Morsels For The Mind – 18/04/2014
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
Out of their depth. Whales avoid harassment in shallows.
“I admit that hyenas are a bit unusual. Female hyenas rule the clan. Each also sports a pseudopenis.” Quote by Kate Yoshida from a fabulous piece on the myths & amazing realities surrounding hyenas. Read of the week.
Eat, bay, love? Wolves howls are integrated into many aspects of their lives, as Lance Richardson reports.
Grin & bear it. Of polar bear poo, a sniffer dog named Quinoa, & the climate. Genius assemblage of cool info, by Erin Biba. Read of the week.
On target. Shooting wild horses might be best way to save them. Yes, really. Read this fascinating piece by Warren Cornwall to find out why.
Cougar barred? Not in northeast America. They, & other large mammals, on the rise, as Keith O'Brien explores.
Getting our goat. Goats are smarter than one might think, as researcher Elodie Briefer discovered, and described nicely in this research blog post.
Have you herd? Llamas & camelid relatives make less methane than ruminants. Good for climate? Alex Kirby looks at the evidence.
The kids are alright. Might it be their pets? We’re just beginning to find out... Jason Goldman looks at the current state of research, and questions that should be asked.
Born free. Dying in living rooms. “Pet” cheetahs. Heartbreaking tale, beautifully conveyed by Nick Mitchell.
Pet peeve. Ridiculous obsession with having wild animal “pets”. Sheesh. Lauren Slater on a problem that requires fixing.
“Your & my pets are, bluntly speaking, a danger to the planet.” Quote from a sobering & brilliant article, by Adam Welz. Read of the week.
What the flock?! When groups of birds migrate, it looks astonishing. Amazing visual, shared by Amy Mainzer.
When 3-for-1 is a bad deal. Alligator snapping turtles actually three species. ALL at risk. John Platt looks at the numbers.
Pump up the volume? Fish must “speak” louder to be heard above our din. That’s not good, as April Reese explains.
Bugs’ life – insects and other things that creep, crawl and otherwise delight – the arthropods
New member in the club. In curious cave critters, females have novel sex organ, as Michael Marshall reports.
Making tracks. Popularity on the web arises akin to how ants establish paths. Cool analogy, by Joe Dramiga.
Royal ruse. Singing like a queen gets caterpillar into ant nest, as Elizabeth Preston explains.
Fossil finds – organisms of times past – palaeontology, archaeology, anthropology, history and the like
“As if Tiktaalik doesn’t push enough science denial buttons, it’s discovery is also a story about climate change.” Quote by Chris Mooney from a super interview with Neil Shubin on palaeontology, evolution & much more. Read of the week.
The bees’ knees. Brian Switek on how an embalmed leafcutter bee from 35k yr-old tar pits provides window on the past.
Time for a change. Rather than evolutionarily stalled, sharks have evolved greatly, as Tanya Lewis explains.
Beautiful botanicals – wonders of the photosynthesising world – that is, mainly plants
A billion-year-old conversation. Inside plants. I wrote this.
Inside story. Plants’ “internal dialogue”. I wrote this.
Gene genie. Nature already swaps genes between organisms. Nothing “unnatural” about it. Nice example, nicely presented by Carl Zimmer.
A cherry on top? Space-travelling cherry pits become early-blossoming trees. So? Super, balanced take on an over-sensationalised discovery, by Mike Lemonick.
It’s not easy being green. It’s why tapping into plant chemistry is key to protecting them, as Kat McGowan explains.
Roots of a problem. Heavy metals in soil find their way into rice. Need solutions. Excellent investigation of an important food security issue, by Deborah Blum.
Hoping to net good results. Field trials of plants engineered to produce fish oils.
Fantastic flora. Spring splendour. Lovely photography of Lucie van Dongen.
Microscopic marvels – smaller than the eye can see, but big in action – bacteria, fungi and viruses
Pet hypothesis. Is your companion animal bringing good or bad microbes home? Brooke Borel investigates.
Hunting for insights & gathering data. Ed Yong on how hunter-gatherer gut microbes tell interesting tale that extends beyond the WEIRD.
Dirty little secret? Might a sterile hospital environment be an undesirable thing? Superb read by Brooke Borel, featuring Jonathan Eisen & Jack Gilbert.
Busting bonding. Future antibiotics might target microbes’ sense of each other, as Sarah Williams explains.
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)
Wonderful wriggling. Proteins at work within your cells. View of the week.
Inside scoop. Animations of molecules within cells. How they are done & what they tell us, explained by Carl Zimmer.
We’re all mixed up. How we are chimaeras. Great explainer.
“I do not think that word means what you think it does.” On epigenetics. Nice critique, by Alison Meyer.
Forces of nature – big-ticket items – ecology, evolution & extinction
Quick change artists. Germ plasm accelerates evolution.
Holy hypotheticals. New hypothesis considers evolutionary basis of religion. Outstanding take on the hypothesis, by Barbara King.
