Morsels for the mind – 14/6/2013

14 June 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

Captivating cat-a-log. Ever wonder what cats do with themselves as they hang out in a village? Wonder no longer. By far and away the purr-fect pick of the week.

Them is the brakes. It’s not just how fast a cheetah accelerates, but how it decelerates that makes it truly amazing. This, and its remarkable agility, enables it to shift gears, take a turn for the better, and make all the right moves.

Hello neighbour! We share our cities with raccoons. This could be a good thing or a bad thing.

No mere fluke. Life size photographs of whales in their entirety is awesome.

The wolf in dog’s clothes. Great take on recent genome analyses.

There’s no way around it. “Dolphin rape” is simply not rape. Equating the two is bad on multiple counts. An important read.

Wild at heart. The emotion of seeing a Siberian tiger in the wild. That’s because, in the past 50 years, more people have travelled into space than had seen a Siberian tiger the wild.

The distemper of our times. Dog disease is impacting wild tiger population.

A death sentence? Grey wolves to be removed from endangered list.

Born to be wild? Just how far should “re-wilding” go, if at all? Excellent treatment of this topic by Kate Whittington.

Does the death of one lone wolf matter? Yes. Yes it does.

Want to mess up wildlife behaviour? There’s an app for that.

In a flap. Did Newton really invent the cat door?

Something to take a shining too. How birds became brilliantly iridescent.

Tones on tail. Hummingbird’s rear really resonates.

No surf and turf wars. Gannets avoid territorial squabbles.

Shake your tail feathers. Dance of the lyrebird. Something in the way it moves.

A complete cock up. How roosters lost their members. Not a case of use it or lose it. It’s actually important.

Frog day afternoon. Piotr Naskrecki continues his excellent series on interesting critters in Mozambique.

Hatching a plan. Turtle embryos move around their eggs to beat the heat, and shape their sexual development before busting out.

Stroke of genius. How sandfish lizards swim through (what else?) sand.

Greatest show on Earth. Horseshoe crabs mating. Amazing.

Glow with the flow. A luminescent octopus. Cool.

Mirror moves. How a reflective existence enables fish to hide in open ocean.

Current affairs. How snails disperse across the big wide ocean.

Taking up pole position. As the oceans warm, fish pushed to polar & deeper waters, & shrink.

It got into a row. Real live oarfish finally captured on video.

Not crappy at all. In fact, sea cucumber poo is a wonderful thing.

Fight the power? Not when they are nature’s super powers. They can’t be beat.


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

“The cicada is a rainbow.” And why unweaving that particular rainbow is awesome. Beautiful ode to an amazing creature, and the power of science, by the remarkable Kyle Hill.

One enchanted evening. Long exposure firefly photography is gorgeous.

It’s jammer time! When bats get close, moths jam their sonar.

Itsy bitsy spider. Terrifically tiny.

Walloping websnappers! Spider silk is strong, but not strong as steel.

A moth. On a sloth. And it dealt with all sorts of crap.

On a roll. Dung-beetles sort out other’s crap.

Suck it up. Butterflies pack a long drinking straw.

The grubbles with gribbles. How much wood would a wood grubble grub, if a wood grubble could grubble wood?

Given that insects make meals of each other, should we be fine eating them? It could change the world.


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

A river runs through it? That’s probably the only location you should grow cottonwoods.

Rust never sleeps. And it’s destroying good coffee.

A sense of self. How plants avoid inbreeding.


Fossil finds – organisms of times past – dinosaurs and beyond

Birds of a feather? Just how many dinosaurs had plumage?

Getting to the point. Triceratops is always cool – so make sure to get the science right.

Sunken treasure. Ancient Egyptian city, now beneath the waves.


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

The shape of things to come. Bacteria that make fractal designs. It all shapes up nicely.

Resistance is futile? Not for bacteria. Antibiotic resistance on rise, and that’s not good news for us.

Rhythm method. Glowing bacteria control squid’s circadian cycles.

“Flinging corpses over city walls was soon outdated.” This and other gruesome tales of biological warfare in Annelie Wendeberg’s new blog. Great stuff.

This is catchy. How the plague gets around.


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

Nailing it. Even when a digit is pared back, it can partially re-grow if there are nail epithelia and stem cells there. That’s a useful tip.

Let’s all get along. Aside from being selfish, genes must cooperate to survive. Beautiful.

Explosive discovery. Atom bomb radiation reveals that new neurons can be made in adults.

