Morsels For The Mind – 20/12/2013
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 / listens of the week”.
Feather, fur & fin – birds, beasts, fishes, and the things they do
“The Dog Whisperer died in 2010. Cesar Millan & his radical ways did not.” Quote from a thought-provoking piece by Kevin Ashton on dogs, their behaviour & Cesar Millan. I don't agree with all of Kevin Ashton's post on dogs, but his portrait of Cesar Millan is masterfully sympathetic. Read of the week.
Dangers of being small minded. Correlation of dog body metrics with bad behaviours. Yow!
The dirt on dogs. It can reduce allergic response by changing gut microbiome. Elizabeth Pennisi explains.
Done & dusted. Dust from dogs reduces allergic response (in mice, so far). Ed Yong gets the dirt on this interesting subject.
Big thing in a small package. Dwarfism in an elephant.
Their future is in the palms of the lands. Orang-utan fate is undermined by palm oil plantations. Gethin Chamberlain on an important story.
The old razzle dazzle. Zebra stripes may have evolved to create "dazzle camouflage".
Eat & be eaten. Rainforest rodents' risk at mealtime.
Udderly modern. Flying cows say much about limited space on our planet. Thought provoking piece by Veronique Greenwood.
Have you herd? Caribou genetics may limit capacity to respond to climate change, as beautifully reported by Hannah Hoag.
The big sleep. Nice explainer on denning - how bears make it though the winter - by Frontier Scientists.
“A reminder of the ways in which humans exploit those around us in pursuit of our own ambitions.” Quote by Henry Nicholls from a thoughtful assessment of the first great ape in space, Ham - a victim.
“I have a suspicion that cute, fuzzy things get a greater proportion of attention.” Quote by Morgan Jackson on the disproportionate attention given to new "charismatic" species.
Impossible to better this: “How do you get a bobcat out of your window blinds?” RCMP officer "MacGyvers" a solution.
Emotional rescue. Bats interpret "emotions" in other's calls.
Hearing things. Climate change could alter bat echolocation - and that's not good. Helen Thompson explains why.
A nested development. Brood parasitism & cooperative breeding drive each other's evolution. Incredibly cool find, masterfully explained by Ed Yong. Read of the week.
Far from crap. DNA from bird guano could help reduce aircraft strikes. Interesting find, explained by John Bohannan.
Bright move. Chameleons convey information by changing body-part vibrancy. Ed Yong on a colourful topic.
Unhappy to meet hue? Chameleons inform of impending confrontation with colour change. Sarah Zielinski explains.
Things that go bump in the night. Nocturnal critters.
Clear & present beauty. When fish are cleared & stained, they are gorgeous, as Adam Summers explains.
Baiting an argument. Shark cull plan nets scientists ire.
It's a death trap. If you are small fry, it's a seahorse's hoovering mouth. Jason Bittel on a fish that we don't normally think of as being deadly.
Star search. Trying to identify cause of troubling sea star die-off. Danielle Venton takes a look at the current state of affairs.
Slugging it out. How & why do chloroplasts reside in sea slugs? Fascinating, and excellent - super writing with proper background investigation on an intriguing subject by Ferris Jabr. Read of the week.
Bugs’ life – insects and other things that creep, crawl and otherwise delight
A side order of veg. Orb spiders also catch pollen to munch on.
Fossil finds – organisms of times past – palaeontology, archaeology, anthropology, history and the like
Get down on it. More dinosaurs need to be depicted with fuzzy featheriness. Superb case made by Brian Switek.
Down in the dumps? T. rex relative dropped 6L turds. And took crap from nobody. Sid Perkins on some old crap.
Grave results. Data re-assessment suggests Neanderthals intentionally buried their dead. Kate Wong digs into the evidence.
Beautiful botanicals – wonders of the photosynthesising world – that is, mainly plants
Dynamic duo. Genome duplication drove the rise of flowering plants. Ewen Callaway gets to the root of the story.
Sometimes it's not the gifts under the tree that are astounding, but the "gifts" inside the tree...
Vicious viscosity. Pitcher plants' viscous trap.
Microscopic marvels – smaller than the eye can see, but big in action – bacteria, fungi and viruses
“I can confirm the eggnog is delicious, that it is indeed very boozey, & that I’m still alive.” Brooke Borel tests a seasonal recipe.
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)
Holy hyperbole, Batman! A great retort to the massively overhyped DNA "duons" by Alex Riley.
Hand-me-down genes? Mouse dads leave imprint of diet deficiency on pups. Sci Curious does a wonderful job of explaining.
Better left unsaid. Pavlov's retracted, but lasting endorsement of Lamarckian inheritance. Superb exploration of a curious bit of science history by Virginia Hughes.
Reading the fine print. Eye repair done by "printing" retina cells.
Earth, wind and fire – planet shaping – geology, meteorology, oceanography, the environment & climate
What lies beneath. Amazing Antarctica. Nice perspective.
