Morsels For The Mind – 08/08/2014
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
The right stuff. Meeting a right whale & her calf. Wow.
Lone wolf. Remarkable canine makes 2000 km trek across Europe. Superb story, by Henry Nicholls. Read of the week.
"They let us learn about the challenging parts of life – birth, love, arguments, illness, death." The things we learn from cats and dogs, as explained by Matthew Herper from a brilliant piece about learning about health care through a cat's death. Read of the week.
Fabulous felines. Lovely lynx. Nice profile by Alina Bradford.
Sealed with a kiss. Prairie dog kiss-greetings establish social network, & spread disease, as Rachel Nuwer explains.
Like sand in an hourglass... This is the start of the days of these turtles' lives. Awesome.
The air of their ways. Betas gulp above water - to fight, explains Ella Davies.
Positively problematic. False positives for toxins thwart plans to eat invasive lionfish. Important research by Christie Wilcox, nicely reported by Jason Goldman.
Amazing amphipod. Living 7km undersea. Sandrine Ceurstemont takes a look.
Call of the wild? City kids more likely to think of exotic animals than non-urban kids, finds Elizabeth Preston.
Bugs’ life – insects and other things that creep, crawl and otherwise delight – the arthropods
Quick change artistry. Elizabeth Preston explains how a butterfly turned from brown to purple in 6 generations.
A whole new hue. Butterfly wing colour can be changed remarkably fast using artificial selection, explains Christine Dell'Amore.
Time, flies. Remarkable aerobatic reaction speed of flying insects.
Fossil finds – organisms of times past – palaeontology, archaeology, anthropology, history and the like
Think we know a lot about dinosaurs? There are at least 10 big mysteries we have yet to solve, as Brian Switek reveals.
Trudging in time. Do fossil tracks record a dinosaur stampede, or a well-used walkway? Travis Park considers the options.
Not bird-brained. Pigeon use underscores Neanderthals cognitive sophistication, expains Jason Goldman. Read of the week.
Ruffling feathers. Neanderthals donning plumage is a perspective changer, as Kate Wong explains. Read of the week.
Beautiful botanicals – wonders of the photosynthesising world – that is, mainly plants
"They're still here, still grabbing on, not letting go." Persistence of moss. Beautifully poetic stuff, as we've come to expect from Robert Krulwich. Read of the week.
Gender bender. The water lily that switches between male & female flowers. Very cool botany, nicely described by Anne Buchanan.
Here comes the sun. Sarah Shailes looks at the remarkable sunflower & its solar-tracking ability.
Scents & sensibility. Of the world's stinkiest but tasty fruit, durian. Oh, & orang-utans. Great piece of research travel blogging by Russell Laman.
Microscopic marvels – smaller than the eye can see, but big in action – bacteria, fungi and viruses
Fossil fuelled. Incredible oil-utilising ecosystem in tar pit water droplets. Amazing discovery, nicely described by Mark Zastrow.
Tardigrade's troubles. Parasitic fungus. Danielle Mills Waterfield on what water bears can't bear.
Go with the glow. Nature of fungal infections illuminated by bioluminescence. New research tool explained by S.E. Gould.
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)
War of the wombs? Interesting take on the "battle" between mother & foetus, by Suzanne Sadedin.
Forces of nature – big-ticket items – ecology, evolution & extinction
"Possibly the most important research program in evolutionary biology in the last half-century." Quote from a wonderful profile of evolutionary biologists Rosemary & Peter Grant by Jonathan Weiner. Read of the week.
Wild at heart? Rewilding needn't be on a grand scale, can have relevance in your garden, explains Sarah Boon.
Earth, wind and fire – planet shaping – geology, meteorology, oceanography, the environment & climate
Deeply rewarding. The value of the ocean's depths is vast.
Watery ways. Weddell seals with oceanographic labs on their heads explore Antarctic seas. Cool.
When Great isn't. Superb, comprehensive take on Great Lakes algal blooms, by Codi Yeager-Kozacek. Read of the week.
Life is a highway. And when you conduct research in the arctic, that highway is ice. Laura Nielsen provides some cool insights into northern research, for Frontier Scientists.
Star attractions – the final frontier, space
A long, long time ago... A galaxy 9.6B light years away.
A bridge really far. Intergalactic gas bridge 2.6M light years long.
Enlightening. Celestial enigma to be illuminated as binary stars get together. Alexandra Witze on some funky astrophysics.
Fallen star? Exoplanet may had fiery youth.
Wonderfully wimpy. Weak supernova likely left zombie dwarf.
Eyes on the skies. Hunting for alien life by looking at exoplanet atmospheric signatures. Charles Choi considers how it's done.
