Morsels For The Mind – 29/08/2014


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

In the eye of the beholder. For chimps, empathy reflected by pupil size. Jyoti Madhusoodanan takes a look at the evidence.

The eyes have it. Chimp empathy shown via pupil size. Andy Coghlan has an eye on it.

Big whale. Big Apple. Big photo. Gotham whale. Amazing. View of the week.

Accidental tourists? Daniel Cressey looks at how whale pods take a hit from ecotourism.

Calling Dr. Doolittle. Do non-human animals really have language? Fascinating new research, nicely explained by Meeri Kim.

Talking points. Non-human animal speech not random, explains Virginia Morell.

Leader of the pack. May pass yawns along. Wolves seem susceptible to contagious yawning, as Carrie Arnold explains.

Pass it on. Wolves get contagious yawning, as Helen Thompson explains.

Have you herd? Sheepdog success boils down to two simple rules, explains Claire Marshall. (The first rule of sheepdog success is that nobody talks about sheepdog success…)

Dogged determination. Sheepdog algorithm could help herd sheeple. Great story, by Jason Goldman. Read of the week.

Barking up the right tree? Did we select for dogs' barks? Superb take, by Joe Dramiga.

In the doghouse. Kid asks Frank Lloyd Wright to design space for his dog. What happened next is amazing. Love this story, provided by Letters Of Note.

Fat fido. An overweight dog is no joking matter. Good insights, shared by Julie Hecht.

A matter of size. Remarkable variation in bats. Great post by Micaela Jemison.

High hopes. Male bats' falsetto a wooing winner, as Elizabeth Preston explains.

The hole story. Nuthatches are like miniature woodpeckers, explains Darren Naish.

A shore thing. Climate & changing oceans taking toll on seabirds. Cheryl Katz shares the evidence on a dire situation.

Now you see it. Now you don't. Citizen science explores evolution of bird egg camouflage. GrrlScientist describes a great project.

A change in the weather. When birds & insects appear on weather radar. Tom Yulsman shares the cool images.

My, my, blackbird. Angry bird dive-bombs pesky invasive humans. Awesome share, via Carl Engelking.

Plumed perfection. Birds by the shore. Great video, by Samuel Orr.

Tremendous tortoises. Regal denizens of Galápagos Islands. Amazing poise. featuring Carlos Romero

Share & share alike? Social learning in skinks. Interesting discovery, nicely described by Sarah Zielinski.

Exhibiting restraint. Frogs may limit mating signals to avoid becoming bat dinner. Sandrine Ceurstemont looks at the experimental evidence.

Clear advantage? Transparent glass frogs. Gorgeous discoveries, shared by James Owen.

Heated arguments. The wacky stuff we used to think about salamanders & fire. Fascinating bit of natural history history, by Matt Simon.

Wanted dead or alive? Jason Goldman on how folks are tipping the balance for live whale sharks through ecotourism.

What's eating you? A grouper, if you're a shark. Jason Bittel shares what a shark nightmare looks like.

Butting in. Pearlfish live inside sea cucumber's anus. Bec Crew has a great description.

Scents & sensibility. Baby corals & fish sniff out best homes, explains Naomi Lubick.

Out & about. How a land-reared fish tells us something about the evolution of walking. Great story by Emily Chung. Read of the week.

Stepping it up. How a fish goes walkabout. Carl Zimmer on one of the greatest experiments of the year so far.

A fish out of water. Gives insights into tetrapod evolution, as Elizabeth Pennisi explains.

Walk this way? Land-reared fish "replay" the ambulatory evolutionary clock. Cool research, nicely described by Andy Coghlan.

Land ho! Fish betters its walking capability when reared terrestrially. Implications for evolution? Noah Baker has the story.

Got your back. A look at dorsal fin diversity. Wonderful post by Natalie Sopinka. Read of the week.

Tiny travellers. Fascinating early days of reef fishes. Lovely animation, by Amy McDermott.

Brilliant escape. Ostracods' bioluminescence deters predators.

Going with the glow. Pyrosome pyrotechnics. Casey Dunn illuminates.

Drop dead gorgeous. Portuguese man-of-war. Stunning. Awesome multi-media piece by Jane Lee. View / read of the week.

Stunning sting. Super slow motion imaging of jellyfish stinging. Great share, by Destin (Smarter Every Day), via Kyle Hill.

****

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

Scale of the problem. Museum & city samples of scale insects reveal climate's impact, explains Matt Shipman.

Getting inside their heads. Wasp zombifies cockroaches. Nice essay by student, Holly Cooper.

Beetle mania. The challenge of mountain pine beetles' "ecology of surprise". Good feature, via University of Alberta Research.

Out for a spin. The remarkable ways & weavings of webspinners. Piotr Naskrecki has a beautiful photoessay (as usual!).

