Morsels For The Mind – 30/05/2014


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”.

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

Sea change. Humpback whale populations are genetically distinct. As Tia Ghose explains, they are oceans apart, literally and figuratively.

Monkeying around. Darren Naish looks at marvellous old world primates.

Hostage to fortune? Should captive chimps be used to test vaccines to protect wild chimps? Ed Yong looks at a fraught issue.

Tremendous trek. Jonathan Hoekstra on zebras' astonishing 500 km migration. Longest animal migration in Africa - not wildebeest!

Ahead by a nose? Will racehorse California Chrome's nasal strips help him win? Here's the science, nicely explained by Regina Nuzzo.

Natural high? Do non-human animals also seek the buzz of alcohol & drugs? Jason Goldman considers the possibilities.

The nose knows. Carl Engelking on how dogs sniff out prostate cancer with 98% accuracy.

Of fashionable fur & marvellous mousers. Cats in Anglo Saxon England. Intriguing bit of domestication history, by Zazie Todd.

Bloody hell! Elephant seal's blood carbon monoxide load. Denise Chow on a some remarkable cell biology.

Captivatingly cute. Pygmy anteater. Bec Crew brings the aww to awesome.

Muscling in. Rebecca Boyle on how tiny, weak muscles shape bat flight.

Born to run? Some nifty calculations suggest hedgehogs can be marathon runners. Love this piece, by Mika McKinnon. Read of the week.

Damming report. Hydroelectric dams impinge on endangered species, like otters, explains Sarah Zielinski.

What's in a name? For baby birds, life or death. Brilliant essay by Robert Krulwich, on some amazing animal behaviour. Read of the week.

Song in the key of life. Birds on a wire transformed to music. Wonderful. Must view video, shared by GrrlScientist. View of the week.

A hand in the bird is worth... Wait, what?! Evolution of bird "hands". Awesome TetZoo Comic, by Ethan Kocak & Darren Naish.

Saving an icon. Sam Wong on efforts to protect a Darwin finch from an invasive parasite.

These wings weren't made for walking. Darren Naish on how flightless birds got off from a flying start.

Rooster booster. Ewen Callaway on a new effort that will explore chicken domestication and its impact.

Real gems. Carrie Arnold on a new, emerald lizard species.

“A mystery nearly 80 years in the making..solved.” A snake that wasn't, was. Superb story by John Platt. Read of the week.

Terrapins times ten. John Platt on a single turtle species that is likely more than 10 species.

Winging it. Bec Crew describes a flying dragon lizard glides through the air.

Toxic toad's terrible toll. Daniel Cressey on how an invasive amphibian is a walking ecological disaster.

We’ve been slimed! By the remarkable hagfish. Matt Simon brings you yet another curious critter.

Different horses from different sources. Crowdsourcing seahorse conservation. Cool project, nicely explained by Kim Moynahan.

Well red. April Reese explains how deepwater fish signals with a crimson glow.

Youthful appearance. Fish shapeshift with age. Wonderful bit of animal development, equally wonderfully described by Jennifer Frazer.

Deep secret. Elizabeth Preston on how squid get by with no oxygen.

Amazing anemones. Fantastic "flowers of the sea".

Feisty females. Tia Ghose on why female scorpions are fiercer.

Out to sea. Phronima rides the waves. Katie O'Dwyer describes one freaky, barrel-riding critter.

More prawn than brains? S. E. Gould finds that shrimp farming practices exposes shrimp to heightened disease risk.

Known unknowns. Species already discovered in 2014. Jennifer Frazer shares a "sliver of undiscovered diversity".

Spectacular species. Jennifer Frazer has a gallery of the new discoveries for 2014.

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

Silent majority, times two. Ed Yong finds that crickets converge on chirp-less-ness. Great story of convergent evolution.

Silence is golden. Cricket convergent evolution shows that's the case, at least 2 times, as Katia Moskvitch explains.

Shady business. Warming climate favours lighter hued insects. Excellent take, by Christie Wilcox.

Tough love. The brutal sex lives of bush crickets. A lively description by James Gilbert.

Eye of the bee holder. Electron microscopy on bees. Wow. Beautiful fusion of art and science, by Rose-Lynn Fisher.

