Morsels For The Mind – 13/06/2014
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 only animal who buys the idea that humans aren’t animals are humans themselves.” Awesome critique, by Annalee Newitz. Read of the week.
“Empathy knows no country, no species, is universal & has always been available.” Quote from an incredible, poignant read by Alexis Madrigal on the recovery of a mentally ill bonobo. Read of the week.
Bonobo kind. Our closest relatives say much about the nature of empathy. Excellent insights, by James Owen.
A whale of a tale. Remarkable story of the orca, Old Tom, & the sharing of cetacean corpses, by Bec Crew.
Coasting away. Coastal wolves growing distinct from mainland brethren. Fascinating example of species diversification, by Jason Goldman.
Tightly packed. Zoe Gough looks into two distinct wolf populations living adjacent to each other, separated only by the coastline.
A breed apart? Dog breeds with ancient American origins delineated. Interesting discovery, nicely explained by Jennifer Viegas.
Bold choices. The challenges & outcomes of testing for boldness in dogs. Great summary of her PhD thesis work, by Melissa Starling.
“Dogs’ genitals were worn as amulets as an aphrodisiac & their vomit applied to the belly to encourage urination.” Quote by Samantha Sandassie from an eye-opening piece on our not always nice relationship with dogs.
A bearable life. Seeing the world through the eyes of a polar bear. View of the week.
“By getting maced in the face in a concrete box, Growly may have saved countless fellow bears from a direr fate.” Quote by Amanda Hess from a genius piece on repelling bears. Read of the week.
Ursa major. One bear is sire, grand-sire, or great-grand-sire of all Pyrenees bears in last 20 years. Ashifa Kassam takes a look at the implications of the everywhere bear.
Quelling quolls’ tolls. Sanctuary to alleviate challenge of endangered mammals’ lives. John Platt takes a look.
Seen in a better light. Sarah Zielinski on how UV light makes deadly bat disease easier to diagnose.
Finer feathered friends. In cities, great tits have narrower breast plumage stripes. Michelle Warwicker on an interesting example of urban evolution.
Inside information. Wrens teach secret password to embryos in eggs to beat brood parasite. Amazing discovery, beautifully described by Mary Bates.
Keeping it mum. Wren mothers teach offspring password in the egg, to outwit brood parasite. Virginia Morell on something that is bird-brained, yet not.
Cold comfort. Penguins survived last climate warming event. This time, not so good, as Jane Lee explains.
Gone but not forgotten. Ewen Callaway describes a snake that mimics another that has undergone local extinction.
The other imposter syndrome. Charles Choi describes a remarkable case of mimicry involving an extirpated snake.
Minds in the gutters. Katia Moskvitch explains how sewage drains serve as megaphone for frog mating requests.
Catching a cold? Actually, catching fish is like catching a cool. They can cool warming waters. Elizabeth Harball on the other value of fish.
Who’s eating who? A healthy shark was tagged, & then… Wait! What?!
Shaping up. Cuttlefish use vision to mimic texture.
Bugs’ life – insects and other things that creep, crawl and otherwise delight – the arthropods
Interesting angle on life. Spiders interpret stick figures. Angles are important. Amazing.
“The trip would culminate in completing a life-long quest.” On finding a rare bug. Wonderful description of personal discovery, by Piotr Naskrecki.
Fossil finds – organisms of times past – palaeontology, archaeology, anthropology, history and the like
A bone to pick. There is plenty of value in the study of dinosaurs. Mary Schweitzer makes a great case.
Making waves. During cetacean evolution, some lived like seals, between sea & land, as Travis Park explains.
Its fate was sealed? What ancient raccoon-like creature gave rise to the seal lineage? Darren Naish looks at the unusual suspects.
Steppe in the right direction? Did Arctic foxes evolve on the Tibetan plateau? Jane Qiu considers the latest evidence.
Bring ‘em back alive. Could extinct species, like mammoths, be “resurrected”? Thought provoking read by Dave Biello.
Beautiful botanicals – wonders of the photosynthesising world – that is, mainly plants
Springing into action. Springtime flora.
Microscopic marvels – smaller than the eye can see, but big in action – bacteria, fungi and viruses
Rooting for change. Enhancing root associations with microbes to boost food production. Great story, by Cynthia Graber.
What wood you say? Should cheese makers be prevented from using wooden shelves? Interesting look at some questionable policy, by Russell Neches.
Got milk? If you’re getting it from MERS-infected camels, the virus is likely in it, as Martin Enserink explains.
Fear not? Is the re-creation of the 1918 flu virus “crazy dangerous”? Important consideration of recent research, by Ian Sample.
Coming to an imported food store near you: antibiotic resistant microbes. Maryn McKenna on something that is decidedly not good.
The raw truth. Is it really possible to wash microbes off fruit & veg? Matt Shipman has the answer.
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)
What can’t oxytocin do?! Latest research suggests age-reversing ability (in mice). Carl Zimmer on a remarkable find.
Lasting legacy. Holocaust survivors’ children may bear mark of trauma in genes. Superb read, based on a very personal experience with the research, by Josie Glausiusz. Read of the week.
