Morsels For The Mind – 15/08/2014

16 August 2014 by Malcolm Campbell, posted in Malcolm's linkfest, Science

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

Quite an earful. Whale earwax can be read like tee rings. Fascinating bit of biology, courtesy of Srsly Science.

The big gulp. Minke whales take 100 mouthfuls an hour. Amazing piece of biology, beautifully described by Ed Yong.

Vanishing vaquita. Could small cetacean's extinction be averted by porpoiseful action? Virginia Morell considers the possibility.

No fluke. Literally. One out of every six Bahamian dolphins are shark-bitten, as Justin Gregg explains.

A trunkful of scents. Variation in odour receptors reveals elephants' smelling prowess, explains Carl Zimmer.

"Evolving into the mammalian equivalent of honeybees." Altruism of African wild dogs. Amazing story, by Natalie Angier. Read of the week.

A class act. Why puppy classes are important. Thoughtful take, by Zazie Todd.

Live fast, die young. Why dogs have such short lifespans. Suzanne Sadedin explains.

The roam away from home. Tracking where house cats wander. Cool research initiative, nicely described by Jennifer Holland.

Tuneful talkers. Bats. Virginia Morell listened in and provides some cool audio as well. Read / listen of the week.

Spread the word, not the disease. A fungus is decimating bats, & we should be worried. Important piece, by Gwen Pearson. Read of the week.

A face in the crowd. Crowdsourcing has shed light on the olinguito. Excellent bit of citizen science, featuring Kristofer Helgen, described by John Gibbons.

Moving experience. We really mess with large animal migrations, reveals Lisa Friedman.

Dedicated parents. Some non-human animals go to great lengths for their offspring, as Sarah Zielinski explains.

Stormy relationships. Animals & the weather. Manasi Vaidyalooks at the interplay.

The difference is like night & day. Milk. When you get it determines its content. Read this Katie Hinde post for the superb REM lyric reference, stay for awesome biology. Read of the week.

Full stop. As niches fill, evolution arrests. Superb explanation of the research, by GrrlScientist. Read of the week.

Egging them on. Cuckoos' cryptic eggs foils cuckoos, explains William Feeney.

Packing it in. Little penguins may hunt in packs, finds Richard Farrell.

Black & white indicators. For southern seas, penguins are like canaries in coalmines, as Jason Goldman explains.

Birds of a feather. Leave DNA to track their migration. Cool research, nicely described by Erik Stokstad.

Beautiful blues. The wonder of blue tits. Darren Naish continues his look at passerines.

Will make you bleed from every orifice until you die. Ebola? Nope. Boomslang venom. Bec Crew tells a fantastic story here. Read of the week.

Gravity defying feets. Kelly Dickerson explains how geckos use dynamic hairy soles to climb walls.

Hang on... Stefan Sirucek explains how geckos stick & unstick.

Unstress for success? Anti-anxiety drug pollution could increase fish survival. That's not good, as Anne-Marie Hodge explains. Read of the week,

Better living through chemistry? Simon Makin looks at the evidence that fish flourishes on human anti-anxiety drug in water.

Surf, its turf. Parrotfish makes sandy beaches. Great story of a great fish, by Matt Simon.

Science with teeth. Who needs fakery? Real shark science is awesome. Great videos by Joe Hanson & Emily Graslie shared by Jason Goldman. View of the week.

The week that was. Shark Week once inspired David Shiffman. Now it disheartens him. Superb piece, by Tara Haelle. Read of the week.

"There is so much real shark science..that could be featured, why make something up?" Quote by Michelle Wcisel from a superb critique of a Shark Week faux-umentary. Read of the week.

Dawn of the dead? No. Reports of a living megalodon are fiction. Super debunk, by Brian Switek.

Think sharks are deadly? Then don't get in your bathtub. Excellent gif, by Katie McKissick.

Make every week the best "Shark Week". Follow real shark biologists. David Shiffman has the list of follows for you.

Fear, fiction, & frivolity.  Christie Wilcox had predictions of what was to be expected during Shark Week.

Something's missing. Surprising jellyfish seems to lack tentacles.

Fantastic filter feeder. Glowing pyrosome. Marc Lallanilla describes one novel creature.


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

Stepping things up. Searching for millipedes. Wonderful natural history quest, beautifully described by Derek Hennen. Read of the week.

