Morsels For The Mind – 27/06/2014

28 June 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

"When it comes to animals, we deal mostly in feelings: tenderness, or empathy, or fear, or awe..." Quote by Jon Mooallem from an amazing piece on our complex relationship with wildlife webcams. Read of the week.

"The central conundrum of the zoo is that..the very animals that attract crowds pay dearly for our affection." Quote by Laura Smith from an incredible piece about mental illness in zoo animals. Read of the week.

Captive cure? Should apes in captivity be used to test vaccines for those in wild? Victoria Gill considers possible answers.

About face. Monkey facial features thwart interbreeding, as Mary Bates explains.

Looking good, feeling awful. Some animals mask illness. It has important implications, as Jason Goldman explains.

Not so black & white. Origin of white rhino's name obscure, as this cliffhanger by Ethan Kocak & Darren Naish reveals.

Stepping it up. Female yaks prefer steeper slopes, as Elizabeth Preston explains.

Pony up. Ponies can roughly discern quantities. Can't be short changed? Cool research, perfectly explained by Mikel Delgado. Read of the week.

Seeing eye to eye. It's how wolves may communicate, as Nick Stockton explains.

Packing for life. A lifelong love of wolves & its relationship to wolves' status. Chelsea Harvey shares an excellent personal account.

Outfoxing extinction. Endangered island foxes avert their demise. John Platt finds that they are potentially on the road to recovery.

Animals can be useful therapy for humans. But is this good for the therapy animals? Jason Goldman looks into the consequences of good intentions.

Jog the dog? Nora Krug considers the benefits & dangers of running with Rex in the hot weather.

No biggie. Small cats cool as big cats. Brian Switek considers some phenomenal felines.

Bearable lightness of being. Polar bears swimming. Wow. Wonderful videography work by Adam Ravetch. View of the week.

Bears retelling. The plight of polar bears. Excellent story, featuring Adam Ravetch, by Andy Revkin. Read of the week.

Safe sex. Mary Beth Griggs on how contraception may help elephants & seals.

Ahead by a nose. Saiga: amazing antelope with prominent proboscus.

Wonderfully wild. Stupendous wildlife.

Not so black & white. The makings of "good" panda humour, & bad panda jokes. Henry Nicholls considers the good, the bad, and the very bad.

Got it in the bag. Kangaroos have reproduction sussed. Jason Bittel looks at the "joey factory".

As quiet as a mouse? Actually, mice are surprisingly vocal. Wonderful piece on the language of rodents, by Eleanor Spicer Rice.

Behaving squirrelly. City squirrels prefer that people not give them the eye. Nice take, by Bethany Brookshire.

Life is sweet? Vampire bats have lost ability to taste bitterness. Interesting bit of biology, nicely described by Zoe Gough.

Matter of taste. Gemma Tarlach explains how vampire bats lost sense of bitterness.

Hungry birds go batty. Sam Hardman looks at how great tits hunt bats when food scarce.

Look of love. Karen Ravn explains how appearance keeps crow separate. Amazing story.

Birds of a feather. Sometimes avoid mating due to colour discrimination. Superb take, by Annalee Newitz. Read of the week.

Living for the city. Urban blackbirds better able to contend with stress, as Elizabeth Preston explains.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night? Not so much. Tri-coloured blackbird numbers crashing. John Platt looks at the crash.

Cryptic clues. Rachel Nuwer looks at the secrets encoded in birds' eggs.

Egging them on. Katia Moskvitch looks at how patterned eggs help hosts outwit cuckoo invaders.

Amazingly adhesive. Jennifer Holland looks at amphibian tongues & gecko feet.

Bad eats. Sarah Zielinski explains how Movement & colour warn predators off poison frog.

Fantastic fins. The poetry of pectorals. Natalie Sopinka brings the poetry to biology.

Tails' tales. Lovely, poetic consideration of caudal fins. Natalie Sopinka makes biology lyrical.

Current affairs. Nick Stockton considers the convergent evolution of electric fish.

Getting it together. Lionfish have let's cooperate" signal, as Ed Yong explains beautifully.

Magnificent mantas. Phenomenal fish. Gorgeous photography by Mako Miyamoto.

Sharks shmarks. There are plenty of more dangerous things about the beach than "Jaws", as Christie Wilcox shows.

