Morsels for the mind – 27/9/2013

28 September 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

“How we live with wolves is how we live with nature—either in harmony or discord.” From a brilliant piece by Joe Donnelly, on the life & meaning of a lone wolf. Read of the week.

“We’re so far behind nature. It’s humbling.” How biology inspires robotics. Brilliant post by Rachel Nuwer. Read of the week.

Say what? Catalogue of gorilla calls may help decipher ape speech. Yes, really. Great story by Brandon Keim.

The monkey whisperers. No, really, monkeys that whisper. Why they do it is a secret. Nicely shared by Breanna Draxler.

Whispered warnings. Tamarins quietly share dislike.

It’s a big deal. Dogs exaggerate their size with play growls. Virginia Morell on those curious canines.

Udderly fantastic. Sci Curious shows how to perfectly milk the essence of a “pretty boring” study of standing cows.

Oh, deer! Golden eagle downs surprising prey.

What’s that smell? Liz Langley describes how some animals are real stinkers.

Talking scents. For dogs, telling human & chicken corpses apart is difficult. Deliciously disgusting story by Julie Hecht.

Sounding things out. Gleaning bats echolocate silent prey. Mary Bates reports on amazing bat ability.

Bristling with excitement. New bristle-haired rat species discovered. The find reported by James Morgan.

Finger it out. Remarkable aye-aye digit. Matt Simon handily covers an interesting primate.

Whiskers ‘n whiskey. Hemingway imbibed with his cat. Colin Schultz finds the coolest stuff.

Got it made in the shade. Elizabeth Preston expertly describes how magic markers showed how belly hue aids swallows’ fitness.

Fly like an eagle. Or at least with one. Amazing.

Birds of a feather. Murmurate. Stunning.

Shy guys’ ties. Timid male birds flock best.

It’s all cool. Bigger-brained birds keep calm in times of stress. Rachel Nuwer conveys it beautifully.

Taking the plunge. The daring dives of gannets.

Strength in numbers. Cuckoo finch uses more eggs to outwit host.

Egging them on. Cuckoo finches parasitise nests by putting many eggs in one basket.

Hold on! Tanya Lewis describes how frogs get a grip in flowing water.

Bigmouth strikes again. A frog & a bat. Warning: This image, courtesy of Phil Torres, cannot be unseen.

Lifelong lovers. Coelacanths are serial monogamists. Andy Coghlan on the private lives of fish.

Phenomenal family. Octopus’s thousands of offspring. Katherine Harmon-Courage continues her exploration of the lives of octopuses. Speaking of which:

Now you see it… Now you don’t. How an octopus disappears. Katherine Harmon-Courage shares more octopus marvels.

Glow with the flow. Astonishing squid photographed by Todd Bretl.

Getting a head start. Worms retain “memories” even when they grow a new head. Arielle Duhaime-Ross covers this from top to tail.

Lynxes & eagles & bears, oh my! Rebecca Morelle reports on how some wildlife species are making a comeback in Europe.

Born free. Former “pet” orang-utan reintroduced to wild. Incredible story by Jenni Watts.

From cartoon curiosity to aggravating alien. Jason Goldman describes the fascinating invasion of Japan by raccoons.

Piping plovers’ perilous path. John Platt reports on endangered shorebirds' risks along migratory route.

Broken promise. Fragmented forests rapidly lead to mammal extirpations. Carl Zimmer expertly shares an important find.

Getting to the root of the problem. Without digging mammals, forests suffer. Superb, important story by John Platt.

No horsing around. Mary Caperton Morton describes her personal experience of the serious business of “managing” mustangs.

Don’t be spotted. Breanna Draxler reports on a zoo that is prohibiting animal-print clothes because it confuses the animals. Apparently the animals are not already confused about being in enclosures with humans walking by all the time.

Most dangerous things in the zoo? People, stationary objects, and, um, raisins.


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

Turbulent times. How bees fly in rough weather. Victoria Gill reports this uplifting tale.

A moving experience. How ants move stuff. Felicity Muth delivers the goods on this story.

Seeing the unseeing. Cave-residing eyeless fungus beetle. Curious critter reported by Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato.

Getting the point. Gallery of stings & bites, all received by Alex Wild.

Curiosity is this cat. The astonishingly cool cat mantis. Piotr Naskrecki zooms in on one amazing insect.

Getting a leg up. Amazing limbs of frog-legged leaf beetle. Nifty insect story by Becky Crew.

Up, up & away. Spiders’ beautiful ballooning.

Taking the reigns. Invading queens fill leadership vacuum. Mary Bates gets the buzz on bee society.

Magnetic attraction. How ants navigate. Fascinating, by Ker Than.

