Morsels For The Mind – 04/07/2014

5 July 2014 by Malcolm Campbell, posted in Malcolm's linkfest, Science

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

Fashion statement. Chimp troop goes for grass-in-the-ear. Ben Guarino on non-human primate culture.

Sign o' the times. Chimp & bonobo have a gesture-based "language". Brandon Keim considers the evidence.

Talk this way? Chimp gestures hypothesised to be a form of "language". Victoria Gill takes a look.

"Satao was an exceptional elephant, his story is not." Elizabeth Kolbert on the dire situation with African elephants - on average, 3 elephants murdered per hour. Read of the week.

Petite pachyderm? Elephant shrew shares much with namesake, as Katie Collins reveals.

Alive he is. And yeti isn't. DNA of "yeti" is that of bear (and other well known animals). Great take on hyped research by Grrlscientist. Read of the week.

Get their bearings. "Yeti" DNA samples suggest it's a novel bear. Interesting find, nicely reported by Erika Engelhaupt.

Cows, and horses, and bears, oh my. "Bigfoot" & "Sasquatch" samples come from extant mammals.

Still life in mobile home. What the bear did & the rat made. Nature & modernity collide. Great personal story, by Craig Childs.

Big bang theories. Jason Goldman explains how to help a fearful dog cope with fireworks - the science.

Koala courtship. Marvellous marsupial mating. Joseph Castro shares the biology.

What's in a name? For Otocyon megalotis, it's all about ears, as Bec Crew reveals.

Getting a leg up. How giraffe's long legs are so strong. Nice bit of research, perfectly explained by Victoria Gill.

"We should not tell the Disney story that animals are only cute & only get born & never die." Quote by a zookeeper from Christine Dell'Amore's thought-provoking piece on euthanasia in zoos.

Udderly negative. Dehorning & weaning makes dairy cows pessimistic. Wow. Amazing story, by Mary Bates.

Holy cow! Remarkable little bovids, the duikers. Darren Naish provides his usual comprehensive look at some cool zoology.

The fifth element? Kangaroos have five legs. Ian Randall tallies them up.

Five legs good. Kangaroos use pentapedal locomotion. A nice look at how some cool critters get around, by Sarah Zielinski.

A tail to tell. Remarkable squirrel, remarkable tail. Erik Stokstad on a find reported by a young student.

Fluffy tales? Tufted ground squirrels have fluffiest tails, but are they carnivorous killers? Bec Crew considers the evidence.

Sleep on it. What dormice do to fatten up, as Victoria Gill explains.

Making all the points. What makes echidnas so amazing? Mary Bates shares the reasons.

Little shell raisers. Bird fills eggshell pits with bacteria. Ed Yong on an enigmatic activity - painting with microbes.

Dead reckoning. How do vultures find food? Scent? Vision? Robert Krulwich tells the wonderful story of how science found out.

Death march of the penguins. In coming decades, emperor penguin populations likely plummet. Helen Thompson shares the dire news.

"Presley was a symbol of the best & worst in mankind." Nadia Drake on the death of a very rare parrot. Great story.

Shorts story. How frogs in short pants taught us about sperm & fertilisation. Great story by Robert Krulwich.

Current affairs. What electric animals do is shocking. Mary Bates will charge you up with the reasons why.

Back to sea. Rehabilitating injured sea turtles. Amazing, must view, via Jane Lee. View of the week.

Getting hammered. Hammerhead sharks take a hit on account of their unique traits, as Jason Goldman explains.

"Do sharks have a sense of humour?" Great answers to a variety of shark-centric questions, by David Shiffman.

Not medically useful. Toxic. Worth more alive than dead. So, why are rays being killed for TCM? Jason Goldman on a modern problem.

Deeper understanding. Devil rays possess special organ for deep diving for good reason. Wow. Great story, by Rachel Nuwer.

Deep secret. "Shallow water" ray goes to ocean's depths. Kelly Dickerson takes a look into a cool discovery.

Herring things. How fish "talk": drumming, strumming, swishing &..farts. Chris Duffy considers the variety.

The horse that growled. The seahorse. Jason Goldman on a sound we don't often hear.

The eyes have it. Mantis shrimp vision: freakishly weird. Ed Yong on the eyesight that continues to surprise.

Cold as ice. S. E. Gould on worms that live in glaciers.

Flashy behaviour. Disco clam has flare. Philip Ball on where it comes from.

They do it with mirrors. How disco clams flash a smile. Great story by Nick Stockton.

