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.

Members only? Biology is biased in the study of the male organ, as Elizabeth Gibney explains.

Hair today, gone tomorrow? Why don’t chimps have flowing locks? Follicular facts, by Colin Schultz.

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.

Agony & ivory. Elephant poaching finances terrorism & war. Must read, by Richard Schiffman. Read of the week.

Lip service. The meaning of kissing for non-human animals. Interesting look into animal behaviour, by Jennifer Verdolin.

Not merely hanging around. Stupendous sloths have remarkable biology, as Alex Riley beautifully explains.

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.

That telling look. Dogs will follow human gaze to find stuff. Fascinating research, nicely explained by Felicity Muth.

In the black? Might black dogs have an adoption advantage? Revealing and fascinating look at a surprising research find, by Esther Inglis-Arkell.

Blindfolded. Upside down. Hanging from helicopter. Escape artist? Nope, rhinos. Em Gatland shares some spectacular photos of an important conservation effort. View of the week.

Fate sealed? New monk seal genus underscores their rarity, explains Christine Dell'Amore.

Going, going…still here? Rachel Nuwer on the challenges of finding & conserving rarest species.

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.

Bird brained? Wonderful video of what can only be described as play, between a magpie & a dog.

Listen up. Wrens sing to eggs to outfox cuckoos, as Sarah Zielinski explains.

It takes a thief. Robins will steal from you when you gaze the other way, finds Felicity Muth.

Flashy females? Female birds mayn’t always have been drab, explains Rachel Nuwer.

Getting the drift. Jonathan Amos finds that sea turtles learn from drifting current.

Raise a little shell. Tremendous turtles. Darren Naish does his usual thorough job of exploring a taxon.

Dance, dance sensation. Fantastic dancing frogs found. John Platt on some curious critters.

Funky fish. Rachel Ewing provides a look inside an amazing little catfish.

A second life. Poetic look at fish smolting, by Natalie Sopinka.

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 .

No pain, no gain? Jane Lee on how pain perception helps squid.

Not just another sucker. Octopus arms have self recognition, explains Katherine Harmon.

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.

Go with the flow. Jellyfish most efficient swimmers, as Akshat Rathi explains.

Winds of change. Rebecca Morelle explains how trade winds help predict jellyfish blooms.

If a tree falls in a ocean… Biodiversity flourishes.  Nice look at Craig McClain's research, by Laura Poppick.

Watery graves. Rebecca Morelle looks into the fate of carcasses on the ocean floor.

Taking stalk of things. Christopher Mah takes at a detailed look at crinoids - stalked sea stars.

Frightfully small. Scariest inhabitant of oceanic garbage patch isn’t what you might think, as Miriam Goldstein reveals.

This is degusting. Bizarre critters eating other bizarre critters. Yum. Erika Engelhaupt brings the gory.

Monstrously challenged. Godzilla would have problem with merely surviving. Kyle Hill has the science.

Pterrible Pterosaur? Nope. Godzilla is fiction, but still cool science. Beautifully explained in comic format by Ethan Kocak & Darren Naish.


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

All the right moves. Bec Crew on the beauty of dancing peacock spiders. View of the week.

All the light moves. Wayne Maddison looks inside a spider’s eyes.

Tremendous tumbler. Sindya Bhanoo looks at a remarkable desert spider.

Bust a move! Gwen Pearson looks at the peacock spider’s amazing dance skills.

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.

When is a wasp not a wasp? When it’s a moth. Amazing mimicry, nicely shared by Gwen Pearson. View of the week.

Buzzin’ buddies. Elizabeth Preston explains how bumblebees get by with a little help from friends.

To bee or not to bee? Katherine Purvis on what you can learn through apiculture.

Making sense of scents. Nsikan Akpan explains how primitive insects did it.

Up close & personal. Thomas Shahan has great photos of spiders & insects.

Royal treatment. Dopamine turns worker ants into queens.  Amazing discovery, nicely explained by Matt Shipman.

Host with the most. Emerald ash borer mothers know best. Lay eggs on hosts where offspring will fare best.

Dung & dusted. Amazing dung beetles. Paul Manning on some fantastic insects.

Left them high & dry. Carrie Arnold takes a look at a wasp that mummifies its prey.

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.

Bugs on the menu? It’s time to seriously consider entomophagy.  Funky food, featuring Arnold van Huis, by Daniel Cressey.


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

Origin of the species? Jon Tennant looks at a lizard link in dinosaur evolution.

Know the shape urine. Brian Switek on how palaeontologists size up dinosaur whiz traces.

Body of evidence. Body-armoured reptile highlights life’s great recovery, as Brian Switek explains.

Dealing death. Charles Choi on how crocs killed dinosaurs.

Family dinner. Jason Goldman finds that Cretaceous crocs ate each other.

Walking in their footsteps. Nadia Drake  looks at animal tracks preserved in time.

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.

Getting a head in life. Greg Miller on some amazing skull diversity on display.

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.

Where’s a potential treatment for cancer to be found? Tobacco. Yes, really. Susan Lawler explains why.

Spring is in the air. It’s called petrichor. It’s awesome. Great stuff by Eleanor Spicer Rice from her wonderful gang at Buzz Hoot Roar.

How does your garden grow? Spectacular seeds. Nicola Davis features photos from a remarkable seed bank.

Troubles crop up. Kerry Grens finds that Elevated CO2 increases crop yield, but with fewer essential nutrients.

Not so hot. Syrian conflict destroys cities, & Aleppo pepper. Maryn McKenna on the impact of conflicts on spices.

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.

Putting out the trash. A paramecium dumps waste. Jennifer Frazer on the waste of life.

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.

