Morsels For The Mind – 20/06/2014
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
“After holding orcas in captivity for almost 50 years, this is a pathetic research output.” Oh Seaworld. Quote from an excellent critique by David Shiffman of Seaworld's “research” on orcas.
Canine connection. Zazie Todd takes a look at the determinants of feeling emotionally close to our dogs.
Cool heads prevail. Being a hothead gives cheetahs trouble.
Cool for cats. Ways you could add years to your favourite feline's lifespan. Mikel Delgado on the science.
A shot against bats. Tequila manufacturing disrupts relationship between agave & its pollinator. Gwen Pearson on the biological hangover of making a margarita.
Waiting to exhale. When some turtles hold their breath, they "breathe" through their butt. Esther Inglis-Arkell gets to the bottom of it.
Walk the walk. On water. Mary Bates looks at critters that can traverse streams, rivers, ponds and the like.
The birds and the bees…give pause to rethink what we mean by “intelligence”. As usual, a really thoughtful, thought-provoking post by Anne Buchanan. Read of the week.
Spectacular cephalopods. Awesome octopuses, courtesy of Shane Siers.
“Purple & orange starfish clutch the rocks, as if hanging on for dear life. In fact, they are.” Quote by Katie Campbell & Ashley Ahearn from an exceptional piece on epidemic of sea star deaths. Read of the week.
The other polar bear. Antarctica's water bear - a newly discovered tardigrade.
Bugs’ life – insects and other things that creep, crawl and otherwise delight – the arthropods
A brush with the extraordinary. Painting mutant insects. Fantastic story, by Cornelia Hesse-Honegge. Read of the week.
Flashy forest. Fireflies create phenomenal light show in the mountains. Great story, by Jen Doll.
Putting a stop to things. Katia Moskvitch explains how dwarf spider chastity-making mating plug is better older, bigger.
A big deal. How a tiny spider tackles giant prey.
Turning bad to good. Maggie Koerth-Baker on how we're using the process of extinction to eradicate an invasive moth.
A peeling idea? Can a wasp save the citrus fruit industry from a deadly disease? Hillary Rosner looks at the possibility.
Good idea gone bad? Is biocontrol the right way to deal with pests & pathogens? Colin Schultz considers both the positives and negatives.
No backbone? Is mothballing the invertebrate exhibit at a national zoo justified? Excellent take, by Gwen Pearson.
Fossil finds – organisms of times past – palaeontology, archaeology, anthropology, history and the like
Reptilian rowers. The paddling about of Nothosaurus.
The T. rex in you. All of us contain water that once coursed through dinosaurs. Wonderful reminder, by xkcd. View of the week.
Something to chew on. Colin Barras explains how Neanderthals evolved to masticate before having big brains.
Changing it up. "Pit of Bones" shows how Neanderthal head evolved: piece by piece. Ewen Callaway pieces the story together.
Bit part. Fossils catch Neanderthal chewing in the act of evolving, explains Kate Wong.
Getting a head in life. Neanderthal fossils suggest heads evolved piecemeal, as Ian Sample explains.
Lingering illness. Snail-borne disease related to crop irrigation - with us for 6k years. Colin Barras looks into the evidence.
Beautiful botanicals – wonders of the photosynthesising world – that is, mainly plants
Hang on. This plant grows from a hanged man, & screams when uprooted. Or so we thought... Matt Simon on shifting botanical understanding.
Flower friendly. James Owen looks at the breadth of pollination.
Phenomenal flora. Fantastic flowers photographed by Lucie van Dongen.
Walk on the wild side. Wild progenitors of food crops still hold much promise. Colin Khoury looks at the latest on the oldest.
Microscopic marvels – smaller than the eye can see, but big in action – bacteria, fungi and viruses
Bottoms up! Using toilet paper to get the low down on your gut microbes. Interesting personal story, by Tina Saey.
“Aspects of our microbiomes about which we remain ignorant..are legion (but fascinating).” Quote by Rob Dunn from a super assessment of what we do, and don't, know about microbiomes.
There's a catch. Did we contract herpes virus from chimpanzees, and, if so, how? John Hawks considers the possibilities.
Breaking the rhythm. Microbes implicated in stress-related heart attacks, explains Sara Reardon.
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)
Up close & personal. Wonderful life.
