Morsels For The Mind – 18/10/2013
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
He said. She said. Marmosets seem to take turns “talking”, but it remains to be seen as to whether they can really be considered conversations. Excellent, balanced coverage by Ed Yong.
Alarming find. Chimp alarm calls point to language origins.
Emotional rescue. Bonobos comfort like humans.
Kidding around. Young bonobos develop empathy like young humans. Surprising? Maybe not, but interesting nevertheless.
Milking the situation. Meerkats wet-nurse in exchange for acceptance.
Waiting to exhale. Fabulous function of a whale’s blowhole.
The other end of the leash. Using a dog’s activity to report on its human’s health. Amazing idea, conveyed by Christopher Mims.
Touching tale. Why touch is important for social bonding in humans & other animals. Another excellent post by Jason Goldman.
Oh brother, where art thou? Cougar cub checks out his “scienced” sibling.
The 1st annual Feral Cat Awareness Week is coming up. Lots of avian tweets on this one.
Impossible to better this headline: “Maritime moose sex corridor gets $52K from U.S. charity”.
Completely floored. Pufferfish’s super seafloor circles.
As the worm turns. They trap plenty of carbon.
“Wow, this is really interesting,” thought Allen, then “1) I hope it’s not fatal & 2) I hope it’s publishable.” From a delightfully disgusting post by Deborah Blum, on the discovery of a novel nematode in the scientist’s mouth! Speaking of delightfully disgusting:
Decomposition dynamics. Gross & fascinating!
Stars of the show. Feather starfish (Crinoids).
Curious carnivore. It’s a sea squirt!
Whiz, kids. Law of Urination: all animals pee in 21 seconds +/- 13 seconds. Yes, really.
Bugs’ life – insects and other things that creep, crawl and otherwise delight
Where weevil lurks. Insect taxonomy leads to paper with fantastically punny title.
Taking the hemlock. How the woolly adelgid is downing iconic tree species.
Fossil finds – organisms of times past – palaeontology, archaeology, history and the like
Fresh faces. Plesiosaurs also lived in fresh water.
Some nerve! Nervous system of critter from 0.5B yr ago.
Outside in. Teeth evolved from skin.
Reality bites. Not dinosaur, but still blood in fossil mosquito.
All in the family? There’s a new Homo erectus skull that some suggest may necessitate a rethink of human evolution. This got good coverage by several excellent writers: Michael Marshall covered it here. Gemma Tarlach covered it here. Brian Switek examined the skull here. Sid Perkins had a piece here, and Ian Sample wrapped the matter up here.
Icy relations. Ötzi the iceman has living relatives. Cool.
Beautiful botanicals – wonders of the photosynthesising world – that is, mainly plants
In sync. Worm & beetle work together to parasitise trees.
Petal power? Mammal species declined as flowering plants evolved.
Bigger buzz. Victoria Gill describes the identification of plants that are more bee-friendly.
Microscopic marvels – smaller than the eye can see, but big in action – bacteria, fungi and viruses
Comfortably numb? Microbes survive subzero temps.
Known unknown. New type of deadliest substance, botulinum, found. DNA sequence censored.
Fight fire with fire? Could bacteria be turned against themselves to prevent antibiotic resistance?
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)
Slice of life. Mammals chop virus RNA as defence.
Taking the sting out. Scorpion genome deals with venom.
Earth, wind and fire – planet shaping – geology, meteorology, oceanography, the environment & climate
United they fall? Imagining hybrid species that emerge from climate change.
Star attractions – the final frontier, space
Completely in the dark. Challenges of understanding the inside of the black hole.
Interesting angle. An oddly tilted solar system.
No earthly idea? With the exoplanet tally at 1000, where’s the one like Earth? Stuart Clark explores.
It’s full of stars. Super stellar cluster Westerlund 1 is amazing.
Rock on! Super-cool animations of Phobos & Deimos.
Is there anybody out there? The Galileo mission launched 24 yrs ago today. Its search for life resonates today. Based on a brilliant paper by Carl Sagan.
Forces of nature – big-ticket items – cosmology, mathematics, computation, chemistry, physics, ecology & evolution
“If overwrought speculation bothers you, we recommend you not read this. On the other hand, if you like imagining the dazzling potentialities of quantum theory, godspeed you!” Wonderful quote by Ghost Diary Blog from very enjoyable, speculative piece on quantum entanglement.
Does not compute. A different computational approach is needed to handle big data. Incredibly timely topic, expertly covered by Jennifer Ouellette.
Light entertainment. A history of photons, & our interactions with them.
Matters of mind – how we, and other animals, perceive our world and our place in it
The rhythm method. How music helps us keep exercising when our body says stop.
Getting the hang of it. Toting babies about like kangaroo joeys has advantages. Intriguing parenting perfectly covered by Virginia Hughes.
As if. Kids lacking empathy don't get sarcasm. Fascinating (seriously).
Something for nothing. Placebos reduce pain & up pleasure using similar neural circuits.
Gut reaction. Belly fat might enhance memory loss. Intriguing
Pure thoughts. Sleep clears the brain’s junk.
When sad things collide. Treating mental illness using captive hyenas. Yes, really.
Only human. We *all* make mistakes. We redeem ourselves in how we handle them. Brilliant post by Janet Stemwedel.
Behind the scenes – the workings of the museum – discovery and communication
This week was a tough week for the science communication community. First, Danielle Lee reported how, when she said “No” to a blogging condition, the very strong inference was made that she was an “urban whore”. To makes matters much worse, the Scientific American Blog Network, Dr. Lee’s blogging home, deleted her post on the matter. Unsurprisingly, this invoked a number of posts by people shocked, dismayed and angered by the shameful treatment of Dr. Lee. Some incredibly powerful writing on this subject was found here, here, here, here and here.Eventually Scientific American restored Dr. Lee’s post with an apology. In the interim, some exceptional pieces of writing on the matter followed. Amongst the best were brilliant posts by Tressie McMillan Cottom (here) by David Kroll (here), and by Daniel Lende (here). The case shone a light on matters that are in dire need of attention – as was widely acknowledged across the science communication community. Unfortunately (but, ultimately, perhaps fortunately), the case also catalysed revelations about sexual harassment that struck right at the heart of this same community. This week, three brave women, Monica Byrne, Kathleen Raven, and Hannah Waters, confronted sexual harassment by a leading science community blog manager. Their harrowing stories are here and here. For those who think that words & actions made by men in positions of power and privilege are “harmless”, spend some time with Ripples Of Doubt, then think again. Reads of the week.
Fittingly, in a week when so many women in the science communications community made their voices heard, the week also featured Ada Lovelace Day, a day to celebrate women’s contribution to science. In keeping with this, scientists share tales of women who inspired them here, here, and here. Rebekah Higgit provided an important reminder: “Celebrate individuals, but understand them as they would have understood themselves.”
Open & shut case? The recent “sting” says more about peer review than open access. Great piece by Jon Tennant.
“Serving society…is the conscious passion of everyone who works in a modern university.” “Our universities set out to change the world through our research, & do so time after time.” Two quotes by Leszek Borysiewicz, from an excellent piece on value of university research.
Let’s finish on three “up” notes: