Morsels For The Mind – 07/03/2014

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

Eye pods. See whales. From space. With satellites. Cool development, nicely explained by Sara Mynott.

Hold off on hate. Why it’s important not to diss the dolphins. Important case made by Craken MacCraic.

Don’t cry over spilt milk. DO cry over spilt oil. It’s impact on dolphins is not good, as Jason Goldman explains.

Never cry wolf? Predators are important for ecosystems, but don’t overblow role. Emma Marris reveals why.

Friendship floes. Of polar bears, dogs, & our perceptions of animal “friends”. Excellent piece by Robert Krulwich. Read of the week.

A breed apart? For dogs, it’s not what you are but who owns you that determines aggression, as Rose Eveleth shows.

Meat of the matter. What’s the best food reward in dog behaviour studies? Hmm. Zazie Todd explains that it shouldn't just be a matter of taste.

Gone to the dogs? Maureen Backman makes the compelling case that canine trainers must be effective science communicators. Indeed!

Dogs & cats living together…mass hysteria! Do canines & felines really not get along? Jason Bittel handles this purr-fectly.

Scents of togetherness. Cats bond with “group odour”. Fascinating feline science, shared by Pam Johnson Bennett.

Nothing to sniff at! Eau de billy goat will make you ovulate. If you’re a female goat. Bethany Brookshire has a nose for a great story!

Steering the right way. Raising calves together is best, as Jason Goldman shows.

Devil in the details. Joseph Bennington Castro looks into how a Tasmanian icon has sex.

Bad neigh-bours. Invasive horses reined in on panda reserve. Elizabeth Preston corrals a good story.

Have you herd? Horses are latest threat to pandas. Both browse bamboo. Stephanie Pappas looks into the problem.

Piles of data. Pachyderm poo tells tale of elephantine proportions. Stephanie Schuttler digs into it.

Prickly affair. The mating rituals of echidnas.

Real estate agents. Great tits reveal best place to nest. Carl Zimmer on a story that is about location, location, location. Read of the week.

Think that birds have no big secrets left for us to discover? That would be wrong.” Super look at a nifty discovery, by Grrl Scientist. Read of the week.

Pelican brief. A pelican is taught to fly. Amazing!

That January morning, I forgot to dislike starlings.” Fresh look at old “pest”, by Adrienne Ross Scanlan.

Alone on its perch. Ella Davies on a new perching bird family has just one species.

Murmuration marvels. Spectacular starlings. Phenomenal flocks.

Paradise found. Grrl Scientist describes the excellent Birds-of-Paradise Project.

Lost & found. Baby sea turtles’ “lost years” revealed. Ed Yong shares what they're up to.

Here be dragons. Komodo dragons. Awesome overview, by Darren Naish.

Clue in the hue? Why do lacertid lizards have colourful bellies? It’s still a mystery, as Felicity Muth explains.

Crocodile tears. Not a wonderful week to be crocodilian, as Jason Goldman shows.

Go with glow. Dragonfish glow blue, see blue. Glow red, see red. Wynne Parry takes a look.

With fin you win? Adipose fin looks surprisingly adaptive, as Rina Shaikh-Lesko explains.

Making sense of scents. Determining how sharks use odours to detect prey. Cool research, nicely explored by Mary Bates.

Hey kids, don’t ride sharks! For sharks' sake. Important, by David Shiffman.

Back to schools. Fantastic fish “flocks”, by Octavio Aburto.

Treading water. Literally. How tiniest squid gets by. Elizabeth Preston on some spectacularly small critters.

Towering intellect. Nematodes make towers to get about.  Some very cool biology, brought to you by Philip Ball.

The worm turns. And joins a thousand others to make a live, wriggling tower. Awesome biology, beautifully described by Ed Yong.

Beautiful Branchiopods. Phenomenal fairy shrimp. Wonderful post, by Piotr Naskrecki.

A tale of two urchins. Alike, and yet not so. Wonderful animation using research from The Witman Lab, via Casey Dunn.

It’s a living. Swim up sea cucumber's butt to eat gonads. Matt Simon doesn't shy away from the delightfully disgusting.

Combative coral. There’s an amazing slow motion battle playing out under the sea. Rose Eveleth looks into the ocean's depths.

Deep secrets. Rebecca Morelle takes a look at life in the ocean’s depths.

A weighty concern. The total planet’s worth of mass of humans + domesticated mammals versus wild mammals. Sheesh. Illuminating stuff as always, from xkcd. View of the week.

Animals aren’t tools for thinking. Animals are some of the basic building blocks of thought itself.” Quote by Mark Haddon from a thoughtful piece on the meaning of non-human animals in narratives. Read of the week.

