Morsels For The Mind – 07/02/2014

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

In spite of what we have learned, we can persist in being as inhumane as we once regarded all other animals to be.” Quote by Virginia Morell from a powerful piece on the real tragedy of the Taji dolphin slaughter. Read of the week.

Flukey find. Virginia Morell on how a gift of whale meat uncovered a new species of beaked whale.

Perilous pachyderm procedure. Risky relocation of elephants. Incredible story, nicely shared by Angie McPherson.

Help from on high. Drones might aid rhino conservation - spying in poachers. Jason Koebler reveals how.

The look of love? Nope. The smell. Lemur mates converge in their odour. Gabe Bergado on a pungent subject.

Just one of the Guys? The ongoing challenge of taxidermy & display of Guy the gorilla. Henry Nicholls looks into it.

No more monkey business? Alison Abbott explores the challenge to primate research.

A wolf in dog's clothing? No, a dog. I wrote this.

Packing it in. Dogs don’t imitate other dogs so well. Wolves, on the other hand… Nice publication, beautifully covered by Elizabeth Preston.

Call of the wild. Amazing multimedia feature on our modern interactions with wolves.

New York state of mind. Tracking the lives of coyotes in NYC. Mark Weckel on living a life's dream.

Saddled with history. Domestication shaped horses’ gait. An interesting look at equine domestication, by Jenny Kutner.

The mane thing. Jason Goldman describes the amazing Przewalski’s horse.

Udderly different. Cows make more milk for daughters. Why? Super research by Katie Hinde.

A shot in the dark. Is heard better by mice. Dinsa Sachan on how mouse hearing improves with darkness.

Mood music. Female mice like singers who don’t use dad’s tune. Tanya Lewis listened in, and shares what she heard.

The big news. Might rats become sheep-sized? Well… Henry Nicholls casts his eye forward, critically.

Facing the future. How evolution shaped bats’ faces. Rebecca Boyle on some remarkable diversity.

Time has a way of upending our expectations.” On protecting deer, pigeons & Canada geese. Amazing little essay, by Robert Krulwich.

Batman? Bat's skeleton scaled to human size to illustrate homology. Awesome illustration for evolution, by Dave Hone.

Bat man! Literally. Rodrigo Medellin saves bats. Great photoessay by Thierry Grobet, featuring Rodrigo Medellin.

Holy moley! Moles "swim" through substrates, including couscous. Jim Gorman on the biology we all want to see.

Fly like the wind. Aerodynamics of falcon dives. So cool.

Oh deer! Golden eagle downs grown deer. Wow!  Eric Wagner on insights into hunting prowess.

Missing from this snowy owl winter is..nothing less than a deeper understanding of the rest of the planet.” Quote from an outstanding piece by Bryan Pfeiffer on snowy owls, & their deeper meaning. Read of the week.

Constant gardeners. Hummingbird nests grow plants. Great description of an amazing little ecosystem, by Carl Zimmer. Read of the week.

Polly hava java? Keas' coffeehouse cleverness. So smart. If Kea intelligence fascinates you, check out this nice documentary with David Attenborough.

Meals with chips on the side. Birds’ strategies for food foraging tracked using microchips. Jason Goldman on technology being employed in conservation.

Birds of a feather? Remarkable interaction between a snowy owl & a raven. John Dunstan shared the images.

Scents & sensibility? Do birds have a sense of smell? Well… Fantastic feature by Nancy Averett.

Sickened by the city. Extent of urbanisation predicts infections in house finches.

Dead reckoning. Vultures wait where animal go to die. They don’t follow them there. Allie Wilkinson explains.

Walking with dinosaurs? How about walking like dinosaurs! Chickens. With prosthetic tails. Ria Misra takes a look.

The eyes have it. Carrie Arnold on how the jackdaw’s gaze wards off others.

Lyre, liar? Does the lyrebird really make sounds of human machinery? Hollis Taylor takes a critical look.

Teacher’s pet. John Romano shares his personal experience with the value of a snake, yes a *real* snake, in the classroom.

Two-for-one deal. John Platt describes how one slender-nose crocodile species became two.

Spectacular snakes. That are blind. Piotr Naskrecki with some wonderful words and images.

Winging it. This is how snakes fly. Rebecca Boyle on the other way snakes get around.

A nested development. Sea turtle eggs threatened by nasty fungi. by Sarah Zielinski on some amazing biology, that carries with it bad news. Speaking of which:

Not cool. Cane toads rapidly acclimate to cooler temperatures, enabling invasiveness. Sarah Zielinski on some amazing biology, that carries with it some bad news.

Going, going, gone? Have we just lost the axolotl? Dire situation, poignantly described by John Platt.

Deeply deadly. Ounce for ounce, deadliest ocean dweller isn’t the shark.

