Morsels For The Mind – 28/02/2014

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

It’s not about boredom. Mary Bates on the complex communicative yawning of gelada baboons.

Imagine 90% of species nearing extinction. No imagining needed for lemurs. Dire situation, perfectly reported by John Platt.

“Don’t Palm Us Off.” Jason Goldman describes a punny campaign that raises awareness of palm oil threat to orang-utans.

Jumbo genius. Elephants are brilliant. And that’s important. Superb piece,  by Ferris Jabr. Read of the week.

Jumbo brains. Elephants have 257 billion neurons. We have 86 billion. Ferris Jabr on pachyderm cranial prowess. Read of the week.

Pachyderm perils. Elephants face multiple threats to existence & well being. Excellent, thoughtful piece by Kausik Datta.

Rank odour of billy goat. Is an aphrodisiac. (For female goats) Ed Yong always sniffs out the greatest stories!

Scents & sexability. Brian Owens explains how the smell of male goats makes female goats ovulate.

Getting her goat. Billy goat odour induces ovulation in female goats. Breanna Draxler on a rather remarkable find.

What’s gnu with you? Darren Naish brings on the wonderful wildebeests.

A toss up? Do humans throw better than animals? Jason Goldman pitches a great story your way.

Dying for sex. That’s what these species do, as Michael Safi reveals.

Have you herd? How reindeer might be challenged by a warming planet. Great feature by Helen Fields.

What the dog really saw. There are many ways of seeing the worldI wrote this.

Who, me? That’s not shame on your dog’s face. That’s your expectation of it.

Gimme shelter? Sometimes animal shelters are merely hoarding. That’s a problem, as Jessica Perry Hekman perfectly explains.

When they experience the terrible tolls of anxiety, it’s our..responsibility to show animals love & comfort.” Quote by Barbara King from a brilliant review of Scott Stossel’s book on animal anxiety.

In for the kill. Snow leopard prowess. Paul Steyn shared an amazing set of images taken by Adam Riley.

Merely menageries? Not modern zoos. May be best hope for critically endangered species. Phil Torres makes the case.

In the driver’s seat.  Ivan Semeniuk on how female cowbirds are the navigators.

Life in the fast lane. John Platt on how the absence of native plants causes kestrels to mate sooner, die younger.

Birds of a feather. Are popular together. Research “popularity” clusters by bird phylogeny.

Taking a stand. How a flamingo does it on one leg. Ethan Siegel explains the physics.

The X factor. X-rays of ostriches. John Hutchinson takes a look inside.

Birds of a feather. Get stored together. The museum samples of Darwin’s Galapagos finches. Henry Nicholls on an assortment of important specimens.

Giving a hoot. Lemming boom boosts snowy owl population. It’s a good-news-bad-news story, as Darryl Fears reveals.

That plastic we keep throwing out? Here it is. Killing albatrosses, 3000km from nearest continent.

Let the backbone slide? Croc spine stiffness. Cool research blogging, by Julia Molnar.

Bad introductions. Henry Nicholls reports on an invasive snake found in Galapagos highlands.

New World order. Darren Naish on amazing crocodiles of the Americas.

Fangs for the memories. Rowan Hooper on one frightening frog.

Underwater love. Stingray courtship.

For the love of cod. Nice musing on the existence of iconic fish, by Grrl Scientist.

Inner beauty. The elegance of fish made transparent. Adam Summers' work is at the interface of science and art, as Nadia Drake reveals.

Majestic mantas ≠ medicine. Phenomenal fish being decimated for their gills, for TCM. Nadia Drake shares the troubling news.

Hidden in plain sight. Sara Mynott finds some marine masters of disguise.

Bloody hell. We bleed horseshoe crabs to procure biomedical wonderstuff from their blue blood. Alexis Madrigal explains the medical marvel and the price that is paid.

The worm turns. And may be invading the ground at your feet, as Scitable author and high school student(!) Jason Chen masterful explains.

Gone, but not forgotten. How various species went extinct. Beautiful reminder, written by Frank Swain, with great art by Jeannetto.