Out of Africa. Amazing wildlife & landscapes, by Benjamin Tupper.


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

Mind control. Altering fruit fly behaviour…with frickin’ laser beams! Sara Reardon on some cool science.

Plight of the living dead. Wasp zombifies cockroach. Matt Simon shares all the gory details.

Prominent parasitoids. Laura Timms on ichneumonid wasps.

Parasite prowess. Spectacular diversity of parasitic wasps. Nearly 200 new species. Angie McPherson describes the discovery.

Everybody hurts. Richard Conniff  on amazing parasitic wasp diversity.

Preying on their minds. Catherine Scott on spiders that stalk like cats.

Blue plate special? Jumping spiders like blue food, as Chris Buddle explains.

Beautiful beetle. Crossidius coralinus is sublime. Ted MacRae shows why.

doublesex good. Gene creates remarkable butterfly diversity. Ed Yong on the process of science, and the amazing discoveries that emerge from it. Read of the week.

The butterfly effect. Ewen Callaway explains how a single gene controls many aspects of butterfly mimicry.

Acid trip up. Crazy ants beat fire ants with formic acid defence. Fascinating biology, nicely explained by Sedeer el-Showk.

To bee or not to bee. Annalee Newitz on how sterile workers pass on genes. Fascinating. Read of the week.

So much bee news lately is gloomy, I thought it would be nice to highlight a happy story.” Great feel-good story by Gwen Pearson.

A taste of honey. Don’t throw out crystallised beehive goodness. Embrace it, says Gwen Pearson.

Cold comfort? Did this winter’s cold slow the advance of invasive insects? We’ll see, says Darryl Fears.

Hair today, gone tomorrow? Does conditioner remove head lice? Gwen Pearson brings the science!


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

Endless forms most beautiful. The remarkable evolution of trilobites. Superb story, by Natalie Angier. Read of the week.

Lost & found. Discovery of 160M-year-old biota has huge scientific potential. Awesome look at the past, by Dave Hone.

Hold the hype! Jon Tennant's superb, sober look at “Europe’s monster dinosaur”.

Going green. Jon Tennant on how dinosaurs became herbivores.

Predicting the past. A fascinating exploration of plesiosaur behaviour, by Darren Naish.

Magnificent melanosomes or measly microbes? Must be cautious interpreting fossil feathers.

Together forever. Brian Switek describes a proto-mammal & amphibian in an endless embrace.

Did dinosaurs build Stonehenge? Nope. But Neolithic people may have made it as a big xylophone. Yep. Robinson Meyer has an ear for a fascinating topic.


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

Better to burn out than to fade away? Maybe, if you’re a tree in a tropical ecosystem, as Mark Kinver reports.

Some like it hot. How pepper genome could lead to spicier flavour. Tia Ghose shares a tasty tale.

It’s not easy being green. When plants lose chloroplast genome. Ed Yong on a surprising omission.

Colourful characters. Amazing eucalyptus has rainbow bark. Kim Moynahan on some terrific trees.

Sowing a good idea. Sarah Shailes on the incredible value of the Millennium Seed Bank.

You say, tomato. I say… Don’t refrigerate it. Ria Misra reveals why.


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

Syphilitic Whores of Georgian London.” If it doesn’t grab your attention, nothing will. Lindsey Fitzharris always has the marvellously macabre.

Zappa’s zits & grape pits. Acne microbe named after music icon aided vine domestication. Karl Gruber has a story that contains many kinds of awesome.

Problem solver. Slime mould. Yes, really. As David Parr reveals.

Berry interesting. Nice story-behind-the-paper on “pink berry” microbial aggregates, by Lizzy Wilbanks.

That’s cool! Ice-making bacterium. Maggie Koerth-Baker shares a great demonstration made by Mark Martin.

A prescription for problems. Antibiotic misuse must be addressed. Good synopsis, by Rachael Rettner.

Nocturnal emissions? Is flatulence waking you? Blame your gut microbes, says Srsly Science.

Set in stone. Nsikan Akpan describes a virus in 700-year-old petrified poo.

The big chill. Ed Yong on an active virus unlocked from 30k-year-old ice.

Chilling out. Tia Ghose on conversion of a 30k-year-old frozen virus to an infectious one.

Chilling questions? Rebecca Morelle explains how a revived 30k-year-old, permafrost-bound virus raises alarms for some

A big deal. Revived 30k-year-old virus has remarkably large genome. Carl Zimmer on viral evolution.

Coming in from the cold. John Timmer reports on a 30000 year old virus revived from permafrost.

Hit me with your best shot! Flu vaccine may causes sniffles, but ultimately good, as Nsikan Akpan reports.