Claws & effects. Crayfish experience "anxiety". Marc Bekoff on why it matters.

Not just another sucker. Octopuses are intelligent aliens with whom we share this planet, explains Jason Goldman.

Amazingly alien. Spectacular sea slugs. Wonderful gallery, curated by Miklos Vincze.

Slugging it out. Parasites shape sea slugs' lives, as Tommy Leung explains.

Star attraction. Joseph Jameson-Gould looks at the passion-flower feather star.

Brilliantly bizarre. Sea pigs. Mary Bates on sea creatures that have a real "Wow!" factor.


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

Making the cut. The beautiful work of leaf cutter bees. Lovely post by Hollis Marriot.

Spectacular spiders. Liz Langley looks at the very large & curious.

No direction home? Jane Lee on how monarchs use a magnetic compass.

The regal way. Monarch butterflies navigate using an internal compass, explains James Morgan.

Death on six legs. The bug that wears corpses. Matt Simon continues his look at curious critters.

Stupendous stingers. Mosquitoes, they are surprisingly amazing, as Cameron Webb shows.

"They look like little hammerhead sharks walking around." Jason Bittel looks at invasive ant's striking features.

When life goes to crap, you're not alone. Dung beetles are there for you. Awesome video by Paul Manning.

The turning of the screw. How we used radiation to eradicate screw worms. Interesting bit of history, by Esther Inglis-Arkell.

Bad buzz. "Bee friendly" plants from the local home improvement store likely aren't, as Brandon Keim explains.

Stop making scents. Competing odours, such as pollutants, thwart insect pollinators, explains Zoe Gough.

No backbone. Closing an invertebrate exhibit at a national zoo is spineless. Chris Clarke makes the case.

What's on the menu? Invasive species are making their way into restaurants. In a good way, as Hannah Newman makes clear.


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

Community builders. Earliest skeletal critters built reefs. Jessica Morrison on the reef that time forgot.

A dwarf amongst giants. Brian Switek looks at a smaller, island-bound sauropod.

The frill of victory. Brian Switek takes stock of a new dinosaur based on frilled skull discovery.

That sucked. Blood. In the Jurassic. Amazing discovery, nicely described by Matthew Cobb.

The straight poop. Neanderthal faeces reveal that veg figured in their diet, as Ann Gibbons explains.

Falling between stools. Erika Engelhaupt reveals that ancient faeces show Neanderthals neither carnivores nor vegans.

Digging the old crap. Palaeo poo suggests constituents of Neanderthal diet, as Jane Hu explains.


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

Slippery when wet. How a leaf sheds water. Genius post, by Aatish Bhatia. Read of the week.

It's not easy being green? Plants have it sussed. Awesome words by Ferris Jabr, and video by Emily Elert Henry Reich. View of the week.

Flower's powers. Kirsty Jean Jackson considers the broad impact of the poppy.

Seeing the forest and the trees. Forests are fundamental for human existence. Mark Kinver looks at the latest UN report.

Water, water, everywhere? Lina Zeldovich on new chip technology that tells when & where to water plants.

Saline solution? Are halophytes what's needed to solve our salty soil woes? Mark Anderson makes the case that they are.

If a tree calls from a forest, does anyone hear? Wayt Gibbs explains how mobile phones are reporting on illegal logging & poaching.

You say tomato. I say, source of blood-vessel-function-improving compound? Agata Blaszczak-Boxe explains why.

Rooting out an answer. Does eating carrots really improve vision? Dina Fine Maron looks at the evidence

Getting your fill. Julianne Wyrick on why oatmeal gives you that full feeling. Mmm. Oatmeal..


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

What wood you do. Rot fungi defy classical views when it comes to degrading trees, as Jyoti Madhusoodanan explains.

Quite a mouthful. Challenge of discerning species, especially the zoo in our mouths. Superb piece, by Carl Zimmer. Read of the week.

You snooze, you lose? Not for bacteria. As Ed Yong explains, it's a strategy to beat antibiotics.

Bottoms up! Why faecal transplants give reason for good cheer. The latest evidence, by Jason Anthony Tetro.

If you can't beat 'em...domesticate 'em? There's another approach to battling disease. David Shultz makes the case.