Purple reigns. Violet-coloured, colony creature parades the deep ocean. So cool. Rebecca Helm shares yet another marvellous ocean discovery.

Killer candelabra. The harp sponge may look like an ornament, but it's got murderous intent, as Matt Simon explains.

Oh nothing. Just the most ridiculously cute critter imaginable. That is all. View of the week.

What's the big deal?! A wonderful look at creature sizes, by Eleanor Spicer Rice, featuring the artwork of Christine Fleming.

"We should not tell the Disney story that animals are only cute & only get born & never die." Quote by a zookeeper from Christine Dell'Amore's thought-provoking piece on euthanasia in zoos.


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

Independence Day. Because horse flies. Great story by Bug Gwen.

Skeletons in the closet? Ed Yong looks into a wasp that plugs its nest with ant corpses.

House of the dead. Bug Gwen looks into the spider-eating wasp that plugs its nest with ants corpses.

Gut reaction. Optimal temperature for digesting carbohydrates shapes locust invasions, explains Melissa Davey.

Bad arrivals. Invasive insects wreak havoc on forest trees. Important story, by Maggie Koerth-Baker.

Makes scents. Malaria causes mice to smell good to mosquitoes. James Urquhart looks at the evidence.

Taking the sting out of life. A look at insect repellents for kids. Important bit of public health, by Matt Shipman.

Beautiful bugs. Amazing arthropods.

Take a shine to these. Shiny orchid bees. Bug Gwen always has the nicest arthropods to share.

Curiously cryptic. Long spiders. Nice photoessay with words by Catherine Scott, and photos by Sean McCann.


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

The spark before the explosion. Reef builders on the run-up to the Cambrian. Superb look at a cool discovery, by Jennifer Frazer. Read of the week.

Taking baby steps. Baby stegosaurus steps. In 3D. Stephanie Pappas takes a look.

Mesozoic's monstrous muncher. Pliosaurs' big bite. Brian Switek looks into it.

Everything old is new again. Archaeopteryx's feathered leggings. Great take on this "news", by Brian Switek. Read of the week.

Flight of the fancy. Feathers evolved for other purposes before flying, as Dan Vergano explains.

Fine feathered forays. Timothy Wogan explains how the latest archaeopteryx fossil highlights feathers' multiple uses.

Nice to see hue. How & when did bird colours arise? Cool science, nicely explained by Brian Switek.

Pit stops. Nice insights into how tarpits became traps for Pleistocene critters, by Jacquelyn Gill. Read of the week.

Got the points. Ancient giant echidna. Carly Monks provides a nice description.


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

Sweet success. Mark Kinver on how tropical trees use carbohydrates to beat drought.

Bad vibes. Herbivore vibrations elicit plant defence, explains Douglas Quenqua.

Hot child in the city. Rob R Dunn looks into urban heat islands & how to reduce them: trees.

How things crop up. Domestication of plants for food, & our need to do it again. Excellent piece, by Hillary Rosner. Read of the week.

Going with the grain. Sarah Shailes on the great value of barley that holds its water.

Building a better future. Using Lego to explore improved ways to grow plants. Nice look at the technology, by Elizabeth Preston.


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

What's in a name? For one lichen species, at least 126 other species. Ed Yong on a taxonomical revelation.

Mighty microbes. Three powerful bacteria. Nice little look, by Kriti Lall.

Suckers' support. Vampire bugs need microbes to survive. Ed Yong continues to fascinate with some amazing biology.

Round it goes. Swimming microbes' vortex. Tanya Lewis on the things bacteria do.

Borrowed time. Fungi acquired bacterial gene to colonise plants. As Brian Owens explains, they did this more than once.

"No matter what humans do, it seems that bacteria have an answer." Bethany Brookshire makes a compelling case with one that prevents cocaine OD.

Phenomenal fungi. Stephen Axford's wonderful views of magnificent mushrooms.

Oh, just a lab-made flu strain that can evade the immune system. That is all. Steve Connor has the scoop.


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)

Living the high life. Extinct Denisovans gave Tibetan genomes a boost for high altitudes, as Catherine Brahic explains beautifully.

A sexual high. Ed Yong perfectly explains how Tibetans' high altitude gene variant comes from sex with extinct humans. Read of the week.

"Inevitably, when a Nobel Prize-winner starts talking about meditation, it ruffles a few feathers." Quote by Jo Marchant from an outstanding piece on stress, ageing, telomeres & meditation. Read of the week.