Hot stuff. Sun's atmosphere hotter than surface.
Rules of attraction. Saturn's gravity creates tides driving Enceladus's geysers. Cool discovery, nicely described by Phil Plait.
In a week full of plenty of inhumanity, it is comforting to see astonishingly positive things humanity can accomplish. Like catch a comet. The next Morsels report on the Rosetta spacecraft catching up with comet after 10 years & 6.5B km travelled. Amazing...
Catching up with a new friend. On Aug 6, something humans made will meet up with a comet. Awesome story, by Daniel Scuka.
Remarkable rendezvous. Rosetta spacecraft meets with comet, after 6.5B km chase. Great stuff, by Ian Sample.
A little get-together. A big deal. When a spacecraft catches a comet, amazing things happen, as Michael Lemonick reports.
Getting physical – physical sciences – cosmology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computing, engineering, and technology
Spaced out. We don't have a good definition of where the final frontier begins. Great essay, by Greg Klerkx. Read of the week.
The big empty. Far from being null, cosmic voids are full of possibilities. Awesome look at the non-stuff of the universe, by Matthew Francis. Read of the week.
A weighty matter. Comparing the mass of galaxies. Amazing that this is even possible.
Learning to react. Creating a robot that synthesises any organic compound. Mark Peplow on attempts to create an amazing technological innovation. Read of the week.
Not rocket science. No, an "impossible" space drive has not been validated. Great debunk by Corey Powell.
Making physicists smile. "Cheshire Cats" created: neutrons separated from their magnetism. Charles Choi takes a look.
Turbulent times. What if weather forecast models could help predict war? Brilliant bit of the history of science, by David Berreby. Read of the week.
A dose of medicine – science in practice in a medical setting, and health-, nutrition-, and exercise-related stories
Brilliantly balanced. Intelligent overview of Ebola situation, with superb links to other coverage, by Maryn McKenna. Read of the week.
The other little blue pill. HIV-infection-preventing pill horribly under-reported. Superb reporting, by Arielle Duhaime-Ross. Read of the week.
Something fishy? Does fish oil really have benefits people think it does? Elizabeth Preston looks at the (lack of) evidence.
Oh crap. When our excreted pharmaceuticals get flushed, they don't go away. Important report by Corrinne Burns.
"You can do all this sh*t, but it all comes down to two guys on bikes, trying to beat each other." Quote from a superb piece by Alex Hutchinson on using tDCS to enhance athletic performance. Read of the week.
In it for the long run. "Hiking" the 4250 km trail from Mexico to Canada in 59 days. Amazing story of pushing the limits of the human body, by Sarah Laskow.
A real drag. Body hair removal seems to help cyclists with aerodynamics. Runners too? Alex Hutchinson considers the possibility.
Matters of mind – how we, and other animals, perceive our world and our place in it – neuroscience, mental health, psychology, sociology & human interest stories
Eye on the prize. How retinal neurons connect with the brain over time. Cool neuroscience discovery, perfectly explained by Bethany Brookshire.
Mind the subject? Do science students' brains differ from those in humanities? NeuroSkeptic looks at the evidence.
Hope for the hype? Might there be something to neuromarketing after all? Mo Costandi considers the possibility.
"None of these views are wrong. But none of them are complete, either." Quote by Bethany Brookshire from an excellent piece on our incomplete understanding of addiction. Read of the week.
Culture club. The birth, spread, & death of global cultural centres. Fascinating look at history, by Alison Abbott.
Outside chances. When "uncontacted" tribes connect with outside, odds are against them. Rachel Nuwer explains why.
Behind the scenes – the workings of life’s museum of natural history – discovery, communication, and education
Hypothetically speaking. Of Bigfoot, the null hypothesis & how science works. Excellent look at what science is all about, by Carl Zimmer. Read of the week.
So tragic & sad. Stem cell scandal leads to death of world-leading researcher, Yoshiki Sasai. Poignant reporting by David Cyearanoski.
"While invariably fraud involves a failure..of oversight, most of the people involved are honest, decent scientists." Quote by Michael Eisen from an essential read on the implications of scientific witch hunts, from a very personal perspective. Read of the week.
"The most visionary public engagement work unseats Professorships, it doesn't replicate them." Quote by Alice Bell from an outstanding perspective on what science outreach really needs. Read of the week.
An old problem? Aged citizen scientists may negatively impact data quality, reports Katie Langin.
Not write. Dire authorship situation for women in physical science, mathematics & computer science. Emma Pierson has all the data.
Honesty the best policy? Does that apply to publishing in "best" journals? Robert de Vries offers up a critical perspective.