Culture club. Elizabeth Preston on the microbes that colonise the rind of artisanal hard cheese.


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.

Pondering Y. Sean Bettam on the early demise of sex chromosome.

Secret to a long life? Common metabolite extends worm life. Virginia Hughes looks at a fascinating new discovery.

Beating death. Simple metabolite extends lifespan in nematodes. Heidi Ledford looks at the latest longevity finding.

Packing it in. Erin Biba on how to get a load of DNA into small sperm.

Check in the male. Novel RNA determines silkworm sex, as Ewen Callaway explains.

Glow where they go. Quantum dot nanoparticles fluoresce in mice. They track accumulation, as Linda Geddes explains.


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.

Not the same old story. Brian Kahn on the tales told by the oldest living organisms.

It’s really sort of like chasing a moving target.” Genital evolution. Excellent look at the state of affairs, by Megan Gannon. Read of the week.

A week ago, this story attracted some trafficThis is where it came from. I wrote these.

Off the hit parade? Alex Witze finds that a hypothesis tying prehistoric extinctions to cosmic impact is getting a smack down.

Branching out? What should the tree of life look like? Excellent look at the relationship between organisms, by Carl Zimmer.

I have read this book…it’s pretty awful.” Jerry Coyne reviews Wade’s thing on race.

Bad company. Nicholas Wade is not alone when it comes to scientific racism. Annalee Newtiz looks at other egregious examples.

The game of the name. Kim Moynahan on the pop-star-ification of taxonomy.


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.

Winding us up. Might solar wind promote lightning? Jacob Aron looks at the evidence.

The answer is blowing in the wind? Does solar wind spark lightning? Intriguing hypothesis, nicely explained by Rebecca Morelle.

♫ 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.

Hot stuff. Gorgeous volcanoes. Amazing photography of a natural phenomenon, by Art Wolfe.

Not cool. Antarctic ice sheet is collapsing. Likely irreversibly, as Becky Oskin explains.

“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

Across the universe. Evolution of the cosmos. Stunning model, shared by Elizabeth Gibney. View of the week.

Universal appeal. Our universe simulated. Astounding model, shared by Adam Mann.

Dawn’s early light. Searching for starlight from the earliest stars. Excellent read, by Steve Nadis.

Far out! Literally. This is what exoplanets look like. Nadia Drake looks at an amazing discovery. View of the week.

Picture perfect. Emily Chung on a remarkable exoplanet portrait.

Seeing is believing. Imagine visualising a distant solar system. Imagine no longer. Ivan Semeniuk on a remarkable discovery.

The great beyond. Wonderful renderings of exoplanets. Melding art & science. Adam Mann takes a look.

Way out there. Mysteries of Earth’s “twin” & other exoplanetsNicola Davis interviews Giovanna Tinetti on the state of exoplanet research.

One long year. Exoplanet takes 80k Earth years to rotate about its sun.

Frozen in time. “Fossil galaxy” shows universe’s past. Mike Lemonick takes a look.

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.

Spot the difference? Nadia Drake on how  Jupiter’s red spot is getting smaller.

There’s shrinkage? Yep, Jupiter’s red spot is getting smaller, as Adam Mann explains.

Up & dune. Cascading dunes in Martian crater.


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

Cosmic storm in a teacup? Are gravitational waves an artifact? Excellent, balanced take by Lisa Grossman. Read of the week.

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.

Mirror mirror? Of duality & living in a holographic universe. Fascinating, mind-boggling science, perfectly explained by Brian Koberlein.

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.

May the force be with you. Newton’s second law of motion. Great explainer by Alok Jha.

Novel-ty songs? Algorithm reads emotion in novels, creates tunes. Very cool technology, nicely explained by Francie Diep.

Here’s the rub. The science & innovation of scrubbing. Interesting look at some household science, by Hannah Hoag.

To infinity & beyond. Patchen Barss looks at Penrose tiles - amazing, endlessly, non-repeating patterns.

Troubling tribbles. Marvellous maths. Fantastic fun, by Kyle Hill.

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.

Smooth operator. Artificial shark skin enhances swimming. Super application potential, as Charles Choi reveals.

Sure to catch on? Robotic arm snatches whatever it is thrown. Douglas Main on some remarkable new technology.

Dramatic drops. Dripping with beauty. Great gallery of photos by Shawn Knol.

Blades of gory? Could Godzilla ice skate? Rhett Allain stick handles some fabulous physics.


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

This. Inconsistent health study results? It’s a function of biology.  Great critique by Veronique Kiermer. Read of the week.

Not so good cheer. Virginia Hughes on how wine’s “anti-ageing” compound highlights challenges of reporting health research. Read of the week.

Healthy relations. How should health studies be conveyed to public? Great guidance, by Matt Shipman. 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.

Now see here. Does wearing glasses really weaken eyesight? Claudia Hammond looks into it.

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.

You must be dreaming. Zapping scalp invokes lucid dreams. Provides insights into consciousness. Virginia Hughes on some intriguing research.

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 bloodSarah 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.

We are what we need to be when we need to be it.” On being a perfect parent. Superb piece of parent science, by Emily Willingham.


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

What should we know about science? Top ten things. In tweet-size bites. Great piece by Tom Siegfried. Read of the week.

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.

Getting the word out. How to get into science communication. Great advice by Felicity Muth.

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.

Top drawer research. Adrian Paterson on the value of natural history collections.

Picturing life differently. Value of cartoons in teaching biology. Great case made by featuring Mark Martin, featuring the artistry of Beatrice Biologist.

A master plan to fight the pseudoscience of vitalism.” Francis Crick’s life in science. Excellent profile, by Eva Amsen.


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