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)

Born to run? Can a “speed gene” help ID the next Secretariat? Adam Piore and Katie Bo Williams get a great story across the post.

Hand-me-down genes? Fathers pass along genetic & epigenetic info. Excellent feature, by Virginia Hughes.

Win some, lose some? Longer life, lower fertility. Will it be a choice in the future? David Cox takes a look at the possibility.

Wonderful you. Marvel at what is going on in your cells. All the time. Adam Frank reveals all.

Missing links. High protein diet leads to cancer? Um, not so much. Even in mice. Catherine de Lange takes a critical look at a story reported with lots of hyperbole.

Not so sweet. WHO proposes limits to calories from sugar. What does it mean? Great take, by Helen Branswell.

This is Celera on steroids & cocaine.” Craig Venter loves hyperbole. Is it valid? You decide. Great Dan Vergano interview.

Back to the future? A condom for women? Welcome to the "future" of sex. Excellent take on an important subject, by Emily Anthes.


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

Living on the edge. Life holds on in remarkably extreme environments. Superb feature, by Rachel Nuwer. Read of the week.

Making it big time. Want to restore ecosystems? Start with large species. Excellent feature, by Sara Reardon.


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

Goes with the flows. Past terrain revealed by current river geometry, as Sid Perkins shows.

Slip, sliding away. Imagine a 68 million ton landslide. It happened. Just weeks ago. Yow! Laura Nielsen looks into some remarkable geology, for Frontier Scientists.

Current affairs. Salty to fresh water shift a threat to cold ocean currents, as Becky Oskin shows.

The world wide wet. Our planet’s water, documented from space. Excellent feature by Megan Garber.

Deep understanding. The challenges of diving to the ocean’s depths. Excellent feature, by Alexis Madrigal.

Super suit. Forget Iron Man. Larry Greenemeier reveals a real-live exosuit allows real deep diving.

Chills & spills. Twenty-five years on, sea otters just recovering from Exxon Valdez. Andrea Thompson reports on a slow recovery.

Not so cool. Despite frigid blasts, 2013 was fourth warmest year on record. Important climate science, reported by Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists.

We were in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Trapped in Antarctic ice. Quote from an amazing, must view piece by Alok Jha (words) & Laurence Topham (images) on a challenging Antarctic expedition. Read of the week.

Light entertainment. When cold & moonlight mix. Amazing.


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

It is hard to recognize a revolution while you are in the middle of it.Corey Powell on a new era of discovery. Read of the week.

Dizzying speed. Black hole spins at more than half light speed. Hosts aplenty.

Diamonds in the dust. Elizabeth Howell shares some sparkling stars. Wow!  View of the week.

Naked truth. A galaxy “disrobes”. Amazing! Elizabeth Howell finds what lies beneath.

Heavy metal…in…spaaaace! Supernova makes nickel. Jason Major looks into it.

Ian O'Neill finds that every red dwarf has at least 1 planet.

Anybody home? Duncan Geere on potentially habitable exoplanets.

Disk drive. Why is our galaxy shaped like a spiral platter? Dan Engber addresses the question, perfectly.

Cosmic kaleidoscope. 100000 asteroids.  Great video by Alex Parker shared by Phil Plait. View of the week.

Big breakup.  Ian O'Neill on an asteroid that went to pieces in front of the camera.

The final frontier… Distances in our solar system. Nice interactive infographic, includes travel time if aboard the Enterprise at light speed.

It’s a big hit! Large lunar impact captured on video, as Michele Catanzaro shows.


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

Let there be light? The universe before stars. Fascinating hypotheses, nicely shared by Daniel Wolf Savin.

The art of darkness? Did dark matter spell lights out for dinosaurs? Elizabeth Gibney looks into a fascinating hypothetical connection.

Things that go bump in the dark. Stories physicists tell to explain the unseen. Excellent look at the mysteries of physics, by Philip Ball.

A matter of matter. Ben Still explains now neutrinos can help understand the balance of matter & antimatter.

The ability to loosen the constraints of our own point of view is hugely important.” Quote by Jon Butterworth from a super piece on antimatter beams, and something much deeper than that.

The X factor. Might mystery X-rays from other galaxies arise from “sterile” neutrinos? Alexander Hellemans takes a look.

You are stardust? Well, 40% of your atoms are. The rest are hydrogen from the Big Bang.

Gonna be a bright, sunshiny day? Maybe, if fusion energy ever comes to pass. Good read, by Eliza Strickland.

Crystal clear? Funky origins of bizarre organic quasicrystals. Cool, serendipitous discovery, perfectly explained by Nadia Drake.

Putting all of the elements into a poem, makes it a whole lot easier to know ‘em. Super stuff, by Joe Hanson.

