Morsels For The Mind – 14/03/2014
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
Sharing feelings? What does contagious yawning tell us about empathy? Outstanding treatment of an observation that's far from boring, by Jason Goldman. Read of the week.
One of the family? Sometimes non-human animals adopt unrelated individuals. Why? Jason Goldman delves into the question.
Ready to rumble. Elephants rumble distinct alarms for bees vs humans.
The better to hear you with. Virginia Morell finds elephants have an ear for differences in human voices.
“If you give a Maasai man a lift in your car, the elephants behave in a different way around you.” Quote by Karen McComb, interviewed by Victoria Gill on the amazing skills of elephants.
Ear & present danger. Carl Engelking explains how elephants distinguish age, gender & dialect in human voices to ID herd risk.
Herd of hearing. African elephants delineate human voices - discern those of danger - as Matt Kaplan explains.
Voicing concern. Jason Goldman on how elephants distinguish age, gender, dialect in human voices, and act accordingly. Read of the week.
Much ado about mushing. The Dodo has experts take a critical look at Iditarod dogsled race.
Frank Zappa here: "Watch out where the huskies go, and don't you eat that yellow snow." Me: here. I wrote this.
King of pain? Male mice will approach another male in pain, but only if he’s top mouse. Felicity Muth on an interesting find.
Pangolins ≠ medicine. Trade in endangered mammal for TCM “at shocking levels”. Douglas Main on a dire situation.
Our plastic = sea lions’ slow death. These were rescued. Perhaps no trash in oceans better?
Hold on! Corvids are able to delay gratification depending on payoff. Awesome! Jason Goldman in fine form in his new home at io9.
Giving a hoot. Determining causes, & consequences, of snowy owl “invasion”. Meredith Rizzo on the owl irruption.
Whose side are you on? Birds show “handedness” (wingededness?).
Bad trade. Millions of amphibians are shipped around the world. It’s spreading lethal disease. Sarah Zielinski on a worrying issue.
Caught out. Tagged sharks reveal marvellous migrations…& terrible fates. Paul Rincon takes a look.
Sharks. Bourbon. If you need any more reasons to read this piece, it’s also awesome. Great story by Mika McKinnon. Read of the week.
I feel your pain? Do lobsters, octopuses & other invertebrates have pain? Excellent look at the question, by Tamar Stelling.
A real pain? When reporting on pain (& other) research, how to deal with non-replication? Important consideration, by Zen Faulkes.
Worming their way into trouble. Earthworms are invasive. That’s a problem for forests, as Bruce Stutz reports.
Dined to death. Sea cucumbers are going extinct because they’re a “delicacy”. Jason Goldman lets you know why you should care.
Bugs’ life – insects and other things that creep, crawl and otherwise delight
“Never leaves the body of her host; she only sticks her genital region out to mate.” And this is before things get bizarre. Quote by Gwen Pearson on the lovely lives of parasites with mouthless females & males with stabby penises. Read of the week.
Reigning in the rain. Paul Manning on how ant queens stay high & dry when flood waters rise.
Life blossoms. Remarkable insect diversity on 2 species of flower. Ed Yong describes a remarkable find.
The enemy of my enemy. Ed Yong looks at a spider that avoids an spider-eating spider by taking refuge among spider-eating ants.
Fossil finds – organisms of times past – palaeontology, archaeology, anthropology, history and the like
“Well over a tonne & longer than your 3-seater sofa.” Ancient crocs were cool, but wouldn't make great house guests. Mark Witton shows why.
The whole tooth, & nothing but the tooth. A megamouth shark known only by its teeth gets a name. Brian Switek takes a look at it.
Nanuq of the north. Nanuqsaurus hoglundi, a small, Arctic Tyrannosaur! Gemma Tarlach on a cool discovery!
A shore thing. Before whales populated oceans, their ancestors hung out in the surf, as Travis Park reveals.
Say cheese! Mummies from 3800 years ago buried with well-aged cheese. Tia Ghose looks into it.
Beautiful botanicals – wonders of the photosynthesising world – that is, mainly plants
Phenomenal flora. Plant perfection, by Dominic Dähncke.
Seeing the forest for the trees. Tribute to Evelyn’s influential ‘Sylva’ on its 350th anniversary, by Gabriel Hemery.
Not so sweet. John Platt on how unsustainable cultivation puts honeybush tea at risk.
The fruits of our labours. How GM saved the production of papaya. Excellent.
Purity stems from this. How water can be filtered using a tree branch. Brilliant bit of "technology", explained by Jennifer Chu.
No easy fixes. Fraught history of Haber Bosch & nitrogen fixation. Fascinating story, by Anne Buchanan.
Microscopic marvels – smaller than the eye can see, but big in action – bacteria, fungi and viruses
A big deal. Viruses with huge genomes changing our view of life. Excellent story, by Didier Raoult.
Spoiled sports? Do microbes make fruit taste awful to deter fruit eaters? Kai Kupferschmidt looks at an intriguing hypothesis.
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)
Mind the gap. Mini-barcodes help fill in holes in DNA-based species identification, Kerry Grens reveals.
The skinny on the “fat gene”. Chromosome structure “missing link” between genome location & function. Ed Yong on the big fat revelation of the week. Read of the week.