Sound thinking. The “noise” of nature & what it says about our place in it. Superb article, by Brandon Keim. Read of the week.
Really love Nash Turley’s graphic lecture summaries in ecology & evolution. They are a great way to document science. Examples follow in the next two morsels.
Daphnia dynamics. Little critters show interplay of host & parasite in ecosystem, from a lecture by Meghan Duffy, drawn by Nash Turley.
Earth, wind and fire – planet shaping – geology, meteorology, oceanography, the environment & climate
Beautiful blasts. Five volcanoes do their thing.
Crystal clear. Paul Rincon looks at the imprint of ancient life left in glass made by meteorite impacts.
Renaissance reality check. David Bressan explains how Leonardo da Vinci transformed depictions of the earth’s surface.
Wave hello. Wave goodbye. Waves, photographed by Pierre Carreau.
Star attractions – the final frontier, space
In the red. Scarlet glow of hydrogen-rich nebula.
Ironing things out. Inward moving shockwave heats iron, giving supernova mysterious glow, as Sarah Scoles explains.
Even better than the real thing? Could Earth-like planets better Earth for harbouring life? Michael Moyr looks for answers.
Far out! Chances of life on distant exoplanet may be slim, but its discovery is promising, as Bill Andrews explains.
Watered world? Might distant exoplanet harbour conditions for life? Alexandra Witze considers the questions.
Round it goes. Mystery object seen in Saturn’s rings.
Getting physical – physical sciences – cosmology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computing, engineering, and technology
A matter of time. How quantum entanglement directs the arrow of time. Brilliant feature, by Natalie Wolchover.
If the goo fits…We may better understand the universe by imagining it as a gooey syrup. Cool hypothesis, nicely explained by Amir Aczel.
Making waves. A look at BICEP2 gravity wave results, one month on. Awesome overview, by Richard Easther.
Done & dusted? Dust casts doubts on cosmic gravity wave findings. Interesting look at emerging results, by Maggie McKee.
Lingering legacy. BPA toxicity has changed the way we deal with plastics. Amazing feature, by Josie Glausiusz. Read of the week.
Dust in the wind. Not just a song by Kansas. Also some fascinating science! Joe Hanson in the best kind of dust up. View of the week.
A dose of medicine – science in practice in a medical setting, and health-related stories
A spot of trouble. Fully vaccinated patient contracts & transmits measles. Not good. Nsikan Akpan explains why.
Astounding accomplishment. Vagina grown in lab from woman's own cells, functionally transplanted. Amazing application of science, wonderfully reported by Catherine de Lange.
“Thanks to tissue engineering I have a normal life. I am enjoying this opportunity doctors have given me.” Quote from amazing piece by Catherine de Lange on woman whose life was dramatically altered by tissue engineering.
Inside job. Restoring thymus organ function within living mice. Stunning application of tissue engineering, nicely reported by Oliver Milman.
Moving discovery. Spinal cord stimulation helps paralysed patients move again. Wow! Amazing application of science, nicely reported by Tanya Lewis.
Surgical precision? Operating room checklists less effective than assumed. Jalees Rehman looks at a recent, troubling find.
Full of good cheer? Actually, stadium acoustics can make a cheering crowd tough on your ears. Brian Owens listened to the evidence.
Workers rise up! Prolonged sitting unhealthy, but hard to break sitting culture at office. Alex Hutchinson looks at the science.
Gimme a break? Actually, a break from sitting would be a good thing. It has health benefits, reports Meredith Peddie.
Matters of mind – how we, and other animals, perceive our world and our place in it – neuroscience, mental health, psychology, sociology & human interest stories
The dope on dope. Weeding out good data from bad in marijuana use brain scan study. Great critical take, by Maia Szalavitz.
Sometimes more is less. Increasing activity of depression-causing neurons decreases depression, finds Ed Yong.
“This is possibly the most frustrating brain scanning study ever.” Excellent critique of new research, by Christian Jarrett.
Place place. Genevieve Bookwalter on how a pizzeria hallucination suggests region of brain important for places.
Mind your mind. On cognitive biases, & the challenges they present. Excellent examination of a timely topic, by Athene Donald.
Steering our affections. Giving an autonomous car a voice makes folks trust it more, as Elizabeth Preston nicely explains.
A matter of taste. Lucy Hooker describes how food flavour is altered by stimulating our other senses.
The hunger games. You’re likely to do annoying things to your partner when blood sugar low. Agata Blaszczak-Boxe on the latest problem with being "hangry".
Behind the scenes – the workings of life’s museum of natural history – discovery, communication, and education
In the loop. You mightn’t know Cornelius Drebbel, feedback loop inventor. You should. A fantastic blend of science, history, & storytelling by Steve Ashley. Read of the week.
A more natural hue. Franziska Schenk aims to reproduce nature’s colours. Awesome story by Eli Kintisch. Read of the week.
The rhythm method. Virginia Gewin looks at scientists creating connections with people through music.