Morsels For The Mind – 03/01/2014
Every day we provide you with #SixIncredibleThingsBeforeBreakfast 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 sounds too awesome to be true—which means it probably is.” Quote in previous tweet by Christie Wilcox, taking a brilliant, skeptical view on purported dolphin narcotic use.
Such great heights. Animals that were up, over & out of this world in 2013. A lovely, whimsical year-ender by Elizabeth Preston.
Don't get fished in. That “shark” photobombing kids is actually a dolphin. Excellent debunking by David Shiffman.
Body of evidence. Cats, small & big alike, are really meant to eat carcasses. Jason Goldman gets into the meat of the matter.
Animal magnetism. Dogs do their business aligned with magnetic field. Yes really. Apparently, according to this paper.
Completely batty. Maternity caves are wall-to-wall bats.
“The bottom of the cask gave way, letting loose a pickled wombat.” Interesting history, by Henry Nicholls.
“They are smart, social, & inquisitive, just like us.” Amber Alliger’s intelligent take on lab rats, superbly shared by Krystnell Storr.
Quantity versus quality. Testosterone makes birds sing more, not better.
“Darwin was given credit for finches he did not see & insights about the finches he never made.” Quote from a cool piece by Shannon Palus on determining the origin of the notion of “Darwin’s finches”.
Best of intentions. Sometimes trying to save something propels it to extinction. Amazing story, expertly told by Ed Yong. Read of the week.
It all adds up. Quentin Wheeler makes the case that the time is right, if not necessary, to document all species.
Unbearable lightness of being. Keeping plight of skinny polar bears in the public eye is important, as Elizabeth Shogren explains.
Fantastic finds (2X). Super biological discoveries, selected by Nadia Drake. And a collection of species discovered in the past year, selected by Andrea Thompson.
Adorable babies? The behaviours of baby crocodiles.
In hot water? Nope. Starfish wasting syndrome *not* related to Fukushima radiation. Superb debunking by Christopher Mah.
Float like an elephant seal. Sting like a bee. Or something like that. Love this post on working out by Erik Vance.
Bugs’ life – insects and other things that creep, crawl and otherwise delight
Higher resolution. Some hopes for 2014 that are better than the ordinary. And all about bugs, as to "bee" expected, coming from Chris Buddle!
In the nic of time. Caterpillars exhale nicotine to deter predatory spiders. Cool story, wonderful explained by Joseph Bennington Castro. Read of the week.
Two bees or not two bees. How honeybees got sexes.
Fossil finds – organisms of times past – palaeontology, archaeology, anthropology, history and the like
Lives shaped by death. How extinctions influenced the evolution of dinosaurs. Excellent piece of research blogging, by Richard Butler.
When words get in the way. How giving the characters dialogue ruined “Walking With Dinosaurs”. Brian Switek has a word or two on the matter himself.
All in the family. Understanding relationships between hominin lineages. Clive Finlayson on timely research.
The way of the dodo? A sensible call to rethink Neanderthal “extinction”, by Holly Dunsworth.
Fascinating finds. Most amazing human evolution discoveries from the past year, selected by Kate Wong.
A long meal? How did folks in ancient Pompeii come to eat a giraffe? Interesting food history by Megan Garber.
Beautiful botanicals – wonders of the photosynthesising world – that is, mainly plants
Hunger games. Carnivorous plants use tricksy UV fluorescence to attract prey. Joseph Stromberg shows all.
War of the roses? Might plants’ chemical warfare be driving rainforest diversity? Intriguing hypothesis, shared by Carl Zimmer.
Ace of base. Stephanie Pappas explains how petunias get the blues by becoming a little alkali.
Vigour trigger. Increased hybrid tomato yield due to altered hormone sensitivity.
Microscopic marvels – smaller than the eye can see, but big in action – bacteria, fungi and viruses
Culture in the classroom. Microbial culture that is. Kids swab, grow, & learn. Brilliant science outreach, nicely explained by Rob Dunn.
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)
Deeper scents. Odour receptors in the lungs. Diana Lutz on a fantastic find.
There’s shrinkage?! New gene count “shrinks” human genome to only 19k genes. Hmm. Physics arXiv Blog looks into whether it all adds up.
It comes down to this. Gene count suggests humans have fewer genes than nematodes. Douglas Main explains how this is the case.
Cell bye date. "Patient-specific" cultured cells are being used to understand how a given patient’s disease wreaks havoc. Ed Yong elegantly describes an important breakthrough in personalised medicine.
Resistance is futile? Artemisinin resistance genes pinpointed in malaria parasite. Ewen Callaway on an important element of fighting a deadly disease.
