Morsels For The Mind – 29/11/2013

30 November 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 / listens of the week”.


Feather, fur & fin – birds, beasts, fishes, and the things they do

Being unseen, not unheard. What sneaky lemurs are concerned about. Once again, Mary Bates is spot on in her reporting of animal behaviour.

Masters of deception? Are humans the only tricksy animals? Interesting: essay by Jason Goldman, introducing his new series on things that humans and non-human animals do.

Welcome home? What do non-human animals feel when their offspring return? Thought-provoking piece by Barbara King.

Inside a whale. Revelations of a cetacean genome. Elizabeth Pennisi

A whale of a time. It’s the season when tons of cetaceans head to Monterey Bay. Awesome overview by Nadia Drake.

Whales’ night out. What happens when a whale & a whale shark meet in a bar? Science! Alistair Dove
 has great fun with this post, and reveals some cool facts at the same time.

Time out. Some fascinating facts about hibernation. Elizabeth Preston
 lays them all out.

Sit. Stay. Eavesdrop. Dogs ID generous folks by eavesdropping on human interplay. Superb reporting of cool research by Companion Animal Psychology.

Pet hypothesis. Might China’s embrace of pet dogs decrease demand for exotic animal parts? David Biello
 on a tough subject.

The mane event. Now *this* is how you get pictures of lions. A matter of pride. Robert Gonzalez
 looks into it.

What’s new? Pussycat!  Wild feline species discovered hiding in a hybrid swarm. Sarah Zielinski on a subject that’s cool for cats.

Two for one deal. New cat species emerges from hybrid swarm. Ed Yong
 reports on the new wild cat that was sitting there “in plain sight”.

Mother’s touch. Mouse sons are influenced by moms’ social setting. Fascinating post by Sci Curious.

Getting its back up. Super-spined shrew. Matt Simon on bizarre biology.

Heads up. A gorgeous giraffe is on the road to extinction, as John Platt reports.

Straight from the horse’s mouth. Equine jawbone embedded in tree root. Henry Nicholls reports on an interesting historical artifact.

A pox on both your houses? Not red squirrels - some seem resistant to pox virus. Victoria Gill on an interesting development.

Motherly love. Albatross females’ fascinating same-sex pairings. Simply amazing biology, masterfully reported by Carl Zimmer. Read of the week.

Listen up. Great tits have “predator-specific” calls, as reported by Victoria Gill.

Caws & effects. How the crow brain works.

“This is a different kind of nightlife.” On sobriety, tracking endangered birds, & island life. Superb, personal reflection by Amy Liptrot. Read of the week.

Travel advisory. If you’re a migratory bird, even a raptor, it’s safer to stay put.  Sarah Zielinski 
looks into it.

It’s a hoot! Owl chicks recognise siblings' calls.

Leapin’ lizards! Reptiles are smart, as Emily Anthes makes clear.

Fact or fiction? Invading anacondas? Yes, says Jackson Landers. Hang on a minute, says David Steen. Great investigative work by David Steen on this.

Toxic relationship. Poison frogs make tadpoles taste blech.

The aim of the game. Archerfish’s amazing spit precision. Mary Bates on physics masters of the animal world.

A head of the game. Seahorse face enables sneaky eats. Susan Milius on an intriguing evolutionary innovation.

Welcome to Canada. ~ Bienvenue au Canada. We dislike fish. ~ Nous n’aimons pas le poisson. Excellent coverage of a fisheries conservation disaster, by  Anne Casselman.

This takes the biscuit. Cookie-cutter shark. Matt Simon
 continues his work on the bizarre beasties beat.

Things that go bump in the night. Greenland’s blind shark. Craig McClain illuminates.

If you go down to the wood today. You’ll find deep sea critters. Living off wood on the ocean floor. This Ed Yong piece on Craig McClain’s ocean wood fall research is fabulous. Evolution wins. Read of the week.

Getting a grip. How octopus suckers do it.

The host with the most. A generalist parasite’s choices, by Tommy Leung.

Acid trip. Acidic water trips snails up, shows Craig McClain.

Wonderful wolves. Of the ocean’s depths. Joseph Jameson-Gould gives us something amazing to look at.

