Morsels For The Mind – 27/12/2013
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 / listens of the week”.
With this week’s holiday season in full force, seasonal offerings are found at the top of each section below.
Feather, fur & fin – birds, beasts, fishes, and the things they do
Nose so bright. Reindeer snouts glow (thermographically).
“In our evolved feelings of grief, we are all members of the animal kingdom.” Quote by Virginia Morell from an amazing essay on loss & grief in non-human animals. Beautiful writing. Read of the week.
“People don't have to embellish other animals; we just have to let them show us who they are.” Quote from a thought-provoking piece by Marc Bekoff on animal behaviour & welfare.
Wild neighbours. An interesting look at urban wildlife, by Sarah DeWeerdt.
Forever young. How bonobos stay youthful longer.
“The depth of the testes' hiding places varied by as much as 16 inches from one hippo to the next.” Quote from a delightful piece by Elizabeth Preston on why it's nearly impossible to castrate a hippo.
What the flock?! Sheep tend to turn to the left. They don't get left behind!
Watch out. Whale watching has unintended consequences: injured whales. Virginia Morell reports on the travesty.
“If you get it right for people, you get it right for lions.” Katya Cengel describes how helping folks protects rare species.
Wonderful waddling waves. How penguin huddles move. Like stop-&-go traffic. Cool!
Current affairs. Using animals to help collect more accurate oceanographic data. Great story, by Jed Lipinski.
Bugs’ life – insects and other things that creep, crawl and otherwise delight
Mitey challenge. Might spider-made tower & fence serve as a mite trap? Cool hypothesis by Phil Torres.
Good vibrations. Male spiders vibrate to avoid being eaten before sex. Lizzie Wade looks into it.
Beating the heat. Caterpillar’s climate change.
A meal, fit for a king? Not for monarch butterflies. Our food crops = their demise. Michael Wines explains why.
Fossil finds – organisms of times past – palaeontology, archaeology, anthropology, history and the like
Ruffling feathers. Dinosaur plumage may have been exception, not the rule. Matt Kaplan on a report that is sure to be contentious.
All in the wrist? Evolution of human dexterity.
Beautiful botanicals – wonders of the photosynthesising world – that is, mainly plants
Cool as a cucumber. How plants beat the cold.
Terrible trio. Fungus, beetle & nematode symbiosis downs pine trees.
Microscopic marvels – smaller than the eye can see, but big in action – bacteria, fungi and viruses
Constant gardeners. Leaf-cutter ants deal with “weedy” fungi.
'Shroom with a spew? Wild fungi can be a gastronomic joy or send you reeling to the loo. Or worse. Cal Flyn on the ups and downs wild mushroom hunting.
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)
The gift that keeps giving? Was diabetes susceptibility allele passed on from Neanderthals? Paul Rincon looks at the evidence.
Not dead yet. The end of direct-to-consumer genomics? Um, not so much. Excellent assessment by Razib Khan.
Inside scoop. DNA sequence of human eggs obtained non-invasively. Game changer? Erika Check Hayden looks into it.
Terrifically tiny. Magnificent microscopy.
Inner beauty. Gorgeous colourised x-ray images.
Earth, wind and fire – planet shaping – geology, meteorology, oceanography, the environment & climate
Winter wonderland. The snowy north.
The sciencey things I have enjoyed most this holiday season have been Alok Jha's entries in his Guardian Antarctica Expedition journal. The writing is crisp, the stories amazing, & the sharing of how science is done superb. Must reads/views of season. Reads of the week follow.
“Good planning, though, is invisible: if it works, you don't notice it.” On the longest Antarctic drive, beautifully described by Alok Jha. Read of the week.
“It's almost as close to a holy ground as you could get on this trip.” Quote from a super entry in Alok Jha's Antarctic expedition journal. Christmas trek to Mawson's huts. Read of the week.
Cold comfort. Douglas Mawson's century-old Antarctic base camp, frozen in time. Literally. Alok Jha provides a pictorial view.
“Antarctica is not just cold, windy and wet. It is the extreme of all those things.” Alok Jha on an amazing continent. Read of the week.
“The most eerie thing about the rookeries...how quiet they were.” Life & death of Adelie penguins, beautifully described by Alok Jha. Read of the week.
What's up? Mystery solved in Earth's upper atmosphere.
The heat of the moment. Gulf Stream thermal image. Awesome.
What lies beneath. Giant aquifer under Greenland's ice.
“The Arctic is not like Vegas. What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic.” Quote from an excellent piece by Frontier Scientists on the dire implications of Arctic warming.
Star attractions – the final frontier, space
“Real asteroids may not be as poetic as B-612, but they are nevertheless beautiful...” Quote by Matthew Francis from a great piece on asteroids from his wonderful advent series. Super reads.
Out of this world. Astonishing colours of asteroid Vesta.
Ringing in the New year. Saturn & moons for the holidays.
Orange hue glad to see this? The colour of Titan.
A moon, with a view. Saturn's Iapetus. Amazing.
Spectacular squiggles. On Mars!
Home sweet home. 45 yrs ago, one of the most important photos ever was taken. It was amazing, as Phil Plait reveals.
Two for one. Study of astronaut twins to investigate impact of space travel on humans. Clara Moskowitz explores the story.
Forces of nature – big-ticket items – cosmology, mathematics, computation, chemistry, physics, ecology & evolution
“When flying in foggy conditions, a bright red light for a nose won't do a thing.” Because science. Superb explainer by Kyle Hill.
New gold dream. Smaug has even more of the shiny stuff than we thought. Because science. Rhett Allain breaks it down.
Swirls on film. Soap film makes swirly colours.
Packing it in. Semidefinite programming helps to pack particles, shapes, & data. Fascinating find, by Natalie Wolchover
Matters of mind – how we, and other animals, perceive our world and our place in it
A kiss is just a kiss? The purpose of kissing. Hmm.
There's no place like home. Place cells & our emotional connection to locations. Amazing story, by Mo Costandi. Read of the week.
“For better or worse, we are already more similar to nature’s greatest builders than we realise.” Quote by Lee Billings from a brilliant piece on biomimicry in architecture. Read of the week.
The power of puppies. A cancer survivor on the role of dogs in her healing. Awesome post by Suleika Jaouad. Read of the week.
Shocking discoveries. Electroconvulsive therapy selectively eliminates memories. Fascinating story, by Virginia Hughes.
What's in a name? Your name may have deeper implications than you realise. Intriguing story, by Maria Konnikova.
Mind-changing idea. Did the unique, human brain arise from radical re-wiring? Carl Zimmer on a new hypothesis.
Soul survivor? Could quantum theory save the Cartesian notion of soul? Spoiler: nope. Neuro Skeptic tells why.
Now you see it, now you don't. How the brain processes images.
Behind the scenes – the workings of the museum – discovery and communication
Exchanging gifts. A forum where real-world problems are posed, & science responds. Frontier Scientists describe a new way of doing science.