Morsels For The Mind – 28/03/2014
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
“There are many different ways to kill an elephant.” All of them foul. Stunning read, by Mark Deeble.
Great plan for great apes. John Platt on an action agenda for gorilla conservation that holds much promise.
Have you herd? Elephant density does not improve ecotourism. And works against ecology. Roberta Kwok on a surprising find.
Seeing things? Do non-human animals see the same optical illusions we do? Intriguing possibility considered by Laura Kelley.
How low can you go? For these deep diving whales, the answer is “exceedingly low”, as Jane Lee finds.
Perfume purr-fection. Big cats like their scents from big name perfumieres. Yes, really, as Bec Crew reveals.
Creature comforts? Careful snuggling with pets - you might catch something. Rebecca Kreston looks at the evidence.
Pet peeve. Our prescriptions are poisoning companion animals. Important article, by Deborah Blum.
Channeling behaviour? Could DogTV television channel enrich lives of lonely canines? Julie Hecht takes a look.
Gone to the dogs. Understanding canine (& other animal) health can aid human medicine, as Lizzie Crouch reveals.
Making traffic bearable. How to design roadways to accommodate koala safety. Good lessons learned, as Jason Goldman reveals.
Of mice and men. Erika Check Hayden on how some medical research on mice has been a big waste.
What’s that, Flipper? New software translates dolphin & primate “speech”. Yes, really. Hal Hodson on real life Dr. Doolittle.
By gosh or by golly. Spectacular flight of a goshawk. Must view.
Breath taking. How birds breathe is amazing, as Eldon Greij reveals.
Betta test sight. Spectacular Siamese fighting fish.
Animal or vegetable? Sea anemone genome has hallmarks of both.
What the shell? Nadia Drake on awesome snail species that are disappearing as fast as they’re discovered.
Just kidding? When animals act like people in kids stories, we mess up kids’ understanding of biology. Jason Goldman explains the evidence.
Are insects animals? Of course, but they don’t figure prominently when folks think about animals. This Zazie Smith post about how people think about animals is fascinating.
Bugs’ life – insects and other things that creep, crawl and otherwise delight – the arthropods
Oh, behave! Linking particular neurons to particular behaviours in fly larvae. Cool piece of work, nicely described by Kate Yandell.
The enemy of my enemy… Invasive crustacean kept in check by its persistent parasite, as Tony Leung reveals.
Sowing a better future. Gwen Pearson on planting a garden for pollinators, especially bees.
Hips don’t lie. Tell tale of weevil locomotion.
Fossil finds – organisms of times past – palaeontology, archaeology, anthropology, history and the like
Happy reunion. Two pieces of fossil turtle leg bone reunited create big story. Awesome discovery, wonderfully described by Brian Switek.
A sort of homecoming. Cockroach deemed invasive resided there 49M years ago, as Rachel Nuwer reveals.
On the right track? Did an ancient spider leave fossil footprints behind? Cool find, wonderfully explained by Nadia Drake.
Hand it to them. Did men or women make palaeolithic handprint cave paintings? Greg Laden considers the evidence at hand.
They chose…poorly? Some folks think they’ve found the Holy Grail. Yes, really. It belongs on a museum.
Beautiful botanicals – wonders of the photosynthesising world – that is, mainly plants
Microscopic marvels – smaller than the eye can see, but big in action – bacteria, fungi and viruses
This will mess with your mind. In the best way. Genius TED Talk by Ed Yong on parasites that alter host brains. Seriously, please do yourself a favour & set aside 14 mins to view this. It’s pure gold. View of the week.
The kids are alright? Serious drug-resistant infections in children on the rise. Maryn McKenna on an important issue.
Resurrecting a giant. Huge, ancient virus revived from suspended animation. Cool discovery. Great explanation by S.E. Gould
All together now! Bacteria engineered to do extraordinary things when they aggregate. Cool bit of synthetic biology, beautifully described by Nadia Drake.
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)
“Sexual preference is one of the most strongly genetically determined behavioural traits...” Quote by Kevin Mitchell from a superb consideration of the genetics of sexual preference. Read of the week.
Piecing life together. Ewen Callaway on how undergrads have helped build an edited, synthetic, yeast chromosome.
Write on! Heavily edited, functional, synthetic yeast chromosome written from scratch. Awesome piece of research, expertly described by Ed Yong.
Take a stand. Doing desk work while standing seems to have benefits, as Joseph Stromberg explains.
Oh, the irony. Homeopathic product recalled. It contained real medicine. Super critique, by Steven Novella.
Up close & personal. Life under a microscope. Beautiful.