Logical leap. Ants cliff dive to eject invaders, explains Michael Marshall.

Riding shotgun. Hitchhiking leafcutter ants counter parasites. Great post by a student author, Jon Schlenert, shared by Tommy Leung.

Bright solution. How a beetle is the whitest white.

Getting it together. Ten midges team up to swarm. Daniel Cressey explains how.

Winging it. 50000 moths & butterflies surrendered their wings (& lives) to make a book. Quite a story.

Catching a buzz. Bees, & others, in the garden. Great photos by Sean McCann.

Getting the jump on the competition. Cliff diving is an ant defence tactic. Cool story, by Alex Riley.

Terrifically transparent. Glass mantis has meal. Jesus Diaz shares the inside scoop.

Walloping websnappers! Some of us legitimately fear spiders. Great take, with words by Chris Buddle, and art by Christine Fleming.


Fossil finds – organisms of times past – palaeontology, archaeology, anthropology, history and the like

Best fronds for life? Fractal branching of Ediacaran bodies. Ed Yong describes an amazing piece of mathematical modelling brought to bear on some cool fossil life. Read of the week.

Best of fronds. Fractal design was optimal for leafy Ediacaran animals, as Tia Ghose explains.

Amazingly armoured. Giant ankylosaur once wandered Earth. Charles Choi takes a look at the evidence.

The best thing ever? Sue the T. rex is good, but not the best. Thomas Carr makes a compelling case.

Tooth & consequences. Dino teeth tell of coexistence, as Tara Garnett explains.

There be dragons. A time of novel pterosaurs. Helen Thompson takes a look into the past.

Taking the wind out of the argument. Hypothetical pterosaur turns out to be a turtle. Mark Witton finds that something truly was a flight of fancy.

Taking root. Brian Switek on plant recovery during Cenozoic.

Not so fast! Was the American cheetah really a cheetah? Great story by Ross Barnett.


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

Life blossomed forth. Flowers revolutionised biodiversity. Hayley Dunning describes how,

Ancient adoption. Key plant metabolism's bacterial origins. David Tenenbaum looks at the evidence of ancient inheritance.

Divided they stand. How plants initiate embryo cell division to grow.

Botanical beauty. Gorgeous garden dwellers.

When things go downhill. Some plants head to lower elevations due to climate change. Jennifer Balmer on a counter-intuitive discovery.

The needles & the damage done. Ancient needle-leafed tree species under pressure, as Jim Robbins explains.


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

Tumour trouncer. Mitch Leslie describes a microbe that is able to target & selectively shrink cancer masses.

Dirty little secret. Soil microbe can precisely devour tumours. Awesome discovery, nicely explained by Carl Engelking.

Gut instinct? Are our inner microbes manipulating our behaviour? Carl Zimmer considers the possibilities.

Gut reaction. Early life antibiotics makes mice more prone for obesity later, explains Jop De Vrieze.

No kidding around. Antibiotics in infancy could fuel later obesity. Superb coverage by Ed Yong. Read of the week.

Babies' belly bacteria. Infant gut microbes change with developmental age. Cool bit of biology, explained by Kate Yandell.

Under arrest. Irene Newton on how a microbe impedes mosquito parasite.

Mycological marvel. Beetles sexually transmit fungus, as Quentin Wheeler explains.

Moving experience. When bacteria swarm. Manasi Vaidya has the story and the video.

Resistance is motile. Virus passes antibiotic resistance around. S.E. Gould looks at the mechanism and its implications.

Bum luck. Pill might take "ick factor" out of faecal transplants. Carl Zimmer looks into it.

Does Ebola scare you? Elizabeth Palermo describes viruses that might be scarier.


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)

Stress for success? Being stressed actually promotes wound healing (in mice). Fascinating bit of biology, nicely explained by Anne-Marie Hodge.

Stream of consciousness. Blood becomes brain in crayfish. Amazing story, by Catherine Brahic. Read of the week.

Coming to their senses. Other organisms can't perceive all we do. But that's no problem, as Rob Dunn explains.

Greater transparency. The making of a see-through mouse. Very cool research technique, expertly explained by Bethany Brookshire.

Ship-shape sequencing. Exploring marine organism sea. Cool research, nicely described by Rina Shaikh-Lesko.