Gets to the point. The deadliest animal on the planet (aside from humans) is one nasty sucker. Great feature, by Joe Hanson. View of the week.

Preying on their mind? Can praying mantises really catch hummingbirds? Douglas Main looks at the evidence.

Pore, pore pitiful me? Sure, I've got face mites, but that makes me a walking ecosystem. Cool reminder by Gwen Pearson. Read of the week.

When it reigns, it pores. The mite having sex on your face as you read this. Great stuff, by Ed Yong.

Facing the facts. There are mites on your face, right now. Cool stuff about them, by Michelle Trautwein.

Living for the city. Makes for big spiders. Nice Q & A, featuring Lizzy Lowe, by Chris Buddle.

Oh, what a helpful web they weave. Brian Palmer on the benefits of spiders.

Spectacular spider. Ted MacRae looks at a beautiful dwarf arachnid.

Wild sex. Pseudoscorpions have bizarre mating habits, as Bec Crew reveals.

Inside job. Parasitic ant evolved within colony of host ant. John Timmer on the amazing discovery.

The royal treatment. How butterflies garner it from ants. Great read by Alex Riley.

What's an ant gotta do to get a break these days? Great roundup of ant parasite research, by Alex Wild.

We can be royals? Actually, being queen bee is tricky. And trouble for bee keepers. Super story by John Knight. Read of the week.

Out of Africa? Not honeybees. Likely originated in Asia.

The buzz of the city. Urban areas can support a surprising diversity of bees. Mark Kinver looks at the evidence.

A bug's life. Is a marvel. Lovely ode to insects, by Scott Shaw. Read of the week.

Up close & personal. Amazing insects, photographed by Yudy Sauw.

Book worms? How bugs appear (artistically) in medieval books. Some cool natural history history, by Sarah J Biggs.

****

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

Muscles hard as rock. Ediacaran fossil provides 1st evidence of musculature. Great story, by Jen White.

Muscling in. Muscle origins 560MYA. Tanya Lewis takes a look at the fossil evidence.

Telling teeth. Early mammals were picky eaters, as Kelly Dickerson explains.

Adventures in babysitting. For dinosaurs? Penny Sarchet looks at the fossil evidence.

Gone, with a trace. Jonathan Webb on the people who colonised the Arctic then vanished.

Imagine a people who colonised the Arctic and then completely disappeared. This happened, as Charles Choi explains.

Gone, but not forgotten. Amazing discovery of extinct palaeo-Eskimo people. Jia You reports on the amazing evidence.

Getting the point. Adding a stone tip to spears proved to be a useful innovation, explains Kate Wong.

Everything's relative. Legacy of the "other" human relations, the Denisovans. Excellent overview, by John Wenz.

****

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

Life is sweet. Sarah Shailes explains how sugar sets plants' internal clocks.

Fear of heights. Himalayan plants pushed upward to cooler climes. Concern re: biodiversity loss, reports T.V. Padma.

Open & shut case. Monkeyflower closes to avoid self sex. Tim Entwisle takes a look.

Life unfurled. Water restores dried plant. Cool gifs, shared by Christopher Jobson.

Winning argument. Parasitic plant & its host swap genetic messages. One loses. Tanya Lewis on a remarkable discovery.

Rooted in reality? Are any of Groot's traits seen in real, live plants? Good fun, by Michael Dhar.

Oh, nuts! Good for your heart. Bad for the environment. James Hamblin on the complexity of almonds.

Branching out. Potential use of GM trees in forestry. Rooted in challenges? Heidi Ledford looks at the development.

Food fight. GMO crops in a hot & hungry world. Excellent feature, by Madeline Ostrander. Read of the week.

****

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

The things you leave behind. You deposit a microbial "aura" wherever you go. Spectacular story, spectacularly told by Ed Yong. Read of the week.

Oh, behave! How microbes shape animal behaviour. Good feature, by Amber Dance.

No pain no gain? Parasitic castrator makes water fleas balloon, as Jia You reveals.

Far out! Hot spring microbes use far-red light for photosynthesis.

Rock on. Microbes make cave's stony surface, as Elizabeth Preston explains.

Totally wired. Microbe makes tiny power cords. Very cool discovery, nicely explained by Francie Diep.

Bacteria busters. Ionic liquids prove to be effective against microbial infections, explains Nicole Skinner.

Mind control. How a fungus gets inside ants' heads. Chuck Gill has the story.

Fair game. Science fair student IDs tree hosts of AIDS agonist fungus. Superb story, by Nancy Shute. Awesome that student Elan Filler is co-author on AIDS killer fungus paper. Read of the week.

Curds & their ways. Looking at cheese microbial communities. A cultural event. Fun research, nicely covered by Ewen Callaway.

