Morsels For The Mind – 23/05/2014
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.
Running wild. Even wild animals seem to enjoy running on exercise wheels. GrrlScientist looks at the remarkable evidence. Super read. Read of the week.
Homeward bound. Stephen Moss looks at the remarkable homing skills of animals - from whales to snails.
California dreaming? Lone wolf heads west. Finds mate. Implications for conservation? Great story by Emma Marris. Read of the week.
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.
Hi fliers. Flight seems to give lifespans a lift. Flying animals live long & prosper.
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.
Unseasoned travellers. Young penguins make long voyages, as Molly Michelson explains.
No male delivery? Is climate shifting sea turtle sex ratios toward females? Is that bad? Jason Goldman has the answers.
I'll be back. Snake thought gone, returns. Lauren Hitchings on a snake struck from scientific record, rediscovered.
Catch of the day. Jason Goldman considers the value of folk fishing traditions in marine conservation.
Some nerve! Comb jelly genome reveals nervous system made like no other, as Ewen Callaway perfectly explains.
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.
Strength in diversity. Matt Shipman finds that insect pests do more damage when urban plant diversity low.
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.
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.
A big deal. Daniel Cressey describes some remarkable petrified sperm that was longer than its producer.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
“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.
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
What lurks in the darkest shadows? Cosmic dust bunnies. Yes, really. Richard Webb explains.
A moving story. Rosetta gets a tail.
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.
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.
Getting physical – physical sciences – cosmology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computing, engineering, and technology
"What you are getting a glimpse of...is 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.
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.
A library of leaves. Storing humanity's knowledge in a forest. Interesting, if fanciful proposition, nicely explained by Jordan Pearson.
Living on burrowed time? Will long-distance space travel involve living in muddy burrows? Ian Sample considers the possibilities of space travel.
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.
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.
Anyway the wind blows…does really matter for transmission of Kawasaki disease. Fascinating find, perfectly explained by Ed Yong.
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.
Matters of mind – how we, and other animals, perceive our world and our place in it – neuroscience, mental health, psychology, sociology & human interest stories
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.