Something to Marvel at. Science behind Captain America & The Hulk. Great fun, featuring Sebastian Alvarado. via Kyle Hill. View of the week.


Forces of nature – big-ticket items – ecology, evolution & extinction

The unforgettable fire. Early forest "conservation", fire & indigenous people. Superb look at a fraught history, by Eric Michael Johnson. Read of the week.

Spark of genius. Aboriginal fires boost prey animal populations. Sarah Zielinski on a paradoxical discovery.

Deep thoughts. The biology related to "Deepsea Challenge". Super overview by Jennifer Frazer.


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

Hell, with a chance of showers. Early Hadean Earth. Charles Choi looks into our planet's heated history.

Dry run. Big drought gives glimpse of the future. Alexandra Witze explains why in this great piece.


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

Sands of time? Cosmic grains pre-date solar system. Maria Dasi Espuig describes a really cool discovery made, in part, by citizen scientists.

Stardust memories. Particles brought back home by probe could be from interstellar space, as Ian Sample explains.

Solar spectacle. Sun & stars strut their stuff. Dan Vergano curates some great images here.

Getting a grip. Forces holding asteroids together. Stephen Lowry on some surprising van der Waals.

Up close & personal. Comely comet. ESA Rosetta Mission provided the vision of loveliness.

Cowabunga! Latest 67P comet pics show evidence of "calving". In 3D!! Phil Plait brings the awesomeness. View of the week.

Tiny dancers. Pluto & Charon dancing to the end of time. Nadia Drake shares a celestial dance.

Oh, me-oh, my-oh! Check out Io! Brilliant volcano explodes on Jupiter's moon's surface. Shannon Hall takes a look.

Striking story. Back when Jupiter was hit. Phil Plait looks back in time.

Around they go. Transit of two of Saturn's moons.

Colourful character. Martian beauty extended beyond red, as the HiRise mission has discovered.

The wonder of Curiosity. Ode to a rover. Awesome video, featuring Felicia Day & Neil Degrasse Tyson, shared by Nadia Drake. View of the week.

Hot stuff. Tidal heating of Moon's core, shared by National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

Sometimes we need reminding of the amazing things humans can accomplish. Phil Plait provides a great example. View of the week.


Getting physical – physical sciences – cosmology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computing, engineering, and technology

Darkness on the edge of town? The universe appears to be missing some of its light, explains Charles Choi.

Top of the tops. Making any cool asymmetric object spin. (Like an armadillo or elephant.) Nifty physics and technology, described by Elizabeth Preston.

Seen in a different light. Viewing people, and the universe, in ultraviolet. Phil Plait looks into it.

Something for nothing? How reality emerges from apparent nothingness. Thought provoking read, by Amanda Gefter.

Fly, you fools! Handy calculation for Balrog whip length. For the next time you're in Moria. Phun physics, by Rhett Allain.

Going to great lengths. To determine what the smallest length can be. Fascinating physics, explained by Sabine Hossenfelder.

Great round up? Raindrops are not merely spherical, as Nicole Sharp reveals.

The formulae of being. The wonder of physics. Charming animation by Xiangjun Shi.

It all adds up. How mathematics got its "Nobel". History of Fields Medal. Interesting story, by Michael Barany.

Giants in their Fields. This year's Fields Medal recipients & their genius maths. Philip Ball has a look.

Fields of dreams. The spectacular maths that garnered this year's Fields Medals. Alex Bellos provides a great overview.

Balancing the equation. Fields Medal finally awarded to a woman. Her super story, by Erica Klarreich. Read of the week.

Winning formula. "The more I spent time on maths, the more excited I got." Quote by Maryam Mirzakhani, first female Fields Medallist.

"Choosing a favourite theorem is like choosing one's favourite child." Quote by Fields Medallist, Manjul Bhargava. Make sure to read last paragraph of the interview. Awesome. Read of the week.

Things you can count on. Mathematical innovations that made a difference. Tom Siegfried provides his picks.

A pattern for life. Alan Turing's contribution to biology resonates today. Superb feature by Kat Arney. Read of the week.

Synergistic solutions. When mathematicians & biologists get together, great ideas can emerge, finds Kat Arney.

Aye, robots. 1024 of them. Cooperating. In unison. A self-organising swarm. Amazing research, brilliantly described by Ed Yong.

So say we all? Learning about collective behaviour via robot swarm. Mark Zastrow takes a look.

