Morsels for the mind – 26/4/2013

26 April 2013 by Malcolm Campbell, posted in Malcolm's linkfest

As we remind you every week, just as it’s important to nourish your body, you’ve got to make sure to nourish your mind. Every day, #SixIncredibleThingsBeforeBreakfast are served up as a delectable assortment of “amuse-bouche” for your brain.

Here we’ve collated some of the tastiest morsels from the past week, creating 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!


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

Thieves like us? Do dogs know when they are stealing?

In 1903 a lynx roamed the UK. Yes really.

They speak with forked teeth. Well, maybe not speak, but these seals eat with them – surprisingly for small prey, not big things.

Getting’ mighty crowded. And when it is, squirrels give birth to fast growing pups.

Making sense of scents. The amazing canine nose.

Sex is killing koalas. Literally. Sexually transmitted diseases really taking their toll.

Birds and bats both wing it. Here’s how they do it.

When times got frigid, salmon retreated to refugia. That’s right, even ocean species had refugia during the ice age.

When fish gesture “hi”, when their prey swims on by, that’s a moray! Groupers gesture to moray eels to team up to catch prey.

Far out! Man-of-war jellyfish are psychedelic, man.


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

Catch a buzz by watching bees in slow motion, or how they see the invisible.

Moths keep everything in one place. When they hover. We now know how they do it.

Ants are content with a mid-life career switch.

Here’s the drill. Wasps are able to bore into wood to lay eggs. Because they have a metal-tipped ovipositor!

Female picture-winged flies have sex for dinner. Literally. They eat sperm and folks aren’t sure why.


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

Not just the lungs of the Earth, but the sprinklers of the earth. Plants give us water.


Fossil finds – organisms of times past – dinosaurs and beyond

When fuzzy logic is logic about being fuzzy. The case for fine feathered sauropods.

A sorted tail? Nope, dinosaurs got into their crouch position due to larger forearms, not shorter tails.

Who had the more terrifying claws, Megaraptor or Saurophaganax? You decide.

For the four-winged microraptor, sashimi was on the menu. Here’s the inside scoop.

Dinosaurs got the drift. At least they did when they were on continents that were drifting apart. It changed the course of their evolution.

Ah, the impact of shrinkage. Due to island dwarfism, Homo erectus may have been shrunk on the evolutionary path to Homo floresiensis.


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

Viruses have a high batting average. Bats are a huge reservoir for them.

Have you herd? If we want to maintain herd immunity, we all must keep up on our vaccinations!

Here’s an interesting story, warts and all. Actually, it’s about how meat handlers get so many warts.

Salt of the earth. Some microbes, halophiles, absolutely love it. Their evolution is remarkable.

It’s no wimp. H7N9 warrants concern. And it’s on the move.


Molecular machinery – the toils of the macromolecules of life – nucleic acids and proteins (and others)

Sometimes research delivers you a hot, steamy pile of data. Especially when it is the crystal structure of myoglobin.

It was the 60th anniversary of the publication of the structure of DNA this week. Much was written. The best was this. (Although this was a tasty second)


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

The Earth really stirs it up. That is, it recycles its crust.

Feel the earth move under your feet? It may have been caused by a hurricane. They can create earthquake aftershocks.

When they come down to Earth, asteroids can create groovy impact marks.


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

Good morning sunshine! Three years of solar activity captured in three minutes.

Curiosity’s trip to Mars says as much about us and our planet as it does the red one. Amazing.

Everything is just right. Some exoplanets found in the “Goldilocks zone” around their respective suns. Some may harbour water. It’s like a home away from homeAwesome.

Around they go. An animated tally of exoplanets. So cool.

My corona! Exciting times when a coronal mass ejection reaches Earth.

It’s a celestial smash! When galaxies collide.

The Horsehead Nebula was always amazing. Now it is even more so. In fact, everything that the Hubble sees is just gorgeous.

It’s got flare! The blazar gives a blast of gamma rays.


Forces of nature – big ticket items – cosmology, ecology, evolution, physics, chemistry

When positive goes negative. How do we deal with a shrinking proton?

Dance, dance revolution.  The tiny dance of molecules has been captured by ultra slow motion.

Looking as good as it sounds. Acoustic signals visualised, from animals to instruments. So cool.

Small is beautiful, but nano is even more so.


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

Playtime is exploration time. It makes us great.

If ever you need to build a brain from scratch, here’s how you might want to start.

You mental lost and found. How your brain finds stuff.

Weight a minute. Pulling all-nighters will make you substitute calories for sleep. That explains much!

While you were sleeping. People were decoding your dreams. Here’s how.


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

“Speak plainly, play loose, make things move.” Great science writing advice. Lots of other great science writers provided their amazing perspectives here, here, and here.

Science communication has an image problem.

This week, two hot science stories from last week were beautifully critiqued. First was the supernova signature in microbe fossils. The second was electron microscopy of living organisms. The power of science communication in action.

The old name game. Might there be an advantage to women just using their initials to publish? There may be.

Looking for the teacher’s pet? Try insects. They are a great way to communicate science to kids.

What goes around. The circle of life. A wonderful tribute to a grandfather.

The best piece of science communication last week was, hands down, the wringing out of a wet cloth in space.


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