Morsels For The Mind – 20/12/2013

22 December 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!

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

Animal annual. Top critters of 2013. Good fun via Michael Marshall.

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.

Pet hypothesis. New evidence for early start of cat domestication, reports Rebecca Rosen.

Here Kitty! On the invention of domesticated cats. Akshat Rathi masterfully explains the latest data on our feline friends.

What's new pussycat? Bones point to domestic cat origins. David Grimm purr-fectly shares the recent find.

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.

Going squirrelly. How we turned squirrels into urban denizens. Veronique Greenwood takes a look at our furry-tailed neighbours.

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.

Tapir terrificness! New species makes an appearance. Amazing critters still await discovery. Darren Naish looks into it.

Hidden in plain sight. "New" tapir species well known to locals. Important lesson there, as reported by Jeremy Hance.

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.

Caws for reason. Astonishing corvid brains. Annalee Newitz looks into the crow cranium.

A nested development. Brood parasitism & cooperative breeding drive each other's evolution. Incredibly cool find, masterfully explained by Ed Yong. Read of the week.

Gone but not forgotten. The "holes" left in ecosystems by extinct birds.  Fantastic read by Darren Naish. Read of the week.

Giving a hoot. Tracking snowy owl migration in real time. Cool citizen science, described by Jeff DelViscio.

Who gives a hoot? When it's a snowy owl cull, plenty. Thoughtful & thought provoking piece by The Birdist.


Far from crap. DNA from bird guano could help reduce aircraft strikes. Interesting find, explained by John Bohannan.

In living, colour. Chameleon's colourful battles. Becky Crew on an amazing find.

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.

Getting under the skin. Toads erupt from mom's back. Matt Simon continues on his exploration of critters that are spectacularly strange.

Well hello there. Wildlife selfies, shared by Laura Poppick.

A look sea. Beautiful oceanic life, by Enric Sala.

We're gonna need a bigger boat. Tracking the travels of great white sharks. Amazing look at the astounding research, by Peter Brannen.

Fantastic fish. Wonderfully weird. Great stuff by Sarah Keartes.

Clear & present beauty. When fish are cleared & stained, they are gorgeous, as Adam Summers explains.

I can see clearly now. Fish are gorgeous when cleared for visualisation. Astonishing work of Adam Summers.

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.

Good old sandy claws? Are current lobster traps a dated technology? Intriguing story, by Erik Vance.

Super cephalopods! Great interview  by Megan Gannon of Katherine Harmon Courage on the amazing octopus.

Star search. Trying to identify cause of troubling sea star die-off. Danielle Venton takes a look at the current state of affairs.

Winging it. Snail larvae speed swimming with wing-like velar lobes.

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.

Magnificent moths. Sea moths, that is. Joseph Jameson-Gould gives you a look.

Hang on! Parasite clings with specialised sucker. Tommy Leung profiles another curious creature.

Getting a head start. Bone worms have penis on their head. Brad Balukjian gets to the top of this story


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

From a banjo-playing beetle to near-death experiences, it must be Chris Buddle's “Segments”! Curious creeping critters!

Towering intellect. A spider makes mysterious silken towers. Why? Spectacular piece by Nadia Drake featuring Phil Torres. Read of the week.

Incredible brightness of bee-ing. Remarkable bumble bee learning. Amazing story by Felicity Muth.

Remains to be seen. Assassin bugs wear leftovers. Jerry Coyne shares, and explains, an interesting picture.

What a tangled web they weave. Marvellous Mygalomorphae, beautifully explained by Catherine Scott.

A side order of veg. Orb spiders also catch pollen to munch on.

The buzz on fuzz. "Velvet ants" are marvellous mimics. Chris Buddle on a remarkable insect.

Awesome albinos? Nope, merely molted. Great stuff by Eric Eaton.

Caustic relationships. Invasive yellow ants are an acidic force. Yow. Jason Bittel on some nasty insects.


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.

Ichthyosaurs. They didn't suck after all. Nice assessment of a scientific debate by Brian Switek.

Sneaky feelings. Azarchid pterosaurs likely stalked about land. Compelling case by Darren Naish.

Thinking of adding a dinosaur to the family? You'll want to check this handy guide by John Conway first.

All in the family. Neanderthal inbreeding. Big discovery, explained by Ann Gibbons.

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

Leafy language. How plants communicate. Kat McGowan provides an excellent overview. Read of the week.

Flower power. How the world became full of flowers. Ed Yong's prose blossoms forth as usual. Great story.

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

The future is in plastics? Nope, it's in microbes.  Superb overview by Tim De Chant.

Lord of the rings. It's a fungus. And it thrives on manicured lawns.  Great read by Becca Cudmore.

Suicidal tendencies. How HIV pushes cells to AIDS. Brilliant, if disconcerting, post by Ed Yong.

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.

Hypothesis put to bed. Narcolepsy is an autoimmune disease. In a rather nasty twist, insomnia sufferer Ed Yong dealt with the story. Read of the week.

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:

“It only took 10 days to reach the end of the world.” Research expedition lands in Antarctica. Excellent expedition diary entry by Alok Jha.

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.

Not cool. Less snow, fewer reindeer, more wildfires. The Arctic's "new normal". Emily Gertz shared the chilling news.

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.