Sense of direction. Salmon detect magnetic field to navigate. Mary Bates on an attractive subject.

Playing it cool. Greenland sharksMary Bates on an amazing fish.

Gathering storm. Daniel Cressey describes the ire over unsustainable fish aggregating devices.

Falling stars. Starfish wasting syndrome is devastating. Alyssa Botelho shares what's known.

Not so simple. Bec Crew reveals the complex life of the velvet worm.

Mirror moves. Clams reflect flashy lips. Susan Milius on some "corrective" research.

When things really gel. Remarkable control of the jellyfish life cycle. Really cool discovery, nicely explained by Rebecca Helm.

Giant jelly! One huge jellyfish, just discovered. Wow!

Leaving death behind. Parasites know when to leave dying host. Tommy Leung on some interesting natural history.

Family dinner. When a meal & a relative are one & the same. Gorgeously gruesome stuff, shared by Erika Engelhaupt.

Beauty, more than skin deep. Harry Harlow's reflective poems on elephant, rhino, hippo, & snake skin. David Dobbs uncovered these little gems.


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

Sweet dreams are made of hiss. Hissing butterfly wards off nocturnal predators. Grrl Scientist on a butterfly that does more than flutter by.

Underlying beauty. Ants’ honeydew “ranch”. Alex Wild on the workings beneath our feet.

Looking up! Diversity of insects in forest canopy.

Making scents of sex. Charles Choi on how mosquito sperm detect odours.

Peak performance. Daniel Cossins on how alpine bees fly at 9000 metres.

Hold on! Carrie Arnold on how spiders hang on upside down.

If she doesn’t live up to expectations, they will gang up on her & sting her to death.” Quote from a piece by Alexandra Ossola revealing that life as queen bee isn’t all it’s made out to be.

Hungry like the wolf. Wolf spider that is. Ten interesting facts about this critter, by Chris Buddle.

We live in the future. Drones based on insects, the *size* of insects. Really remarkable technology based on biology, described in nice feature by Adam Piore.


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

Going old school. Synapsids ruled *before* dinosaurs. Brian Switek looks back.

All zipped up. Amazing ancient zipper-faced reptile. Brian Switek on a face that only a mother could love.

Provided that I didn’t lose any fingers.., Sciurumimus would be a splendid dinosaur to snuggle.” Quote by Brian Switek, pondering the snuggliest dinosaur.

Everyone do the dinosaur! Possible dinosaur gait, interpreted by Emily Willoughby, based on this paper.

Blast from the past. Feathered dinosaur “Pompeii”. Akshat Rathi gets the dirt on some fascinating fossils.

Caught in action.  Rachel Nuwer takes a look at a Pompeii-like incident that trapped diverse animals in death throes 120M yrs ago.

What a blast! Volcanic eruption from 120M yrs ago created Pompeii-like fossils. Dan Vergano on the explosive discovery.

Rising from the ashes. “Animal Pompeii” fossils reveal critters from 120M yrs ago. Rebecca Morelle digs into the find.

Stepping in time. 800k yr old hominin footprints on UK shore. That’s right, 800k yr old! Pallab Ghosh takes a look at them.

Back to where they once belonged. Humans migrated out of Africa 60k yrs ago. 3k yrs ago, some returned. Catherine Brahic described the evidence for this trek,

Where have all the flowers gone? Catherine Brahic reports on how floral disappearance may have lead to mammoth demise.


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

Northern exposure. How trees became adapted to the cold. Exceptional explainer by Minute Earth. View of the week.

Gambling with their lives. Desert plants hedge bets, as Elizabeth Preston perfectly explains.

Fascinating rhythm. S.E. Gould reveals how plant defence tied to circadian cycles.

Critical mass. Tall trees can be used to help predict total forest biomass. Sara Mynott describes how.

Field of dreams? 14k yrs ago, maize’s ancestor looked like a good domestication target. Helen Fields describes why.

Tea time. Literally. This nice post by Sarah Shailes is steeped with info about tea.

Not sour grapes. Declan Butler on the legitimate concerns over fate of key grapevine collection.

Don’t take these folks for saps. Research shows plantations improve maple syrup production. Andrea Gordon on whether the approach will take root.

What's up? Maple syrup, soon will be. From the bottom, up. April Fulton on finding the sweet spot.

It's all good. Maple syrup grade inflation means everyone gets an "A". April Fulton on a sticky subject.

Great green yonder? Do exoplanets host photosynthetic exo-organisms? Shannon Hall looks at the evidence.


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

Staying a breast of things. Mother's milk engineers baby's gut and its gut microbes. Ed Yong on the power of breast milk.

Fabulous fungi. Marvellous microscopy by Alena Kubatova.