Earth, wind and fire – planet shaping – geology, meteorology, oceanography, the environment & climate
“We wipe reindeer hair from our eyes, the glaciated passages too dazzling to quite see clearly.” Quote from superb poetry about Antarctica by Jynne Dilling Martin. These two brilliant poems on her Antarctic experience are great reads. Reads of the week.
“With arms linked, the 30 or so people sang songs – including a festive Auld Lang Syne.” Quote from a wonderful piece by Alok Jha - trapped in Antarctic ice, but festively welcoming 2014.
No, climate change contrarians, ice-trapped MV Akademik Shokalskiy does not indicate that climate change is false.
It’s elementary. Nitrogen is an abundant element & its impact intense. Frontier Scientists takes a look.
Flash of inspiration. Alex Witze on how folks are working out why freaky lights are linked to earthquakes.
Star attractions – the final frontier, space
Size matters. Why some stars are bigger than others.
Pole position. The maelstrom at Saturn’s north.
Here & gone. First asteroid discovered this year, early in the morning of the 2nd day, hits our atmosphere & disintegrates. Adam Mann describes this fleeting event.
Canadians forgoing trip to Mars. Will travel to Winnipeg instead. They were the same frigid temperature this past week, as Megan Garber explains.
Look, up in the sky! A comprehensive list of Astronomical Events for 2014. David Dickinson has your evenings sorted through to 2015.
Forces of nature – big-ticket items – cosmology, mathematics, computation, chemistry, physics, ecology & evolution
“Netflix may have solved the mystery of what to watch next, but that generated its own smaller mysteries.” Quote from a genius piece by Alexis Madrigal on Netflix, film genres, & mysteries. Alexis Madrigal’s Netflx piece is worth reading for the Raymond Burr surprise at the end alone. Spectacular. Read of the week.
Incredibly uplifting. Objects levitated using sound waves. This is so cool.
Eye spy. You have images of who you are watching in your cornea. They can be extracted from photos. Yow! GeorgeDvorsky describes a truly remarkable technological innovation.
Long & short of it. Evolutionary tradeoff between short-term fitness & long-term evolvability. Awesome look at Long Term Evolution Experiments, by Richard Lenski.
Matters of mind – how we, and other animals, perceive our world and our place in it
“The inevitable decline of ageing has long pushed people away from science & into the consoling hug of religion.” Quote by Virginia Hughes from a wonderful piece on science, ageing, & the science of ageing. Read of the week.
“He had looked into what role genes might have in aggression... Genetics did not tell the whole story.” Quote by Stephen Hall from a brilliant feature about psychologist-cum-epigeneticist Richard Tremblay. Read of the week.
“The clitoris remains a woman’s hidden jewel of excitement—out of the collective scientific mind.” Quote from an exceptional, must read piece by Mrs Smith on an incredibly overlooked piece of anatomy.
Cassandra Willyard asks, “Could we please find a new, less-graphic name for saxophone penis?” No kidding.
Heat of the moment. Michaeleen Doucleff explains how mapping sensations shows how emotions make us “feel”.
A matter of time. How body size & metabolism influence perception of passing time. Amazing biology, nicely described by Sarah Jane Alger
“Sometimes, pothead questions need pothead answers.” On marijuana withdrawal. Interesting, personal perspective by Malcolm Harris.
Head games. How one critter loses its head, but retains its memories. Lovely post by Robert Krulwich.
Acting on the brain. Some surprising links between Hollywood & neuroscience, shared by Christian Jarrett.
Own goal. When we set resolutions, we set ourselves up for failure. Fascinating stuff as always, from Maria Konnikova.
Behind the scenes – the workings of the museum – discovery and communication
The year that was. Spectacularly rendered by National Geographic. Must view. View / read of the week.
Gone but not forgotten. Phenomenal female scientists who passed away in 2013. Amazing legacies. Wonderful tribute, by Maia Weinstock.
Picture this. Awesome collection of the best galleries of science pics of 2013, curated by Betsy Mason.
Right said TED. A thoughtful, thought-provoking dissection of TED talks, by Benjamin Bratton.
“First discover, then inform. I’m afraid I’ve done it backwards far too often.” Quote by Andrea Friederici Ross from a wonderful piece via Urbanimalia on the joys of discovery.
“Our love of Holmes, like science, is tinged with apprehension… never sure how far he might go in pursuit of truth.” Quote in previous tweet by Sarah Day in a thoughtful piece on Sherlock Holmes, an archetypal scientist.
“Keep talking to people & asking questions – ask yourself the tough questions, too.” Quote by Sarah Boon from an excellent post providing advice to a young science writer.
The error of our ways. NeuroSkeptic makes a compelling case that proper vigilance is needed in review of scientific publications.
Dealing with acceptance. Sci Curious describes the tedious business of manuscripts “accepted with minor revisions”.
Love this. Humorous short descriptions of grad thesis research, via LOL My Thesis.