The double life. All organisms live out their evolutionary history, but also an epigenetic one. Superb piece by Nessa Carey.

“I was sanguine about having my genome sequenced.” Great reflections on personal genome sequencing.


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

This week, Joe Hanson made the jump to Wired, and immediately cornered the market on all the cool stories and awesome video on clouds.

Go with the flow. The relationship between early water on Earth and Mars. Amazing.

A gem of a story. Precious stones tell tale of times past.

Blast from the past. Meteor likely flattened Tunguska forest in 1908.

Smashing discovery. An exploding comet may have instigated life on Earth.

All wet? The hypothetical role for H20 in the Earth’s mantle movement may not hold water.

Rocky road. Black, dusty cryoconites are causing Arctic glaciers to melt.


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

Heavy weather. On Venus the snow is metallic. Mind blowing.

Feeling groovy. Dry ice forms remarkable grooves in Martian surface.

My, corona! Comet Lovejoy’s close encounter with the sun tells a solar story.

A provocative pulse. New kind of pulsing star.

Devil’s in the details. Cosmic dust devils stir up planets.

A spot of bother. Calcium makes marks on the sun.

Across the universe. Two gorgeous, galactic neighbours.

Telling tall tail. An asteroid masquerades as a comet with its long trail.

A real lightweight. The teeny tiniest dwarf galaxy. Who said astronomy can’t be cute?

It’s a blast. What an exploded white dwarf can tell us.

All by ourselves? What are the prospects with a multiverse?

Blown away. The supernova that blew up a galaxy.


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

How do you clean a particle accelerator? With a ferret, of course!

Meow mixed. Schrodinger’s cat is everywhere. The quantum world calls all the shots.

Now you see ‘em. Now you don’t. Cloaking device disappears your kitten and fish.

Mind the gap. History can be cloaked using “gaps” created in time.

Have you herd? If you are prey, it pays to stick together.

Wondrous water. Has remarkable resilience.

Branching out. New algorithms, & data analyses are changing the analysis of the tree of life.

This really resonates. Vibrate sand on a plate. Magic ensues. Mathematical art.

Walking the Planck. Determining the size of the chunks that make up the universe, a la Max Planck.

Oh my G! Using Gibbs free energy (G) may not be the best way to calculate cellular thermodynamics.

Go figure! The origins of numerical symbols.


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

Picture perfect? Actually, sometimes our eyes play tricks on us. Seeing is not necessarily believing.

Controlling compulsion. Optogenetics is used to switch compulsive behaviour in mice on or off.

Delicately handled. Nice treatment of the “Orchid Hypothesis” of behavioural genetics.

“People are weird. Better to study dogs.” The only conclusion that can be drawn in a human taste test of dog food versus pâté.

What’s on your mind. New technologies allow us to look into the brain. Good overview.

Always grateful? Why did “thank you” become an email sign off?


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

Ideas take flight. Using drones to do awesome science.

Cash cache. New sources of research funding. Perfect accompaniment to new ways of doing science.

Link bait? Blogs are “vanity publications”?! So says Current Biology. Others take umbrage – for good reason – and beg to differ. Great counterarguments made here, here, and here.

“If you do it right, you can provide something really valuable.” Great take on journalistic blogging by Colin Schultz.

Robin Hood 2.0? Open access robs from nobody, gives to everybody.

Found in translation. Why science research papers should have a plain language summary. It’s crucial for outreach.

Not how we do things. Modern science rarely a lone genius venture. How does Weinstein fit into this.

Choose your words. Don’t want to reward Jonah Lehrer’s bad behaviour? Don’t read him. Great advice by the always wonderful Maria Konnikova.

There are two sides to every story. Problem is, sometimes one side is whack. Like RFK Jr’s anti-vaccination stance. Great coverage by Laura Helmuth.

When school’s out for summer, research-active parents have extra juggling to do. One solution – get the kids to join in.

Eye-popping experiments. The artistry of scientific research.

Handle with care. Power wielded in science blogging must be used responsibly.

Happiness can be harvested. It can help us flourish. Beautiful.

This. Is. Phenomenal. Looking for great science writing? Having ended his stint with Wired, David Dobbs has set up his personal site.

“Within such a gutter we will see what science is, & discover what it could be.” Perfect, by Alice Bell.

Science is beautiful. Folks let Maggie Koerth-Baker know just how beautiful.

So you made it to the end. Awesome! Normally this doesn’t happen as we live in the age of skimming.


Leave a Reply

− two = 3