Morsels For The Mind – 16/05/2014
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
“Watching animals..we get a better view – not only of animals, but of ourselves.” Quote by David Barash from a wonderful piece on the value of observing non-human animals. Read of the week.
Rainbow connection. In case they weren’t already amazing enough, whales also exhale rainbows. Stephen Messenger shares some awesome. View of the week.
Inside out. As a whale corpse disintegrates, its anatomy is laid bare. Fun, but educational, reporting on a timely topic, by Kate Allen. Read of the week.
Feeling blue. Pondering the beached carcass of a blue whale. Thought provoking video, by Tijana Petrović.
Paws for reflection. Just what do animals see when they look in the mirror? Fascinating, if contentious, science, nicely convered by Chelsea Wald. Read of the week.
Yet another thing we share in common… Zoo-raised gorillas prefer forest sounds over Chopin. Jyoti Madhusoodanan does a great job on a not-so-surprising discovery.
What does elephant poaching have to do with the abduction of 200 girls? This.
Plastered pachyderms? Are these elephants intoxicated or just having fun? Intriguing.
Wild at heart? Exploring parallels in human & non-human-animal courtship. Christine Dell'Amore interviews Jennifer Verdolin on her investigations on this interesting subject.
Born to be wild? Lance Richardson beautifully describes the reintroduction of wolves born in captivity to their natural range. Read of the week.
Packing it in? Can isolated wolf pack survive without human intervention? Sarah Zielinski considers the situation.
Have you herd? Conservation & cattle ranching are not completely at odds. Jason Goldman reveals how.
“If you have animals of any kind, please acquaint yourselves with their gums.” If you are an animal's companion, please read this important post by Rebecca Skloot.
Meat of the matter. Katherine Harmon looks at the disconnect between “sustainably produced” & humane animal treatment.
Domestic bliss? Domesticated guinea pigs less exploratory & more social than cavies. Fascinating example of the impact of domestication, nicely explored by Zazie Todd.
Hunch from the hutch. Looks like there is no single “domestication gene” in rabbits, as Elizabeth Pennisi explains.
Should I stay or should I go? Bethany Brookshire on how markers in mouse urine shape behaviour, like when to go whiz.
Something in the way he moves. Bowerbird's sultry courtship dance.
It takes a thief. Robins will steal from you when you gaze the other way, finds Felicity Muth.
Claws & effects. Might absence of crab predators lead to salt marsh decline? Carl Zimmer looks at the evidence.
Go with the glow. Henry Compton has captured the beauty of bioluminescent sea creatures in amazing art .
Not knotty by nature. Self recognition ensures octopus arms don’t get knotted. Great description by Jason Goldman of the latest research. Read of the week.
It takes two to tangle. Ed Yong explains how octopus’s arm self-recognition avoids tangling with itself.
If a tree falls in a ocean… Biodiversity flourishes. Nice look at Craig McClain's research, by Laura Poppick.
Frightfully small. Scariest inhabitant of oceanic garbage patch isn’t what you might think, as Miriam Goldstein reveals.
Bugs’ life – insects and other things that creep, crawl and otherwise delight – the arthropods
Tremendous tumbler. Sindya Bhanoo looks at a remarkable desert spider.
Which bees get the blues? Native bees better than honey bees at pollinating blueberries. Gwen Pearson beautifully describes a not-so-surprising, but important, discovery.
Host with the most. Emerald ash borer mothers know best. Lay eggs on hosts where offspring will fare best.
Butterfly effect. Rachel Nuwer reveals that even when caterpillars feed on slightly radioactive plants, mutations arise.
Get outta here! Ants suggest obstructions may improve building evacuations. Yes, really. Conor Myhrvold looks at the evidence.
Don’t fear the creeper. Eliminate any spider phobia with The Arachnophobinator. Awesome tool, shared by Chris Buddle.
Fossil finds – organisms of times past – palaeontology, archaeology, anthropology, history and the like
Body of evidence. Body-armoured reptile highlights life’s great recovery, as Brian Switek explains.
12000 years ago. She was 16. She fell in a cave & died. Her DNA tells an incredible story. Alison Abbott tells the remarkable tale.
Incredible connections. A teen. A cave. A death. The peopling of the world. Catherine Brahic on a great story.
On the day she died, could she have known the impact she would have more than 12000 years later? Ian Sample looks at the story of a teenager who has changed the way we understand the peopling of the Americas.
The origin of the faeces. Ancient poop DNA suggests Puerto Rico colonised by Andeans, as Sara Reardon explains.
Beautiful botanicals – wonders of the photosynthesising world – that is, mainly plants
These roots weren’t made for walking. But they were made to sense & react to salty soil. I wrote this.
Hard core heavy metal lover. Plant accumulates large amounts of nickel.
Troubles crop up. Kerry Grens finds that Elevated CO2 increases crop yield, but with fewer essential nutrients.
Loosing a peel? Might the end of the banana be nigh? Huge problem. Superb reporting, by Dan Koeppel. Read of the week.
Roots of fear. Even though some anti-GMO folks “found science”, the fear they seeded lingers, says Keith Kloor.
Microscopic marvels – smaller than the eye can see, but big in action – bacteria, fungi and viruses
Long term relationship. Kirsty Jean Jackson describes how fungi have been helping plant roots for at least 460M years.