Going to great lengths. Of telomere length & length of life. And Goethe. Excellent piece, by Jalees Rehman. Read of the week.

The worm turns... older, if it eats the wrong diet. Nifty discovery, nicely explained by Rina Shaikh-Lesko.

Muscling in. As if oxytocin doesn't do enough, it's also implicated in muscle regeneration, as Christie Wilcox explains.

Get a move on. Neuron switch stops flies eating, get going.

STAP stopped. An end to a stem cell saga. Great coverage, by David Cyranoski. Read of the week.

Squeezing things out. Papers reporting on squeeze method to produce stem cells retracted.

Sound solution. Acoustic waves could be used as scaffolds to build tissues from cells. Cool technology, nicely explained by Rachel Ehrenberg.


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

"Let's talk about sex." Grappling with evolution's paradox. Superb read, by Megan Scudellari. Read of the week.

"So long as Earth's sun shines & genetic mutations arise, evolution may maintain its own thermodynamic law." Quote by Brandon Keim from a lovely rumination on chickadees, mutation & evolution's creativity. Read of the week.

What the function? Amazing things made by evolution. Emily Graslie challenges Smarter Every Day to come up with explanations for some exceptional biology. View of the week.

Is there anybody out there? Excellent look at existence of extraterrestrial life, by Ethan Siegel. Read of the week.

Adaptive radiation? What does wildlife around Chernobyl really tell us? Simone M. Scully has some answers.

City living. Biodiversity & urbanisation need not be at odds. Interesting piece, by Neel Patel.


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

Spin cycle. Giant ocean whirlpools drive climate, explains Michael Slezak.

No mix up. A place where rivers meet & make an unblended line. Cool aquatic feature, nicely described by Bec Crew.

Reef or madness. Overfishing & disease decimating Caribbean corals. Rebecca Morelle on a dire situation.

Colourful continent. Antarctica has hues. DL Cade shares their brilliance.

"This is the kind of expansive thinking that's required here at the dawn of the Anthropocene." Quote by David Biello from a surprisingly generous view of geoengineering.


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

Cosmic crumbs. Ravenous galaxy's leftovers. Megan Gannon looks into it.

That's cool. Universe cold spot may be cosmic void, explains Maggie McKee.

Agent of shield. Charles Choi explains how black hole shielding enables faster "winds".

Getting round to it. Why are so many things in space spherical? Nice explainer, by Fraser Cain.

The new normal? Our solar system is a space oddity. We're the new extraordinary. Superb feature, by Ann Finkbeiner. Read of the week.

Good morning sunshine. Beautiful solar eruption.

Sun showers. Solar rain has HUGE drops. Robert Massey shares the view.

Titanic views. A closer look at Titan.

A big dust up. Martian upper atmosphere is surprisingly dusty. Jason Major takes a look.

Attractive features. Visualising the Moon's gravity. Great image, shared by Adam Mann. View of the week.

Two sides to every argument. Duelling hypotheses explain our Moon's double sidedness. Phil Plait explains them both. Perfectly.

Hit parade. Becky Oskin on a meteorite that may have been an asteroid slayer.

Spectacular sky. Cosmic panorama. Vincent Brady's beautiful work, shared by The Creators Project.

"I like knowing that my dad's ideas have challenged scientists to stare at the stars with open minds." Quote by Nadia Drake from a simply wonderful look at her father, Frank Drake's, contributions to science. Read of the week.


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

"The potential for multiple worlds is always there in the quantum state, whether you like it or not." Quote by Sean Carroll from a remarkable piece on the inevitability of many worlds quantum outcomes. Read of the week.

"Building a towering cosmic icon may be as easy as blowing bubbles." Cool astrophysics, nicely explained by Rachel Ehrenberg.

Sit yourself down & read this beaut. A comprehensive overview of chemical-free consumer products. Read of the week.

Music by numbers. "The Hilbert Heartbreak Hotel" is based on mathematical axioms, as Philip Ball reveals.

Help that counts. Mathematicians bring skills to bear to aid drought-stricken berry growers. Great story by Ivy Kupec.

How things shape up. Amazing 3D models of math equations. Joshua Batson shares how they are generated.

Into the fold. World's most complex origami made with maths. Beckett Mufson on a lovely fusion of art and mathematics.

Give it a whirl. Art can inform science when it comes to understanding turbulence. Superb look at the value of art in science, by Philip Ball. Read of the week.

Any way the wind blows. Nicole Sharp looks into the synchronous waving of wheat stems.