Spectacular synaptids. Amazing sea cucumbers. Chris Mah does his usual outstanding job of showing off wonders of the deep.

Better natured. Best nature photos.

To sea is to believe? An amazing sea monster that was most certainly a hoax. Fascinating cryptozoology history, by Darren Naish.


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

Black Friday? How about Black Fly Day?! Entomologist reconfigured a day of consumerism into a day of awesome biology. Great coverage by Bug Girl here and Chris Buddle here.

Pieces of life. Latest cool posts on segmented critters, nicely bundled. Chris Buddle
 has been rocking his new blog at SciLogs.

Sound solution. How a spider avoids being dinner. Catherine Scott has been spinning pure gold at her new blog site. Be sure to check it out.

Bon appétit! Spiders have meals that might surprise you. Interesting piece by Chris Buddle.

Walloping websnappers. Amazing garden spiders.  

Gee whiz. Spiders don't like human urine. Experiments proved it.

Castles in the air. Paper wasp nests are marvels of insect industriousness.

Sweet smell of sex scents. Bees smell queen mating success. Elizabeth Preston
 does a great job reporting on some interesting insect behaviour.

Strength in numbers. Ants build with bodies. Joseph Stromberg 
on insect inventiveness.

Ship shape. By grouping together, ants make unsinkable raft. Cool story with video, from Alyssa Botelho.

Red-eyed devils. That mimic poop. Ted MacRae
 explores the treehoppers.

Go with the glow. Fluorescent arthropods. Wow! Bug Girl shines a light on some beautiful creatures.

Best fronds forever. Marvellous moss-mimicking mantis. Carly B always has the most curious of critters to show.

Oh nothing. Just a praying mantis catching a goldfish.

Winging it. Mimicking surface of dragonfly wings creates anti-bacterial material.


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

Down in the dumps. Huge "prehistoric latrine" full of coprolites unearthed. As James Morgan says, “Each poo is a time capsule.” Beautiful. Read of the week.

Potty pals. Coprolites from communal latrine suggests Triassic herbivores were gregarious.

Roast dinosaur with gravy & cranberry sauce. Brian Switek reminds us that we’re only the latest critters to dine on dinos.

A head by a nose. How a unicorn lost its horn & gained a snout. Excellent post, by Jaime Headden.

A crested development. How a “unicorn” dinosaur became one with a nasal crest. Interesting discovery reported by Brian Switek.

Big baby. An infant ceratopsid. Amazing find, reported by Tia Ghose.

Crustacean conundrum. Intersex Cretaceous crabs. Stephanie Pappas
 reports on this novel find.

Life sucked. But it’s a good thing when it’s a turtle, as Jon Tennant shows perfectly.

Tooth & consequences. How one bird lineage regained “teeth”. Pseudoteeth, to be exact, as reported by Brian Switek.

A black & white case? Of molecular clocks, the fossil record & evolution of modern penguins. Travis Park ties all the threads together beautifully.

Cheep trek. Oldest bird tracks etched in rock. Looks like a shore thing.

We are united by our science and the adventure of discovery. There’s nothing greater than that.” Quote by Elen Feuerriegel, on her awesome experience on the Rising Star Expedition. Speaking of which:

More on Elen Feuerriegel’s cool anthropology research by Becky Wragg Sykes. And related:

Digging their research! Lots more on anthropologists of the Rising Star Expedition here at Trowel Blazers by Suzie Birch Tori Herridge and Becky Wragg Sykes. Reads of the week.

The iceman cometh. Fascinating podcast on Ötzi, “the iceman”, by the super folks at Radiolab. Listen of the week.


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

Berry interesting. Cranberries halt microbes’ moves, as reported by Sara Rose Halley.

Destructive frond ship. A helicopter & careful herbicide use combat an invasive fern. Brooke Borel
 reports on an intriguing approach to conservation.


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

Flyway to hell? Are antibiotic resistant microbes riding on migratory birds? This post by Jonas Waldenström is exemplary research blogging. Superb introduction & well-explained details. Love the way their antibiotic-resistant-microbes-aboard-birds research is framed and the way limitations are considered. Read of the week.

Blowing in the wind? Fungi make their own gusts to get spores to fly. Douglas Main
 on some funky fungal biology.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Our friendly microbes were once foes, as reports Rachel Nuwer.

