Morsels for the mind – 10/5/2013

10 May 2013 by Malcolm Campbell, posted in Malcolm's linkfest

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!


Feather, fur & fin – birds, beasts, fishes, and the things they do

Cheetahs are awesome. Here’s why.

Bats have ‘em licked with their remarkable tongue erections.

Bats know who their friends are, by their voice.

Tusks are for…touching? Older, but good story on Narwhal's remarkable hydrodynamic sensor.

Elephants never forget, and they also have a gestural language to communicate.

The eyes have it. Again and again. And it’s hard to figure which ones are human.

What’s in a name? There are times when killer whales live up to theirs. That’s nature.

Some couples are bound by sound. That’s true for cowbirds. If the female can’t make out the tune, pair-bonding can’t occur, and their society falls apart.

Migrating birds slide through cities. Urban centres hasten their migration.

Not so cuckoo. Birds arrange the eggs in their nest to identify interlopers’ eggs.

Sleeping in a nice warm bed. Hibernating lemurs don’t drop their body temperatures appreciably.

That sinking feeling. Discerning the hows, whys and wherefores of poop that floats (or not). Yes, really.

Ever wonder what a mid-air falcon kill looks like from the falcon’s perspective? Wonder no longer.

Sometimes the young flounder. Parasites pick on young flatfish.

Now this really does suck. Literally. True to its name, the clingfish has one powerful suction device.

Sometimes art takes a long time to complete. Especially when it’s done at a snail’s pace. Literally.

You’ll believe he can fly. It’s the deep sea “Dumbo” octopus.

Think that you love seafood? You’ve got nothing on this parasite.

No guts, no glory? Not if you’re a whale skeleton-eating worm. They are amazing.

It’s a squeeze play. That’s how sea anemones grow their tentacles.

How things branch out. Comb jellies are reshaping the tree of life. And sabercats sit on their own branch.


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

Hearing things on high. Really high. Moths hear at the highest pitches of any animals.

We share with ants the desire to be kings of the hill. And our abodes show this.

The cicadas are coming! The cicadas are coming!

How do cicadas keep know when to be coming? Here’s what we know. And what remains to be determined.When in search of a bigger buzz, bumblebees might have what is desired.

It takes a thief. And sometimes that thief is a nectar-robbing bee.

For spiders, sex can mean leaving the best part of you behind.

Seeing eye to eye with a dragonfly.


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

How plants avoid being double crossed. Primrose has two mechanisms to prevent inbreeding.


Fossil finds – organisms of times past – dinosaurs and beyond

Did dinosaurs get ahead by a head? Evidence suggests that dinosaur cranial ornamentation was about winning a mate. In the past, it really was all about the sex.

Did dinosaurs dance in the dark? Well, maybe not dance, but some were likely  nocturnal.

If you’re wondering how things went down, you may want to explore the evolution of feathers.

Filling in the hole story. How ancient carnivorous megafauna fell prey to a big cave.

The past really stunk. Fossils suggest that microbes eating microbes produced sulphurous rotten-egg smell 1.9B years ago.


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

A fungal parasite is delighted that the cicadas are coming.

How to arrest a killer. Mutations stop Ebola dead in its tracks, and show mechanisms necessary for its virulence.

Now this is how you get it together. Exploring the evolution of multicellularity in cyanobacteria.

Strength in numbers. Bacteria gang up to get a job done.

Anthrax engages in the rhythm method. Transmission case via a drumming circle. Incredible story.

SARS redux? Is the new coronavirus likely to create a familiar outbreak?


Molecular machinery – the toils of the macromolecules of life – nucleic acids and proteins (and others)

Sixty-one years ago, Raymond Gosling took a picture that would change the world. The X-ray crystal image of DNA. Gosling’s story beautifully told here and here. With interesting story on sharing how crystallography was done back in the day.

Hope for hormone. New peptide looks like it might be useful in treating diabetes by invoking production of 30X more insulin-producing cells (in mice).


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

When ice crystals form it is like living on the edge of chaos – but oh so beautiful.

And water also beautiful when it is just flowing as waves.


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

Who said moons can’t be cute? Asteroid Ida has an adorable satellite.

What goes around goes around. The massive, rotating storm on Saturn. Truly remarkable, and shockingly beautiful.

Bright move! A brilliantly bright blast in Leo.

Gassing up. That’s what the Milky Way’s black hole is up to.

Speaking of shockingly beautiful – the work of Herschel, and the gorgeous aurora borealis.

The moon had enduring attraction. It was a magnetic dynamo longer than previously thought.


Forces of nature – big ticket items – cosmology, ecology, evolution, physics, chemistry

Nature does things by the numbers. Beautiful fractals found in life.

“We are amalgams of earlier creatures, carrying traces of the past in every cell.” Beautiful consideration of the coelacanth genome and what it means for evolution.

We may get ahead through disorderly conduct. It looks like entropy could be a key to intelligence.

A fate worse than death? Just what would happen to you if you went through a black hole?

Water, water, everywhere. If you lined up all of the molecules of water in a teaspoon, end to end, it would make a really frickin’ long chain.


Matters of mind – how we, and other animals, perceive our world and our place in it

If things are beyond reason, may to apply intuition. A nice explainer of how that might look.

What’s the dog thinking? Look inside her mind with EEG – all done with positive operant conditioning.

Shock and awe! That face you make when surprised? 8^O It has a purpose.

Music moves us – emotionally and physically. Wonderful stuff.

Now that’s just WEIRD. How WEIRD psychology paints all of humanity as American college students.


Behind the scenes – the workings of the museum – discovery and communication

When it came to weighty political matters, even Newton understood the gravity of the situation, and provided advice. And Darwin may really have suffered from something that unleashed his inner genius.

Replication failure? Nope, just science being science.

Do you really need to do the math? Sometimes science makes interesting discoveries without modelling the answer first.

The story of a writer with a creative karyotype. The writing of “The Philadelphia Chromosome”.

Imagine if Peter Parker was every bit as incredible as his alter ego. So it is with @scicurious. Science blogging phenomenon’s other identity, as Bethany Brookshire, revealed. Awesome.

It IS OK to be smart. Great profile of Joe Hanson.

Weaving strands of awesome – ants, citizen science, and an ebook. Amazing.

As universities’ relevance to modern society is being questioned, the need for science outreach becomes more and more pressing. Excellent perspective on this matter.

If you are interested in outreach, and want to blog great science, then here is the guide you are looking for: from the master. Crowdfundung provides another route for science outreach.

Who gives a tweet? Scientists should, as it could improve their scholarly publications. Awesome and important.

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