Changing the nature of the yeast. Engineering the fermentation workhorse to make morphine. Cool biotechnological development, explained by Tracy Vence.

****

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)

When the hangover strikes. Blame your genes (in part). Jillian Rose Lim tells you why.

"We exist to serve our genome, a collection of genes that have been surviving from time immemorial." Quote by Itai Yanai & Martin Lercher from an interesting piece on the function of the human genome. Read of the week.

A change of mind. Parasite may modify host behaviour via modified brain DNA. Cool discovery, expertly described by Carl Zimmer.

Father knows best? Signatures of paternal stress in offspring (in mice). Jessica Perry Hekman on the discovery, and its implications (for dogs!).

****

Forces of nature – big-ticket items – ecology, evolution & extinction

"So, why bother with all this mess?" The evolution of sex. Great intro to topic, by Aoife McLysaght.

2-for-1 deal. Within one host, one endosymbiont species becomes two. Ed Yong on some fascinating biology.

Crystal ball. Biological sampling in cities can provide glimpse of future trends, explains Elsa Youngsteadt, based on her own research.

Best mates? Is PMS an evolutionary adaptation to ensure fertile couplings? Good critique, by Bethany Brookshire.

Can we all just get along? The diversity & wonder of symbioses. Nice feature, by Izzy Webb & Jo Harrison

Strength in diversity. Compelling case for preserving biodiversity, by Andrew Beattie.

Road kill. There's a tension between roads & wilderness that needs addressing. Great read, by Michelle Nijhuis. Read of the week.

Of no significance? Erik Stokstad on the concern over decline in R² in ecology research.

****

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

Shady business. Our sunscreen is rough on ocean health. Important read, by Jason Goldman.

Tiny bubbles. Big troubles? Sid Perkins takes a look at methane seeps discovered streaming from sea floor.

Explosive news. Iceland's Bárðarbunga volcano has erupted. Alexandra Witze has great coverage of the occurrence. Read of the week.

Hot topic. What might transpire with Icelandic volcanoes? Excellent perspective, by Erik Klemetti. Read of the week.

A moving story. Rocks take a walk. So cool. Great piece by Jason Bittel. Read / view of the week.

Walking the rock. Ice & wind make mysterious "wandering stones", explains Alexandra Witze.

Shaken & stirred. Phenomenal overview of Napa Valley wine region earthquake, by Mika McKinnon. Read of the week.

Shaken not stirred. Earthquakes helped make Napa Valley wine so good. Yes, really. Great geology explainer, by Natasha Geiling. Read of the week.

Shake & wake. Folks' fitness trackers also tracked nighttime earthquake activity. The marvels of modern technology, by Bahar Gholipour. Read of the week.

"What happened in L'Aquila is a window onto how we think about, communicate, & live with risk." Quote by David Wolman from a spectacular piece on scientists sentenced for manslaughter in L'Alquila. Read of the week.

Humans are boring. And have bored. Everywhere. Our legacy is holes that change geology. Great piece by Kelly Dickerson.

Moving experience. When permafrost melts. Cool video, via Jason Dobkowski.Goin' down slow. Imagine a slow-motion, permafrost- & debris-filled avalanche. It exists. Fascinating field research, nicely described by Laura Nielsen, for Frontier Scientists.

Luscious landscapes. Earth from above. Great photography by Sarah Martinet.

A change in the weather. Gleaning previous climate info using "rescued data". Rose Eveleth explains how it is being done.

****

Star attractions – the final frontier, space

Way out there. Expanding the limits of our view of our solar system. Great read, by Corey Powell. Read of the week.

It's full of stars. Newly forming galactic core. Highlighted by NASA Hubble.

High flier. The butterfly galaxy cluster. Ethan Siegel's prose really flies.

Whole other dimension. Ring Nebula not merely 2D. Phil Plait looks at the shape of things.

A cross, the universe. Cross-like quasar, 10B light years away. Becky Ferreira take a look at it.

A bright spot. Eta Carinae is brilliant. Literally. Image and explainer, courtesy of Chandra Observatory.

Cloudy with a chance of rain. Just 7 light years away. Exoplanet may have misty atmosphere, explains Ken Croswell.

A place in the sun. Ghostly neutrinos report on photon generation in the sun's core, explains Jacob Aron.

Here come the sun. Ron Cowen on neutrinos from the solar core.

Not merely the butt of jokes. "Uranus really stands out." The case for a probe, by Richard Hollingham.

Little missed sunshine. When lumpy Martian moon Phobos rapidly transits the Sun. Great images shared by Emily Lakdawalla.

****

Getting physical – physical sciences – cosmology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computing, engineering, and technology

Nothing what it seems? Are we living in a hologram? There's a machine that may find out. Hal Hodson takes a look at it.