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)

Illuminating change. Stem cells induced into light-sensing retinal cells in a dish. Anna Azvolinsky looks into an amazing advance.

All's well that ends swell. Mohammad Tauseef explains how vitamin A might keep inflammation in check.

That's swell. Inflammation spreads by protein clumps. Kate Yandell looks at the evidence.

A closer look. Cells seen by microscopy are gorgeous. Great gallery, compiled by George Dvorsky.

Code comfort? Not just changes within, but also on DNA alter traits. Good take on the current state of epigenetics, by Anne Buchanan.

That thing you do? Determining what genes of unknown function do is a huge challenge. Titus Brown makes a great case here.

Obscene clone fall. If your really want insights into human cloning, check out Orphan Black. Excellent look at pop culture / science fusion, by Kyle Hill. Read of the week.


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

"I just tried things out, there was no real plan." Evolution is set to retire after 4.5 billion years of hard work. Laugh of the week.

Name of the game. How game theory plays out in the biological world. Superb piece, by Emily Singer. Read of the week.

What does it mean to be a "person"? Jane Maienschein considers what biology can tell us, that politicians must understand. Read of the week.

"We must have balance..between studying processes & the fascinating, oft-unexpected products of processes." Quote by Jennifer Frazer from a fantastic, intelligent & passionate case to value natural history. Read of the week.

Putting words into action. Conversation must precede conservation. Strong case made by Sara Mynott.

Balloons are indoor pets. Please don't set them free. Important message, shared by Miriam Goldstein.

"He deserves better than to be caricatured & oversimplified. " Quote by Patrick Clarkin on Darwin's complex nature.


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

Eyes on the skies. Why we see the sky as blue. Nice explainer, by Joseph Castro.

Makes good scents. Amazing roles played by phytoplankton-derived volatiles. Fascinating biology, nicely described by Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists.

Lava link. David Stacey looks at the volcanic origin of Earth's continents.

Rock on! Minerals cast a light on the remarkable evolution of our planet. Great read, by Robert Hazen. Read of the week.

When bad is best. Badland beauty. Amazing photography by Guy Tal.

Ancient history. The Earth & the Moon are a smidgen older than we thought. A 60M year smidgen. Matthew Francis looks at the recent evidence.

Which way is up? George Dvorsky provides a nice graphical representation of Earth's wandering magnetic field.

Ground breaking research. Unploughed fields beat the heat. Lauren Morello finds that no-till is cool. Literally.


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

Holey moley. Imagine a whirlpool of black holes. Imagine no longer. Jason Major takes you there.

Lights out. Why a bright galaxy went dark. Dave Brody explains in this great video.

Not yet wet. Old stars in the act of making water.

Death throws. Dying star casts light in nebula. Ethan Siegel takes a look.

Diamonds are forever. And one is as massive as our sun. Amazing find, beautifully reported by Mike Lemonick.

Home away from home? Potentially habitable super-Earth just 16 light years away. George Dvorsky looks into it.

Shine on you crazy diamond. A stellar jewel. Awesome discovery, brilliantly described by Nadia Drake.

The X factor. Mysterious X-ray signal. Is it dark matter?

Amazingly ancient. Titan's origins go way back.

Making waves? Is the surf crashing on Titan's "Magic Island"? Maybe…and that's cool, as Charles Choi explains.

Surf's up! Waves on Titan. Andrew Fazekas catches the extraterrestrial surf.

Getting mighty crowded. Solar system asteroids. Amazing video, shared by Kyle Hill.

Oh nothing. Just a robot's selfie of it drilling on Mars. That is all.


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

"We will embrace reality, no matter where it leads." Quote by Larry Rifkin, from an excellent piece on cosmological natural selection.

The littlest bits. Higgs particle decays to fermions. Tia Ghose looks at the evidence.

Rules of attraction. Between two electrons. Tushna Commissariat considers the latest findings.

Net result. Alok Jha considers how Shannon's information theorem spawned the internet.

Get with the program? Can cellular automata model the algorithm of life? Fascinating research, nicely explained by Tom Siegfried.

A design for life. Patterns generated by Turing algorithm. Groovy. The interesting work of Jonathan McCabe, nicely presented by Helen Thompson.

All the colours in the rainbow. And then some. A lexicon of hues. Fascinating look at the words that accompany colours, by Daniel Lewis.

