Morsels For The Mind – 23/05/2014

24 May 2014 by Malcolm Campbell, posted in Malcolm's linkfest, Science

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

He wanted to make a connection. I think that was his thing.” Quote from a remarkable read by Charles Siebert on a captive whale who tried to speak human. Wow. Read/listen of the week.

"A precious opportunity to study an exquisitely evolved animal." A whale corpse's value. Quote by Kate Allen from a wonderful piece on her experience with a decomposing whale. Read of the week.

A matter of taste. Salt’s the only flavour whales detect. Nsikan Akpan describes a remarkable find.

Running wild. Even wild animals seem to enjoy running on exercise wheels. GrrlScientist looks at the remarkable evidence. Super read. Read of the week.

Out in the wheel world. Even wild critters will run on wheels. Fascinating discovery, nicely explained by Emily Underwood.

Homeward bound. Stephen Moss looks at the remarkable homing skills of animals - from whales to snails.

The mane event. Lions. Beautiful photography by Halit Banda.

Where the wild things are. Wolves & bears meet to feast on whale carcass. Incredible get-together, shared by Jason Goldman.

California dreaming? Lone wolf heads west. Finds mate. Implications for conservation? Great story by Emma Marris. Read of the week.

Dogs of war. Remarkable stories of canines on battlefields, by Rebecca Frankel: Part 1 & Part 2.

On shaky ground? Do dogs & cats sense earthquakes in advance? Intriguing possibility. Zazie Todd looks at the latest evidence.

A pair of faded genes. Link between human & canine genes implicated in albinism, explained by Elizabeth Palermo.

Seaside shepherds. Might border collies reduce microbe infections at the beach? Matt McGrath on an interesting approach to public health.

Pangolin prey? Rare wild cat hunts.

Stars of the silver screen. How Hollywood created a herd of island-bound bison. Amazing story, beautifully told by Jason Goldman. Read of the week.

Seal of approval. Pinnipèdes - a wonderful animated short with elephant seals, by Victor Caire, shared by Lauren Davis.

Bizarre babirusa. Mary Bates takes a look at the tusked “deer-pig”.

Able semen. Pig oviduct senses sperm sex chromosome, as Anna Azvolinsky explains.

Udderly fantastic! The wonderful wonderment of cattle. Barbara King is looking at beautiful bovines in preparation for her next book.

Jacked up. Matt Simon explains how a viral infection created the jackalope.

Slothful actually pretty darn interesting. Susan Milius on things sloths do.

Down in the dumps. Latrine-dining sloths. Delightful comic by Ethan Kocak & Darren Naish, on an "interesting" observation.

Hi fliers. Flight seems to give lifespans a lift. Flying animals live long & prosper.

Flight of the flightless. Carl Zimmer on how kiwis got where they are.

The rise of the flightless. The surprising relationship between elephant birds & kiwis. Superb take by Ed Yong, on an interesting discovery based on genome sequencing.

Well grounded. Michael Slezak looks at the multiple origins of flightlessness in birds.

They winged it. Elizabeth Preston on the flying origin of flightless bird lineages.

Unseasoned travellers. Young penguins make long voyages, as Molly Michelson explains.

Colourful character. Rainbow kingfisher. Bec Crew continues her exploration of beautiful beasts.

No male delivery? Is climate shifting sea turtle sex ratios toward females? Is that bad? Jason Goldman has the answers.

Not cool. Warming climate will skew sea turtle sex ratios. Might warm-climate-induced, female-favoured sea turtle sex ratio be adaptive? Advantage in heat? Michael Safi considers a hot topic.

I'll be back. Snake thought gone, returns. Lauren Hitchings on a snake struck from scientific record, rediscovered.

Might be herring things? Fish communicate by flatulence, via Seriously, Science?

Booze cruise. Douglas Main finds that alcohol turns fish into followers.

Drunk drivers? Elizabeth Preston on how inebriated fish make sober fish swim faster.

Catch of the day. Jason Goldman considers the value of folk fishing traditions in marine conservation.

A whole other way of thinking. Carl Zimmer looks at the remarkable novelty of comb jelly nervous system. Read of the week.

Brain gain? Amy Maxmen on the convergent evolution of braininess. Great read. Read of the week.

Some nerve! Comb jelly genome reveals nervous system made like no other, as Ewen Callaway perfectly explains.

Where the sun doesn’t shine. Joseph Jameson-Gould looks into the sea cucumber’s anus.

Leave them the shell alone. Seashells should stay on the beach. They support life there, as Jason Goldman explains.

All that life in a "drop" of seawater? Well... Wonderful reality check by Miriam Goldstein.

Who's who? Telling critters apart. Great fun, brought to you by Eleanor Spicer Rice & Christine Fleming, via the great gang at Buzz Hoot Roar.