Better buzz. Dancing bees tell tale of conservation success. Some nice research blogging by Roger Schürch & Margaret Couvillon.

The bees knees. Jennifer Holland on how the bee waggle dance reveals preferred land use patterns.

Living on burrowed time. Silky hole of mystery spider. Catherine Scott pieces the clues together.

Holey crap. Spiders disguise web as bird poop. Yes, really. Helen Thompson has all the pictures to prove it.

You know the drill. Wasp's zinc-tipped borer. Amazing bit of biology, nicely described by Victoria Gill.

Separating hype from buzz. A look at mosquito swarms. Really informative piece, by Cameron Webb.

Wow! Simply gorgeous. Rosy maple moth portrait by Nash Turley.

All's well that end's well? Crickets survive massive parasitic worm exodus from butt. Wow! Matt Simon continues his exploration of spectacularly bizarre critters.

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

Nosing a head. Croc-like dinosaur snout function, perfectly described Jon Tennant.

Birds of a feather? James Morgan on how folks are taking a deeper look at Archaeopteryx.

47 million years ago a bird pollinated a flower. A fossil preserved that fact to this day, as Joseph Bennington Castro reveals.

Flora-friendly fossils. Traci Watson looks at the earliest avian pollinators.

A more black & white understanding. Redescribing an ancient penguin based on fossil evidence. Travis Park provides a wonderful description of his latest published work.

Pachyderm perspectives. Discovery of mammoth parts changed our understanding of history. Excellent look at the impact of an extinct creature on current perspectives, by Robin McKie.

Mammoth undertaking. Do mammoth mega-graves point to canine-aided demise? Cool hypothesis, wonderfully described by David Grimm.

Not a hunch. Richard III had crooked spine, but was not hunchbacked. Colin Barras on evidence that aims to straighten people's conceptions of the iconic king.

Getting a king's back up. James Meikle finds Richard III suffered scoliosis but wasn't hunchbacked.

Setting the record straight? Just how twisted was Richard III's spine? Stephanie Pappas has the answer.

Enigmatic animals. Extraordinary mosaic of critters from 4th century. Christopher Lightfoot on an amazing archaeological find.

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

Seeds at sea. Larger seeds evolve on islands. Sarah Zielinski on an evolutionary trend.

Stars of the show. Elaeagnus's beautiful starry scales. Tim Entwisle looks at a plant's celestial features.

Floral flip. Hormone turns flowering on & off.

Lovely lilies. Of a watery kind.

Getting the point. Sarah Shailes looks at convergent evolution of aloe & agave leaves.

Location, location, location. As with real estate, a wine's terroir is key, as Francie Diep explains.

An ugly truth. Eating “ugly” fruit & veg is a corrective to problematic food production. Follow Barbara King's excellent lead here.

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

What happens in the lab stays in the lab? Might flu virus research increase risk of outbreak? Maryn McKenna considers the possibilities.

Going viral. Matt Safford on how viruses are poised to be next line of cancer therapeutics.

Pet hypothesis. Could cats & dogs be a vector for MERS? Matt McGrath on how transmission is being tracked.

A wee protozoan..that causes diarrhoea is a new & esoteric workplace hazard for firefighters.” Quote by Rebecca Kreston from a fascinating read linking a barn fire & a water-borne pathogen outbreak.

A deadly loss. Kausik Datta explains how losing a few genes created Black Death.

The eyes have it. Rina Shaikh-Lesko on how scientists are looking into the ocular microbe population.

Ahhh…summer. Perfect time for a little omphaloskepsis. Awesome consideration of a microbe hunt, by Julia Rice courtesy of the gang at Buzz Hoot Roar.

Is it in our heads? Or bowels? Or both? Jennifer Franklin on how people are exploring the gut-brain axis.

Retaining culture. Megan Garber on a repository that is storing yeast cultures to preserve beer brewing.

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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)

The language of life. When it comes to DNA, it's multilingual. Superb exploration of some cool biology, by Jeffrey Marlow. Read of the week.

No stopping them now? Bacteria that ignore the stop in DNA's code. Interesting outcome of microbial evolution, nicely explained by Erika Check Hayden.