The desolation of smog? Beijing air full of more than particulates - an array of microbes. Mark Peplow on the worrying finds.

Enemy of my enemy. Virus kills anthrax. Alex Berezow reveals a potential therapy.


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)

Nuclear energy. Emergence of the cell nucleus supercharged life on this planet. The writing in this Ed Yong piece is wonderful, as is the artwork by Gracia Lam that accompanies it. Read of the week.

Now that’s sharp! Exquisite details visualised inside cells using fluorescent DNA. Nadia Drake looks into it.

Death left its mark. Sign of Black Death in human genome. Elizabeth Pennisi looks into it.

Able semen. Seminal fluid plays a seminal role in supporting sperm. Bethany Brookshire looks into it.

Switching things up. Evolution of a genetic switch, from algae to flowering plants. Kevin McCarthy explains some interesting biology, perfectly.

Llama dally? Actually, working with llamas identifies antibodies effective against C. difficile. Cool.

“Beating cancer before it begins. Are there people who can't even get cancer? Intriguing possibility, explored by Cath Ennis.

Missing ingredients. Chemicals are being removed from products. There’s a problem with that. Chad Jones makes a compelling case.


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

Weathering change. A year of weather, in a mere 8 minutes. Spectacular! Tom Yulsman shared this cool video.

It's a blast. Erik Klemetti on volcanoes as seen from space.

Go with the flow? Is it lava or not? The answer is actually very important, as Robin Wylie explains.

Rounding things down. How underwater “fairy circles” emerge. Douglas Main on the separation of fact from fiction.

In a handful of sand. Remarkable discoveries. Awesome.

As clear as mud? Actually, muddy sediments really do provide a vivid picture of past climate. Laura Nielsen reveals just how much.

Bloody well right. Glacial waterfall spurts blood red. Natasha Geiling on some interesting ice.

It’s a shore thing. Remarkable vanishing lakes. Sarah Zielinski dives in.

Methane marvel. Beautiful bubbles frozen a lake. Natasha Geiling looks into it.

Climate clues. Eskers help predict the future. Nice look at a cool subject, by Becky Oskin.

Deep understanding. Nitrate salt deposits originated, surprisingly, underground. Becky Oskin looks into it.

Picture this. David Biello shares the 12 graphics that distil what you need to know about climate change.

More reason to be worried about how oil sand extraction affects the environment.” Quote by Joseph Stromberg, reporting on incredible UTSC research showing worrying levels of pollution from oilsands.

Tar’s in their eyes? Oil sands emissions not as bad as we thought. They’re worse. Patchen Barss shares the bad news.


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

From here to eternity. Flight to a nebula. Amazing video, shared by Ria Misra. View of the week.

Welcome back! Revived Kepler exoplanet-hunter sees its first world. Awesome news, reported by Lisa Grossman.

Stars alive! A cool interactive look at Kepler-discovered exoplanets. Katie Peek shares a great viewing tool.

Wobbly world. An exoplanet that wobbles on its axis.

A moving story. How planets might migrate into orbit around binary suns. Stefano Meschiari explains.

Explosive find. Robin Wylie reports on Mercury’s volatile past.

Smashing find. New Martian crater. Jason Major takes a look.

Twinkle, twinkle, little Earth. Our planet. From Mars. At night. Lovely.

Goodnight moon. Awesome, detailed depictions of our moon. By Galileo. Yes, that Galileo.

Astrobiology is arguably both the luckiest and the unluckiest scientific field of the past hundred years.” Quote by Caleb Scharf from a wonderful read on the Cold War origins of astrobiology.

A long, long time ago; in a galaxy far, far away. Life may have existed. New hypothesis, perfectly described by Katia Moskvitch.


Forces of nature – big-ticket items – cosmology, mathematics, computing, chemistry, physics, ecology & evolution

The hole truth. Of course black holes exist! Excellent counter to all of the hyperbole flying about, by Ethan Siegel.

Gravity of the situation. Black holes show we don’t know everything. Bob McDonald brings a high flying discourse down to Earth.

We all have our limits…it’s comforting to know that the artificial brains we create will always have theirs too.” Quote by the ever-genius Aatish Bhatia on the limitations of computers. Bonus: Turing & poetry! Read of the week.

So messed up. Cryptographers hunting for a “universal obfuscator”, may have found one. Erica Klarreich reports on an mind-blowing find.

The technological applications of quantum physics are so ubiquitous that we often forget they’re quantum.” Quote by Matthew Francis from an amazing post on "simplest" of quantum systems, polarised light. Read of the week.

It's about time. Lee Smolin makes the case that time more fundamental than physical laws.

Uphill battle? Inclined treadmill vs running up mountain - same workout? Ethan Siegel looks at the science.

