Morsels for the mind – 30/8/2013
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 of the week”.
Feather, fur & fin – birds, beasts, fishes, and the things they do
Living for the city. Urban living is changing the brains and behaviours of animals. Absolutely genius reporting on this fascinating story by Brandon Keim, Carl Zimmer and Rachel Nuwer. Reads of the week.
“Gasp at what evolution has wrought.” On the discovery, and rediscovery, of species.
In the lap of the dogs. Canine slurping is an acrobatic feat. Julie Hecht dishes it up.
Dogged determination. Some dogs are incredibly intelligent. Chaser leaves most of those in the dust. Dan Nosowitz’s feature on the “world’s smartest dog” is a must-read for dog lovers (and those interested in non-human animal smarts).
Not so black and white? Is breeding pandas really worth it?
The right stuff. Finding the right whale breeding ground was no mere fluke.
A noble prize? Orcas shouldn’t be in captivity, but not because they’re “noble”. Excellent case made by Jeffrey Bloomer.
Preventing pachyderm peril. Protecting Africa’s elephants.
Unbearable. Look at the giant anteater’s legs. Now try unseeing the panda.
Drawn in. Amazing drawings of animals.
Preying on the mind. How an owl maps out its hunt. Brilliant post by Greg Miller.
Gorgeous gannets. Spectacular seabirds.
Surf’s up! Ducks ride the waves for food.
Songs of the city. Urban living is changing some birds’ tunes.
Caws and effects. Social learning in crows.
Alarming find. Salamanders respond to worm alarm. Fascinating stuff by Anne-Marie Hodge.
Homeward bound. Zoo reintroductions helping bring hellbender back from the brink.
The eyes have it. Damselfish have bigger fake eyes, smaller real eyes when predators lurk. As always, beautifully told tale by Elizabeth Preston.
At arm’s length. Severed octopus arms act on their own.
On the trail of the snail. Keeping apace of a vector of deadly dog disease. Interesting story by Matt McGrath.
Developing at a snail’s pace. Because it’s a snail.
Hanging on by a thread. In the mussel’s case, a remarkable thread.
Bugs’ life – insects and other things that creep, crawl and otherwise delight
The hungry caterpillar…was a voracious carnivore! Great combo of text and GIFs by Robert Gonzalez to convey a captivating tale.
Jump around! An amazing leaping caterpillar. Becky Crew got the hop on this cool story.
Fearsome foe. A cicada-killing wasp. Stunning.
Another leg up. Sometimes antennae do extra work. Mathew Cobb shows what happens when insects go out on a limb.
On a wing and a prayer. Excellent empusid praying mantids. Spectacular stuff by Piotr Naskrecki.
Winging it. Bee flight muscles decoded.
Switching it up. ON/OFF switches underlie dragonfly vision.
Amazing arthropods. Capturing the beauty of insects.
Sounds of summer. And the insects that make them. Gorgeous gallery compiled by Brandon Keim, who points out you can join in on citizen science collection of insect calls using your smartphone.
“Everywhere I travel will have plenty of little alien civilisations.” Awesome interview of Alex Wild by Travis Blair, on the joy of ants.
Beautiful botanicals – wonders of the photosynthesising world – that is, mainly plants
Grow with the flow. Gorgeous kelp forest.
Fossil finds – organisms of times past – dinosaurs and beyond
Getting a head of ourselves. Three skulls led to three species names. Actually just one species.
Dinosaurs of yore. Twenty years on, Jurassic Park continues to inform and misinform.
Microscopic marvels – smaller than the eye can see, but big in action – bacteria, fungi and viruses
Going retro. The astonishing story of how a retrovirus flew to birds from mammals, fabulously explained by Ed Yong. Read of the week.
Life in the slow lane. Deep-dwelling microbes are in it for the long run.
A real pain. Microbes hit nervous system.
Fantastic fungus. Horse dung fungus beauty lies within.
All together now. How Ebola virus assembles. Remarkable.
Distemper of our times. Dolphin die-off attributed to virus related to distemper and measles. Amazing coverage of a tough story by Nadia Drake.
Gut reaction. Connection between obesity and metabolic disease may be gut microbes. Veronique Greenwood cuts through the hype on this important story.
“If it hadn’t been for us, cattle & badgers might not have had TB in the first place.” Superb blend of science, policy & opinion on the UK badger cull by Alice Roberts.
Bad shot? Red flag raised over universal influenza virus. Important find, perfectly conveyed (as usual) by Helen Branswell.
A horse, of course. During WWI, biological warfare targeted transportation. Amazing piece of history of science by Annelie Wendeberg.
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)
Thanks for the memories. There’s a protein that helps retain (or lose) memories as you age. It’s something to remember.
Out of Africa? Genetics tracks ancient treks back into the big continent.
Let’s talk. How cells communicate. Nice explainer.
Spinning out parts. Weaving human tissue replacements, spider style.