A little get together. Sabine Hauert on how a 1000 robot swarm informs about self organisation.


A dose of medicine – science in practice in a medical setting, and health-, nutrition-, and exercise-related stories

Inside story. Big implications for big data being gleaned during pregnancy. Brilliant look at this developing area of research, by Natalia Holt. Read of the week.

"Such is the savagery of Ebola — even a crying toddler becomes a source of terror and cannot be comforted." Quote by Jennifer Yang from a phenomenal piece on the struggle with Ebola in Sierra Leone. Read of the week.

A moral obligation? Battle against Ebola to use experimental drugs. Great coverage by Erika Check Hayden.

No trials, just tribulations. Challenges of Ebola treatment with an "orphan drug". Susan Swanberg looks at the fright situation.

Meat of the matter. Bushmeat the likely origin of Ebola outbreak. But which & where? Tina Saey looks at the possibilities.

Tough choices. Conservation, bush meat, & human health. Wow. Amazing video and story, featuring Christopher Golden, by Susan Daugherty. Read/view of the week.

Win-win situation. In Africa, pneumococcus vaccination also reduces antibiotic resistance, as Ewen Callaway explains.

The host with the most? If chikungunya virus jumps hosts, disease spread could be dire. Aleszu Bajak on an important situation.

Here's the dirt... ...on washing food. Great tips by Matt Shipman.

Want a metabolic rate boost? Forget ”Metabolism Boosters". Go for a walk. Nice debunk by Julia Belluz

Playing on thin ice? Is it bad for elite athletes to lose weight by cutting carbs? Josh Rubin considers the possibility.

A healthy pulse. Eating pulses, like lentils, could have benefits, explains Leslie Shepherd.

Run on sentence. Imagine running for 3 days straight. Now imagine doing it for 6. Aviva Hope Rutkin looks at the folks that are doing it.


Matters of mind – how we, and other animals, perceive our world and our place in it – neuroscience, mental health, psychology, sociology & human interest stories

"People should never be made to feel worse for suffering from something beyond their control." Quote by Dean Burnett from an important, essential read on depression & suicide. Read of the week.

Don't know whether to laugh or to cry? It's because they share common roots. Brilliant: read, by Vaughan Bell. Read of the week.

Crisis? What crisis? One's personality is actually most "stable" mid-life, as Christian Jarrett explains.

Sleep deprived? Have a placebo nap. Intriguing possibility, described by Piercarlo Valdesolo.

Something to sleep on. Tanya Lewis considers the benefits of afternoon siestas.

When the hangover strikes. Robert Gonzalez considers how booze undermines slumber.

Kids know what they know. Young children accurately rate their knowledge level, explains Elizabeth Preston.

Neverending story. Using fractals to see how brain processes recursion. Fascinating piece of neuroscience, by Virginia Hughes. Read of the week.

"Closely resembles a preschooler's art project." And yet mimics brain activity. Cool experiment, as described by Allison Eck.

Scatter shot. shRNA used to mimic mutation has off-target effects. Should use siRNA, as Jessica Wright reveals.

Mind the gap. Your brain needs breaks - naps & vacations. It's restorative, explains Daniel Levitin.

Minding their mothers. Laura Sanders on how maternal care alters rat pups' brain activity.

Caught in the net. How the web is killing downtime & solitude, featuring Michael Harris, by Clara Moskowitz.

Kids these days... The internet is changing the way children think. Interesting piece, by Michael Harris.


Behind the scenes – the workings of life’s museum of natural history – discovery, communication, and education

To err is human. That's why more open science needed. Of publications, review, & data, by Stephen Curry.

What's in a name? When it's "scientist", a lot. Interesting history, by Melinda Baldwin.

Tooling up. Keeping tabs on online info? Here's a great selection of useful tools that Melonie Fullick has found useful.

Blog in a blog in a blog. Why bloggers blog so much about blogging. Pat Thomson wrote a good blog post about it.

The social network? For scientists, it's not one, but many. How they are used may surprise you. Great data shared by Richard Van Noorden.

What's not to like? Funky things happen when you "like" everything on FB. Really liked this piece by Mat Honan.

Beyond appearances. Why does the media dwell on female scientists' looks? Great critique, by Alice Bell.

O captain, my captain. Stands on desk, lump in throat, tears welling. A sad passing.


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