Morsels For The Mind – 15/11/2013
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
This week was full of crap. BUT that’s not a bad thing. Check out the stories in the next links…
My dog ate poo. And it was a rather illuminating thing. Hope you find the topic as fascinating as I did.
The dog days of autumn…Big coverage of the origins of the domestic dog this week. Here they are:
Go west young dog. Domestic dog origins may have been European, not Middle East or Asia. Ed Yong’s take.
A bone to pick. Ancient fossils suggest controversial origin for domestic dogs - Europe. Nell Greenfieldboyce ’ s take.
Digging in the past. Ancient DNA suggests early domestication of dogs in Europe. Jonathan Amos’s take.
In for a ruff ride? New data support contentious European origin for domestic dogs. Ewen Callaway’s take.
Never cry wolf. Domesticated dogs may have originated from now-extinct wolf species. Elizabeth Pennisi’s take.
Old dogs, new tricks? Ancient DNA points to contentious European origin for dog domestication. Colin Barras’s take.
It was also a big week for the big cats…
High times. Big cats likely originated on the roof of the world. Ed Yong’s coverage of the origins of big cats is pure gold. Showcases his awesome skills as a science writer. Read of the week.
Cats on the rise. Ancestors of big cats likely originated on the Tibetan plateau. Alok Jha’s take.
Cool for cats? Big felines may have diversified in cold mountainous plateau. Kelly Servick’s take.
Pusses’ roots. Origin of big cats. Sid Perkin’s take.
The stuffed legends are made of. Surprisingly poignant history of taxidermy of Jumbo the elephant. Part 3 in an excellent three part series by Henry Nicholls.
Minding pees & cues. Might microbes in hyena secretions play a communication role? Brian Owens coverage is nothing to sniff at.
This makes scents. Microbes in hyena scent-gland paste may contribute to odour. Beth Skwarecki has beautifully balanced coverage.
A pointed case. We must learn from the extinction of the western black rhino. Superb treatment of this sad story by John Platt. Read of the week.
All day & all of the night. Rare wildcat turns out to be cathemeral - active at any times. Cool story, by Jason Goldman.
Bloody hell! Leech blood meals could help track “Asian unicorn”, world’s rarest mammal. Ewen Callaway looks into it.
The distemper of our times. Dolphin-killing distemper-like virus outbreak is spreading. Nadia Drake continues her superb coverage of a disheartening topic.
It’s hip to be rare. Male guppies that stand out from the crowd get more sex. Sci Curious explains.
Strange animal sex case of the week:
Taking a stab at sex? Sea slug fertilisation involves penetration of its head. Kelly Servick covers sea slug sex perfectly.
Bugs’ life – insects and other things that creep, crawl and otherwise delight
Inside job. Researcher lets sand flea burrow inside her foot to find where it has sex. This Gretchen Vogel piece on sand flea sex inside a researcher’s foot is delightfully disgusting. Read of the week.
Homeward bound. Practiced bumblebees take most direct route.
Two-time trickster. Ant-mimic spider uses double deception of visual & chemical mimicry. Cool story by Alex Theg.
Stories in parts. Wonderful three-parter about our segmented friends. Awesome post by Chris Buddle. Speaking of which:
Ah, those charismatic megafauna. Examining bias in taxon diversity & research publications. Chris Buddle dishes the data.
Fossil finds – organisms of times past – palaeontology, archaeology, history and the like
Butting out? Were head butts really a dinosaur courtship ritual? Jon Tennant helps you get your head around a contentious topic.
Beautiful botanicals – wonders of the photosynthesising world – that is, mainly plants
Along for the ride. Plants seeds are dispersing by hitch-hiking on cars. Profound implications.
Petal power? How biggest blossoms bloom.
Within a gilded ceilinged cathedral…science. Thoughts from an autumnal oak grove. I hope you enjoy these reflections.
Microscopic marvels – smaller than the eye can see, but big in action – bacteria, fungi and viruses
Time will tell. Pondering the future of long-term evolution experiments. Excellent research blogging by Rich Lenski.
Taming the savage yeast. Master brewers use “experimental evolution” to craft the best drinks. Kevin Liu will help you imbibe in this subject.
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)
Persistence is futile. New antibiotic deals knock-out blow to persistent infection. Intriguing discovery, masterfully explained by Ed Yong.
Fair game. How the gene variant for light coloured skin spread across a sub-continent. Francie Diep covers this perfectly.
