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
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!
Piles of data. Pachyderm poo tells tale of elephantine proportions. Stephanie Schuttler digs into it.
Prickly affair. The mating rituals of echidnas.
“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.
Go with glow. Dragonfish glow blue, see blue. Glow red, see red. Wynne Parry takes a look.
The worm turns. And joins a thousand others to make a live, wriggling tower. Awesome biology, beautifully described by Ed Yong.
Combative coral. There’s an amazing slow motion battle playing out under the sea. Rose Eveleth looks into 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.
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.
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.
“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.
Cold comfort? Did this winter’s cold slow the advance of invasive insects? We’ll see, says Darryl Fears.
Fossil finds – organisms of times past – palaeontology, archaeology, anthropology, history and the like
Lost & found. Discovery of 160M-year-old biota has huge scientific potential. Awesome look at the past, by Dave Hone.
Magnificent melanosomes or measly microbes? Must be cautious interpreting fossil feathers.
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
Microscopic marvels – smaller than the eye can see, but big in action – bacteria, fungi and viruses
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.
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.
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)
Forces of nature – big-ticket items – ecology & evolution
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Home sweet home. Historical importance of technological innovation for the home. Alice Bell on where technological innovation really takes place.
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.
Say what?! Spending more time in the dark could boost hearing in old age. Fascinating science, explained by Dana Smith.
“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.
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.