Forces of nature – big-ticket items – ecology, evolution & extinction
“In truth, it all counts, & for fundamental biological reasons.” Quote from a brilliant piece by Patrick Clarkin on genes, environment, & developmental plasticity. Great take on the nature & nurture discussion. Read of the week.
Prospect perspective. Silent listening in Prospect Park highlights value of urban parks. Matthew Wills on the returns of the sounds of silence.
Natural melodies. Creating “Living Symphonies” from a forest ecosystem. Simply wonderful video, by Noah Baker. View of the week.
Falling to pieces. Fragmented landscapes can promote spread of disease. Brandon Keim on a counterintuitive discovery.
Distant relations. Last common ancestor with chimps may have existed longer ago than thought. Dan Vergano on a surprising discovery.
Taking a hit. The male face is evolution’s version of a punching bag? Um, really? Quite a hypothesis, explained by Jonathan Webb.
Earth, wind and fire – planet shaping – geology, meteorology, oceanography, the environment & climate
Colourful crystal collages. Volcanic beauty.
Water world. We may have three ocean’s worth of the wet stuff deep underground, explains Andy Coghlan.
Deep secret. Underground rocks may hold 3 times the volume of water in Earth’s oceans. Melissa Davey looks into it.
Star attractions – the final frontier, space
Wandering thoughts. How stars wandered shaped thinking about heliocentricity. Excellent consideration of some important history, by Thony Christie.
Bright sunshiny day. This week our Sun did something amazing. Wow!
Mercury rising. Mercury transiting the sun. Seen from Mars. That is all. View of the week.
Dark side of the moon. A'ndrea Elyse Messer considers why it is faceless.
“Greetings to our friends in the stars. We wish that we will meet you someday.” Quote from a wonderful, personal piece by Nadia Drake, about her mother’s voice travelling aboard Voyager into space. Read of the week.
Love this. The Pale Blue Dot. Carl Sagan’s words. Powerful images. Let it guide your actions. Great video by Reid Gower. View of the week.
Getting physical – physical sciences – cosmology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computing, engineering, and technology
Stable relationships. Determining the state of stability in the universe. Fascinating piece, by Jon Butterworth.
A dose of medicine – science in practice in a medical setting, and health-, nutrition-, and exercise-related stories
”María’s official diagnosis was sialolithiasis, a fancy word for the formation of stones in the salivary gland.” Quote by Cassandra Willyard, from an incredible, fascinating piece on a horrific condition. Read of the week.
Speed kills. Lag between disease detection & rate of spread costs lives. Jeremy Farrar makes a strong case for why this must change.
“You’re wrong about breakfast. And so is everyone else.” Superb critical take by David Despain.
Healthy idea. Can free gyms create equality & transform public health? An interesting Brazilian experiment, perfectly covered by Catherine de Lange.
Take heart. Interval training probably not a bad thing for people aged 40+. Phew. Thanks to Alex Hutchinson for enabling a sigh of relief!
Supplemental data. Are “all natural, safe” dietary supplements what they claim to be? Kausik Datta has answers based on critical assessment.
Matters of mind – how we, and other animals, perceive our world and our place in it – neuroscience, mental health, psychology, sociology & human interest stories
“I have spent much of my life trying to..reconsolidate my father’s memories, & ended up reconsolidating my own.” Quote from a beautiful, must read by Michael Specter on the neuroscience & personal nature of memories. Read of the week.
Summertime blues. Seasonal affected disorder doesn’t only occur in the winter. Important consideration of an overlooked problem, by Jason Goldman.
“The situation is infuriating in many ways, & simply bringing attention to the issues is not enough.” Quote from an important read by Maria Konnikova on gender bias in hiring negotiations. Read of the week.
Burned in a job interview? If you use vocal fry while getting grilled, your chances may be cooked - or maybe not. Bethany Brookshire explores re-fried research.
As it is written? Literature on value of cursive writing in need of righting. Interesting critical look, by Philip Ball.
Sublime deception. A little bit of the unexpected is music to our ears. Literally. Philip Ball on the beauty of music.
Sleeping with the enemy? Smart phones have invaded our bedrooms. Is that good? Krystal D'Costa takes a critical look.
Behind the scenes – the workings of life’s museum of natural history – discovery, communication, and education
“The models Lee created were based on actual crime scenes… she chose only the most puzzling cases.” Quote by Rachel Nuwer from a fascinating piece on macabre dollhouses & the birth of forensic science. Read of the week.
Never too late for “I’m sorry”. Apologising for a past error can make a difference today. Good lesson, based on Matt Shipman's personal experience.
A degree of change. Must prep grad students for career options outside academe. Great advice by Sarah Boon.
It’s academic. To avoid PhD crisis: rethink its purpose; admit fewer students. Joshua Rothman offers an interesting critical assessment.
Let go the coat. Jen Todd Jones on the need to break the stereotype of the lab-coated, bearded, male scientist.
No surprises here. Knuckle-headed comments underpinned by knuckle-headed maths. Great take down by Christie Wilcox.