The cat came back. Entangled photons paradoxically make image of Schrödinger's beastie. Amazing piece of physics, perfectly explained by Elizabeth Gibney.

Winging it. How frisbees fly. Awesome, two part explainer (Part 1; Part2) by Nicole Sharp.

Getting the point. Why do stars appear all pointy? Super explainer, by Henry Reich. View of the week.

Hello stranger? Hints of elusive subatomic particles, extra-heavy strange baryons. Cool discovery, nicely explained by Tia Ghose.

Be contradictory. Sometimes it's the best way to find the proof you seek. Excellent look at getting at mathematical proofs, with an approached that can applied to other problems in life, by Evelyn Lamb. Read of the week.

Blackest is the new black. Vantablack is astonishing. Absorbs 99.96% of light. Veronique Greenwood looks at a remarkable technology.

Can't nail down an answer? Why fingernails grow faster than toenails remains a mystery. Nick Stockton considers the hypotheses.

Better, natured. How biology, such as sailfish swimming, can inform auto design. Dalmeet Singh Chawla on the value of biomimicry.

In a flap. Value of flapping-winged robo-birds in scaring real birds. Interesting technology in aid of biology, by Kyle Vanhemert.

Eye, robot. How robots "see" the world, and why that's a matter of concern. Great, thought-provoking piece by Frank Swain.

Who done it. A sciencey take on the return of the time lord, by Jacob Aron & Rowan Hooper.

****

A dose of medicine – science in practice in a medical setting, and health-, nutrition-, and exercise-related stories

The enemy within. Next pandemic unlikely to emerge from jungle, but from "disease factories". Wendy Orent's piece is a sobering read, addressing real areas of concern. Read of the week.

When the drugs don't work. To stop Ebola epidemic, focus must be on health care. Excellent, important read by Erika Check Hayden. Read of the week.

"Heroic & battling something extraordinarily dangerous." Five scientists killed by Ebola to as they worked on acquiring the genome sequence. A poignant story, by Tracy Vence.

Frightening funeral. The single event origin of Ebola outbreak. Donald McNeil looks at the evidence.

Own worst enemy. Ebola turns host's immune system into a host killer. Good explainer, by Michaeleen Doucleff.

Moving target. As it spreads, the Ebola virus is mutating. Rapidly. Important research, perfectly explained by Erika Check Hayden.

Clearing the air. Flatulence is only unhealthy if the creator is naked. Glad that's sorted. Nice share by Seriously, Science?

Fountain of youth? Could we be rejuvenated by young blood...literally? Superb story, by Jess Zimmerman. Read of the week.

Wonder drug. EPO, the banned endurance-enhancing drug, does some remarkable things, as Alex Hutchinson explains.

Perfectly seasoned? Is the season of your birth important? Interesting hypotheses, explored by David Robson.

Eyes were the prize. Yoshiki Sasai's quest to treat vision impairment. Superb profile, by Mo Costandi. Read of the week.

"Stew of misconceptions." Simply fantastic look at "palaeo diets". Must read, by Ann Gibbons. Read of the week.

****

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

Misty, water-coloured memories. May get a boost by magnetic stimulation of the brain. Emily Underwood looks at the evidence.

A real mind changer. How a flip of the switch makes mouse's bad memories good. Amazing research, nicely explained by Greg Miller.

Of two minds. Mouse thoughts changed from fear to good cheer with flip of a switch. Wow. Cool optogenetics, well explained by Jonathan Webb.

Don't do this at home? Warning over electric stimulation of brain. Good feature, by Melissa Hogenboom. Read of the week.

"When it comes to depression, things are never that easy." Quote by Pete Etchells from an excellent & important piece on the impact of depression. Read of the week.

Getting smarter all the time? Bryan Roche finds that your IQ is *not* static for life. Phew! There's hope yet!

A matter of time. Virtual reality can give impression of time travel. Has useful application, as Melissa Hogenboom explains.

****

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

Tense & nervous & you can't relax? To be a better science writer, compose like David Byrne. David Schultz makes a great case.

Speaking wisdom to power. A look at science advising. Great overview by James Wilsdon.

Crisis, what crisis? When scientific experts are needed. Superb feature, by Alexandra Witze, Lauren Morello, & Marian Turner. Read of the week.

Northern exposure. Jenny Ryan on the role that Science Borealis plays in supporting Canadian science blogging.

Picture this. Developing infographics to convey science - like agroecosystems. Katie McKissick shows how art can be used to better explain science.

Positively problematic. In social sciences, negative results not being published. Mark Peplow reports on rampant publication bias.

Literary genius. A fittingly intricate profile of novelist David Mitchell, by Kathryn Schulz.

Cannot wait. Tantalising insights into David Mitchell's soon-to-be-released novel, by Alexandra Alter.

****

Leave a Reply


7 − four =