Hiding things. Cloaking has implications that extend beyond invisibility. Excellent "look" into the unseen, by Dr Skyskull.

Go with the flow? Fluid-like dynamics grounding quantum mechanics in reality. Excellent read, by Natalie Wolchover. Read of the week.

Dance, dance sensation. When dancing & physics fuse, the result is awesomeness. Mika McKinnon on the latest in physics education.

Just about any thing we see..can be a starting point to talk about some cool physics.” Quote by ‪Rhett Allain from a cool piece on the awesome physics of sparklers.

"We have discarded innovation & creativity in exchange for a steady supply of marketable products." Quote by Garry Kasparov from a genius piece on chess & computing, & so much more. Pure gold. Read of the week.

As time goes by. Time passing in a single frame. Great photography by Johnny Magdaleno.


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

The dope on dope. Reviewing marijuana's risks. Superb overview, by Laura Sanders. Read of the week.

Minds in the gutters. Psychoactive drugs flow through our sewer systems. Philip Ball on the illegal drugs that flow through the underworld, literally.

Nothing to sniff at. Sneezes travel 200 times further than previously thought. Rachel Nuwer on the surprising find.

Stepping it up. Entertaining take on the impact of embracing a FitBit, by David Sedaris.

Getting your brain moving. What exercise duration improves cognition? Alex Hutchinson looks at the latest evidence.

Cheetahs do it. Gazelles do it. Why shouldn't humans do it too? Holly Dunsworth on running while pregnant.

These blind mice, see now they run. Running helps restore vision in mouse eye. Wow! Great story, by Simon Makin.


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

This is your brain on electricity. Amazing take on the impact of 9 volts on cognition, by the incomparable Radiolab. Listen of the week.

Shocking discovery? What does people giving themselves electric shocks really say? Excellent critique, by Tom Stafford.

No shocker? Folks choosing electric shock no surprise when research is like this. See Chris Chambers's excellent comment in this piece by Jonathan Webb.

"Given the choice, many people would rather give themselves mild electric shocks than sit idly in a room for 15 min." Quote by Heidi Ledford from a fascinating piece on our dislike of being left with our own thoughts.

'Shroom with a view. Robin Carhart-Harris explains how magic mushroom active ingredient expands consciousness.

Facing facts. Two intelligent takes on FB brouhaha. One by Chris Chambers. The other by Michelle N. Meyer.

Toying with your emotions. FB did, by altering users' news feeds. Somewhat worrying research, reported by Robert Booth.

Unethical, manipulative, poorly designed. FB's psych experiments on its users. Robinson Meyer's take on the week's consternation.

"We risk missing a huge opportunity to improve the process by which digital research is conducted in the future." Quote by Pete Etchells from an important take-home message from the FB research furore.

Red hot? Nope. Our mind thinks crimson's cooler relative to blue. Fascinating discovery, nicely explained by Ben Fogelson.

Teenage wasteland? Virginia Hughes reports on an algorithm that predicts teen binge drinkers, better than chance. What's thought-provoking about this study is that personality, not genes or brain scan, contains the best predictive parameters.

Blame it on my youth? Cool adolescents are not so cool young adults, as Christian Jarrett explains.

Practice makes perfect? The 10k-hrs-of-practice-makes-an-expert hypothesis is bunk, as Christian Jarrett explains.

No big deal? How we size things up depends on our ability to tackle it. Cool insights, by Mo Costandi.

The big chill. Looking at psychological / sociological basis for success of "Frozen". Great piece by Maria Konnikova.

The bass is ace. Philip Ball on why our brains like low notes to keep the beat.

"In the end, it may just be a bit of magic." Maria Konnikova on what is perhaps the best reason for Frozen's success.


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

Picture this. The challenges of illustrating science. Manasi Vaidya discusses with artists John Hendrix & Tomasz Walenta.

The social scene. The ins & outs of communicating science using social media. Excellent overview, by Matt Shipman.

C'mon everybody! Join in on modern citizen science as it hits its 50th anniversary. Mark Kinver looks at some of the activities.

Count on it? Assessing what counts in academia. Excellent, thoughtful perspective by Melonie Fullick.


2 Responses to “Morsels For The Mind – 04/07/2014”

  1. edwardtbabinski Reply | Permalink

    Wow! Your links runneth over! Thanks! This is my new favorite carnival.

    • Malcolm Campbell Reply | Permalink

      Much thanks for the positive endorsement, Edward! Please do come back for a fresh linkfest every week. Related: if you sign up for the blog's email list, you will receive notification every time it is posted.

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