Morsels For The Mind – 25/10/2013

26 October 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

No pain, all gain. Mice eat scorpions, using venom as painkiller. A fascinating find, expertly explained by Ed Yong.

Mighty mouse. Scorpion venom is a painkiller for this critter. Cool find, nicely described by Mo Constandi.

Bring it on! Venom?! No problem for the scorpion-eating mouse. Sarah Zhang’s take on this awesome story.

Heads up! Demon mole rats warn off others by noggin knocks.Mary Bates on an interesting behaviour.

Purr-fect vision. What cats see.  Cool insights by Nadia Drake.

Makes good scents. Animal pheromone communication.

Minding pees and Qs. Looking for answers in how dogs urinate. Fun science! Join in, with Julie Hecht.

Patchwork puppies. Microchimaerism in dogs. Amazing.

Doing what they otter. Kelp & sea otters work together to capture carbon.

Dogged by disease? Tigers appear to be falling prey to a canine-derived virus. This post by Jonathan Ball is a fantastic example of how to convey a potentially tough topic.

Not cool. Moose deaths may be climate causalities.

Off the clock. Hummingbirds struggle with matters of time.

Full of good cheer. Cheer pheasants.

Preying on their minds. Birds tricked by cuckoos’ predator mimicry.

Double trouble. Cuckoos mimic host’s predators, then lay eggs in nest.

Cleansing their palate? Surprising inclusion of fruit in the crocodile diet. Interesting discovery, reported by Jon Tennant.

Leap of faith. Frogs jump farther than thought. Just like Mark Twain said. Great piece by Helen Fields.

Sharks don’t get cancer? Er, think again. Super debunking by Christie Wilcox.

Matter of scales. Fish has piranha-proof armour.

Sound solution. Toadfish grunt to jam mating calls.

On shaky ground. Can oarfish really predict earthquakes? Um, not so much, as Craig McClain explains.

A big deal. Colossal squid - not as colossal as hyped. Giant squid, however…

Shellfish behaviour. A crustacean with venom.

What’s eating you? If you’re oceanic plastic pollution, a gooseneck barnacle, that’s what. Great to see Miriam Goldstein blogging on her research. Have been missing her great research blogging. Read of the week.

Weight for it… Jellyfish born in the microgravity of space have trouble on Earth. Cool story by Megan Garber.

Wild at heart. Amazing wildlife pics.


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

Homespun story. Why some pupae weave cocoons.

Navigational backup. Lost ants backtrack. Intriguing, by Felicity Muth.

Captivating critters. Cockroaches. Yes, cockroaches.

Scents sense. Where flies discern odour.

Well grounded. Ants’ wasp-like origins.

Constant companions. There are always spiders nearby. And that’s *not* a bad thing, Bug Girl perfectly explains.

Hairy experience. Tarantulas’ defensive hair-like daggers.

The silk road? Spiders often ride cars.

Aggravating argentine ant aggression. Brian Owens describes how a pesticide turns ants suicidally aggressive.


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

Big baby. Amazing infant hadrosaur. A wonderful fossil discovery, perfectly fleshed out by Dave Hone.

Forever young. The fossil of a one-year old hadrosaur, named Joe. Awesome take on a fantastic story, by Brian Switek.

Head of the class. High schooler finds awesome trumpet-headed dinosaur fossil. Wonderful story by Ed Yong.

Enigma rex. There are fascinating things we still don’t know about Tyrannosaurus rex. Brian Switek  digs right into this great topic.

Bends out of shape. Triassic turtles suffered decompression.

European union? Ancient DNA links indigenous Americans with Europe. Astounding story by Michael Balter. Read of the week.

What’s in a name? When it’s species names, a misleading understanding of human evolution. Great piece on new fossil find, by John Hawks.

Big baboons? Ancient Homo species may be more like other primates in their diversity.

Date night. How the age of fossils is found by geologic dating. Great explainer by Dan Peppe.


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

Money grows on trees? Well, sort of. Gold gets sponged up into leaves, as Rebecca Morelle explains.

Mined your business. Trees soak up gold from soil, storing it in leaves.

Rooting out treasure. Gold stored in plant leaves points to a motherlode below.

Gold leaf. Trees soak up precious element. Valuable discovery, reported by Charles Choi.

Making scents of sex. Single sex flowers differ by odour.

Pretty parasite. A plant that feeds on others.

Kings of the jungle. Amazon 'ruled' by 227 tree species.

A pain in the ash. Emerald ash borer continues its devastating course.


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

Beyond words? Researchers censor deadly botulism discovery. A good thing? Helen Branswell delves into a tough topic, brilliantly as usual.

Mother tongue? Ethnicity determines species of bacteria that live in the mouth. Another fascinating find, conveyed by Joseph Stromberg.

Pass it on. Herpes mutations show the tracks of human migrations. Fascinating.

Glows with the grow. Fluorescence tracks infection.

Inside track. Mathematical model tests Trojan Horse approach to combat disease. A great first blog post by Martin Angler.


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)

Nothing to sniff at. Might allergies have evolved as a life saver? Superb exploration of a novel hypothesis related to the evolution of the immune system by Christie Wilcox. Read of the week.

Facing facts. How genes make a face. Sci Curious does her usual wonderful job of explaining what might otherwise be a complicated topic.

Shaping up. Regulatory regions of genome sculpt face shape. Great story by Alok Jha.

