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.
A whale of a blast. The power of an exploding cetacean.
A whale for the killing. The fraught situation of cetacean beaching…& euthanasia. Excellent piece, by Jason Bittel. Read of the week.
His master’s voice? Dogs can distinguish the sex of a person’s vocalisations. Cool research, nicely explained by Felicity Muth.
Feline food fickleness. Cats being choosy about their diet could be the change in seasons. Great post, by Zazie Todd.
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.
Deep secret. Carbon monoxide helps diving seals, as Jessica Marshall reports.
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.
Scents & sensibility. If your research involves mice, your odour is important. Excellent personal reflection, by Bethany Brookshire.
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.
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.
Slasher flicks. Chelsea Wald explains how sailfish use bill like sword to slash & manoeuvre prey.
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.
This’ll grab ya. Velcro adhesion, romance, & carnivory - spectacular sponges. Craig McClain on why you should find sponges fascinating.
Beauty on the brink. Wildlife edging toward extinction.
Bugs’ life – insects and other things that creep, crawl and otherwise delight – the arthropods
No hunger for sex. Black widow males prefer well-fed virgin females.
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.
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.
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
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.
Going rogue. Rachel Nuwer finds that lone bacteria more likely to evolve antibiotic resistance than colonies.
Cocoa colon. The interaction between chocolate & your gut may be doing good things. Excellent news from Gretchen Reynold.
Nothing to sniff at. Dan Vergano on how some folks survived the 1918 flu 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.
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)
Time for a Pitstop? How a paper on the small molecule, Pitstop 2, came to be. Great research blogging, by Steve Royle.
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.
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
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.
A nice reaction. Linda Geddes on metabolism-like chemistry made under conditions mimicking pre-life Earth.
Earth, wind and fire – planet shaping – geology, meteorology, oceanography, the environment & climate
Island getaway. Floating islands drift in ocean - which is both bad & good, reports Simon Redfern.
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.
Colour my world. Like this. Wonderful photography by Owen Perry.
Star attractions – the final frontier, space
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.
Astronomers get mooned. Caleb Scharf reveals that exomoons could undermine attempts to characterise exoplanets.
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.
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.
A moving experience. Why a balloon moves in an unexpected direction in an accelerating vehicle. Rhett Allain explains perfectly.
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.
"“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.
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.
Hard to stomach. Sometimes the stuff people are fed about food “science” is baloney. Excellent critical look, by Beth Skwarecki.
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.
Sweet dreams are made of this? Lucid dreaming provides insights into brain function, explains Vaughan Bell.
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.
Hips don’t lie? Big problems with claims that hips tell tale of promiscuity & delivery risk. Stephanie Pappas takes a good critical view.
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.
Dopey reporting. Reactionary nature of media reports on drugs causes panics. Excellent critique, by Maia Szalavitz.
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.
Eyes wide open. Take a closer look at paywalls preventing open access to published research, says Tania Browne.