It’s a small world after all. Parasites’ hidden zoo. Australian Society for Parasitology has a great gallery here.


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

“We are all multifarious creatures.” Lovely essay on mixed-sexed individuals, gynandromorphs, by Ferris Jabr. Read of the week.

Stick to the path? Stick insects use parallel evolutionary routes. Elizabeth Pennisi describes an intriguing discovery.

Grave behaviour. Parasite makes host dig its own tomb. Ed Yong on the marvelously macabre.

Time to decide. Flies ponder longer over tough choices. Jonathan Webb explains how a tiny mind makes difficult decisions.

Mighty mites. Amazing critters. John Barrat looks at the latest findings on the small creatures.

Getting a leg up. Morgan Jackson on the wonders of stilt-legged flies.

Masterful mudslingers. Eric Eaton takes a look at spider wasps.

The gang’s all here. James Gorman & Natalie Angier look at social spiders

Lovely leaps. Chris Buddle takes as look at the attractive features of a beautiful jumping spider.

Getting a jump on life. Jumping spiders. Sean McCann showcases some attractive arachnids.

Colourful character. Monkey hopper. Gwen Pearson brings out the beauty in bugs.

Best in show? When tarantulas compete for attractiveness. Betsy Mason takes a look at an interesting competition.

Does that cloud look like a fly? No that cloud is made of flies! Gwen Pearson on a fly cloud seen by satellite!

Nature abhors a vacuum...but sometimes it's needed to study insects. Arctic biodiversity research, nicely described by Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists.

Strength in diversity. Matt Shipman finds that insect pests do more damage when urban plant diversity low.

Tick talk. Cameron Webb explains how to remove the little buggers.

Changing their minds. How bees switch food choice. Caroline Strang describes her excellent graduate research. Great research blogging.

Bad buzz. Uncritical, over-reporting of weak science doesn't help bees. Great case made by Lisa Beyer.

A handy solution? Is hand pollination really the way to cope with lack of bees? Gwen Pearson looks at an "unnatural" experiment from China. Excellent read.

Converting chirps to chips. Making taco chips from crickets. Yes, really. Jesse Hirsch looks at the latest in food.


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

What's the big deal? For much touted "biggest ever" dinosaurs, the proof is in the waiting. Brian Switek takes a good critical look.

Getting a leg up. Giant femur fossil suggests a huge dinosaur. But just how big? Dave Hone considers the possibilities.

Humongous herbivore. James Morgan describes the discovery of a spectacular sauropod.

Sad sauropod. Jon Tennant looks at a dinosaur lineage when it was on the way out.

Sole survivor? Sauropod lasted longer than mass extinction, as Jon Tennant explains.

Deeper understanding. Charles Choi looks into Jurassic deep sea fossils.

A big deal. Daniel Cressey describes some remarkable petrified sperm that was longer than its producer.

Heads up! Super story of a very special skull. Must listen (& download skull!). Brought to you by the wonderful folks at Radiolab Listen of the week.

Wild at heart? Palaeoamerican skull points to legacy of “wild type” humans. Fascinating story, by Annalee Newitz.


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

Springtime can dazzle the eye. But what's not seen can be equally dazzling. I wrote this

Look like pillows. Smell like pine. What are these alpine puzzles? Robert Krulwich provides the surprising answer.

Tall order. Nsikan Akpan explains how redwoods grow to such great heights.

Not showing their age. Of methuselah mice & timeless trees. Great read, by Alex Riley.

Phenomenal flora. Magnificent microscopy, by Eye of Science.

Beating the heat. How cacti do it. Cool look at some hot plants, by Sarah Shailes.

Don't meddle with the petal. John Platt on how folks are keeping a flower off the endangered species list.

Fairy circle solution No. 57. Rachel Nuwer considers this month's hypothesis to explain mystery rings.

Bringing back balanophagy. Is it time for acorns to make a reappearance in our meals? Dawn Starin looks at the case for the fruit of oak.


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

Magical mushrooms. Phenomenal fungi. Beautiful images by Steve Axford.

Vroom!!! Slime moulds race along a track for global supremacy. Heidi Ledford describes some double fun science.

Life on Mars?! Oh wait...we may have put it there. Jyoti Madhusoodanan looks at some microbial stowaways.

Deep trouble? Thinning Arctic ice impacts sea floor microbe community. Jeffrey Marlow on a troublesome change.

Pregnant pause. Caution needed when interpreting placenta microbes study. Super critique, by Jonathan Eisen.

Risky business? Could virus research create a pandemic, or are folks being alarmist? Ian Sample looks at the argument.


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)

Profound puzzles that warrant close study, rather than name-calling.” Great take on "junk" DNA by Philip Ball.