What's in a name? Iceland is losing half its name.  And it's not the "land" bit. Cheryl Katz on a story that is decidedly not cool.

Wild is the wind. Stupendous wind currents. Must view real-time map, by Cameron Beccario. View of the week.

Current affairs. The hypnotic motion of wind currents. Astounding real-time map by Cameron Beccario, explained by Colin Schultz.

Big bang theory. Proposing a metric scale for volcano eruptions. e.g., the kiloruption.  Interesting propositions by Erik Klemetti.

Hair today, gone tomorrow? Remarkable phenomenon of "hair ice". Microbe-seeded. Sarah Boon delves into a mysterious find.

Let it snow! Whether it's real or simulated, snow is amazing.


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

Dance this mess around. Two black holes tango. Matthew Francis describes an amazing discovery.

Dynamic duo. Exoplanet plus moon? Or just two exoplanets? Either way, it's cool, as Jacob Aron explains.

Weight of the world. Exoplanet weighs in. Alex Witze explains.

Double the fun! Milky Way has 4 spiral arms—not 2! Francie Diep takes a look.

Not quite star quality. When does a star get called a brown dwarf? Great explainer by Jason Major.

Explosive beauty. Remnants of a star's demise, examined by Jason Major.

Little missed sunshine. Solar activity in glorious detail.

A colourful existence. Gorgeous asteroid Vesta.

The ring thing. Just how did Saturn get its iconic halos? Fraser Cain looks into it.

Merry go round? Mystery blob rides Saturn's rings. Adam Mann reports.

It is what it seams. Europa's cracks suggest plate tectonics. Betsy Mason looks into it.

Lakefront property. On Titan. Awesome flyover.  Great share by Jason Major.

A plume with a view. Hubble spots water plumes on Jupiter's moon, Europa, as Andrew Grant reports.

A shore thing. Cassini spies lakes on Titan. Really rather amazing, as explained by Simon Redfern.

A ripple in time. Water flows freely on Mars.

It made a splash. A lunar impact, nicely explained by Phil Plait.

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

Troubles from the dawn of time. Literally. Grappling with anomalous cosmic radiation data, explained by Ron Cowen.

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.

Next year's model. Can computer modelling be properly scientific? Thought-provoking essay by Jon Turney.

Count on it. 600 yrs ago, Polynesian folks already used binary numbers.

Thumbs up! Are all of the tiny digit's traits under selection? Nice critical take of hard core adaptationism, by Ken Weiss.

SMASHING DISCOURSE! Wonderful exchange on The Selfish Gene, between Graham Coop & ECOLOGIST HULK.


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

Hold the hype. A sober assessment of mirror neurons. Excellent critique by Christian Jarrett featuring James Kilner.

Trials & tribulations. Neuroscience is being used in the courtroom. Should it? Greg Miller takes a critical look.

Look who's talking now. Babies can teach us the darnedest things. Because science. Kate Gammon shares some interesting discoveries.

Nothing to sniff at.  Just how do we detect odours?  Superb explainer by Rose Eveleth. View of the week.

Cheap trick. When stressed, the brain picks cheaper options. Fascinating find, beautifully explained by Sci Curious.

Take 2 aspirin & call me when you're calm? Can aspirin be used to treat rage? Hmm. Great critique by Suzi Gage.

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.

Who's laughing now? Is laughter good medicine? Well... Elizabeth Preston on an amusing topic.

Needing a little hair of the dog? If you chose bourbon over vodka last night you may...

Oh what a night that was. The science of the hangover. It's that time of the year, as Sally Adams considers.

'cause célèbre.  Why do folks succumb to advice from celebrities? What can we learn? Excellent review by Steven Hoffman.

What do they know? The scourge of celebrity health advice. Superb analysis by Julia Belluz & Steven Hoffman.
 Read of the week.

A motional rescue? Are more studies showing health benefits of exercise needed? Hmm. Ken Weiss takes a critical look.

Taking it all in stride. What makes a running stride economical? Maybe not what you think, as Alex Hutchison explains.

Gotta have sole? Do orthotics really make a difference? Jury still out, says Steve Caplan.


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.

Incredible interviews. Matt Shipman's awesome chats with Deborah Blum, Ed Yong, David Dobbs, Brian Switek & many more.

Oh, Canada. Politics & the challenges of reporting some Canadian science. Stephen Strauss takes a look at the limitations placed on Canadian government scientists.

The beaten track. The experience of being denied tenure. Important, and brave, share by Terry McGlynn.

“Quit Lit”: When academics leave the ivory tower & tell all. Interesting development, explored by Sydni Dunn.

The games people play. The education system shouldn't be one. It's not a contest. Excellent critical assessment by Melonie Fullick.

Going, going, gone... The concerning disappearance of primary data. Richard van Noorden provides the low down.

Use it or lose it? Data lost at alarming rate. Blame defunct email addresses & Zip drives. Yes really.

Peer pressure. Want to peer review well? Good advice for newbies (& oldbies!) by Jennifer Raff.

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".

Into the fold. Life-size origami elephant? Maybe. In the meantime, other awesome animals "sculpted" by Sipho Mabona.

Need gift ideas? These are sciencey suggestions are super: Jason Goldman's gift suggestions; Nadia Drake's gift suggestions; and Kim Moynahan's gift suggestions.

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.


Leave a Reply

6 + nine =