Morsels for the mind – 20/9/2013
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 of the week”.
Feather, fur & fin – birds, beasts, fishes, and the things they do
Getting an earful. Whale’s turbulent lives recorded in earwax. It’s a whale of a tale of pollutants and stress. Beautifully told by Ed Yong, Olive Heffernan, Grrl Scientist, and Megan Gannon. Reads of the week.
Star search? Do whales use celestial patterns to navigate? Intriguing hypothesis.
Have you herd? Elephants discern tiger & leopard growls and act appropriately. Ed Yong trumpeted this interesting tale.
See Spot. See Spot run. See Spot contentedly socialise with a robot. An amazing story of how dogs interact with robots. It says as much about robots as dogs. Perfectly covered by Shaunacy Ferro and Jason Goldman.
Of a different stripe? Nice dissection of the novelty, or not, of the tiger genome, by Razib Khan.
Jelly belly. Leatherbacks eat 16 cucumbers worth of jellyfish daily.
Matter of time. Small animals see world in slo-mo.
No worries. Big-brained birds less stressed.
A bad bunch. Banana cultivation loading caimans with pesticides.
And then he croaked. The frog & the rocket. A parable.
Blob’s your uncle. The blobfish is alright, & we should treat it as such. Love this defence of the blobfish by Colin Schultz.
Butting in. Pearlfish reside in sea cucumber behinds.
Note worthy find. Goldfish tell Bach & Stravinsky apart, but don’t prefer one more. Douglas Main reports.
Good schooling. For fish, swimming together is innate.
Mischief maker. Mimic fish a rabble rouser. Interesting story by Sarah Jane Alger.
Fishing for answers. How the zebrafish is transforming research.
Left dangling. What does a slow moving squid use its limp limbs for? It’s somewhat of a mystery, shared by Craig McClain.
Deep inner beauty. Snail from far underground is tremendously translucent. Laura Poppick gets to the depths of this story.
Now you see it, now you don’t. Bobbit worm dines on fish. In one big gulp. Matt Simon reports on one scary ocean dweller.
Ageing, gracefully. A face through life. Astonishing.
Bugs’ life – insects and other things that creep, crawl and otherwise delight
Risky business. Ants avoid it on the road to royalty.
Gutsy move. Insect vomits microbes to outwit plants.
Not so crap. Termite faeces fight disease.
A breath of fresh air. Marianne Alleyne brilliantly describes how termite mounds can help us design buildings that breathe.
Who’s hurting woo? Parasite-infected females less picky about courtship. In crickets. Interesting find, perfectly reported by Felicity Muth.
Bugged by bugs? Even entomologists can get creeped out by their beloved subjects, as Elizabeth Preston shows.
Best before date? Honey doesn’t need one. Here’s why.
Heads for honey. Beautiful bee faces.
A bug’s life. Insects, up close & personal. Amazing.
Fossil finds – organisms of times past – dinosaurs and beyond
Winging it. Flight path of dinosaurs.
Time for change. At the dawn of the Cambrian, evolution was about 4x faster. Fascinating discovery reported by Kelly Servick.
Rising tide lifts all boats…& hastened pace of evolution. At least it did in the Cambrian.
Trapped in a fiction. DNA doesn’t endure enough in amber to hope for Jurassic Park.
Mammoth undertaking. Genetic clues to iconic pachyderm extinction. Pallab Ghosh expertly relates the latest evidence that it may not have been humans responsible for mammoths’ demise.
Beautiful botanicals – wonders of the photosynthesising world – that is, mainly plants
Lichen it. Remarkable symbiosis.
Rise of the mutants. Crop scientists fight rust disease with new mutations.
Questions in store. Surprising links between plant carbon storage, herbivores & carnivores. Interesting discovery reported by Arielle Duhaime-Ross.
Explosive beauty. Flowers, liquid nitrogen, & a bullet blast do art make. Joseph Stromberg beautiful handles a fragile subject.
Microscopic marvels – smaller than the eye can see, but big in action – bacteria, fungi and viruses
Inside scoop. The variation in microbes that reside in our guts.
Painful discovery. Microbe menace succeeds by stimulating pain receptors.
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)
Out of this world? Might comets colliding have generated amino acids to build life?
A pain in the glass. Michael Balter describes how the molecule behind “corked” wine plugs up your sense of smell.
Whole other dimension. 3D structure of HIV conspirator could shape better anti-HIV drugs.
Earth, wind and fire – planet shaping – geology, meteorology, oceanography, the environment & climate
That’s how it swings. Earth’s rotation beautifully captured by Foucault’s pendulum. Beautiful post by Matthew Francis.
Star attractions – the final frontier, space
We’ve been dwarfed! Dwarf galaxy took a swing though ours.
They get a round. Some extrasolar system planets have surprising origins.
A flock of seagulls? Actually, a flock of stars. In the belly of The Whale. Gorgeous.
Dead or alive? The dead comet that wasn’t.
Stupendous storm. A tempest on Saturn.
Out of this world. Might “ruins” of alien civilisations be seen in space? Could we see alien “astroengineering”. Intriguing hypothesis raised by Paul Gilster.
Forces of nature – big-ticket items – cosmology, mathematics, computation, chemistry, physics, ecology & evolution
“For all physicists know, dragons could have come flying out of the singularity.” Zeeya Merali explores the likelihood that a 4D star’s collapse into a black hole spawned our universe. Fascinating. Read of the week.
“Caught in the landscape, Out of touch with reality.” Bohemian Gravity. Genius. Must view, a capella, physics-meets-Queen masterpiece by Timothy Blaise. View of the week.
Borne out of chaos. How chaos theory went from obscurity 50 years ago to changing everything. Brilliant piece by Tom Siegfried.
Shaping up. Might amplituhedron geometry give us a better angle on quantum physics? Interesting hypothesis reported by Nathalie Walchover.
A trick of the light. Taking inspiration from photosynthesis to make fuel from sunshine. Annalee Newitz’s first piece in The New Yorker is as awesomely illuminating as the rest of her work.
Turning over a new leaf. Silicon crafted into paper for bendy electronics.
Shocking discovery. Alok Jha describes how Maxwell's electromagnetic equations have powered the planet.
Resistance is futile? Evolution shows that the path of least resistance is the path to innovation.
Matters of mind – how we, and other animals, perceive our world and our place in it
Minding the mind. Animated history of brain science. Excellent video by Asa Lucander.
Sweet dreams are made of this. Dreaming doesn’t require imagination.
Some nerve. Jennifer Anniston likely resides somewhere in your brain. In a neuron. Jennifer Ouellette helps understand where celebrities really live.
Behind the scenes – the workings of the museum – discovery and communication
No alternatives? For STEM careers, we need to redefine “alternative”. Sci Curious is spot on here.
Marvellous mutualism. Heather Doran makes the compelling case that public engagement benefits academics & their audience.
Who gives a tweet? Undergrads. In field courses. Because communication. A superb example of science communication by Chris Buddle.
An eye for awesome. Super interview of phenomenal nature photographer Nicky Bay, by Becky Crew.