Morsels For The Mind – 1/11/2013
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 of the week”.
Feather, fur & fin – birds, beasts, fishes, and the things they do
Behind the seens. The challenges camouflage poses for prey & predators. Superb piece by Jason Goldman. Read of the week.
Time for a change. Orcas go through menopause.
Crowning glory. Amazing antlers.
Which side are you on, Boy? For dogs, right versus left tail wags say different things. Rebecca Morelle broke the news that had tongues wagging.
Good sense of direction. Dogs inform others of emotions via tail wag direction. Megan Gannon spots a good story, and explains it nicely.
A telling tail. Dogs reveal different emotions via direction of wagging tails. Ian Sample’s take on the canine story of the week.
Share & share alike. Dogs likely to have an attachment profile like their human companions.
Familiarity breeds respect. Those familiar with dogs unlikely to harbour breed stereotypes.
“You can’t help but marvel at just how much life is supported by the nature that’s already around us.” From a lovely post by Levi Stahl on juncoes as a salve for the bleakness of late October. Read of the week.
Revealing deep secrets. Rare oarfish washed up from ocean’s depths is ichthyology bonanza.
Cephalopod celebration! Katherine Harmon Courage’s new book, OCTOPUS!, is out! In keeping with the appendages, here are her favourite 8 facts discovered in preparing the book.
Deeply mysterious. Curious critters of the ocean’s depths.
The worm turns. Invasive earthworms wreak havoc in forests.
Destructive behaviour. Fungus wiping out amphibians by making host cells kill themselves.
Murder by death. Amphibian killer disease invokes host cell programmed cell death.
It’s all wrong. Dolphins as bait. To catch sharks. For shark fin soup. C’mon. Alexis Manning on a horrific series of events.
Bad trade? Is legal sale of endangered animal parts a reasonable way to prevent extinction? Kate Whittington explores a tough topic.
Today’s special. Correcting an invasive species problem by eating it. Erik Vance sits down for a meal.
Chyme in if this interests you. Eating the stomach contents of herbivores.
Bugs’ life – insects and other things that creep, crawl and otherwise delight
Walk on the wild side. Lou Reed's wonderful velvety, underground-dwelling namesake. Super living legacy, shared by Bug Girl, for a genius who passed away last week.
Mounting suspense. Why do some male insects seem to attempt to inseminate other males? Sci Curious lays it all bare.
Presents of being. Spiders bring gifts for long sex.
Ignorance is bliss? It can be, for social insects.
Fossil finds – organisms of times past – palaeontology, archaeology, history and the like
Taking it all in? Did teeth originate as armour on the outside of mouths?
Big bonehead. Ancient boomerang-skulled amphibian.
Meet Joe. Joe’s a baby dinosaur. When you look up “awesome” in the dictionary, this site is there.
Buzz kill. Ancient bees may have been wiped out along with dinosaurs. Denise Chow looks into the past.
Mummy dearest? Myth of a curse that emerged from the crypt & refuses to die. Jo Marchant on persistent fictions.
A shore thing? Did Africa's Great Lakes boost our ancestors' brains?
Beautiful botanicals – wonders of the photosynthesising world – that is, mainly plants
Small wonders. In search of the terrifically tiny, delicate flapwort. Lovely post by Richard Carter.
It’s the pits. Why avocados should have gone extinct with large fruit eaters.
Perfect partnership. Bat & carnivorous plant.
One of these things is not like the others. And, unfortunately, it’s the model plant. Intriguing.
Rock on! The remarkable stone plant’s secrets.
How do you like them potatoes? The historical nastiness of spuds.
Grow with the glow. How jellyfish fluorescence revolutionised plant biology. Petra Kiviniemi shared this flashy innovation.
Authenticity grows on trees. Fresh-picked apples are worlds away from the supermarket. Awesome personal reflection, by Christie Aschwanden.
Microscopic marvels – smaller than the eye can see, but big in action – bacteria, fungi and viruses
What goes around comes around. Fungi feed bacteria then eats ‘em.
Way out there. Beaming genes across space – the next step in synthetic bio? Hmm. Amy Nordrum explores the future of genomes.
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)
“There remains the glittering prospect of finding some systemic secret to how the great genomic machine operates.” From a brilliant piece by David_Dobbs on the challenges, particularly the pitfalls, of genetic association. Wonderful weaving of a personal example and a much broader implication. Masterful writing. Read of the week.