"The way problems are solved in nature needs to shape our thinking when it comes to engineering." Quote by Michelle Oyen from a fantastic piece on nature's guidance for engineering. Read of the week.

Better natured? Is mimicking nature the best way to succeed at inventing? Interesting argument, by David Taylor.

Sound solution. Making music with equipment used to solve one of physics great mysteries. Wonderful fusion of science and arts, by Andrew Steele.


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

Difficult to digest? Challenges of diet research. Christopher Gardner & Michael Stanton provide food for thought.

"As it turned out, Africa changed my life, though not in a way I could have expected. Africa made me a runner again." Quote by Shannon Kelley from a beautiful, poignant piece on Africa, AIDS, poverty, women, & running. Read of the week.

Taking the sting out by putting the sting in. Tackling cancer with scorpion venom. Superb story, by Brendan Koerner. Read of the week.

"Everything is interrelated: the human body is more than just an assortment of individual working parts." Quote by Rebecca Kreston from a superb piece on the relation between dental plaque & heart disease. Read of the week.

Not so sweet? Emily Gertz on sorting hype from fact in consideration of dietary fructose.

Fatter, fitter? Getting to the facts on fat. Illuminating read, by Peter Janiszewski.

Fat chance? Is fat as bad for our health as we've been told? Interesting piece, by Maryn McKenna.


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

Getting used to it. How our brain habituates to constants in the background. Cool science, nicely explained by Bethany Brookshire.

There's nothing to fear except... Objects moving toward you, apparently. Fascinating psychological finding, nicely described by Elizabeth Preston.

A fine balance. The balance between creativity & mental illness. Thought-provoking read, by Nancy Andreasen. Read of the week.

If you go down to the woods today...your experience differs from next person. Why? Virginia Hughes looks at the underlying reasons.

As it is written. Scanning writers' brains to explore basis of their skill. Carl Zimmer looks into it.

Forget lab rats. Your baby is the ultimate science experiment. Nice take, by Laura Sanders.

Child's play. Experiments you can do on your baby. Great stuff, by Maggie Koerth-Baker.

"If this doesn't sound very scientific to you, you're not alone." Quote by Chris Chambers on psychology's replication problem.

Seeing is believing? Unless it'sOK Go's latest video. Amazing illusions! Great share, and explainer by Kyle Hill. View of the week.


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

"The vast majority of ideas are recycled…when we fail to recognise this, as we eternally do, we commit folly." Quote by Andrew Crumey from a thought-provoking piece on persistence of magical thinking in science. Read of the week.

The same, yet different. Rebekah Higgitt looks at two Victorians that remind us of different approaches to science.

Good chemistry. Finding love in the lab. Some science couples. Nice feature by Kerri Smith.

Eyes on the prize. While they have merit, big science prizes distort the view of science. Great case made by Philip Ball.

The most balanced coverage of last week's Longitude Prize was found in a great podcast featuring Ian Sample, Adam Vaughan, Emily Grossman & Nicola Davis. Listen of the week.

Think that funding is biggest threat facing science? Bureaucracy may run a close second. Compelling case, by Steve Caplan.

Where everybody knows your name. Lovely homage to a town that shares a surname. Wonderful story by Rose Eveleth. Read of the week.

Putting the break on. Chris Buddle addresses demands of work. He's taking a blog hiatus. He'll be missed!

Write on! "If I'm interested in a topic, & I have the time, I'll write about it." Matt Shipman on what compels him to write.

Career science. Prep for job interview should use proper experimental design. Good advice by Jalees Rehman.

The nature of things? Why doesn't citizenship test include *natural* history? Great reflection by Tom Webb.

"This may be a consequence of me being American, but I can easily be provocative without the need to be inebriated." Quote by a Royal Society Research Fellow ejected by audience after trying to crowd surf at Handel's Messiah. Laugh of the week.


2 Responses to “Morsels For The Mind – 27/06/2014”

  1. Hollis Reply | Permalink

    Thanks for including a Ps & Rs post, and especially for the kind words.

    • Malcolm Campbell Reply | Permalink

      My pleasure entirely, Hollis! I'll make sure to highlight more Ps & Rs posts in the future. Your posts there are fabulous!

Leave a Reply

9 − = seven