How things shape up. DNA's physical shape hold surprises, as George Dvorsky explains.

A defence with teeth. Shark-like features boost antibodies' disease-fighting capabilities, as Josh Fischman explains.

Tracks of the tears. When teardrop explodes. Beautiful images, by Rose-Lynn Fisher.


Forces of nature – big-ticket items – ecology, evolution & extinction

The great unknown. The amazing biodiversity we don't know. Brilliant talk by Rob Dunn. View of the week.

Out of harm's way? Did reproductive cells arise to avoid the dangers of "dirty work"? Sedeer el-Showk considers a recent paper that tests the hypothesis.

Living for the city. Leonard Dubkin & the wonder of nature in urban settings. Superb look at spring in the city, by Mike Bryson.

Wrong place, wrong time. Dan Kraus takes a look at the trouble with invasive species.

Family affairs. Might marrying your cousin be a good thing? Hmm. Tanya Lewis considers the evidence.

Instead of providing a Darwinian success story, Wade’s thesis deserves a quick extinction.” Quote by Eric Johnson from a smart, scholarly critique of a failed hypothesis. Read of the week.

Wading into error. The arbitrariness of Nicholas Wade's notion of race. Great critique, by Holly Dunsworth. Read of the week.

“Races can be distinguished genetically...” Um, no. Great critique of Wade's scientific façade, by Jennifer Raff. Read of the week.


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

It's a shore thing. Heather Pringle explains how pre-Columbians & the Spanish conquest shaped Peru's coast.

I know enough about the sea to know how pitifully little we know about it.” Quote from John Steinbeck's superb case to explore the seas. Great read, still relevant. Nice reminder courtesy of Rose Pastore.


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

Cementing relationships. Jacob Aron on how supernovae cement stuff together.

What lurks in the darkest shadows? Cosmic dust bunnies. Yes, really. Richard Webb explains.

A real bright spot. Ethan Siegel explores a galaxy with a shiny centre.

Fantastic fringe. Jacob Aron finds that our galaxy has flare.

Kepler 2.0 - busted eye-in-the-sky gets a spectacular second life, as Michael Wall explains.

A moving story. Rosetta gets a tail.

Figure of 8. Portrait of eighth planet, Neptune, by Phil Plait.

A spot of bother. A facial beauty mark & Jupiter's swirl - a contrast of "fairness". Nice tale of a personal and a planetary nature, by Robert Krulwich.

Though humanity’s origins are humble, our dreams are grand.” Search for extraterrestrial intelligence. In my early 20s, read Sagan's "Contact". Reading Nadia Drake recalls that same awestruck feeling...but nonfiction. Read of the week.

What the L? The most confounding variable in our search for extraterrestrials. Brilliant look at our efforts to find intelligence beyond our planet, by Nadia Drake. Read of the week.

Are we all extraterrestrials? Did life on Earth originate elsewhere? Panspermia considered, by Nadia Drake.

Look! Up in the sky! Birth of a meteor shower. Ethan Siegel considers the gestation of a celestial event.

Message in a bottle. Golden Record 2.0 will port a sample of human culture into the great beyond. Helen Thompson on how the record will be pulled together.

Spectacular sky. Amazing aurora. Must view video by Russell McLendon. View of the week.


Getting physical – physical sciences – cosmology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computing, engineering, and technology

"What you are getting a glimpse the scientific process in action.” Quote by Matt Strassler from a superb, balanced post on the gravitational wave dust up. Read of the week.

Cosmic curiosity. A mysterious fast radio wave burst. Where did it come from? Katie Mack considered the possibilities.

Living on the edge. Exploring the nature of a black hole’s boundary. Andrew Grant explains the latest evidence regarding the event horizon.

Where space comes in. Van Allen belt anomaly.

History should not be consulted selectively. There are different ways to solve scientific puzzles.” Quote by Tom Siegfried from a great read on the tricksy business of gravity.

Light at the end of the tunnel? Could photons actually time travel through a wormhole? Ian O'Neill on a startling new hypothesis.

Illuminating idea. Considering the inter conversion of light & matter. Balanced take by Akshat Rathi, here.

What's the matter? It's light. Physicists to apply E=mc² to make matter from light. Cool proposition, nicely explained by Ian Sample.

Probabilities, promise, & problems. Potential of quibit-based quantum computing. Brilliant research, brilliantly explained by Natalie Wolchover. Read of the week.

Better living through chemistry. Chemicals are everywhere. Fear them not, says Mark Lorch.

A library of leaves. Storing humanity's knowledge in a forest. Interesting, if fanciful proposition, nicely explained by Jordan Pearson.

Better, natured. Victoria Gill explains how nature is inspiring improved flying robots.

