour. Not good. Jason Goldman explains.

Kinda cute? Erika Engelhaupt finds that blobfish “ugliness” is just when it is a fish out of water.

Eel appeal. Beautifully bizarre sea creatures. Matt Simon continues his look at odd critters.

A bone to pick. Wynne Parry looks at a crustacean that lives on a whale skeleton.

There is power in a Union. Tapeworms thrived after USSR collapse. Excellent look at the intersection of history, law, and epidemics, by Rebecca Kreston. Read of the week.

This’ll grab ya. Velcro adhesion, romance, & carnivory - spectacular sponges. Craig McClain on why you should find sponges fascinating.

Wild, wildlife. Wonderful work by Greg Dutoit.

Beauty on the brink. Wildlife edging toward extinction.


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

The eyes have it. Spider vision. Great explainer, by Gwen Pearson.

Dinner date. Female wolf spiders eat males before sex. Carrie Arnold looks at a novel mating habit.

No hunger for sex. Black widow males prefer well-fed virgin females.

Webs of intrigue. Assorted spiders. Great photos by Sean McCann, explained by Catherine Scott.

Life in the fat lane. Rare fats prevent fly from freezing. Cool discovery, described nicely by Sandhya Sekar.

Fat chance. Novel fat helps maggots survive big chill, reveals Catherine Brahic.

Hot child in the city? Butterflies emerge later in season in warm urban environments, finds Matt Shipman.

Face facts. Wasp vision evolved to see faces.

Beeing good? Kenyan bees are inflicted with pests, but survive better than North American. Why? Jennifer Holland looks at the possible answers.

Bee rustlers. Folks thieving honeymakers get caught in sting. Amazing story, by Lorraine Boissoneault. Read of the week.

Awesome aphids. Amazing little critters, nicely described by Simon Leather.

Springing back. How aphids survived winter. Simon Leather beautifully describes how insects make it from one year to the next.

Mitey swift. Mites are speediest animal (by size), as Sid Perkins explains.

Ants on the brain. Ants can inform us about neuron action. And vice versa. Superb read, by Carrie Arnold. Read of the week.

Radiation’s radiation. Paintings of insect diversity arising in Chernobyl’s wake. Strange beauty, wonderfully shared by Helen Thompson.

Good eats. Insects & other invertebrates are super sources of nutrients. Yes, really, says Daniella Martin.


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

There is much more important palaeontology research out there than just ‘woo new dinosaur’.” Quote by Jon Tennant from a super piece picking a bone with how palaeontological finds are reported. Read of the week.

Making it big time. Brian Switek considers the most ginormous creatures ever.

Preying on their minds. Dinosaur predators & prey in beautiful artwork, via Nadia Drake.

Ahead by a nose. Jeff Hecht finds that pliosaurs had sensitive snouts.

Food for thought. Neanderthals likely cooked meals, finds Dan Vergano.

Only human? Intellectually, Neanderthals may have been on par with us, explains Colin Barras.


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

Something in the air…helps tomatoes defend themselves. Ed Yong on the remarkable sharing that plants do. Read of the week.

Silent partners. How plants “talk” to each other. Nice introduction, by Robert Krulwich.

A tree grows in Brooklyn…and a cottonwood grows in Colorado. Lovely paean to a genus, by Tom Yulsman.

Quite a yarn. Folks once thought sheep grew like vegetables. Yes, really. Matt Simon on an interesting bit of botanical history.

Seeds of discontent. How engineering plants sowed debate. Pam Ronald takes a great look at the history.

Roots on rooftops. Mark Miller looks at urban gardening as a means to feed city folks.

Constant gardeners? Don’t count on it with plant molecular biologists. Sarah Shailes on how you shouldn't expect all botanical types to be "green thumbs".


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

The nature of the yeast. Tara Garnett on how genetics tells tale of yeasts’ origins.

