Morsels For The Mind – 22/11/2013

23 November 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 of the week”.


Feather, fur & fin – birds, beasts, fishes, and the things they do

Everyone should recognise & embrace a shared animality across species’ lines.” Quote by Gavin van Horn, from amazing piece on relationship between human & non-human animals. Read of the week.

Facing facts. Face pigments reveal monkey social order & environment.

Awesome collides. Primate rescue charity supported by great comic: Panels For Primates.

Dr. Googlittle? What are folks at Google X doing with dolphin communication? Alexis Madrigal investigated, and his speculation is intriguing.

Getting it together. Fascinating research on dog cooperation. Brilliant post by Companion Animal Psychology. Read of the week.

A sophisticated comic book about a crime-solving dog that loves pizza.” Excellent integration of dog behaviour into superhero comic, nicely reported by Oliver Sava.

Trash talk. Were earliest domestic canines truly junkyard dogs? Jason Goldman
's excellent examination of a hypothesis that attempts to explain domestic dog origins.

Puppy love? If you love your dog, will it love you back? Cool research, beautifully explained by Jason Goldman.

It’s a man eat dog world? Why is that possibility infuriating? Thought provoking piece by Rebecca Onion.

Getting a good reputation. Dogs watch people’s reactions to identify the good guys.

The daily struggle of homeless people & their dogs. Superb, incredibly touching film by John Domokos.
 Reminder to self: help out.

The dogs (and dolphins, elephants, pigeons, glow worms) of war. Interesting insights by Emma Roller.

Win some, lose some. Sons of promiscuous mice more attractive, but live shorter.

Hurtful past. Evolution of echidna & platypus venom.

Wolves, & berries, & bears, oh my. Amazing trophic cascade.  Astonishing photo. Becky Bach shares.

Don’t fence me in? Dividing lions creates dividing lines for conservationists.

Have you herd? Robot rounds up cows. Corgis not pleased.

Deer me! Students set up beautiful hypothesis test of deer behaviour. Awesome! Great research blogging by students from McGill University.

Let’s band together. The wonders of hummingbird banding. Awesome post on a great experience, by Bug Girl.

In it for the long haul. How do albatrosses fly so far? Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato reveals.

Flight of fancy. Gannet-cam captures avian perspective. Warning: may induce motion sickness.

Life of hard knocks. Excavations by pileated woodpeckers. Super research blogging by students from McGill University.

Living for the city. Nice ode to urban wildlife, by Barbara Frei.

A taste for life. Why snakes flick their tongues.

Terrifically tentacled. A surprising snake. Joseph Jameson-Gould does a great job of finding the most marvelous creatures.

Modern life is rubbish. And lantern fish are eating it. They are consuming 100s of thousands of tons of plastic. Gwynn Guildford on a where our trash ends up.

Menu for success? Want to stop invasive carp? Catch ‘em & eat ‘em, says Jackson Landers.

Texting trips trapped troubles. Fishermen send text to get help to save trapped whale shark. Mary Bates reports on a surprising story.

A small matter. Anglerfish males’ minimalist sex. Matt Simon continues his exploration of curious critters.

Unbelievable undulations. Knifefish swim amazingly.

Wonderful waves. Undulations of octopus ballet. Great story by Helen Shen.

Strokes of genius. When octopuses swim, they have all the right moves. As usual, Katherine Harmon Courage
has the most spectacular cephalopod science.

This is just freaky. Elusive, big-fin squid, Magnapinna. Craig McClain brings on the weird and wonderful.

Their shellfish behaviour. Sea snails switch up their sexes. Fascinating stuff, by John Platt.

Obscure alternatives? Chloroplast-bearing sea slugs have no problems with darkness. Hmm.

Green machines? Sea slugs have chloroplasts, but their use is unclear. Fascinating piece by Ed Yong, on the nature of nature, and the nature of science, with great comments that follow the piece by the scientist who did the work.

Feeding, fearing, fighting, friending. A ragworm’s life. Bec Crew on the groovy creatures beat.

A bright spot. Tube worm lightens up.  Andy Coghlan illuminates this subject.

Clamming up. Mollusc not revealing the secret to living >500 years!   Remarkable find, reported by Colin Lecher.

Rule of thumb: Tiny animals perched on fingers are awesome.

Hard to swallow? Moose-eating shark rescued by fishermen. A welcome return to regular news in Canada.

