Morsels for the mind – 16/8/2013

16 August 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

Matter of pride. Most amazing gallery of lion activity you will ever see. And here’s the robot that got the shots. View of the week.

Amazing animals. African wildlife showcased using camera trap GIFs.

Berry nice. Wolf reintroductions mean more berries for bears. Elizabeth Preston tells this tale of a howling success.

Crèche care. “Nursery nests” best for lemurs early in life.

Now that’s cool. How sea lion pups beat the heat.

Just like mom. Female gibbons teach their daughters to sing.

Familiarity breed empathy? Dogs yawn most contagiously when it involves their companion human.

Paws for thought. Dogs will help you, but only if they know you need help.

Hard luck story. On the evolution of penis bones. Carl Zimmer lays it all bare.

Bright birds, better broods. Dull feathers make for worse moms.

Life in the fast lane. Shiny-feathered birds speciate quicker.

Merciless menu. All pangolin species endangered on account of illegal trade as food for humans. Sheesh.

A view to a kill. Online videos of cute, endangered animals fuels trade of these rare animals. A pet peeve.

We’re going to need a bigger boat. Of whale sharks, biology, local knowledge & ecotourism. Beautifully woven post by Ferris Jabr.

The good, the bad, & the ugly. The best and worst of shark week. Excellent synopsis by David Shiffman.

Stirred, not shaken. Want a recipe for a real sharknado? Science has one for you!

Eye off the ball. As suspected, fears of Danish testicles being bitten by fish were overblown.

Cold comfort. Bone-munching worms thrive in frigid waters. A bone-chilling find!

Terrible beauty. Glass sponges are gorgeous, and invading the Antarctic ocean floor.


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

Colourful characters. The rainbow world of katydids. Really cool stuff from Becky Crew.

Bites, bugs and BO. Intriguing hypotheses re: mosquito preferences & microbe-produced body odour.

Fly away home. Flight of the monarch butterfly mapped in great detail.

Take off! Insects launch into flight. Great stuff from Sean McCann.

Marvellous misdirection. Backwards butterfly self-mimics. Heidi Smith on one intriguing insect.

‘Til death do us part. Bees are altruistic to the bitter end.

Beat defeat. Termites drum to warn of danger.

Hair-raising skill. Caterpillar protects pupae with woven hairs.

Earning its stripes. The aptly named tiger spider.

Third time lucky? Spider attracts mate with third pair of legs.

“Spiders are skilful, amusing, and useful.” EB White shares why he wrote Charlotte’s Web. Lovely.

Dance sensation. Peacock spider struts his stuff.


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

Apple of my eye. Of red fruit, vision and evolution. There more to this than meets the eye.

Seeds of despair. Baobab relied on now-extinct tortoise to disperse seed. Amazing story by John Platt.

Algal aid. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria provide algae’s vitamin B12. Cool story by Sarah Shailes.

Bigger is better? The role of big trees in the rainforest. It’s huge.

When sweet is not so sweet. Climate warming may produce some sweeter, softer apples.

An accident rings on. Tree rings record Chernobyl’s legacy.

Rooting around. Robotic plant probes soil just like the real thing.

Bouncing back. Old rubber sources are on the rebound. Cristy Gelling considers the options.


Fossil finds – organisms of times past – dinosaurs and beyond

Ahead by a neck. Of ostriches and dinosaurs.

Pterrific pterosaurs. Amazing ancient aerial animals.

Short cut to success. Early birds were advantaged by shorter tails.

Getting to the point. Giant, spike-less hedgehogs once walked the planet.

Lasting legacy. Want to leave fossil evidence of your existence? Brian Switek has some tips.

Both humans and Neanderthals were into leather. We have the tools to prove it.


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

Listen up. Infectious microbes “eavesdrop” on the good ones.

Perfect partnership. Pair of oceanic microbes fixes undersea nitrogen.

Mind the mould. Robot puts an emotional face on slime mould. Creepy.

Confounding carriers. Polio could be eradicated if the last folks carrying it could be found.

Beyond ruffling feathers. Poultry industry antibiotic use may contribute to human deaths.


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)

Sweet surrender? Sugar seems to take a toll on mice, but is this really relevant to humans? Probably not. Need to overcome the myth of the toxic avenger.

Rewinding the clock. A “resurrected” protein gives a glimpse back in time. Beautiful story by Simon Redfern.

A shot in the arm. New malaria vaccine is 100% effective. Amazing story by Declan Butler.

Molecular mix-up. Chromosome mismatches leading to cancer are caught on film.

Getting into shape. Cells eat to smooth things out.

Two hearts beat as one. Human stem cells help mouse heart cells find their rhythm.

“One fateful week, Wilson’s career—and…the entire field of gene therapy—went into free fall.” Amazing piece on the rise and fall and rise of gene therapy by Carl Zimmer.

Sporting a bad mutation. Folks with sickle cell trait must exercise caution when doing sports.