“No person…appreciates your showing up at his house at 6:30 in the morning with a bag of faeces.” Eleanor Spicer Rice shares her experience with the "delights" that can be found in dog poo.

Star search. Sci Curious reports on dung beetles navigating by the light of the Milky Way.

Weirdly wonderful wasps. (And their whacky sex). Emily Jane Dennis shares her PhD research experience.

Woes from lows. Monarch butterfly numbers drop dramatically. Concerning tale, superbly told by Daniel Schwartz.


Fossil finds – organisms of times past – dinosaurs and beyond

About face. Ancient fish shows modern jaw origins, suggesting the face was the first modern skeletal feature to evolve. Interesting find, expertly reported here, here and here by Eliot Barford, Colin Barras, and Tanya Lewis, respectively.

On a roll. Trilobites protectively curled into a ball.

Reef or madness? Brian Switek tells us what fossils of extinct reefs say about the ocean’s future.

Bite out of life. Charles Choi reveals how jaws enabled crocs to survive with dinosaurs.

Precious plumage. 80M year old feathers preserved in amber. Reported by Breanna Draxler.

The real family tree? Did birds evolve from arboreal lives or by leaping from terra firma?

A bone to pick. Penis bones show how extinct bear mated. Christine Dell’Amore on a bear’s love bone.

Tick talk. Jeremy Hsu reports on canine mummies that show parasites have been bugging dogs for a long time.

I love Lucy. And her new fossil-informed look.

Word up! Did Neanderthal have language? Fascinating consideration, by Marc Ettlinger.


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

Revenge of the blob. A new defensive plant organelle. Cool story brought to light by Kathleen Raven.

Roots in the past. Stumps of ancient forest revealed by glacier thaw. Amazing discovery, reported by Laura Poppick.! Diary of a plant in orbit. The vegetable got some help in blogging from astronaut Don Pettit. All diary entries.

Fall from grace? Impact of climate change on autumn leaves.


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

Down on the farm. Farmer mold fends crops with microbes. Elizabeth Preston reports on some amazing “agriculture”.

It’s always happy hour. Yeast infection turns guy into walking brewery. Yep.

Mystery-solving microbes. A corpse’s microbiome could reveal time of death. Marvellously macabre story by @KateYandell

Deadly gorgeous. Antibiotic-resistant microbes. Joe Hanson shares all the beauty

Weight lifters. Transplant of gut microbes from obese humans make might pack on grams. Ed Yong gets to the bottom of this story.


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)

Hey, I know you! How familiarity builds immunity. Good stuff by Veronique Greenwood.

Lose one, win some. Removing 1 protein boosts ability to make stem cells. Monya Baker reports on improving the odds of creating stem cells.

Every sperm is sacred? Don’t know about that, but, every one is different. So says genomics, as reported by Gayill Nalls.

Walloping websnappers! Self-assembly of synthetic spider silk. Amazing read by Nadia Drake.

Terrifically tiny. Small treasures buried in the genome.

Makeup exam. Testing cosmetics using all the new science - genomics, cell bio, etc.


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

Sandy claws? Would a sandstorm on Arrakis cut you to the bone? Kyle Hill brings you the awesome “Science of Dune”.

Thrills & spills. Amazing underwater “waterfall”, expertly explained by Ethan Siegel.

The way we were. Continents, millions of yrs ago. Marvellous maps of the past, reported by Nicola Willey.

What lies beneath. In the case of a retreating glacier, it’s the remains of ancient forest.

Deep thoughts. Mega-project to explore ocean’s depths. Is too much funding being sunk into it? Alex Witze dives into this story.


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

To infinity & beyond! On the value of our forays into space. Brilliant work, by Joe Hanson. View of the week.

Things are looking up. Year’s best astronomy pics, shared here and here by Paul Kerley and Adam Mann respectively.

Way out there! Gorgeous galaxies.

The great, round, up. Our universe could be curved, not flat. Intriguing, by Ron Cowen.

Last gasp. Brilliant death of a star. Nicely reported by Jason Major

The hole story. Did our universe emerge from five dimension (that’s right, 5D!) black hole? Mind-blowing stuff, by Matthew Francis.

Is there anybody out there? Wonderful, interactive on likelihood of Earth-like planets from New Scientist.

Epic fail. The failed star in our ‘hood.

Strike up the bands. Spectacular storms encircle Saturn.

Black & white & red all over. Mars in greyscale. Wow!

Makes no scents? Curiosity finds no Martian methane. Not even a whiff.  This Martian chronicle by Mark Peplow.

That’s cool. Io shows how early Earth beat the heat. Nice story by Victoria Jaggard.