Beautifully biodiverse. Kerry Grens looks at spectacular Cyanobacteria.

Deep truth. Charles Choi reveals that undersea vent viruses ferry bacterial genes.

Going rogue. Rachel Nuwer finds that lone bacteria more likely to evolve antibiotic resistance than colonies.

Imagine a world where antibiotics cease to work. Imagine no longer. Grim warning, via Sara Reardon.

Cocoa colon. The interaction between chocolate & your gut may be doing good things. Excellent news from Gretchen Reynold.

Something to chew on. Mass-producing chickens without antibiotics. Maryn McKenna provides some incredible food for thought.

Nothing to sniff at. Dan Vergano on how some folks survived the 1918 flu that killed 50 million.

Timing is everything. Carl Zimmer finds that this was certainly the case for a flu pandemic that killed 50 million.

Preying for a cure. Microbes preying on fungi offer hope against deadly amphibian disease. Superb reporting on an important discovery, by Jennifer Frazer. Read of the week.

Mummy fearest? Risk of smallpox from museum collections. Excellent look at a timely topic, by Sara Reardon.

Hard to stomach? Smelly flatulence may signify good gut microbes. Hmm. Michaeleen Doucleff has a nose for an interesting story.

Bad Staph meetings. Kausik Datta on how deadly Staphylococcus became a household & institutional menace.

TB or not TB? S. E. Gould reveals how viruses could both support & treat TB-causing bacteria.


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)

The room would be full of mouse farts.” The joys of dietary fibre research. Brian Owens looks at the evidence that dietary fibre suppresses appetite by signalling to the brain.

Time for a Pitstop? How a paper on the small molecule, Pitstop 2, came to be. Great research blogging, by Steve Royle.

Moving experience. Marvellous microscopy. Gorgeous images shared by Betsy Mason.

You keep using that word… Another good critique of the (ab)use of “epigenetics”, by Orac.

Hand-me-down genes. Grandma’s experiences may leave imprint in your genome. Good overview, by Dan Hurley.

Take heart. Fat cells can heal hearts & so much more. A beautiful piece on the travails & triumphs in making an amazing discovery, by Jalees Rehman. Read of the week.

It stems from fat. Stem cells amongst the fat from liposuction. Nice personal perspective and overview, by Jalees Rehman.

Poring over the clues. Breanna Draxler reveals that pores give fingerprinting a boost in solving crimes.


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

Out on a limb. How Carl Woese rewrote the tree of life. Brilliant, must read, by Carrie Arnold. Read of the week.

Seeing the forest for the trees. Indigenous knowledge & forest conservation. Superb interview, beautifully contextualised, by Barbara King.

If a tree barks in a forest, does anyone hear?” On listening to nature. Fantastic piece, by Eric Leonardson. Read of the week.

It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it. Wait…maybe it’s not life after all. Sid Perkins on the difficulties in truly defining life.

Trying on new genes. Carl Zimmer looks at the evolution of genes de novo.

A nice reaction. Linda Geddes on metabolism-like chemistry made under conditions mimicking pre-life Earth.

A tidey life. Living in the intertidal zone. Lovely mix of poetry & science, by Natalie Sopinka.


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

Deep heat. Simon Redfern on what really goes on under a volcano.

Smashing find! Becky Oskin on a 2 billion year-old impact crater.

Island getaway. Floating islands drift in ocean - which is both bad & good, reports Simon Redfern.

Blue by hue. Why a river runs azure. Cool discovery, nicely described by Steve Caplan.

Completely floored. Amount & diversity of our trash on ocean floor is ridiculous, as Elizabeth Preston reveals.

Ground down. For megacities, the big problem is not rising water, but sinking land. Important, timely research, nicely explained by Jonathan Amos.

Heated discussions. Why aren’t we better at predicting & avoiding wildfires? Erin Biba looks at the reasons.

Reef or madness. Corals’ beauty & destruction in ceramics. Beautiful artwork by Courtney Mattison. View of the week.