Alok Jha has been sharing his experience of partaking in a research expedition to Antarctica. It has included gems like this: Adelie penguins, chilled out on an ice floe in the Southern Ocean (65° 03' S, 145° 58'E). Make sure to read the entries in his amazing Antarctic expedition journal. Speaking of which, see the next 2 morsels:
“I suppose I signed up for this: shuddering across an Antarctic ice sheet in an open-topped buggy.” Quote by Alok Jha as he continues his awesome journal on an Antarctic expedition.
“A reminder of the transience of human societies & vulnerability of oceanic islands.” Quote from an awesome piece by Brad Balukjian on island biogeography & snail extinctions. Read of the week.
Sending out an SOS. Message in a bottle from 1959 tracks glacier's dramatic retreat. Read of the week.
Star attractions – the final frontier, space
Little missed sunshine. Solar activity in glorious detail.
A colourful existence. Gorgeous asteroid Vesta.
A plume with a view. Hubble spots water plumes on Jupiter's moon, Europa, as Andrew Grant reports.
A ripple in time. Water flows freely on Mars.
“Appreciate what human beings have become capable of — and look forward to what they will do next.” Quote by Sean Carroll on how humanity's achievements belong to humanity, not one country. Thoughtful & thought-provoking.
Amid all the debris of technology left in space, it is the only sign of man’s arts.” Quote from a brilliant piece by Corey Powell & Laurie Gwen Shapiro on a sculpture left on the moon. Read of the week.
Eyes on the skies. Wonderful history of measuring the distance to the stars.
Forces of nature – big-ticket items – cosmology, mathematics, computation, chemistry, physics, ecology & evolution
Dead Sea walking. Calculation for salt to be added so Dead Sea walkable. Spoiler: Not enough water for it to work.
Solid results. When liquids behave like solids.
The shape of things to come? Jewel-like amplituhedron may sit at heart of quantum physics. Natalie Wolchover masterfully dissects a tricky subject.
Remarkable reactions. You've got to see these amazing gifs of astonishing chemistry. View of the week.
The heat of the moment. Boiling water & a frosty day make for thermodynamic fun. Excellent explainer by Kyle Hill.
In the heat of the moment. Water could, theoretically, be heated to 600C in a trillionth of a second. Francie Diep on a hot topic.
In with a bang. Exploding supernovae create phosphorous - essential for life. Elizabeth Howell on the origins of an element.
Noble prize. The noble gas, argon, found in exploded star's remains.
Divided attention. The beauty of an oil-based, asphalt canvas, rainbowy, cell division. Gorgeous post by Michele Banks.
Thumbs up! Are all of the tiny digit's traits under selection? Nice critical take of hard core adaptationism, by Ken Weiss.
Matters of mind – how we, and other animals, perceive our world and our place in it
Vitamin D deficiency related to being a villain, like Gollum. Or something.
The height of safety. Higher altitudes protect brains from concussion risk. Intriguing find, beautifully explained by Elizabeth Preston.
Needing a little hair of the dog? If you chose bourbon over vodka last night you may...
A motional rescue? Are more studies showing health benefits of exercise needed? Hmm. Ken Weiss takes a critical look.
Behind the scenes – the workings of the museum – discovery and communication
“There is nothing as captivating as listening to a human voice saying something of interest.” Quote from a wonderful piece by Richard Hamilton on the power of storytelling. Read of the week.
Mythed opportunities. Is there an advantage to letting children believe in myths? Excellent case made by Joel Adamson. Read of the week.
Game changers. Nature News's selection of 10 folks who really made a difference to science this past year. The list includes @KateClancy, perfectly cited for bringing sexual harassment in science to light. The piece features super writing by Alex Witze, Mark Peplow, Declan Butler, Erika Check Hayden, Sara Reardon & more. Read of the week.
Huge congrats to fellow SciLogs blogger Anne-Marie Hodge and other excellent writers for inclusion in the Open Lab 2013 anthology! Richly deserved! Anne-Marie Hodge's spectacular Open Lab 2013 winning post was on menopausal whales.
Wheat & chaff. How to separate super science news from utter crap. Awesome explainer by Joe Hanson. View of the week.
“You should have an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out.” Great advice on interpreting science as presented in the press, by Joe Hanson.
Oh, Canada. Politics & the challenges of reporting some Canadian science. Stephen Strauss takes a look at the limitations placed on Canadian government scientists.
Use it or lose it? Data lost at alarming rate. Blame defunct email addresses & Zip drives. Yes really.
“To look at an epic life through food cuts past the God mirage.” Anna Trapido, on Nelson Mandela. Quote from interesting post by Layla Eplett on food, Mandela, & his “unstinting appetite for freedom".
In the Nick of time. Could the jolly old elf help in the communication of science? Superb case made by Kyle Hill.
'Tis the season. Some advice for lab scientists at this time of year... Good fun, by Jenny Rohn.
Seasons greetings! Kate Whittington continues making entries in her lovely, interactive, festive, natural history sketchbook. View of the week.