Better watch out for the skin deep. Might be fungi. Rachel Adams
 takes a look.

Nice bouquet, with a hint of microbes.  Do microbes shape wine terroir? It looks like it, as reports Nicholas Wade.


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)

Everything new is old again. Senescent cells in embryos. Carl Zimmer
 on an intriguing discovery.

A dry tale. Literally. We spend our lifetimes drying out. Fascinating post by Robert Krulwich.

Cell by dates. Tracking a cancer’s evolution, cell by cell. Amazing story by Emily Singer.

Missing links? Genes may be linked to disease using huge electronic medical record database. Carl Zimmer reports on the latest approach to linking genetics with health.

Hit me with your best shot. Historical health data show power of vaccination. Great story by Dina Maron.

What’s up dock? In silico docking of drugs to proteins suggests mode of action. Super feature by Sara Reardon.

Needling not needed? Vaccine implant takes aim at eliminating shots. Nadia Drake reports on an important new health technology.

Strange sequence of events. What’s up with the FDA & genome sequence outfit 23andme? Razib Khan’s take is here, and David Dobbs’s take is here.

Pausing the sequence? Stopping 23andMe will merely delay the revolution medicine needs. Superb perspective by Gholson Lyon.

Amplifying history. Celebrating the thermal cycler, as polymerase chain reaction turns 30.

Tearing up. Tears under a microscope. Joseph Stromberg shares some incredible photos.


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

A tidy explanation.  How is it that we have tides? Excellent post by Rhett Allain feat. Minute Physics.

Life on Earth? How about life *made* Earth what it is. Amazing thought experiment, reported by Michael Slezak.

Beyond cool. A poet reports on marine life beneath the Antarctic ice. Beautiful piece by Jynne Dilling Martin.

Who has seen the wind? You can, in these astounding animated computer models. Tom Yulsman shares some interesting geoscience.


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

It’s full of stars. Astonishing views of cosmos in new “In Saturn’s Rings”  trailer. Jason Major
 shares. View of the week.

Rule breaker. Black hole shocks. Bill Andrews reports on a surprising find.

Small & mighty. Even miniature black holes pack a wallop. Even more than expected, as George Dvorsky

Holey moley! The black hole at centre of our universe is shooting out particle jets! Clara Moskowitz
 reports on this amazing find.

Spectacular spiral. Gorgeous galaxy. Phil Plait shares his perspective.

Shocking find. Mach 1000 reverse shock wave lights supernova remnant.

Smashing discovery. Galaxy collision next door.

Thanks be. Homage to the gifts of the Cassini mission. Gorgeous gallery, collated by Nadia Drake.

Thrived? Survived? Vapourised?  Follow the fate of comet ISON, at this great site, run by Emily Lakdawalla.

Was gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day. For comet ISON, its day in the sun arrived. Rebecca Morelle
 reported on ISON before it made its closest approach to the sun.

Look! Up in the sky! It’s comet ISON! And this is a great explainer about it. Frontier Scientists
 have provided a great ISON backgrounder.

Dead or alive? Comet ISON still in limbo. Schrödinger’s comet? Jonathan Amos
 take a look.

“Might the sun-grazing comet have survived, father?” “ISON, it might have.” Alexandre Witze on “zombie comet” that would not die.

Keeping their ISON the prize. Astronomers eye comet’s trajectory post-sun-grazing. Robert Gonzalez
 reported on the ISON follow up.

Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of ISON. But mama, that’s where the fun is. Great reflections on comet viewing by Bob McDonald host of Quirks & Quarks.

Poo floats. And in space that’s just the start of the problem. Intriguing issue, reported by Amy Shira Teitel.


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

That’s life? Not even close, but elements of synthetic “protocell” start to shape up, as reported by Michael Marshall.

Too much information? How nature efficiently handles IT. Cool piece by Kelly Clancy in Nautilus Magazine.

Ready for prime time? Mathematicians counting on advances in prime numbers, as Erica Klarreich reports.

A trick of the light. A single photon has been observed, without absorbing it. Phenomenal observation, expertly reported by Andrew Grant.