Code warriors. Busting & rewriting the genetic code. Carl Zimmer tracks the history right to the cutting edge.

A wrinkle in time. Ian Sample expertly describes a DNA “clock” keeps tabs on cellular ageing.

Matter of time. Our internal, chemical clock.

Leaping limited. Jumping DNA more locked down in humans vs chimps.

Outside advantage. Genes outside nucleus pack a punch. Fascinating find in plants, nicely explained by Ker Than.

“Data from a genome can be overwhelming, ambiguous, confusing, & upsetting all at once.” From a thoughtful piece by Carl Zimmer on sequencing babies’ genomes.

Count on it. The number of cells in your body.

Heat of the moment. Awesome thermal imaging.

Hair, there & everywhere? 3D cultures of follicles offer promise for treating baldness, as described by Sarah Williams.

The great cover up. Brian Owens explains how baldness may be beat by cultured follicles.

Bad addition. Extra gene equals manic mice. Amanda Mascarelli explains this important find.

It’s not easy being green? It is…if you’re snot. Ben Bleasdale explains.

A weighty matter. Dire consequences & global cost of lead poisoning. As usual, Deborah Blum brings her poison expertise to perfectly examine important issues without slipping into hyperbole.


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

Our dirty past. History written in lines in the earth. The lessons of geology, shared by Veronique Greenwood.

A great comeback. The reforestation of a volcano’s slopes.


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

A long, long time ago, a galaxy far, far away. Matthew Francis beautiful describes the astronomy discovery of the week.

It’s full of stars! Ian Sample describes how the oldest, most distant galaxy ever discovered was prolific star factory.

Out of a fog. Light from farthest galaxy yet discovered emerges from cosmic gas cloud.

Illuminating discovery.  Light from galaxy just 700M years after Big Bang. Francie Diep sheds light on this astonishing find.

Far out! Galaxy z8_GND_5296 is about 30bn light years from Earth. Amazing story by Rebecca Morelle.

It’s not easy being green. For the biggest star in the universe, it tears them apart.

Seven up! Citizen science finds a 7-planet system. Cool.

Making waves. Stars in our galaxy are riding a ripple that’s like a fluttering flag. Fascinating, by Michael Slezak.

Crowd control. Using crowdsourcing to find solutions against asteroid impact. Some interesting thinking out there, shared by Corey Powell.

Endless forms most beautiful. Biology? No, Saturn. Awesome.

Mercury rising. Planet holds clues to lunar surface.

Pole position. Amazing perspective on Titan’s polar lakes.

Will they be nasty little green men? Our here again, gone gain fascination with Martians.

Going to great lengths. This guy walked >8000 km in Antarctica. For astrophysics. Amazing story by Peter Rejcek.


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

What is the "hypothesis of last resort"? Life. The focus of an amazing paper by Carl Sagan.

“Evolution doesn’t tinker & tweak…but settles for whatever will get the job done.” Excellent piece on evolution by Sedeer el-Showk.

Knotty by nature. Tying light into tangles. Amazing images shared by Clara Moskowitz.

Lighting the dark. Matter heads into a black hole.

Phew. The universe still seems to be following physical laws as described by Einstein.

Would have made chemistry a *lot* easier: Astronomer’s take on periodic table. Wonderful illustration by Anna Frebel.


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

The capacity for creating meaning around kinship unites us with other animals rather than separating us from them.” Barbara King, from brilliant piece on bonds of kinship between animals. Must read. Read of the week.

Minding the mind. Astonishing science of decoding brain activity. Awesome feature article by Kerri Smith. Read of the week.

Coming in from the code. Algorithm approach to decoding the brain. Genius subject, genius writing by Virginia Hughes. Read of the week.

Very catchy. Contagious yawning within & between species. Jason Goldman always writes wonderfully on the topic of animal behaviour, and this piece is no exception. Fantastic. Read of the week.

Emotional rescue. Why we should care that other animals have emotions? Excellent, thoughtful piece by Amar Toor.

Must be dreaming. Our brain is wired to daydream.

It all adds up. Babies’ number sense equals later maths ability.

The eyes have it. Kids’ maths skills may be seen in their gaze when they’re babies, as Rachel Nuwer describes.

Buy the numbers? Is it possible to do ethics by algorithm? Thought-provoking possibilities by Martin Angler.

No catch up? Workweek sleep loss can’t be fixed by weekend snoozing. Elizabeth Preston presents data that warrants future testing.

Puppy love? Do children prefer dogs & cats that have baby-faces?


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

All the right words. Chris Buddle writes eloquently about the disheartening revelations of abuse & sexual harassment. Read of the week.

This. “End harassment.” Excellent, important editorial in Nature, relevant to everyone, not just scientists. Read of the week.

“No other democratic nation has picked up this kind of muzzling practice.” Excellent critique by Jessa Gamble of a government’s silencing of its scientists.

Pet project. Inspired by pet monkey, a single mom, with no research experience, goes to the Amazon, and transforms primatology. Amazing interview of Patricia Wright by Barbara King.

All together now! Getting science done by crowdsourcing. Great list of projects.

Mind the gap? Blogs fill key niche not covered by traditional science journalism. Superb by Paige Brown.

No news but good news. Strong science that didn’t get reported in lay press. Interesting by Eva Amsen.

When awesome collides. George Dvorsky’s selections of amazing album covers rooted in science.

Joe in the know. Ask Joe Hanson stuff. He answers. Beautifully. Great fun. View of the week.


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