Stupendous swirls. "Storm" on a soap bubble.

Switching it up. Eugenie Reich on how phosphorene could be useful replacement for semiconductor switches.

Code of conduct. Means by which to make graphene a better conductor found. Elizabeth Gibney on an electrifying subject.

Evolution vs Creation “debate” on CNN? Here's why people shouldn't have bothered: Joe Hanson's take; and, Brian Switek's take.

Divine answers. Answering creationists' questions. Adam Rutherford provides answers here, and Phil Plait provides answers here. Awesome.

Let’s get one thing absolutely clear: creationism is not science.” Superb take on the “debate” by Pete Etchells.


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

Better connected. Microglia prune synapses, improving neuron connections. Amazing discovery, perfectly described by Ed Yong.

You must remember this. Memory formation in real time. George Dvorsky shows what it looks like.

Going to great lengths. We measure space, time, & relationships as a distance. Virginia Hughes on something that is more than a metaphor. Amazing. Read of the week.

Sounding it out. We may all have a little hearing & touch synaesthesia. Fascinating revelations, perfectly described by Virginia Hughes.

How irritating! Lifestyle alters pain sensitivity. Because epigenetics. Andy Coghlan on a touchy subject.

I second that emotion? Paradoxically, sad music can lift you from a funk. Tom Jacobs on a subject of note.

Special delivery? Diuretic drug during childbirth prevents autism in rodents. Ewen Callaway reports on the controversial conclusions drawn from a remarkable study.

Hold the hype! Emily Willingham has a superb, critical take on the autism & oxytocin study in mice. Read of the week.

It’s all good? Good at endurance sports = good looking? Hmm. Bill Andrews shares the evidence.

We asked ‘can you tickle yourself if you swap bodies with someone else?’ The short answer is ‘no’.Christian Jarrett on the question we're always wanted answered.

Touching story. Bionic hand gives amputees sense of touch. Greg Miller deftly handles an interesting development.

Facing facts. Might human faces express only 4 basic emotions? Rose Eveleth on some surprising things we will have to face up to.

Endless love? Can romance last a lifetime? Aaron Ben Zeev on a timely topic.

It’s elementary. Sarah Zielinski describes how TV’s Sherlock used an Ancient Greek memory trick.

Regardless of how much time clean you have, relapsing is always as easy as moving your hand to your mouth. Quote from phenomenal, professional, & personal reflection on addiction & relapse, by Seth Mnookin. Read of the week.

Guilty pleasure? We can use guilt from past actions to learn things in life. Nice reflection by Akshat Rathi.

If you feel like an imposter, you probably are.Sarah Bell on dealing with Imposter Syndrome.

The great imposter. Academics work through The Imposter Syndrome. Athene Donald describes how.

Give it away, give it away, give it away now.  Vanessa Heggie takes a look at the dissemination of personal data, from Galton to present day.


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

Read all about it!? Big news: scientists’ reading of the literature has plateaued. Richard Van Noorden determines if the writing is on the wall for the scientific literature.

To blog or not to blog? Julio Peironcel shares the advantages of academic blogging for grad students.

Making every word count. The genesis of Carl Sagan’s “pale blue dot” quote. Revelatory look at a brilliant mind at work, by Rebecca Rosen. View of the week.

Science, in my mind, has always been about two things, discovery and communication.” Quote by Marcus du Sautoy from a super interview with Alex Jackson on value of sci comm.

When all else fails, say something about Harry Potter!” Wonderful advice on sharing science with kids by Elizabeth Preston.

The more you can share your research with people, the better they’ll be able to make their own informed decisions.” Quote from a useful post by Sarah Boon on science communication - its value & how to do it.

Get your head ‘round this. Should psychology inform the way we communicate environmental issues? Paige Brown makes the case that it should.

Cloudy thinking = clear learning. Word clouds used to explore students' understanding of biology. Mark Martin on a useful learning tool.

A war you may not have heard of. A science war. An amazing story. Rachel Aviv has a great feature, and Keith Kloor has a nice follow up.

A matter of time. How many hours should scientists be putting in the lab? Thought provoking, and important subject, sensitively covered by Janet Stemwedel.

You may not know it, but you’re a poet. You can & should write poetry. Useful advice from poet Daniel Tysdal.

Nature presents a palette on which I can focus... Nothing is asked of me, yet everything is given.” Quote by Sarah Boon from a lovely reflection on the solace provided by nature. Superb. Read of the week.

Better natured. Jeremy Fox makes the compelling case for why natural history is needed.

The germane question is not to ask if natural history is alive or dead.Terry McGlynn on the germane question.

I listen to a *lot* of podcasts, & last week's edition of CBC Quirks & Quarks was the week's best, mainly because of Katie Hinde! Have a listen. Listen of the week.


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