Just say no. Captive, giant copepod refused meals for five years. No one knows why. Poignant piece, by Robert Krulwich. Read of the week.

Fantastically fluorescent. Under the sea. Joe Hanson shares some beautiful sea creatures.

Shiny sapphire spectacle. Sapphirina copepod. Amazing! A real must-view, brought to you by Rebecca Helm. View of the week.

Your cheatin’ heart? Are any animals really monogamous? This is awesome! Great explainer by Minute Earth.

If you aren’t already checking out The Black Mudpuppy’s comic version of TetZoo (Darren Naish), you really should. Great fun! View of the week.


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

Promiscuous prowess? Carl Zimmer on how monogamy makes you stupid (if you’re a fly).

A bee in their bonnet. Bethany Brookshire on how DNA tags make honeybee workers get queenly.

Tentacled terror? Nope, it’s a cute Cthulhu. Jennifer Frazer brings you the small and spectacular.

It’s the little things in life that are important. Why we need insects. Short & sweet piece by Chris Buddle.

Mighty mite. Looking good!  Gwen Pearson always has the best in bugs!

Good vibrations. Intermediate noise vibrations are best for spiders catching prey. Felicity Muth listens in.

Deviously disguised. Ants posing as jumping spiders. Wayne Maddison on some truly remarkable mimics.

Bugs are delicious. We should be eating them more. Yes, really. Phil Torres makes the case to Cayte Bosler.


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

Hard evidence in soft tissue? Might biochemical structures be found in dinosaur fossils? Jon Tennant looks into.

Seedy existence. Giant ancient bird ate seeds, not little horses. Brian Switek shares the evidence.

Incredible pod cast. Ed Yong on an amazing assemblage of whale fossils. Read of the week.

Flukey find. Amazing roadside graveyard contains dozens of ancient whales. Cool story by Travis Park.

A mammoth hole. What happens to ecosystems when big herbivores go extinct? Jon Tennant takes a look for the answer.

Back in plaque. “Bacterial Pompeii” encrusts 1000 yr old teeth. And reveals microbes & food, as Tanya Lewis shows.



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

A big comeback? Might genetic modification restore the American chestnut?  Superb story, by Ferris Jabr. Read of the week.

Fighting a fungal foe. Here’s how GM can help restore American chestnut. Amazing.

Ready. Aim. Fire. Fern shoots spores. Jennifer Frazer on yet another amazing thing plants do.

Mountain menace. Normally, trees are great. Not when climate forces them into alpine meadows. Superb read, by Roberta Kwok. Read of the week.

What’s that smell?! Oh, just climate change being mitigated. By pine volatiles. Matt McGrath explains.

Roots of the problem. Sarah Shailes looks at the impact of flooding on plants.

If a tree falls in a forest, does anyone hear? Maybe not, but they’ll see it with this. Matt McGrath on an important new network.


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

Flowering foiled. Microbes mess with plant sex lives. This Elizabeth Preston piece on plant-microbe interactions is awesome. See her comments for her use of the word “mutate”. Importantly, sometimes plants appearing to be mutants are not. But they are no less interesting.

What’s not to love?! Five reasons to love bacteria. Great podcast by Jack Scanlan. Listen of the week.

Gut reaction. Is Helicobacter pylori foe or friend? Tabitha Powledge's answer may surprise you.

Resistance not futile. Jef Akst on how microbe survives its own antibiotics.

Proof is in the putting. The yeast that ups wine alcohol content. Jennifer Frazer on a discovery that brings cheers.

Not a bunch of sour grapes. How microbes make wine awesome. Cheers, bacteria! Nadia Drake shares a tasteful story.

Truths in fiction. Interactive graphic “novella” of apartment microbes. Must view by Jessica Lee Green & Amy Maxmen. View of the week.

A design for life? Want to tailor indoor microbe populations? Tailor the space. Fascinating piece by Greg Miller.

Putting ourselves in harm’s way. Antibiotic misuse, our biggest bioterrorism threat. Excellent, thought-provoking piece, by Brandon Keim.