Something for nothing? There’s a lot more to synthetic biology than text on a computer. Christina Agapakis delves into the details.
Forces of nature – big-ticket items – ecology, evolution & extinction
Play it again Sam? If we replayed evolution, would life as we know it reappear? Superb essay, by Zach Zorich. Read of the week.
Origin of the species. It can happen without sex!
“A tragic example that large, widespread populations may not protect species from extinction.” Quote from a genius piece by GrrlScientist on extinction of the passenger pigeon. Read of the week.
What the flock?! Turns out we aren't solely to blame for passenger pigeon extinction, as Carl Zimmer explains.
Surfin' turf. The perfect beach body...from a scientific perspective. Fun stuff, by Dean Burnett.
The air of our ways. How carbon & oxygen cycle through us & the biosphere. Exceptional interactive explainer, by Joe Hanson. View of the week.
Earth, wind and fire – planet shaping – geology, meteorology, oceanography, the environment & climate
“This fills a vexing gap in the taxonomy of minerals.” Most abundant mineral gets a name. Brian Clark Howard on the name game.
The future is in plastic. Actually life's already in plastic...& dealing with it, as Julia Reisser explains.
Star attractions – the final frontier, space
Ringing it in. Stars born in gassy ring.
Cosmic catapult? David Portree on the remarkable history of Pluto's potential role as an orbit foiler.
A Titanic whiff of something. The odour of Saturn's moon, Titan, reconstructed in lab. Carl Engelking sniffs out a story with scents.
Reading between the lines. Interpreting Charon’s icy cracks.
Taking the plunge. Venus Express is diving into Earth's "sister" revealing much as it goes. Nadia Drake on how an end can provide a new beginning for discovery.
Cold comfort. There’s no wind chill on Mars, but it’s still darn chilly, finds Sid Perkins.
Getting physical – physical sciences – cosmology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computing, engineering, and technology
You are here. Precisely. Nola Taylor Redd on hoe the universe has been measured to greatest precision yet.
What's the matter? Maggie McKee looks into the mysterious role of neutrinos in the fabric of the universe.
Is there anybody in there? Thinking beyond Turing to test for artificial intelligence. Joshua Batson considers another way to test AI.
Cheers! Gorgeous images of residues of the drinks you had last night, courtesy of BevShots.
“Could any of us leave more than mere molecules & atoms when we die?” Yes. Light. Awesome tale, by Caleb Scharf. Read of the week.
A dose of medicine – science in practice in a medical setting, and health-, nutrition-, and exercise-related stories
Slick solution. Canola oil seems to have benefits for Type 2 diabetes patients, as Leslie Shepherd explains.
Living in the past? What evidence is there that the "palaeo diet" is healthier? Claudia Hammond looks for answers.
Leading the sweet life? What does science really say about low-carb diets? Melinda Wenner Moyer looks at the answers.
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 final frontier. Are we now able to traverse the blood-brain barrier? Fascinating new development, expertly explained by Helen Thomson. Read of the week.
“He likely had enough life experience..to recognise what was in front of him: a man in crisis.” Quote by John Lorinc from a genius piece on the relationship between police & mentally ill people. Read of the week.
Word. Fictional Hodor has single word vocabulary rooted in a real condition. Fascinating multimedia long read, by Indre Viskontas.
“Understanding how the world works is a more promising approach to intervention within it than mere description.” Quote from a genius post by Ian Bogost on the lessons of “Shaka, when the walls fell” from Star Trek TNG. Read of the week.
Power of anticipation. From Pavlov's dogs to drug addicts, expectation is powerful, explains Esther Inglis-Arkell.
Better natured. There seems to be a relationship between seeing beauty in nature & satisfaction with life, explains Paige Brown.
Glad tidings. Sometimes we're so attuned to someone, we're “tidally locked”. Love this piece by Ann Finkbeiner. Read of the week.
Behind the scenes – the workings of life’s museum of natural history – discovery, communication, and education
“We must have balance..between studying processes & the fascinating, oft-unexpected products of processes.” Quote by Jennifer Frazer from a fantastic, intelligent & passionate case to value natural history. Read of the week.
Getting the word out. Matt Shipman on the language barrier in communicating the science of science communication.
Want to write a great scientific paper? Approach the truth like a fiction writer. Great advice, by Brian McGill. Read of the week.