Fluid dynamics. The “right” salmon sperm is chosen by ovarian fluid.
Not so sweet? The quantity of sugar in some foods is ridiculous. Here’s the science.
Mything the point. Separating science from myth related to high fructose syrup and diabetes. Excellent.
Earth, wind and fire – planet shaping – geology, meteorology, oceanography, the environment & climate
Isle of return. Krakatoa erupted 130 years ago this past week.
What do narwhales, dog sleds, and fossilised urine have in common? They all help in monitoring climate change.
Weighty matter. Mapping Earth’s gravity extremes. Jacob Aron hits all the high points on this story.
Blowing its cover. Detecting past volcanic eruptions in the north.
Bright sprite light. Remarkable red lightning.
Stormy weather. 170 years of hurricanes in one amazing image.
Star attractions – the final frontier, space
The dawn’s early light. Detecting photons from the dawn of the universe. Alexandra Witze illuminates.
Celestial nursery. Newborn stars.
Belching babies? Young stars get gassy.
Everything’s super. When a supergiant goes supernova. A stellar story by John Matson, in every sense of the word.
Sounds of the stars. Sonic features say something about size.
Years fly past. An exoplanet’s solar orbit occurs in a matter of hours.
Cold exterior. Titan’s remarkable icy shell.
Kepler is dead. Long live Kepler! Tribute to some amazing hardware, a planet hunter, by Eric Buckler.
Life from Mars? Yeah, maybe not so much. Great take on the hype.
Wow. Just wow. The centre of the Orion Nebula in hi res.
Forces of nature – big-ticket items – cosmology, mathematics, computation, chemistry, physics, ecology & evolution
A matter of time. And space. And space time. Brilliant piece by Zeeya Merali on the latest hypotheses explaining the dimensions of our universe.
It elementary. There’s a claim of pretty solid evidence for element 115 out there. Ununpentium. Hmm.
Knotty by nature. Liquid crystals tied in knots using mini Möbius strip.
It’s complicated? When it comes to mathematics, it doesn’t have to be. Adam Kucharski makes it all add up.
Fished in? Did guppies really rapidly evolve cognitive skills? Some folks aren’t hooked.
Matters of mind – how we, and other animals, perceive our world and our place in it
“Reality has become a grey scale between the external world and our imaginations.” A fabulously fascinating piece on the relationship between technology & psychosis, by Mike Jay. Read of the week.
Brain gain. This week there was a lot of attention paid to what was “emphatically not a brain in a jar”, but was a cerebral organoid – a teeny tiny brain-like structure – grown from stem cells in culture. There was brainy coverage of the mind-boggling (bottling?) story by James Gallagher, Ed Yong (twice!), Helen Shen, Douglas Heaven, Laura Sanders, and Alok Jha.
Remarkable reflections. An excellent overview of mirror neurons, by Mo Costandi.
Seen in a better light. Great retort to a critique of optogenetics.
Beat surrender. How musical rhythm impacts learning and memory. Rebecca Schwarzlose strikes the right chord with this great piece.
Listen up. Do we really judge musicianship based on sight versus sound? Tom Stafford takes a critical look.
Path of the just? Even thinking about science invokes moral action.
GABA, GABA hey! GABA neurons shape anxiety.
Tears of joy. Why we cry when we’re happy.
Seeing is believing? These images will show you just how tricksy your brain is.
Silly love songs? Might music have been invented for socialising, not wooing? Hmm.
Apparently beards are sexy. Because science. Yes really.
Behind the scenes – the workings of the museum – discovery and communication
Look who’s talking. “Serious” scientists don’t talk to the media? It’s a myth. Important topic, masterfully covered by Matt Shipman. A must read by all scientists. Read of the week.
To trust or not to trust? How do students weigh controversial scientific claims? Balanced consideration by Marie Claire Shanahan.
Well, whaddya know? On the limits of one’s scientific expertise. They’re important.
Our lips are sealed? That’s precisely what can spread disease. Brilliant piece on scientific censorship and epidemics, by Maryn McKenna.
Current affairs. BuzzFeed purported to know a thing or two about the ocean. They got it wrong. Christie Wilcox provided an amazing corrective.
Science is Golden. On a GMO with big benefits, Golden Rice.
Buried treasure. Next big medical breakthrough may occur by using data already gathered.
All’s well. Particle- accelerator-inspired art in an ice well. Cool in every sense.
Fantastic fusions. When music and science collide. Jenny Winder provides great examples in her new column.
Moriarty’s meteoric mathematics. Holmes’ nemesis and asteroid dynamics. Delightful piece on literary figures and science by Jennifer Ouellette.
Northern exposure. Beautiful, thoughtful reflection on doing fieldwork in the Arctic, by Chris Buddle.
“You’re actually Batman!” Superb profile of bat conservation ecologist Rodrigo Medellin, by Megan Garber.
There’s treasure everywhere! The wise & poignant words of Bill Watterson, illustrated as they should be. Something nice to leave you with…