Ah, that time of year when all Canadians sit down & crochet winter-wear for wildlife. Here, tea cosies for tortoises.

Astonishing animals. Gorgeous. You really must check out the work of Ross Piper. Astonishing. View of the week.


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

The possibility of insect sentience is rather more scientifically complicated than one might expect.” Quote from phenomenal piece by Brandon Keim in Aeon Magazine on our understanding of insect behaviour. Read of the week.

Curious crustacean. Wonderful woodlouse. Nash Turley on an interesting backyard find.

Tricksy antics. These critters are not ants. Amazing entomology, as usual, by Alex Wild.

Hang on. Fungus-farming ant makes hanging gardens. Cool insects, brought to you by Alex Wild.

Winging it. Alphabet & numerals on butterfly wings.

Chew on this. Ants do, when it’s protein-rich liquid. Terry McGlynn
shares some cool research done with students at his university. A great example of super research blogging.

Decisions, decisions. How bees multitask. Mary Bates continues her great descriptions of amazing animal behaviour.

Lend me your ear. Locusts have novel hearing apparatus, reports Katia Moskvitch.

Piecing it all together. Super post on the best research on segmented critters, by Chris Buddle.

Inside job. Amazing-eyed insects have complex life within host insects. Yow! Chris Buddle brings on the funky bugs.

Inside scoop. Nasty parasitoids. “Nature is so much worse than science fiction.” Another great piece by Chris Buddle.

Crude living. There’s a bug that lives in raw oil - Helaeomyia petrolei. Fuel for thought, heard through Chris Buddle.

Death of a monarch. The plants we grow are creating food deserts for iconic butterfly. Jim Robbins reports on the dire situation.

Third time lucky? Actually, scrubbing thrice does rid of lice. Because science. Patricia Waldron on the bane of parents of school-age kids everywhere.

Fuzzy wuzzy was a…bug?! Troll-haired arthropod, courtesy of Liz Langley.

Picture this. Graphic label for insect repellents useful, but unfortunately, voluntary. Bug Girl reports on an important topic for consumers, and insects.


Fossil finds – organisms of times past – palaeontology, archaeology, anthropology, history and the like

Heavy breathers. Amber suggests oxygen in dinosaur times lower than thought.

Winging it. Microraptor takes flight. Darren Naish does some excellent research blogging here. Great stuff.

Truly tremendous. A tyrant that predates T. rex. Biz Carson describes a frightening fossil find.

Prominent predator. Newly-named dinosaur, Siats, terrorised prey millions of yrs before T. rex. Brian Switek fleshes out a great fossil story.

Fantastic filaments. On a dinosaur’s tail.  Dave Hone reports on a fabulous fossil find.

You know the drill. If you don’t you should. Drilling, literally, into Triassic. Brian Switek bores into a cool story.

Whale of a tale. Early cetacean evolution. Brilliant research blogging, by Travis Park.

Single digit solution. A 3,000-year-old prosthetic toe. Yes, really. Megan Garber reports.

Deep thoughts. Put down what you’re doing & check out John Hawks & Andrew Howley as they share awesome anthropology from a cave. Speaking of which:

The hole picture. Superb open science, from a cave dig. *This*, folks, is science communication. Simply fantastic, by John Hawks.

West meets east. Native North Americans have western Eurasian roots. Ed Yong reports on a fascinating, if not astonishing, find.

Time travellers. Ancient retroviruses shared with Neanderthals. Colin Barras on interesting genome find.

Love connection. Apparently, some hominids were highly charismatic megafauna. Denisovans mated with, like, everyone – modern human, Neanderthals, and a mystery group. Great reporting by Ewen Callaway.


Beautiful botanicals – wonders of the photosynthesising world – that is, mainly plants

Fuzzy wuzzy was a…plant? Furry flora, brought to you by Liz Langley, clearly on the “fuzzy things” beat this week!

Getting it together. Microbes shape plant symbiosis. Great piece by Sarah Shailes.

Open & shut case. How plants close the doors to disease. Great story by S.E. Gould.

Turning over a new leaf. Material sheds liquid like lotus leaves do. Fascinating discovery, nicely reported by Lizzie Gibney.


Microscopic marvels – smaller than the eye can see, but big in action – bacteria, fungi and viruses

“Nothing worked. He was thirty when he died.” History informs the future when antibiotics stop working. This Maryn McKenna piece on a “Post-Antibiotics Future” is a brilliant, if sobering, must read. Read of the week.