Living on burrowed time? Will long-distance space travel involve living in muddy burrows? Ian Sample considers the possibilities of space travel.

Aye, robots. Our take on robotics is out of step with reality. Fantastic, thought-provoking post, by Erik Sofge. Read of the week.

Oscillate wildly. A song by The Smiths. *And* the harmonic motion of the world. Lovely. Really love this post by Jon Butterworth. Super merger of science & life (& works with "Oscillate Wildly" as soundtrack). Read of the week.

Audio files. The changing nature of music recordings. Nice reflection, by Christopher Fox.

Phenomenal femur. Rhett Allain gets a leg up on Godzilla.


A dose of medicine – science in practice in a medical setting, and health-related stories

"Science is often too slow, and life too fast." “She had a genetic disease that stopped her development & with it, Walker suspected, the ageing process.” Quotes by Virginia Hughes from a masterful piece on 4 girls & a hypothesis to explain ageing. Must read. Read of the week.

Running to a different beat. How endurance training changes resting heartbeat. Cool discovery, beautifully explained by Bethany Brookshire.

Anyway the wind blows…does really matter for transmission of Kawasaki disease. Fascinating find, perfectly explained by Ed Yong.

Breezing from one place to another. Kawasaki disease seems to be a wind-borne toxin, explains Jennifer Frazer.

The downside to plant sex. Chris Corrigan considers the nature of hay fever.

The time of your life. Interesting infographic looks at what's going on with your body throughout day.

Hair of the dog? What science says about hangovers...and their cures. Adam Rogers brings heady science to the headache.

Grey territory? Does stress contribute to hair greying? Well… Eric Schulze considers the answers.

Healthy reporting? Health research in the news. Super interview with Virginia Hughes & Matt Shipman on CBC's The Current.


Matters of mind – how we, and other animals, perceive our world and our place in it – neuroscience, mental health, psychology, sociology & human interest stories

Losing touch? Does skin's sense of touch underpin autism? Fascinating hypothesis, beautifully explored by Virginia Hughes.

Life's a pain. Reduce its perception, mice live longer, as Virginia Hughes explains.

Twice as nice? The curious nature & potential advantages of a doppelgänger. Intriguing psychology, well considered by David Levine.

Teenage wasteland? Actually, teen years have much brain development, but it's enigmatic, as Sarah-JayneBlakemore explains.

Slipping through the net? Little known about how internet impacts teen brain. Brilliant review, by Kate Mills.

“Where was our joy?" A brave, personal view of postpartum depression. Excellent piece, by T. DeLene Beeland. Read of the week.

Where everything's cool. The stories our refrigerators tell. Fascinating project, by Krystal D'Costa.


Behind the scenes – the workings of life’s museum of natural history – discovery, communication, and education

Anything that inspires scientific thinking is valuable, and if a quest for beauty does that, then bring it on." Quote by Philip Ball from a wonderful musing on the truth (or not) of beautiful theories. Read of the week.

Don't believe everything you read. Eric Randall describes How Wikipedia turned a raccoon into an aardvark.

Cynically put, hope makes good copy. And hope presented as a non-nuanced morsel makes very good copy.” Quote by Kausik Datta from an excellent piece on the challenges of nuance in science communication.

Braking biology's bias. Feminist biology attempts to address the male bias in the discipline. Barbara Speed on the inroads being made.

Double X marks the spot. Addressing the male bias in biology research, by Francis Collins & Janine Clayton.

If I only knew then what I know now... Science that would've been useful 2 decades ago. Good picks by Sabine Hossenfelder.

Of Longitude & latitude. Should science prize be cut some slack? Great, balanced take, by Stephen Curry.

Picking "winners". The promise & challenges of philanthropic support of science. Excellent overview, by Maribel Morey.

Tricksy hobbitses. David Shiffman on handling internet trolls using the wisdom of Bilbo Baggins.

The stakes of mistakes. Excellent, critical look at an example of error in science, by Jalees Rehman.

"These are some things I need to confess..." Perfect checklist for Science Imposter Syndrome, by Adam Ruben.

Won't get fooled again? We need vigilant skepticism to curb persistent pseudoscience, says Michael Marshall.

By the numbers. History may be the domain of stories, but sometimes a numerical infographic is better. Robert Krulwich looks at one of the best info graphics ever.

“You ‘love’ science?” “I’m not sure you understand ‘love’ OR ‘science’…” Perfect, by Cyanide & Happiness. View of the week.

My favourite thing on twitter right now? Ship Tale - a wonderful foray into really short fiction by the incredibly creative Matt Shipman. Read of the week.

When awesome collides. Chris Hadfield covers Lou Reed's Satellite of Love. Listen of the week.


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