Colour my world. Like this. Wonderful photography by Owen Perry.


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

When worlds collide? Cosmic collisions, nicely curated by Miklos Vincze.

‘Round they go. Amazing diversity of solar systems, beautiful gallery curated by George Dvorsky.

Stars in our eyes. Spectacular space, gorgeous galaxies.  Great gallery, selected by Nadia Drake.

Cold as ice. Is it a frigid rogue planet or a really frosty red dwarf? Intriguing by Ron Miller  [Funny how comments on this piece degenerated into whether “the Earth” should be capitalised or not. Hmm.]

A day in the life. An exoplanet rotates through its day.

Out for a spin. Ron Cowen on the first exoplanet seen rotating.

Astronomers get mooned. Caleb Scharf reveals that exomoons could undermine attempts to characterise exoplanets.

Great round up. Uranus from Saturn. Nadia Drake takes a look.

What lies beneath? Tapping beneath Europa’s icy surface. Three ideas covered in a great feature, by Meghan Rosen. Read of the week.

You know the drill. Curiosity puts another hole in Mars, reports Jonathan Amos. Watch this space.

Word up! Where did the words that describe our cosmos come from? Corey Powell has the surprising answers.


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

Not so bright. Cosmic “dim” matter observed.

A wrinkle in time. Black hole edges go fractal, reveals Lisa Grossman.

Illuminating the darkness. Of dark matter & black holes. Great explainers, by Katie Mack.

Golden oldies. Neutron stars leave gold legacy, explains Ethan Siegel.

This year’s model. The changing models - like sacred spherical cows - of physics. Excellent feature, by David Kaiser.

Simply stunning. Liquid cavitation in a bottle. Brilliant bubbles. Great view.

Hot stuff. Room temperature superconductivity could change everything. Brilliant look at where things currently stand, by Natalie Wolchover. Read of the week.

Bad thing gone good. Many a great invention was based on great failures, explains Richard Fisher.

Fiction factory. Sci-fi has been fertile ground for great technologies. Interesting chart, by Ria Misra.

Mona Lisa smiles. And may do so in 3D. Did Da Vinci take things into another dimension? Great work by Erika Engelhaupt on this.

A moving experience. Why a balloon moves in an unexpected direction in an accelerating vehicle. Rhett Allain explains perfectly.

Walloping websnappers! The physics behind Spiderman’s silk, by Rhett Allain.


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

Whether you’re speaking of mice or mothers, when you love someone you want to understand their death.” Quote by Nathalia Holt from a deeply affecting read on HIV, suicide & becoming a meticulous researcher. Read of the week.

This. Erin Podolak’s personal experience with a tumour. Incredible story in three parts - one, two, and three. Reads of the week.

"“I thought, ‘This is crazy’,” she recalls. Then they brought her a bucket of poo.Bryn Nelson brings you the hole story - a fascinating, comprehensive, in-depth piece on faecal transplants. Read of the week.

Finding the sweet spot. Just how much attention should we pay sugar in our diets? David Despain on a hotly debated topic.

Consult with physician if starting an exercise program? Actually, consult if not exercising. Yes! David Despain with some superb advice.

Warm thoughts. “Recovery oil” bath as good as ice bath for sport recovery. If you love well-constructed research, you must read this piece by Alex Hutchinson. Also has a super punchline. Read of the week.

Run a round. Marathon runners change pace to hit round number finish times. Cool research, nicely explained by Alex Hutchinson.

Run runs. Thinking of running a “tough mudder”? Beware the bowel infection, warns James Hamblin.

Hard to stomach. Sometimes the stuff people are fed about food “science” is baloney. Excellent critical look, by Beth Skwarecki.

Nothing to wine about? A bottle of wine a day is harmless? Um, think again, says Suzi Gage.

Get the balance right. It’s key to everything, especially your diet. Sensible science, courtesy of Matt Shipman.