Earth, wind and fire – planet shaping – geology, meteorology, oceanography, the environment & climate
Cold comfort? Growing Antarctic sea ice is not an entirely good thing. Excellent post by Frontier Scientists.
Shocking discoveries. Searching for lightning’s origins yields striking finds. Amazing subject with an astonishing photo, by Elizabeth Howell.
A change for the worse? Was Typhoon Haiyan a product of climate change?
Star attractions – the final frontier, space
It’s full of stars. 100k to be exact. Wow! View of the week.
X marks the spot. Amazing X-ray views in our universe. View of the week.
Colourful character. Spectacular spectrum of star birth.
Nice ring to it. Spectacular Saturn.
Done & dusted. Martian avalanche.
The dead zone. Corpses of human design float in an orbiting graveyard in space. This Kyle Hill piece on the debris of dead satellites is excellent. Great science & imagery combined. Read of the week.
A universe apart. The treatment of women who mapped the cosmos disrespected real stars. Natasha Geiling ’s feature on this is excellent. Great read.
Feeling Gravity’s pull. It’s high time we celebrated the role of female astronauts. Helen Keen makes the obvious case, but does so fantastically.
Forces of nature – big-ticket items – cosmology, mathematics, computation, chemistry, physics, ecology & evolution
Accidental tourists? Is our journey through life a grand cosmological coincidence? Awesome read by Tim Maudlin.
When trouble comes round. Spherical electron won’t shape new theoretical physics. Clara Moskowitz explains.
What are the odds? Heisenberg uncertainty principle & its implications. Great explainer by Alok Jha .
“Geeks are pretty cool, & theoretical physics has replaced philosophy as a signifier of intellectual prowess.” Quote from Suzanne Moore's super piece on a non-scientist’s take on physics’ Mecca, CERN.
Elements of surprise. The atoms making up your body come from surprising places. Curt Stager delves into some cool chemistry.
Matters of mind – how we, and other animals, perceive our world and our place in it
Like father, like son. And daughter. Paternal fears inherited by offspring. (In mice). Amazing discovery reported from the Society for Neuroscience Conference by Virginia Hughes . Be sure to check out the ensuing conversation on this topic that has been storified.
Rhyming just like like Doctor Seuss, You *can* explain why tastes run loose. Wonderfully creative piece on the science of taste, by Kyle Hill.
Culture club. Big groups of people create more robust cultural complexity. Excellent story by Ed Yong, which he followed up with:
“Just because you’re better than me, doesn’t mean I’m lazy.” Billy Bragg’s lyric is completely relevant to this excellent Dean Burnett post.
Bad news bared. When it comes to hearing news, we prefer the negative first. Intriguing find, explained by Sci Curious.
Keys to success. Using brain scans to understand what makes a creative pianist. Ian Sample will attune you to this intriguing study.
Wash, rinse, repeat. Sleep is like washing the brain - it flushes out neurotrash. Veronique Greenwood masterfully explains why.
What’s black & white & read all over? Little Red Riding Hood’s phylogeny. Evolution of a story. Speaking of which:
Hood’s ‘hood. Using evolutionary analysis to trace origins of Little Red Riding Hood. John Bohannon tackles a subject other than open access.
Behind the scenes – the workings of the museum – discovery and communication
Minding p raises Qs. Big questions re: p-value use in scientific literature. Erika Check Hayden on the latest stats problem.
Odds won out? The abuse of “statistical significance” in science. Excellent commentary by Hilda Bastian.
XX factor. Challenges faced by women in the science communications community. Excellent treatment of this important topic by Matt Shipman.
Everything counts in large amounts? University admin should be rewarding online scholarly activity. Yes! Great case made by Ken Weiss.
Billions and billions of miles apart? Two perspectives on Carl Sagan: One by Gretchen Goldman & another by Erin Podolak. Travis Park provided nice balance on these perspectives, with a piece explaining that not everyone thinks Carl Sagan is irrelevant.
Curious correlations. Of acacias, traffic accidents, & dubious science. Superb piece by Joshua Keating. The piece highlights a great critique by James Winters & Sean Roberts on correlations. Here’s why James Winters & Sean Roberts looked at acacia trees: “a bizzare coincidence of two book covers”.
In vino veritas. A glass of wine shows the best vintage of science communication. A superb discussion of science communication by Robert Krulwich.