Morsels For The Mind – 27/06/2014
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
"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.
Packing for life. A lifelong love of wolves & its relationship to wolves' status. Chelsea Harvey shares an excellent personal account.
Jog the dog? Nora Krug considers the benefits & dangers of running with Rex in the hot weather.
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.
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.
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.
Sharks shmarks. There are plenty of more dangerous things about the beach than "Jaws", as Christie Wilcox shows.
Not just another sucker. Octopuses are intelligent aliens with whom we share this planet, explains Jason Goldman.
Bugs’ life – insects and other things that creep, crawl and otherwise delight – the arthropods
The regal way. Monarch butterflies navigate using an internal compass, explains James Morgan.
"They look like little hammerhead sharks walking around." Jason Bittel looks at invasive ant's striking features.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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
Makes good scents. Amazing roles played by phytoplankton-derived volatiles. Fascinating biology, nicely described by Laura Nielsen for Frontier Scientists.
Rock on! Minerals cast a light on the remarkable evolution of our planet. Great read, by Robert Hazen. Read of the week.
Ancient history. The Earth & the Moon are a smidgen older than we thought. A 60M year smidgen. Matthew Francis looks at the recent evidence.
Star attractions – the final frontier, space
Not yet wet. Old stars in the act of making water.
Home away from home? Potentially habitable super-Earth just 16 light years away. George Dvorsky looks into it.
The X factor. Mysterious X-ray signal. Is it dark matter?
Amazingly ancient. Titan's origins go way back.
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.
Net result. Alok Jha considers how Shannon's information theorem spawned the internet.
"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.
"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.
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.
A fine balance. The balance between creativity & mental illness. Thought-provoking read, by Nancy Andreasen. Read of the week.
As it is written. Scanning writers' brains to explore basis of their skill. Carl Zimmer looks into it.
"If this doesn't sound very scientific to you, you're not alone." Quote by Chris Chambers on psychology's replication problem.
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.
Eyes on the prize. While they have merit, big science prizes distort the view of science. Great case made by Philip Ball.
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.