Heads up. Stunning connection between HPV, sexual activity & neck cancer. Amazing feature by Megan Scudellari. Read of the week.

Bacterial benefactors. Three anti-cancer drugs don’t work without our gut microbes. Outstanding piece. Complex, important science, masterfully explained by Ed Yong. Read of the week.

Spread, the word. The prospect of a global pandemic & how to prevent it. Excellent feature by Alok Jha.

Mammoth undertaking. Microbes nab mammoth (& other species’) DNA. Ed Yong on the role that microbes play in capturing genetic information – from everything.

Chilling out. Bacteria make ice. Kate Gammon on a cool subject.

Nothing to sniff at. The incredible quest to bring flu to an end. Great feature by Carl Zimmer.

The hole story. Value of fungal “pores”. Jennifer Frazer does a superb job reporting on some amazing cell biology.

Worlds away? Not exactly, but robust bacteria found only in spacecraft clean rooms, 4000 km apart! by Clara Moskowitz.

Phenomenal fungi. Of the tooth & coral varieties.

Head cheese is so last century. Now there’s toe cheese. Yes, really. Rachel Nuwer on cheeses made using bacteria from “novel” sources.

Novel discovery. Library copies of Fifty Shades of Grey have traces of herpes & cocaine. Filthy, inside and out.


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)

You’ve got male. It takes just two genes to make guy mice. Don’t ask Y. Astonishing science, perfectly conveyed by Erika Check Hayden.

Pondering Y. It takes only 2 Y-chromosome genes for mice to father offspring. Amazing find. Expertly, succinctly reported by Jef Akst.

Risky business. Genetic variants of APOE gene can either increase risk or protect from Alzheimer’s. Excellent reporting Sci Curious on a nifty set of experiments.

X marks the spot? No longer. Electron diffraction may displace X-rays for protein analyses. Cool story by Stephen Curry.

Little hold up. Amazing bacterial scaffold protein. Daniel Cossins provides a great explainer.

Making sense of scents. Detecting cancer by odour. Vero Greenwood’s excellent reporting is nothing to sniff at.

It all stems from this. Relationship between metabolism & stem cell differentiation. Jalees Rehman does some nice research blogging on an interesting link.

Heated discussion. Mice at room temperature are stressed; producing skewed findings. Heidi Ledford on a hot topic.

The big chill. Cool temperatures enable cancer proliferation (in mouse). Stephanie Swift on a cool discovery.


Earth, wind and fire – planet shaping – geology, meteorology, oceanography, the environment & climate

Rolling right along. Rare “roll cloud”. Amazing.

When a tree falls in a forest, will any one hear?  Perhaps not, but Landsat will see. Interesting update on the latest in satellite imaging, by Frontier Scientists.

Whole lotta shakin’ going on. Antarctic volcano increases its activity. Peter Rejcek reports.

Colour my world. Earth’s gorgeous hues. As usual, Megan Gambino shares beautiful things at the intersection of science and art.

A ring to it. Coralline algae show climate change through rings. Becky Oskin 


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

Gamma gamma hey! A gamma ray blast from the past, reported by Rebecca Morelle.

Blast from the past. Gamma ray burst from 3.7B years ago was a “monster”.

It’s a gas. Sloshing about a galactic cauldron.

Sagittarian splendour. A jet from our black hole.

Lord of the rings. Exploring an amazing photo of Saturn. Great stuff shared by Phil Plait.

Dust in the wind. The solar wind. It travels with Venus. Alok Jha on the tinier bits of our solar system.

Look! Up in the sky! Comet ISON puts on a beautiful show. Nancy Atkinson 
shares the images. Speaking of which:

Spectacular streaks. Comets ISON & Lovejoy. Nancy Atkinson shares great pics.

Purple haze. Was Hendrix singing about signs of life on other planets? Marcus Woo on tell-tale signs of extraterrestrial life.


Forces of nature – big-ticket items – cosmology, mathematics, computation, chemistry, physics, ecology & evolution

Roadside attraction. A rainbow in the gutter, and the timeless story it tells.

So spaced out. Our expanding universe, wonderfully explained by Matthew Francis.

A recipe for success? Using math, chemistry, & big data to derive new recipes. As usual, Aatish Bhatia is a purveyor of the fascinating stuff at the intersection of mathematics and life.