Lethal landscapes. Relationship between cancer, epigenetics, and fitness landscapes. Superb.


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

Breaking up is hard to do? Not when it’s a chain reaction shattering an Antarctic ice sheet.

Capturing carbon. Northern forests stoking up on CO2 more than expected.


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

Mind expanding. Watch as a galaxy expands. Awesome.

Stellar get-together. Dwarf and giant galaxies collide, and it looks stupdendous.

Light entertainment. Amazing observations of quasar photons.

Interstellar odd couple. A red cloud and a blue cloud hang out together in space.

Magnetic personality. Black hole at the centre of our galaxy is a giant magnet. That’s the hole story, of a giant in its (magnetic) field.

Lasting impressions. The light of dead stars.

Out for a spin. Workings of our galaxy’s black hole.

Holey moley! Corey Powell squeezes super lemonade out of his lemon of an interview on the coronal hole.

Which end is up? Pluto’s cartography problem. As if Pluto needs more problems!

Martian marvels. Art courtesy of Curiosity. Adam Mann has extracted all of the best stuff from the first year archive for you.

‘Round they go. Clumps of copper needles orbit the Earth. Why they are there will astonish you.


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

A matter of matter? Might neutrinos be the spawn of dark matter?

Einstein in err? Did he really call the use of a “cosmological constant” his “biggest blunder”? Great dissection of a great question, by Rebecca Rosen.

One cool cat. Physicist Erwin Schrödinger & his famous cat celebrated in a Goggle doodle.

A sucker born every minute? The notion of moving things around with pneumatics is not so new.


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

Out with a bang? Stunning evidence that the brain engages in a burst of organised activity as it dies (at least in rats). Phenomenal story beautifully covered by Ed Yong, Rebecca Morelle, Anil Seth, and Brandon Keim.

Ye of little faith…appear to be more intelligent. At least according to the latest meta-analysis. Akshat Rathi does a wonderful job of covering a subject where angels fear to tread.

Celling the brain. On the importance of Neuron Doctrine. Excellent piece by Mo Costandi.

Seeing things. Remarkable retinal neuron circuits. Great combination of words and images by Charlotte Stoddart & Richard Johnston.

Gorgeous get-together. Neurotransmitter receptors cluster just like stars in galaxies.

Illuminating the mind. Photon-based technique shines a light on neural networks.

Beach blanket bingo. How to get your own patch of sand? Science!

Hearing is believing? What we hear may shape what we see, and if we see it at all. Amazing read by Virginia Hughes.

Mind the gap. How the brain fills in the things we don’t see. Spectacular piece by Rebecca Schwarzlose.

Seeing is believing? How blind spots are integral to our perception of the world.

“It’s a bit of a clichéd thing to say, but we need more research.” Pete Etchells makes a great case for depression research.

Now, where was I? Great explainer on grid cells, place cells & navigation.

Growing dissatisfaction. The psychological basis of folks’ distrust of GMOs. Excellent, important piece by Maria Konnikova.

Rhythm method. Getting a good night’s sleep is all about riding the circadian cycle.

Mind the web. Psychology is crucial for curbing online trolling and abuse.

Have you herd? Following the crowd skews online rating systems. Intriguing find, nicely explained by Alok Jha.

Totally flocked up. How the herd effect dictates popularity via reddit.

Feeling sad? Blame Facebook. Intriguing.

Too much sharing? It’s not Facebook's settings that are the problem. It’s in our nature. Superb, by Ian Leslie.

Spirits in the material world? Nope. Here’s what make Ouija boards move. Cool.


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

Better natured. On the relationship between Nature and reading kids a bedtime story. Wonderful, lovely essay by Liam Henegham. Read of the week.

Read all about it! There has never been a better time to be a science reader. Awesome piece by Tom Levenson.

It’s complicated. When it comes to trusting science, multiple factors are in play. Great dissection of the evidence by Liz Neeley.

Small diseases, big steps. Grassroots approach to promoting research on “orphan diseases”.

“Hack” and “tack”. Their meanings relative to cancer, autism, genes and bad reporting. Great critique by Emily Willingham.

The major key. First year professors are crucial in shaping the discipline that undergrads choose.

Wanna new drug? It’s gonna cost you. A lot. A real eye-opener.

Sex sells? Some deem adverts for exhibit on the science of sex “too racy”. Hmm.

Facts laid bare. The trouble with science nerds and sex. Nice exposé of confirmation bias.

Missing in action. The bias produced by unpublished data. Important, by Tania Browne.

“That’s science, baby. Take it or leave it.” How psychology most definitely is a science.

Doing it write. Rituals done right before writing might actually improve your writing.

This. Is. Painful. But you must read it as an example of how not to communicate science. First sentence is a doozey!

In pursuit of happiness? Here’s what science says may work. Brilliant piece by Belle Beth Cooper.


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