The end of the world is nigh! Well, if nigh = 1.75B years or so, it is. A far-in-the-future apocalyptic tale by Emma Marris.

Voyager’s technology & Aerosmith’s “Walk this way”: Rockin’ our universe since ‘77. A blast from the past by Adam Mann.


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

Size matters. Genius video by Aatish Bhatia brilliantly explains why swimming is easy for sperm whales, tough for sperm. View of the week.

Gravity of the situation. Ethan Siegel weighs in on a novel mass-based origin-of-the-universe hypothesis, & the poor way it’s reported.

Weight watchers. Some gain & some lose as 19 elements have atomic weights adjusted.   Francie Diep gets the balance right on this story.

Weight for it… 19 elements to have atomic weights changed. Megan Gannon reports on a weighty matter.

All together now. Considering the evolution of multicellularity.

Taking a detour. Highways change the route of animal evolution. Daniel Cossins covers a, quite literally, moving story.

Life from outer space? Yeah, not so much.

“Why are we giving air time to science such as this?” On “life from space”. Superb dissection by Louisa Preston.


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

“In our evolved feelings of grief, we are all members of the animal kingdom.” Touching and thought-provoking essay on animal grief by Virginia Morell. Read of the week.

I feel your pain. A reflection on health, empathy, anthropomorphism & dogs.

Three great stories from the Companion Animal Psychology blog:

Facing facts. How folks interpret emotions seen in kids’ & dogs’ faces.

Scents & sensibility. Dogs’ meal choice shaped by odour & human encouragement.

A breed apart. Why are some dog breeds favoured over others? Interesting.

Science of sorrow. When a dog dies. Beautiful, touching, & thoughtful story by Mia Cobb.

It makes scents. Megan Gannon on why do moms want to “gobble up” babies.

My, robot. Matt Shipman reports on how inventors become attached to automatons, but not *too* attached.

While you were sleeping… Somebody might manipulate your fear memories. Douglas Heaven reports.

Calm in its wake. Dream therapy can alleviate fear when awake. Mind-altering find, reported by Helen Shen.

Change of thought. Psych treatment moving from Prozac-like drugs to altering brain networks.  Excellent post by Vaughan Bell.

What’s so funny 'bout peace, love & understanding? Particularly in economics. Superb post by Eric Johnson.

Change your mind. Of genes, epigenetics, brains & behaviour. Excellent post by Neuro Skeptic.

Laughter & forgetting. Citizen science explores nature of laughs & memory.

Know the feeling? How do we actually know others feel pain? It’s challenging.

An idea that holds water? Hypothetical hydraulic brain. Um, not so much. Neuro Skeptic dissects a hypothesis that’s all wet.


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

“Science fiction is like an ethics class for inventors.” From a genius post by Rebecca Rosen, on how science fiction informs the future. Read of the week.

Don’t read the comments? Popular Science solves a problem by eliminating comments. Because science. But “not so fast”, says Marie-Claire Shanahan, there’s likely value in those comments yet. Reads of the week.

Missing links? Sci Curious makes an extremely compelling case for why LinkedIn is a must for people connected to the PhD “pipeline”.

Get the word out. Looking for post-science-PhD publishing success? Publish during your PhD. Make sure that quantity doesn’t come at the expense of quality though!

From 140 characters to peer-reviewed publication. A new path for scholarship? Jessie Daniels explores.

Accidents will happen. And we should help them along when they lead to discovery. Excellent post by Melonie Fullick.

“Without learning how to delegate, burnout is inevitable.” Chris Buddle provides spot-on advice for delegating in academic setting.

Degree of difficulty. Renowned ecologist misrepresented academic credentials. Does it matter? Excellent post by Zen Faulkes.

Get with the program. Must remove stereotypes to adjust gender imbalance in computer science. Important post by Matt Shipman.

Unknown knowns. Confirmation bias reinforces people not knowing what they think they know. As usual, Matt Shipman beautifully lays out the challenges of science communication.

“A memoir that is funny & modest, absorbing & playful…a marvelous love letter to science.” Wonderful writing from Barbara King’s excellent review of the surprise that is Richard Dawkins’ memoir.

Wonderful workaround. How do you run a lab when you’re allergic to it?  Amazing story by Luanne McNulty.

Burning out their fuse up there alone? Not these rocket men. They gather. Great story by John Crace, and amazing photos by Robert Ormerod.

When awesomes collide. Bill Watterson & Frank Herbert. Calvin & Maud’Dib.


One Response to “Morsels for the mind – 27/9/2013”

  1. John Platt Reply | Permalink

    Oh my god, it's going to take me a month to read through all of these great links!

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