It’s complicated. Why it’s difficult to find single genes “for” a given trait. Excellent examination of where genetics currently stands, by Ken Weiss & Anne Buchanan.
Code comfort. Using forensic DNA analysis to understand violent conflicts. Amy Maxmen does a perfect job of handling a fraught subject.
Into the fold? Nope. When protein folding goes wrong.
Will it add up to nought? Search for genetics for “maths genius” is divisive. Balanced coverage by Erika Check Hayden.
Earth, wind and fire – planet shaping – geology, meteorology, oceanography, the environment & climate
Blast from the past. Ancient mural may be first depiction of a volcanic eruption.
Shell shock. Sea plankton exoskeletons provide record of changing climate. Simon Redfern gets a chance to write about his own research, and does so wonderfully.
The future is now. There’s a fleet of underwater flying robots helping to predict storms.
Star attractions – the final frontier, space
Frigid find. Coldest place in the universe.
Star of the show. Proxima Centauri has flare for drama.
Wild at heart? Milky Way's central black hole.
Goodness, gracious, great ball of fire! NASA reports on the rocky Earth-like exoplanet that is a raging inferno.
Hot, hot, hot. Earth-like planet too scorching for life, but raises hopes for future finds. Lisa Grossman on a hot topic.
This rocks! Rocky, Earth-sized exoplanet is so hot, the ground always flows with lava. Adam Mann describes some hot rocks.
Marvellous moon. Salt flats in Titan’s lake land.
The prize in the skies. Astonishing auroras.
Who’s out there? Two decades ago, Carl Sagan reported detection of life in the universe. His approach is still being used today.
Listening up. Earth’s ear on space celebrates its 50th anniversary. Fabulous feature by Nadia Drake.
Forces of nature – big-ticket items – cosmology, mathematics, computation, chemistry, physics, ecology & evolution
“If you wish to believe in miracles, do so knowing that the evidence is not on your side.” From a great piece by Lawrence Shapiro on the insurmountable odds against miracles.
On the edge of chaos. Using the iconic theory to predict extreme, seemingly chance, events.
Beyond selfish. The selfish gene metaphor is useful, but has limits. Thought-provoking piece by Sedeer El-Showk.
Matters of mind – how we, and other animals, perceive our world and our place in it
Ancient hiss story. We primates have a special corner of our brains to recognise snakes. Carl Zimmer explores the inner reaches of our minds.
Snakes on a brain. There’s a special place for them.
Longstanding awareness. Consciousness evolved in the Cambrian, >500M yr ago.
In da club. Our brains have a “rich club” network organisation. Fascinating piece by Emily Singer.
He said. She said. Back-and-forth of marmoset chatter hints at origins of conversation. Brandon Keim on primate chit-chat.
A turn for the worse? Do marmosets really take turns “talking” as per human conversation?
Walking before we crawled? Is crawling a relatively recent human innovation? Intriguing hypothesis, shared by Kate Gammon.
In the cool of the evening, when everything is getting kind of groovy… This song is not merely "Spooky", but spookier with eyes closed.
Shelf-ish behaviour. Can ebook collections ever *really* replace library shelves? Excellent exploration of this timely topic by Mark Changizi.
Beyond light entertainment. When orgasm triggers a kaleidoscope of colour. Amazing.
Behind the scenes – the workings of the museum – discovery and communication
All aboard! How trying to fit animals on the ark reinforced notions of species. Excellent story by John Wilkins.
“It took persistence, courage & confidence…throughout this challenging year.” Anatomy of a retraction. A brave, personal reflection by Pam Ronald. Retractions by Pam Ronald show huge integrity & scholarly leadership.
To blog or not to blog? Nobody may read it, but a blog is great value anyway. Superb post by Simon Goring.
“We can’t rely on a mountain or a remote wasteland to create waldeinsamkeit; we have to create it ourselves.” From superb post by Mat Honan about the difficulty of getting away from it all. Read of the week.
Living on the edge. Ocean-farers “unknowns” went from monsters to men during age of discovery. Hannah Waters on the shifting tides in ocean exploration.
Embracing the void. Astounding meditation on the night sky & our relationship to it, by Ross Andersen.
Moving experience. Way before the animated gif there was the phenakistoscope. It was amazing.