Accidental tourist. Viral disease, chikungunya, transmitted globally by vacationers. Yow. Superb read, by Carrie Arnold. Read of the week.

Going viral. Virus evolution is being used to ID criminals. Interesting forensics, beautifully explained by Shaoni Bhattacharya.


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)

Have you heard? Earwax tells you about your ancestry. Erika Engelhaupt continues her great coverage of the "ick beat"!

A big Q answered by a little pee. Urine strip used to detect cancer in mice. Amazing discovery, nicely described  by Aviva Hope Rutkin.

Poetic licence. Did Elizabeth Barrett Browning have a rare disease? Intriguing hypothesis, by Anne Buchanan.

In a flash. Thalyana Smith-Vikos on how “mitoflashes” in cellular powerhouses predict longevity.

Disorderly conduct. George Dvorsky on the ordered chaos in chicken eyes.

On target. Knocking down harmful proteins in specific cells. Great research blogging, by Shelly Fan.

Do you have plant DNA coursing through your veins? Maybe, but it’s nothing to worry about, as John Runions explains.

Seeing silence. New method enables visualisation of gene inactivation. Cool technology, masterfully explained by Tia Ghose.

Very cool. Philip Ball reveals how protein structure makes antifreeze.

The big chill? Will we ever be able to cryopreserve our organs? Daniel Cossins tackles the question.

A heartening yarn. An electric sock. For the heart. Amazing technological development, nicely explained by Ed Yong.


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

Geriatric gem. Zircon from 4.3B years ago. Amazing discovery, nicely explained by Becky Oskin.

Land from the dawn of time. Carl Zimmer on pieces of our planet that arose 4.4B yrs ago.

Parting of the ways. Seeing the dawn of plate tectonics. Angus Chen digs into it.

Crystal clear. Thomas Duffy explains how crystallography brings deeper understanding of Earth’s core.

Go with the flow. Sea floor rivers. Katia Moskvitch on the water that is under the water.

Ironing things out. 3-D map shows the ocean’s iron levels. Jessica Morrison looks into it.

Not cool. Disappearance of arctic ice. Mind-blowing & alarming timelapse, courtesy of Douglas Main.

Space invader. That’s where our water came from. Awesome video, by Minute Earth. View of the week.

Inside scoop. Astonishing ice caves. Dan Vergano on one of this winter's benefits.

Something in the air? Is arctic atmosphere’s effect on climate greater than snow & ice melt? Laura Nielsen on a hot topic.


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

Six incredible things before breakfast? How about 715 incredible things before breakfast! 715 new exoplanets! Read of the week.

New Trick + Old Data = Big Discovery.  Elizabeth Howell describes how a recent approach to Kepler data found 715 exoplanets. Read of the week.

Rounding things up. Kepler confirms 715 new exoplanets. Incredible discovery, nicely shared by Ron Cowen.

The final frontier. Kepler has changed the way we view “space”. Ian O'Neill on the space explorer of the decade.

Marvellously misty. Exoplanet with water vapour.

Bombastic boiling. Stars boil before they blow, as Jason Major explains.

Shocking discovery. Shock wave precedes speedy star. Ian O'Neill takes a look.

Critical mass. Most massive object in the universe. Matthew Francis weighs in.

Look! Up in the sky! Ethan Siegel explains how a celestial find in 1572 altered how we perceived the universe.

It’s eyeing you. Ethan Siegel casts his sights on a remarkable eye in the sky.

It’s got flare! Our Sun’s had a big eruption again. Phil Plait takes a look.

Ganymede’s gorgeous geography. Magnificent. Elizabeth Howell on beauty found in our solar system.

Gettin’ dune. Sand on Mars. Tom Yulsman on a Martian marvel.

It’s a hit! A meteor smacks into the moon. Adam Mann looks into it.

Light up your life. Amazing aurora. Phil Plait on an enlightening view.


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

Life’s little mysteries? Nope. These are the big ones! Excellent read, by Lisa Grossman. Read of the week.

Do physicists have free will? Zeeya Merali describes how the answer may be found in the Universe’s early light.