Follow the leader. Cells move like sled dogs, as Julie Cohen explains.

Not the same old story. Ed Yong explores the compelling case for finding the things that hasten ageing, "gerontogens".

The paper chased. Controversial stem cell publication likely to be retracted. David Cyranoski looks at the latest development.

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

Brain over brawn. Carl Zimmer explains how metabolic demand means muscle was sacrificed for brains in our evolution.

Brain gain. For humans, it came at a muscle cost, explains Dan Vergano.

Situation critical. Criticality providing new rules for life at the edge of chaos. Brandon Keim on the merger of physics and life sciences.

Death by unnatural causes. We hasten extinction rate by 1000 times. Peter Aldhous on the grim news, that has somewhat of a potentially silver lining.

Where the wild things aren't. This app tells you where species are disappearing.

Citizens' arrest? Citizen science aims to halt animal extinctions, as Christine Dell'Amore explains.

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

The theory is clever, elegant, & simple.” Unfortunately, Darwin's reef growth hypothesis is probably also wrong, as Jason Goldman explains.

The peat goes on. Colossal peat bog, size of England, discovered in Congo, as Rebecca Morelle explains.

The heat of the moment. Understanding the nature of fire. Superb feature, by Brian Mockenhaupt.

Deep freeze. After dinosaur-extinguishing impact, Earth had a deadly decades-long winter, explains Charles Choi.

On the rocks. Some of the most iconic glaciers are disappearing at unprecedented rate.

Rocky road. The loss of glaciers makes for a dire path ahead, say CBC's Quirks & Quarks' Bob McDonald.

Out for a spin. Supercell thunderstorm, shared by Nicole Sharp at FY! Fluid Dynamics.

Sky high. Supercell thunderstorm, photographed by Stephen Locke, shared by Christopher Jobson.

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Star attractions – the final frontier, space

Gamma gamma hey! Did we experience a gamma ray burst? Or something as cool? Mika McKinnon considered the science as it first emerged. But then…

Bursting the bubble. Deflated by news that gamma ray burst...wasn't. Check out this update, by Alex Witze.

Out with a bang. Death of biggest, brightest stars. Charles Choi looks at how it happens.

"Like a hobbit with a mithril coat." Oh nothing, just a dark-matter-armoured cosmic cloud. Shannon Hall on a remarkable cosmic occurrence.

Star attraction. Galaxy shows how stars cluster.

Spectacular sphere. Wonderful redshifted galaxy. Ethan Siegel looks into it.

All the right moves. Our path through space. Ethan Siegel takes you on an awesome tour.

The hole truth. What lies at the centre of our galaxy? Black hole or wormhole? Ian O'Neill considers the options.

So much to do, so little time. Our galaxy will collide with Andromeda in 2B years. Dennis Overbye looks the apocalypse in the eye.

Triple treat. Transit of a trio of Jupiter's moons. David Dickinson takes a look at a beautiful celestial event.

Marvellous Mars. In vivid colour, by HiRISE, shared by Emily Lakdawalla.

Lava, life? Might volcanic flow point to where life could have arisen on Mars? Stuart Clark considers the possibility.

Not so hot? Why didn't lava on Mars garner more attention? Interesting take, by Robin Wylie.

Good night moons. The Earth once had two big satellites. (Hypothetically.) Wonderful piece by Corey Powell, on the Moon's origin. It contains the great quote: "planet formation is sloppy & creative & wildly varied”. Read of the week.

Loving the alien? How would we even speak to extraterrestrials? Bob McDonald of CBC's Quirks & Quarks gives it thoughtful consideration.

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

Holey moley! Helen Thompson describes the amazing things black holes do. Wow!

Legends of the fall. Even atoms exhibit free-fall equivalence. Einstein FTW! Absolutely brilliantly explained by Jennifer Ouellette. Read of the week.

Enemy of the state. Nobelist argues state vectors don't reflect reality. Cool hypothesis, beautifully explained by Tom Siegfried.

Sign of the times. Maths symbols are relatively recent innovation. Maths was once poetry…literally. Excellent read, by Joseph Mazur. Read of the week.

Is a Skynet-like machine intelligence on the horizon? Um, not so much. Great critique, by Erik Sofge.