Forces of nature – big-ticket items – ecology, evolution & extinction
"Spring can really hang you up the most." So crooned Ella Fitzgerald. But she probably didn't know about birch trees and wood frogs, which embrace spring's icy grip. I wrote this.
Ripples in snow. Microbe evolution. Gravitational waves. What kind of fool tries to connect such things? This kind. I wrote this.
Earth, wind and fire – planet shaping – geology, meteorology, oceanography, the environment & climate
What’s up? Paintings of the sky hold record of what was in the air. Emily Gertz on another value of art.
Spring sprung. In some places, the seasons have moved on…beautifully. Lovely ode to the emerging spring, by Sarah Boon.
Star attractions – the final frontier, space
One giant amount giants. Our galaxy.
Smashing outcome! In 4 billion years the Milky Way & Andromeda will collide, but our Sun will survive. Nadia Drake is very reassuring!
Our days are numbered. The expanding Sun will make Earth uninhabitable in 1B years, as Astroquizzical explains.
A star is born. Actually, many are born & nurtured in a gorgeous nebula. Awesome picture of the cosmos, shared by Nadia Drake.
Galaxies galore. Galactic pile on.
Ring of truth to it. Nicola Jenner describes a rocky asteroid travelling with its own ring system.
Here be monsters? Might a distant “super Earth” be lurking distantly in our Solar System? Ian Sample considers the evidence.
Distant relations? Nicola Jenner on how a new planet suggests existence of “super-Earth” in outer reaches of Solar System.
Far out! Jonathan Amos describes a new dwarf planet that has a huge orbit around Sun.
Think Pluto is lonely? It’s got nothing on the distant orbit of this new dwarf planet, as Michael Wall reveals.
‘Round they go? Are other undiscovered planets orbiting sun like newly discovered distant dwarf world? Stuart Clark takes a look.
Getting physical – physical sciences – cosmology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computing, engineering, and technology
Holey moley! The term “black hole” had a curious origin, 50 years ago, as Tom Siegfried describes.
Ripple effect. Gravitational waves create ripples of excitement for physics. Ian Sample gets the views of folks in the know.
Making waves. Gravitational waves create tides of change in physics, as Ron Cowen reveals.
Unknown known. Rare earth elements are ubiquitous, yet few are aware of them. Justin Rowlatt on a rarely discussed, and important, topic. Read of the week.
Buy the numbers? If kaiju emergence really followed math, Pacific Rim would have been, oh, 25 min long. Kyle Hill finds thing just add up. Great fun.
Dance, dance revolution. How to hack a Kinect to create an awesome dance video. Cool home project, by Aatish Bhatia.
Matters of mind – how we, and other animals, perceive our world and our place in it – neuroscience, mental health, psychology, sociology & human interest stories
“I once had a friend who was almost suffocated by cheesecake.” Quote from a brilliant piece by Tania Browne on cancer, cheesecake & the stigma of mental illness. Read of the week.
Err conditioning? The good & bad of Skinner’s behaviourist thinking. Thought-provoking look at the famous psychologist, by George Dvorsky.
Gut reaction. Virginia Hughes finds that the effect of weight-loss surgery might be due to bile acids & microbes.
Sex sells. The sexiest part of the brain is, well, the sexiest, as Christian Jarrett reveals.
This rocks! People convinced that their hands are made of stone. Elizabeth Preston on our perception of self.
Not so smart. Does taking “smart pills” really make you smarter? What do you think? Camilla d'Angelo has a smart take on this.
Behind the scenes – the workings of life’s museum of natural history – discovery, communication, and education
An end in sight. Scientist losing his vision aims to shed light on TB. This Brendan Borrell piece is a powerful, poignant read, and accompanied by an exceptional animation. Read / view of the week.
Leading the wild life. Wonderful profile of teenage wildlife photographer Will Nicholls, by Victoria Gill.
Going natural. Advantages of natural history for science & society are plentiful. Superb review, by Terry Wheeler and colleagues.
Letter perfect. Wonderful exchange between Benzer, Monod, Jacob & Lwoff on Nobel Prize. Great fun, shared by Matthew Cobb.
Getting it write. How to generate a news story based on a scientific paper. Great advice by Ian Sample.
Class act. What happens when science communication is brought into the classroom? Matt Shipman takes a look.
Letter perfect? When it comes to capturing a researcher’s worth, the h-index gets an F. Compelling case, by Stacy Konkiel.
The show must go on? Narratives of why people leave, or stay in, PhD programs. Crucial consideration, by Inger Mewburn.
Making it big time? Flex in science work schedule may not be all it’s cracked up to be, as Sarah Shailes finds.
Mainstreaming magic. Government support of “alternative” placebo-based medicine. Hannah Hoag & Kasra Hassani look at misleading policy.