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”.
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.
Hostage to fortune? Should captive chimps be used to test vaccines to protect wild chimps? Ed Yong looks at a fraught issue.
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.
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.
Saving an icon. Sam Wong on efforts to protect a Darwin finch from an invasive parasite.
Rooster booster. Ewen Callaway on a new effort that will explore chicken domestication and its impact.
Terrapins times ten. John Platt on a single turtle species that is likely more than 10 species.
Toxic toad's terrible toll. Daniel Cressey on how an invasive amphibian is a walking ecological disaster.
Amazing anemones. Fantastic "flowers of the sea".
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.
Bugs’ life – insects and other things that creep, crawl and otherwise delight – the arthropods
Silence is golden. Cricket convergent evolution shows that's the case, at least 2 times, as Katia Moskvitch explains.
Eye of the bee holder. Electron microscopy on bees. Wow. Beautiful fusion of art and science, by Rose-Lynn Fisher.
The bees knees. Jennifer Holland on how the bee waggle dance reveals preferred land use patterns.
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.
Fossil finds – organisms of times past – palaeontology, archaeology, anthropology, history and the like
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.
Enigmatic animals. Extraordinary mosaic of critters from 4th century. Christopher Lightfoot on an amazing archaeological find.
Beautiful botanicals – wonders of the photosynthesising world – that is, mainly plants
Floral flip. Hormone turns flowering on & off.
Lovely lilies. Of a watery kind.
An ugly truth. Eating “ugly” fruit & veg is a corrective to problematic food production. Follow Barbara King's excellent lead here.
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.
“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.
Retaining culture. Megan Garber on a repository that is storing yeast cultures to preserve beer brewing.
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)
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.
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.
Situation critical. Criticality providing new rules for life at the edge of chaos. Brandon Keim on the merger of physics and life sciences.
Where the wild things aren't. This app tells you where species are disappearing.
Earth, wind and fire – planet shaping – geology, meteorology, oceanography, the environment & climate
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.
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…
Star attraction. Galaxy shows how stars cluster.
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.
Lava, life? Might volcanic flow point to where life could have arisen on Mars? Stuart Clark considers the possibility.
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.
Getting physical – physical sciences – cosmology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computing, engineering, and technology
Enemy of the state. Nobelist argues state vectors don't reflect reality. Cool hypothesis, beautifully explained by Tom Siegfried.
It's complicated. Computational complexity sheds light on space & time. Cool new physics, nicely examined by Amanda Gefter.
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.
How things shape up. Gorgeous geometric sculptures fuse mathematics & art, nicely shared by Julie Rehmeyer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Matters of mind – how we, and other animals, perceive our world and our place in it – neuroscience, mental health, psychology, sociology & human interest stories
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.
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.
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.