It's complicated. Computational complexity sheds light on space & time. Cool new physics, nicely examined by Amanda Gefter.

Looking for a wi-fi hotspot? Check out the moon. Yes, really. Carl Engelking on how it got there.

Words in action. Hannah Postles explains how a piece of poetry is cleansing the air. Unfortunately, that wonderful air-cleansing poem maybe not so great on account of how titanium dioxide is sourced, though. Bummer. Thanks to Ziya Tong for the reality check on this one.

Heads in the clouds. Scientists look at cloud computing to handle big data analyses. Nadia Drake on the latest developments with the technology.

It all adds up. The beauty of mathematics - illustrated. Alex Bellos brings the curiously cool.

How things shape up. Gorgeous geometric sculptures fuse mathematics & art, nicely shared by Julie Rehmeyer.

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

Real gut reaction? Sorting out the grains of truth in gluten sensitivity. Excellent dissection of a timely topic, by Bethany Brookshire.

Fuelling discontent. Wood-burning cooking fires kill millions a year. Excellent feature by Meera Subramanian, on a huge global health issue.

Now that's cool. If you're hot, should you drink a cold drink or a warm one? Alex Hutchinson takes the temperature on the evidence.

Downwind danger. Kawasaki Disease seems to be wind transmitted, explains Jennifer Frazer.

Retching restaurant reviews. Maryn McKenna on how a health department used Yelp to track food-borne illness. Interesting use of Web 2.0.

Take heart. Plants & oil in Mediterranean diet may be what promotes cardiac health. Hmm.

Fat chance. Many folks think they know what caused rising obesity rates. They're probably wrong. Beth Skwarecki takes an excellent, critical look at the evidence.

This bites. Rabies is killing kids. And it's preventable. Matt McGrath on a global health issue in need of attention.

Heads up. The science of the faceplant, & protecting against it. Maggie Koerth-Baker's excellent exploration of the epic, and painful, fail.

Something to chew on. Eating powdered diet causes health issues (in mice). Interesting discovery, nicely explained by Francie Diep.

Without vigilance we too easily mistake it for science.” The claims of fortified foods. Superb critique, by Alan Levinovitz.

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

Up and atom. Holy wow! Neuron synapse in 3D at atomic resolution! Virginia Hughes on what has to be the eye candy of the week. View of the week.

Whole other dimension. Neuron synapse in 3D. Amazing! Astonishing cell biology, beautifully explained by Mo Costandi. View of the week.

The fire inside. Neurons firing in real time in situ. Sara Reardon takes a look.

A case of the nerves. Jyoti Madhusoodanan explains how specific stress-responsive neurons are linked to depression in mice.

Shocking discoveries. History of applying electricity to dead brains is unnerving. Christian Jarrett on a discomfiting history.

This is how science should be: objective, collegiate & open.” On replication in psychology. Superb take, by Pete Etchells.

Now that's cool. Theory defines what is universally hip. Intriguing look at social psychology, by Derek Thompson.

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

The story is about me, but the key points are more about how “success” can evolve in science.” Quote by John Hutchinson from an excellent personal reflection of success in science. Super advice. Read of the week.

The point about the concept of “productivity” is that it isn’t merely about getting things done, or doing a lot.” Quote by Melonie Fullick from a wonderful, must-read post about what productivity really means. Brilliant. Read of the week.

Sharing the wonder. Excellent personal reflection on the value of science outreach, by Chris Buddle.

She gave voice to silence. "Silent Spring" author Rachel Carson was celebrated in a Google Doodle this week. Sajid Shaikh on someone who changed our understanding of our relationship with nature.

Science, boring? Ha! Thrills, spills, & chilling dangers of doing research. Yow! Adam Frank takes a look.

Who gives a tweet? Twitter does. It's releasing them all...for science! Melinda Wenner Moyer considers the implications.

Own goal? Will the net outcome of Hawking's World Cup stunt elicit a red card as a role model? Pete Etchells on the fall of a childhood hero.

“It’s curiosity gone wild.” David Lang on the wonderful world of citizen science.

Where do the children play? It should be running wild in nature. Emma Marris makes a compelling case.

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