We are awash in clues, & confounded by conundrums.Katie Mack on the challenge of dark matter. Great stuff.

And now for something completely different. Quantum quasiparticle dropleton. Adam Mann describes this astounding find.

Getting ‘round to it. Gargantuan circular accelerators & the future of particle physics. Jon Butterworth looks into the crystal ball.

It takes two to entangle? Is quantum entanglement real or a detector artefact? Amazing stuff, by Matthew Francis.

“This..confirms that Hoyle was not a crank.” Einstein also toyed with steady state model. Davide Castelvecchi on a remarkable "missing manuscript" discovery.

Hard road to the top. Great effort required, but top quark has been found, as Tia Ghose explains.

“Dragons are on my mind. Dragons, & the power of breath.” Could breath knock someone over? Kyle Hill brings the science to the question.

A stirring story. Swirling a spoon in a coffee spins a tale of the universe. Nice musing, by Alex Brown.

Aye, aye robot. Drones may soon take to piloting ships in the sea. Megan Garber takes a look at the next robotic frontier.

What the flock?! Drones fly in formation, like birds. And they do it without human direction! Ed Yong on some pretty nifty robotic "intelligence".

New gold dream. Re-imagining the “golden mean”. Great images, nicely explained by Alex Bellos.

Sunken treasure. When a ship sinks, an ecosystem rises. Amazing research, beautifully described by Rebecca Helm.

City slickers. Urban life acts like natural selection. Plants & animals change. Sharon Oosthoek takes a look at urban evolution.

The evolving month. February is a great time to think of Darwin (& Wallace!), as Alex Bond & Kasra Hassani show.


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

Arousing discovery! Brain stimulation rouses people from vegetative state. Helen Thomson shares an astounding discovery.

Sighted people see things in their dreams. What do blind people experience? Fascinating read, by Virginia Hughes.

The spice of life.  Carl Engelking on why hot condiments, like sriracha sauce, hurt so good.

When life is sweet. Do kids really get a sugar high?  Anne Steino provides the answer.

Think homeopathy is worst misinformation posing as science? Dating advice may be worse, as Girl On The Net reveals.

Troubled trolls? Jordan Gaines on how analysis of trolling activity suggests issues that deserve attention.  

And never the twain shall meet? Phenomenal political polarity of twitter networks. Leo Mirani takes a look at the divide.

A boy & his dog. The boy has a debilitating condition. The dog has 3 legs. An amazing story, by Jonna McIver.


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

The paper chased. Richard Van Noorden reports on 120 bogus computer-generated articles that have been ejected from literature.

Getting it together. Functioning as a “connector” between diverse disciplines. Useful post by Linus Schumacher.

Picture this. Images that changed the course of science. Excellent video, as usual, from Joe Hanson and crew.

Every experiment is a great story. Every scientist’s life is a heroic story.” Alan Alda. Is. Awesome. Read of the week.

I feel like what I’m doing is a combination of reporting & learning, & I love that.” Quote by Seth Mnookin, on science reporting, from a super interview with Matt Smith.

Sex & Bugs & Rock’n’Roll.” Super science outreach, featuring Emma Sayer, by Chris Buddle.

I just can’t think of a better way to spend a day than out there discovering something nobody has ever seen before.” Quote by “jellyfish guru” Lisa Gershwin, from a fabulous interview with Bec Crew. Read of the week.

Creature comfort. Natural history specimens connect us with history & nature. Superb read, by Brian Switek. Read of the week.

The 4 billion-year-old baby. A newborn child connects you with the origins of life. Awesome read by Tom Chivers. Read of the week.


One Response to “Morsels For The Mind – 28/02/2014”

  1. Adrian Morgan Reply | Permalink

    One thing I learned from the "new method enables visualisation of gene inactivation" article is that the term "calico cat" refers to actual live cats.

    I'd been under the impression that a calico cat was some sort of traditional manufactured thing ... like how a teddy bear isn't an actual live bear.

    (Would comment on the original article, but can't without Facebook account.)

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