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.
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.
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.
Batman? Bat's skeleton scaled to human size to illustrate homology. Awesome illustration for evolution, by Dave Hone.
Fly like the wind. Aerodynamics of falcon dives. So cool.
“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.
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.
Sickened by the city. Extent of urbanisation predicts infections in house finches.
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.
Not cool. Cane toads rapidly acclimate to cooler temperatures, enabling invasiveness. Sarah Zielinski on some amazing biology, that carries with it some bad news.
Deeply deadly. Ounce for ounce, deadliest ocean dweller isn’t the shark.
Giant jelly! One huge jellyfish, just discovered. Wow!
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
Looking up! Diversity of insects in forest canopy.
“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.
Fossil finds – organisms of times past – palaeontology, archaeology, anthropology, history and the like
Provided that I didn’t lose any fingers.., Sciurumimus would be a splendid dinosaur to snuggle.” Quote by Brian Switek, pondering the snuggliest dinosaur.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
The desolation of smog? Beijing air full of more than particulates - an array of microbes. Mark Peplow on the worrying finds.
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.
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.
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
Go with the flow? Is it lava or not? The answer is actually very important, as Robin Wylie explains.
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.
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.
Star attractions – the final frontier, space
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.
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.
Forces of nature – big-ticket items – cosmology, mathematics, computing, chemistry, physics, ecology & evolution
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
Endless love? Can romance last a lifetime? Aaron Ben Zeev on a timely topic.
“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.
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.
“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 matter of time. How many hours should scientists be putting in the lab? Thought provoking, and important subject, sensitively covered by Janet Stemwedel.
“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.
“The germane question is not to ask if natural history is alive or dead.” Terry McGlynn on the germane question.