A ripple in time. Gorgeous ripple effect in sand, brought to you by FY! Fluid Dynamics.

Fantastically frozen. Ice crystals form in time lapse. Astounding. View of the week.

A year-long, very public feud between 2 scientist-mathematicians.” Sparked by a falling cat! Wonderful post by Dr Skyskull. Read of the week.

Real feelings? Is it possible for an artificial intelligence to experience love? Intriguing look at a timely topic, by Brandon Keim.

Stuck in an airport terminal? Wile away your time measuring Earth’s curvature. Rhett Allain on the best way to fill your time in the departures lounge. Read of the week.

On the move. HD video from satellites captures the planet & us in motion. Betsy Mason on new technology that shows that we are an active species.

Tough exterior. Neil Bowdler on advances in robotic exoskeletons. Wow!

Home sweet home. Historical importance of technological innovation for the home. Alice Bell on where technological innovation really takes place.

Two wheels good? The challenges of urban cycling. Excellent look at different cities, by Lesley Evans Ogden.


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

Clumsy repackaging of psychology as neuroscience is part of a wider cultural theme.” Quote by Christian Jarrett from superb critique of rebranding psych as neurosci. Read of the week.

Feeling the heat. Understanding how we taste hot spices may help how we treat pain. Great feature, by Mo Constandi.

This week, I froze my eye. It hurt. Lots. Here's why. I wrote this.

Sound understanding. How blind people’s brains “see” the world through hearing. Amazing research, nicely explained by Greg Miller.

You must remember this? Are repressed memories real? Superb update on 20 year quandary by Virginia Hughes.

Maternal memories. Stephanie Pappas looks into the impact of mothers’ stress on infant development.

Say what?! Spending more time in the dark could boost hearing in old age. Fascinating science, explained by Dana Smith.

Up all night to get lucky? How earworms get stuck in your head. Excellent explainer, by Maria Konnikova.

Out, damned tune! Srsly Science describes how to purge an earworm.

Taking the bite out of depression. Cat bites cause depression? Not so fast. Superb critical take, by Mikel Delgado.

I’m reminded of the choices we have & choices we make, & what can happen when we think we have no choice at all.” Quote by Sarah Boon, from a poignant post on one’s mental health, and contending with presence & absence of choices. Read of the week.

Extended care. With prosthetics, more attention required to what the amputee needs. Excellent exploration of an important health matter, by Rose Eveleth.

Getting a head in life? Why would anyone steal a skull? Fascinating look into how some people think, by Rose Eveleth.


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

Communicating science, fundamentally, isn’t very different from communicating anything else.” Quote by Ben Lillie from an awesome post on how all we need to know about science communication is already there. Read of the week.

Brushstrokes of insight. How paintings resonate deeply, from childhood onward. Wonderful personal account, by Robert Krulwich.

It’s not just a book about people doing science; it’s a book about why people do science.” Quote by Robin Wylie, from a lovely homage to Steinbeck’s “The Log from the Sea of Cortez”. Great read. Read of the week.

Great & shadowy & strange was the world & I drifted solitary through its vast mysteries.” Wow. Just wow. Quote via Maria Popova, from James Griffiths’s spectacular homage to H.G. Wells. View of the week.

Intoxicated by the many genuinely dramatic discoveries of modern, systematic science, we do our own cherry-picking.” Quote by Ken Weiss from thoughtful post on Lucretius, & how much (or little) narratives have changed.

It’s dangerous when a passion for science also becomes a passion for defending one’s own honour.” Quote by Barbara King on anthropological hypotheses & civility in science.

Athene Donald on how measures of academic “success” misaligned with many women’s ambitions. And, I daresay, plenty of men’s.

Science & technology should take into account biological & social needs of both women & men.” Londa Sciebinger takes a critical look.

Field trials. Levelling the playing field for women in science. Important suggestions, by Mary Ann Mason.

The name of the game. Universities are self-promoting using contests. Should they? Melonie Fullick makes a critical assessment.

Deep impact. Want an impactful scientific career? Look beyond academia, says Jonathan Thon.

More ups than downs? The emotional roller coaster of grant writing, from the personal experience of Chris Buddle.

All together now. How to do crowdsourcing right. Good editorial, by Philip Ball.

Chasing the crowd. Crowdsourcing can be great…for the right science, as Philip Ball reveals.

Big picture from smaller parts. Mark Henderson interviewed by Matt Shipman, on the launch of new science publication, Mosaic (Mosaic Science).

Beyond the ivory tower. Being a scientist is so much more than academia. Check out MySciCareer!

Brain food! If you haven’t listened to the latest Radiolab podcast yet, you’ll want to fix that. Awesome, as usual. Listen of the week.


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