No bull. Sperm banks were born on the back of bovine artificial insemination. Amazing bit of history, by Alexis Madrigal.

Spot on. Getting a measles shot later is better than not at all. Important health discovery, shared by Brooke Borel.

Labour relations? Induced labour *doesn’t* kick-start intervention cascade, as Laura Sanders explains.

Tall order. If we want fair sporting, testosterone shouldn’t be what we’re testing. Wonderful critique, by Vanessa Heggie.


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

Darwin was onto something with his sandwalk. Walking does enhance creativity. Great discovery, nicely explained by May Wong.

C’mon feel the noise? Actually, neurons dampen it, making sure you hear the good stuff, as Bethany Brookshire explains.

Your lyin’ eyes? Your vision is tricksy. Amazing explainer, by Tom Chivers.

Sweet dreams are made of this? Lucid dreaming provides insights into brain function, explains Vaughan Bell.

Brain scans read your mind? Not so much. Yet. Nice look at the current state of the art, by Greg Miller.

Say what?! You don’t know what you’re saying until you’ve said it, as Brian Owens reveals.

Can we all just get along? Nope, not if you’re playing in basketball playoffs, as Elizabeth Preston explains.

All that jazz. Might menstrual cycles have shaped evolution of music? Good take, by Erika Engelhaupt.

Sound thinking? Is music really all about sexual selection? Hmm… Philip Ball takes a critical look.

Hips don’t lie? Big problems with claims that hips tell tale of promiscuity & delivery risk. Stephanie Pappas takes a good critical view.

Seeing is believing? Movies with long takes create illusion of reality. Excellent look at the psychology of viewing film, by Jennifer Ouellette.

Right before your eyes. Jennifer Ouellette on how future movies will play with your mind.

In to body experience. What it’s like to swap bodies with someone. Fascinating & freaky stuff, courtesy of Rose Eveleth.

Nothing succeeds like success? Another reason to check your privilege, as Ed Yong reveals.

No joke.  Carl Engelking finds that laughter may improve short-term memory in elderly folks.


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

Incredible increments. Not all science is a huge leap forward. But that’s just fine. Superb reflection on how science really works, by Chris Buddle. Read of the week.

A billion stories. How would you explain a building that tall to a 4.5 yr old? xkcd does it, wonderfully. View of the week.

This rocks! Volcanoes (& more) on Science Weekly podcast. featuring Ian Sample, Alex Witze, Kerri Smith and Nicola Davis. Listen of the week.

Boys club? Not science. It’s a human endeavour. Superb case made by Jennifer Ouellette. Read of the week.

Dopey reporting. Reactionary nature of media reports on drugs causes panics. Excellent critique, by Maia Szalavitz.

Creating crap. Handy roundup of top tips for bad science writing, by Jon Tennant.

Think someone is purveying BS? A handy guide to test your hypothesis, by Michelle Nijhuis.

Star appeal. “Astronomers Without Borders” is an idea with broader potential, says Bob McDonald, host of CBC's Quirks & Quarks.

Brain gain. Tilly Edinger changed the way we understand brain evolution. Super tribute, by Fernanda Castano.

Father of invention? James Lovelock is known for Gaia but his inventions set him apart. Good profile, by Philip Ball.

Café Scientifique is amazing. It’s founder, Duncan Dallas, recently passed away. Great tribute, by Martin Wainwright.

Reddit. That wonderful, and sometimes bewildering, thing. Perfectly explained, by Matt Shipman.

Degree of success. Succeeding in a PhD program. Two views. One from Isaiah Hankel and an entirely different one from Dean Burnett.

Eyes wide open. Take a closer look at paywalls preventing open access to published research, says Tania Browne.

No words. 234 girls were abducted from a physics test. They are still missing. Read & act, please. Important pieces by Mika McKinnon (here) and by Rebecca Watson (here). Reads of the week.


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