1000 monkeys hammering on typewriters? Nope, better. Lego in washing machine. Something from nothing, by Colin Lecher.

Bigger is better? The LHC is so 2012. It’s time for the VERY large hadron collider. Eugenie Samuel Reich reports on the case being made.

Where’s Waldo? Statistics shortens searches. And spoils hours of fun. Ben Blatt crunches the numbers on the stripy man.

Darwin isn’t among the machines just yet, but he is certainly inside the machines.” Quote from excellent piece by Christoph Adami on the history of cellular automata & digital evolution.


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

I don’t know many dog owners who haven’t formed some kind of family relationship with their dog.” Quote from an incredibly moving piece by Virginia Hughes on the death of a dog, grief, & solace. 
Read of the week.

You must remember this. Folks with super memory still prone to misinformation. Ed Yong shares some unforgettable research.

Less colourful characters? Some folks grow out of synaesthesia. As usual, Elizabeth Preston does an exceptional job of explaining a fascinating find.

Things not shaping up. Brain anatomy studies yield no clues on autism. Virginia Hughes reports.

Altogether now. Human crowdsourcing & computers merge to create “The Social Machine”. Intriguing piece by David De Roure

Because & effects. Meet the latest preposition, because internet, because grammar. Megan Garber and Stan Carey get at the root ‘causes.

Up in the air. Luftballonweitflugwettbewerb is awesome word; not so great concept. Superb dissection of both by Alex Brown.

Write on! There’s great value in learning cursive handwriting. Thought provoking piece by Shannon Bohle.

In the running. Runners sharing their thoughts. This stunning short film, by Matan Rochlitz & Ivo Gormley, on peoples’ candid reflections while running, is phenomenal. Why? Because these are exactly the sorts of Qs that run through your mind on long runs. “Why am I doing this?” “What am I doing with my life?” “Who are the people I really care about?” Running alone creates a huge canvas to paint the answers to these questions. This film captures it perfectly. View of the week.


Behind the scenes – the workings of the museum – discovery and communication

Quest for truthiness. How non-scientists should interpret scientific claims. Perfection. Read of the week.

As much as I miss him, I am very thankful for the time that I had with him.” Quote from a devastatingly poignant post by Pete Etchells on how his dad shaped a scientist. Must read. Read of the week.

A passion for life. Fred Sanger transformed how we understand life. Won the Nobel prize for chemistry. Twice. He passed away this week. Love that the Guardian ran tribute pieces by Alok Jha and the late Pearce Wright. The level of respect and attention that Sanger more than earned.

Science [remixed]. Great piece on “remixing” science for the better, by Paige Brown.

What is this “community” of which you speak? An excellent look at folks involved in science communications, by Matt Shipman.

Moving experience. The “two body problem” & relocating for an academic position. Superb, important piece by Katie Mack.

A nested development. A critical look at emergence & future of epidemiology, by Tania Browne.

The over-sexifying of aspects of palaeontology is hurtful for our community.” Quote from thought-provoking piece by Jon Tennant on communication of palaeontology.

To blog or not to blog? The value of blogging & microblogging for academics. Yes! Athene Donald makes a great case.

Getting to know ewe. Transformative impact of Twitter on a shepherd. Superb reflection by Herdy Shepherd.

Making connections. Check out Lou Woodley’s new blog, Social in silico, musing on intersection of people, science & technology. Super!

Oh Canada! Be sure to check out the new Canadian science blog aggregator, Science Borealis. Beyond back bacon, Canada also home to some fine science blogging.

Out standing in their field. Upgrades to scientific field stations are game changers. Excellent feature by Roberta Kwok.

An hour of awesome. This week’s Breaking Bio is with David Quammen. Great interview by Morgan Jackson & Breaking Bio crew.

Something to Bragg about. Amazing family contribution to science. Great video, directed by Thom Hoffman and featuring Stephen Curry.

An asymmetry that doesn’t really need to exist.”  On the art-science “divide”. Ian McEwan & Nima Arkani-Hamed.  To whit…

Magnificent merger! Beastie Boys & Rube Goldberg fused to foster girls’ interest in engineering.

Why pay to go to the movies when there’s this? Aeon films. The people who brought you super science reflections in superb long essays, now bring you great film.

Toying with your mind. When dinosaur figurines wreak havoc. Helping kids remember the whimsical during the internet age. Fantastic! Must view by Refe Tuma. View of the week.


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