“As a scientist who’s studied infectious diseases, vaccination is a no-brainer for me.” Great case for vaccination made by Tara Smith.
Ready for prime time? Whole genome sequencing not there for the clinic…yet. Erika Check Hayden on the current state of affairs.
Getting the sequence right. Ed Yong finds whole-genome analysis needs work before clinic-ready.
WHO’s doing what? Brian Owens describes how World Health Organisation’s sugar recommendations is souring opinions.
Forces of nature – big-ticket items – ecology & evolution
“Ecology would be easy, were it not for all the ecosystems.” Phenomenal editorial in Nature Magazine, on ecological complexity. Read of the week.
Test of character. Character displacement tested as driver of evolution. This piece by Emily Singer is simply spectacular science writing. Great story, beautifully researched. Read of the week.
Just deserts? We must pay more attention to conservation in arid zones. Jason Bittel on the compelling case.
Fair game? Lighter skin, hair & eyes under relatively recent natural and sexual selection. Michael Balter looks at the evidence.
Udderly different. In Africans, lactose tolerance evolved alongside livestock domestication, as Helen Thompson perfectly explains.
Size matters. For cichlid evolution.
Soak this in. Sponges may have created the circumstances that made life as we know it. Carl Zimmer looks at the evidence.
Earth, wind and fire – planet shaping – geology, meteorology, oceanography, the environment & climate
Plasma protection. How Earth safeguards from the Sun. Nicely covered by Jennifer Chu.
These rock! Giant boulders are the lingering signatures of glaciation. Alan Shapiro rocks this story!
That sinking feeling. Jason Goldman on how sea level rise threatens much, including our cultural heritage.
Shakin’ all over. Global seismology network leaps from land into the seas. Nicola Jones dives into the story.
Cloudy vision. When it comes to forecasting climate, clouds obscure the picture, as Gabriel Popkin makes clear.
Star attractions – the final frontier, space
Out for a spin. Quasar measured spinning pretty well as fast as physically possible. Yow! Great find, perfectly explained by Matthew Francis.
Names without frontiers? Should anyone have a shot at naming Martian craters? Hmm. Adam Mann weighs in.
In the zone. What factors make an exoplanet deemed “habitable”? Excellent explainer, by Amanda Shendruk.
Explosive observation! Eruption on Io. Wow!
Heroic attempt. Celebrating Giordano Bruno as a scientific hero isn’t so good, says Rebekah Higgit.
The space between us. Astronaut diaries reveal out-of-this-world experiences, as Aviva Hope Rutkin found.
The final frontier. A personal journey into space, & why there’s no place like home. Awesome launch to a new astronomy blog, by Nadia Drake.
Getting physical – physical sciences – cosmology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computing, engineering, and technology
We’re copycats. Nature has been building quantum computers for 100s of millions years. Seth Lloyd looks at the creations. Great stuff.
Back to the future. Hoverboards are not real, but quantum levitation is. Kyle Hill always brings the cool.
Up in the air. Airline flightpaths on a typical day. Astonishing. Must view. View of the week.
Matters of mind – how we, and other animals, perceive our world and our place in it – neuroscience, mental health, psychology, sociology & human interest stories
“Bad” blood. Phenomenal piece on ugly taboos related to menstruation. Must read, by Rose George. Read of the week
Play it again, Sam. Why we love hearing favourite songs over & over. It's because repetitive sounds work magic in our brain. Superb read by Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis - also contains one of the freakiest "sounds illusions" you might ever hear. Read of the week.
Ins & outs of memory. Ed Yong on how Out-of-body experiences make it tough to hold memories in.
Hold the hype. Philip Ball on debunking the neuromyths that are infiltrating education.
In the beginning. Stitching 1st sentences of abstracts from psych papers creates “wisdom”. Awesome work, by Neuro Skeptic.
Minding the mind. fMRI scans are great, but behaviour tells us more about how minds work. Catherine Loveday makes a compelling case.
Lighten up! Different wavelengths of light get your brain on the go. Fascinating insights, by Virginia Hughes.
Sounds good. Food flavour influenced by noises accompanying eating, reports Amy Fleming.
A second life. Fate of implants & prosthetics when donated after death. Amazing story, by Frank Swain.
Extreme treatment? Impact of ultramarathon on person with Parkinson’s disease. Amazing.
Claws & effects. Crayfish research didn’t pay well, so Freud pursued another career. Cool bit of science history, by Zen Faulkes
Behind the scenes – the workings of life’s museum of natural history – discovery, communication, and education
Emphasising ability in disability. Integrating folks with disabilities in research. Superb look at the important issue of inclusive participation in research, by Rebecca Tripp.
Been caught stealing. Some science communications are using images inappropriately. It’s theft. Important, timely issue, perfectly explained by Matt Shipman.
It’s complicated. Sometimes simple cause & effect relationships aren’t. Excellent dissection of science behind the headlines, by Erika Engelhaupt.
What goes around comes around? When there’s a mismatch between comments given & those received. Kausik Datta on the frustration of comments, and lack thereof.
What’s the point? Super PowerPoint presentation on evils of PowerPoint, by Rebecca Schuman. View of the week.
Getting the balance right. Wonderful post on juggling outreach, research & teaching, by Anne Osterrieder.