Productive partnership. Microbe & aphid together make all amino acids.
Falling between stools. Depending on testing service, faecal microbes differ, as Tami Lieberman finds with her own samples.
This stinks. Bacteria may have left loads of methane in oil spill’s wake. Karen Ravn looks at the contentious findings.
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)
“Junk is a part of us…it helps to make us what we are.” Nice overview of “junk” DNA by Carl Zimmer.
Forces of nature – big-ticket items – ecology, evolution & extinction
“The sun-sparked garden is not a dreamy Shangri-La; it is also the green zone of a perpetual arms race.” Quote by Gavin Van Horn from a lovely, lyrical piece on the ecological dramas at play around us. Read of the week.
Off the hit parade? Alex Witze finds that a hypothesis tying prehistoric extinctions to cosmic impact is getting a smack down.
Bad company. Nicholas Wade is not alone when it comes to scientific racism. Annalee Newtiz looks at other egregious examples.
Earth, wind and fire – planet shaping – geology, meteorology, oceanography, the environment & climate
This rocks! How opals tell of the history of Earth…and of Mars. Superb look at the story told in stones, by Maggie Koerth-Baker. Read of the week.
♫ Hey there, Mr. Blue. We’re so pleased to measure you. ♫ Mr. Blue Sky-y-y. ♫ This great piece by Megan Garber created an earworm that was inescapable.
“You might as well poll, ‘Are there owls? Yes/No’” Beautiful skewering of climate change “debate” by John Oliver. View of the week.
Star attractions – the final frontier, space
Dawn’s early light. Searching for starlight from the earliest stars. Excellent read, by Steve Nadis.
One long year. Exoplanet takes 80k Earth years to rotate about its sun.
Is there anybody out there? The intensification of search for life on exoplanets. Excellent feature, by Nadia Drake. Read of the week.
Long distance relationship. Andrew Fazekas looks at an exoplanet that takes 80000 Earth years to orbit its sun.
Up & dune. Cascading dunes in Martian crater.
Getting physical – physical sciences – cosmology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computing, engineering, and technology
A big dust up. Is cosmic dust really invalidating gravitational waves discovery? Ian O'Neill considers the rumour and the evidence.
Making waves? Milky Way map leaves out region that may have confirmed gravitational ripples. Ron Cowen on a contentious piece of research.
Dusting off an old idea. David Szondy explains how researchers are exploring the nature of stardust by making it synthetically.
Rules of attraction. Ken Croswell on how stars become supermagnetic.
To infinity & beyond. Patchen Barss looks at Penrose tiles - amazing, endlessly, non-repeating patterns.
Feeling lucky? Douglas Main explains that there’s a scientific explanation for winning (& losing) streaks.
Not so sweet. The challenges of recreating the perfect candied orange peel. Wonderful tale by Ann Finkbeiner.
A dose of medicine – science in practice in a medical setting, and health-related stories
Not so good cheer. Virginia Hughes on how wine’s “anti-ageing” compound highlights challenges of reporting health research. Read of the week.
No signal. Study looks at link between mobile phone use & cancer. Finds…nothing. Good take, by John Timmer.
Making the cut? Are scalpel-using, remote-controlled robots the future of surgery? Rose Eveleth on the state-of-the-art.
In the drink. Sperm swimming disrupted by common chemical additives. Ian Sample looks at the worrying finds.
Matters of mind – how we, and other animals, perceive our world and our place in it – neuroscience, mental health, psychology, sociology & human interest stories
Sweet dreams are made of this. Nicola Davis finds that lucid dreaming can be induced by electric stimulation of scalp.
Not so lucid? Does brain stimulation really induce dream lucidity? Christian Jarrett takes a critical look.
Right minded? Integrating neuroscience into education is good, but do it right. Yes! Pete Etchells is spot on in his assessment and recommendations here.
Browne on blue. Tania Browne’s strong, serious, personal look at postnatal depression. Not merely “the blues”.
How things change. Wonderful reflection on 10 years since daughter diagnosed with Rett syndrome, by Karen Congram.
Bloody hell. Bullies & their victims may carry tell-tale indicators in their blood. Sarah Zielinski on a remarkable discovery.
Well bully for them. Bullying apparently has long term health advantages. Good coverage, by Arielle Duhaime-Ross.
Just doesn’t seem fair. Elizabeth Norton finds that bullies may have lifelong health advantage over victims.
Behind the scenes – the workings of life’s museum of natural history – discovery, communication, and education
“We’re all in an increasingly complex new world of science.” Quote by John Hutchinson from a brilliant rumination on errors, corrections, & the future of science. Read of the week.
Philosophically speaking. Scientists should be mindful, & respectful, of philosophy. Great critique of some recent science communication, and super advice for the future, by Ethan Siegel.
“His heart is in the right place. His argument is even halfway sound. But he’s wrong.” Quote by Robert Gonzalez from a thoughtful, balanced piece defending use of gifs in science communication.
Eyes on the skies. Homage to amateur astronomer who changed our view of the cosmos. Great tribute by Ethan Siegel.
Manuscript rejected after peer review? Don’t fume in your office. Turn it into front page news for The Times! Wondering about the peer review element of the front page story in The Times? Check out the real story.
“A master plan to fight the pseudoscience of vitalism.” Francis Crick’s life in science. Excellent profile, by Eva Amsen.