Shell game. Contrary to what we learned in chemistry, bonds may form with inner shell electrons. Clara Moskowitz
 on a fascinating theoretical chemistry hypothesis.

The wonder stuff. Graphene. Stronger than steel & conducts better than copper, reports David Larousserie.

Waking moments. How tiny bubbles form in the wake of motion in water. Cool physics, by Alexis Rudd.


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

Who said that? The nature of our inner dialogues. Ferris Jabr 
describes what we’ve learned since Woolf in this superb story. Read of the week.

Back to reality? On the interpretation of lucid dreams. Absolutely fascinating story by Dorian Rolston. Read of the week.

Finding Neo. Are we living in the Matrix? How would we know? Zeeya Merali explores in this fascinating piece.

Eternal sunshine of a spotless mind? Erasing bad memories. Interesting science by R. Douglas Fields.

Stop making scents. Opposite sex odour shortens fly & worm lives. As always, Ed Yong’s reporting on this is nothing to sniff at. He has a nose for a good story.

Here I was, using my living brain to look at the dead brain belonging to a complete stranger.” Quote by Christian Jarrett on bringing his awesome neuroscience blog, Brain Watch, to Wired Science Blogs.

Banking on brains. Literally. The history of collecting brains, by Christian Jarrett.

In neuroscience, confusing correlation with causation is close to unforgivable.” Quote from super piece by Chris Chambers on power & pitfalls of brain scans. They don’t ID psychopaths.

The newlywed game. Gut reaction to partner just after marriage foretells of future bliss. Regina Nuzzo covered it.

Hole other purpose. Tongue piercing controls a wheelchair. Fascinating technological development, reported by James Gallagher.

Healthy mind, healthy body? Evidence emerging for impact of mental state on biology. Great feature article by Jo Marchant.

HOLY SMOKES, WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT!! Sometimes distraction can help memory, as Sci Curious reports.

Dread, not. Rather than dreading pain, folks prefer to get it over with. Sci Curious provides excellent insight into some intriguing research.

Live & let DIY? Rise of do-it-yourself neuroscience. Is this a good thing? Peter Hildebrand considers.


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

This. Is. Awesome. Women in STEM, YouTube, & sexism. Emily Graslie reports on a deterrent to more women doing the wonderful work she does on science communication via YouTube. View of the Week.

Surprise! Science pops up in the most unexpected places.  Excellent curation of science stories, by Kim Moynahan & Lisa Willemse.

Get the word out. Your science isn’t done until you communicate it. Excellent position taken by BBSRC CEO Jackie Hunter.

The fraud squad. Heidi Ledford, Ed Yong, & Richard Van Noorden on exposing fraudulent science.

Getting it all wrong. Bad anti-GMO science, poorly handled by publisher. Excellent take by Jon Entine.

The upside of the downside. Positive feedback on publication of negative results. Eva Amsen offers the perspective gleaned from F1000 Reports.

Bigger is better? The argument *against* Big Data. Thought provoking piece by Tom Siegfried.

It takes a thief. But just polite words to stop them when it’s research equipment. GrrlScientist

Real game changer. Switching from pro athlete to scientist is better than some may think.

Hire education? Why couldn’t students’ classwork actually be useful work? Jim Davies has some good advice.

Address the stress. Tackling the travails of being an early career researcher. Jean Adams has some superb advice here.

Da Vinci mode. Over 500 yrs ago, Leonardo designed a “viola organista”. It’s now been made, and its sound is divine. But it turns out that “Da Vinci’s bowed instrument” is actually an “obscure German contraption”, as Norman Lebrecht reveals.

Same old, same old? Where’s the next generation of disruptive technology? Martin Angler
 delves into it.

Drawing conclusions. What comics tell us about communicating. Great piece by David Robson featuring Neil Cohn. If you desire proof of the communicative power of comics in science, the next two morsels link to Jed McGowan’s amazing work:

Drawing on experiences. Voyager’s journey, told in comic form, by Jed McGowan.

Surf’s up! The geological past & future of Hawaii. In comic form, by Jed McGowan.

Hey! Look what these kids did! Science edited for kids, *by* kids. Spectacular! Speaking of which, here’s the backgrounder:

The kids are alright. A scientific journal for kids, edited *by* kids. Such a great story, reported by Alice Truong.


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