Morsels for the mind – 3/5/2013

3 May 2013 by Malcolm Campbell, posted in Malcolm's linkfest

Why nibble away at #SixIncredibleThingsBeforeBreakfast when you can fill your brain with the tastiest morsels from the past week, from 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!


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

Pass it on, both whales and monkeys transmit traditions. They have culture.

Turn it down! Whales ratchet their hearing down when they think things are going to get noisy.

Who needs superheroes when animals already have awesome superpowers?

Origin of the faeces. The poop on poop.

Need to calm a rat? Try tickling. Yes, really.

No more mister nice guy. Moving above ground really turns some rats into rats.

It’s getting mighty crowded. And when it does, mother squirrels get stressed, and their offspring grow up fast.

Elephants never forget, but they are not so good at reading human hand gestures.

When was the mane event? Mystery surrounds the extinction of the Barbary lion.

Fine feathered follicles. Stem cells give patterns to plumage. And it may be because of this beauty that the feathers evolved.

Terrifically tiny. Oh, those wonderful hummingbirds.

What the shell?! How turtles become turtles. What the genome of two turtles can tell us.

Forget the kraken, the real creature feature to watch is the battle between sea snakes and moray eels.

A sea squirt makes things crystal clear. In fact, it makes remarkable crystals whose structure has been solved.

Fine young cannibals. Eating siblings featured prominently this week. Family meals in sharks and flies (but we’ll file the latter here, to keep thing thematic!).


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

“In biology, everything is curvy.” A camera that takes inspiration from insects’ compound eyes.

Now this is fast. A trap-jaw spider’s bite. Yow!

A bug’s eye view. How butterflies and bees see colour.

This will grab ya: genital pincers and fairy tails.

The worm turns. And climate change is turning it.

The flutter of butterflies. It all comes down to the mathematics of flight.

A spoonful of honey may be the best medicine for bees.

How do they dew it? Cicada wings repel water.


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

Interesting twist. How plants orient their organs.

Plants get smoked out. Fire provides signals to get seeds to germinate.

Petal power! How flowers get in shape.

Now that’s cool. Plants may be able to modulate climate warming with volatiles they produce.


Fossil finds – organisms of times past – dinosaurs and beyond

Did dinosaurs feel the frill of victory? That is, did they grow their showy bits to win sex?

Everything was on the menu. The dining habits of microraptor.

The synchrotron light source will illuminate the past – adding a little colour to dinosaur skin.

Tremendous trilobites. They are wonderful.

This might make you hum swiftly. It’s a fossil that links the hummingbird and swift lineages. Very cool.


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

A herd of herpes. Literally. Incredible read.

Nothing to sniff at. Toxoplasma makes mice loose their sense of cat…permanently.


Molecular machinery – the toils of the macromolecules of life – nucleic acids and proteins (and others)

Secret to a long life? It may be a simple protein. For mice. Could be a veritable fountain of youth for mice. But one of many studies of ageing in animals that may be useful for humans.

A novel wrinkle. A gene creates more folds in the brain. Makes a mouse brain more like that of a human!

Jump around! The good, bad, and not-so-ugly impact of jumping genes – transposons.

Face to face with a killer. Immunology of transmissible facial cancer in Tasmanian devils.

The inside job. How cells ingest stuff.


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

Is it getting hot in here? The Earth’s core is hotter than thought. As hot as the solar surface!

There’s no bismuth like showy bismuth. This element really rocks.

If you thought lighting was cool before, you ain’t seen nothing yet! There’s light and dark lightning!


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

If you’re starting a fan club, best to start with a giant fan in space. It’s a waving nebula.

It’s bit of a loner. The galaxy that hung out by itself.

Gamma, gamma, hey! It’s a gamma ray burst!

Splish splash. Jupiter received a load of water from a comet hit.

Smashing! Saturn’s rings take hits from meteors.

It’s full of stars. The gorgeous night-time sky.


Forces of nature – big ticket items – cosmology, ecology, evolution, physics, chemistry

It’s complicated. REALLY complicated. And yet here is a great explainer on dark matter.

Now this is sweet. Honey is a non-Newtonian fluid.

Warped thinking. Is it possible that light speed isn’t constant?

Spoiler alert: apes didn’t evolve in the water nor in space. One of the theories is all wet, the other is far out!

Like your chemistry with a side of pancakes, or vice versa? Done!

Remember the stop action of Gumby and Pokey? Imagine the same sort of thing, but where each character was only a couple of atoms tall, and drawn with atoms. Amazing.


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

Only human? What makes us so special? Great question, better answer.

Brilliant mistakes. How non-human animals’ cognitive errors are as informative as their genius.

Listening to the silent majority. Research that gets inside peoples’ heads, to listen to their inner voice. Fascinating.

Compulsive canines & forgetful felines beg question, can companion animals be mentally ill?

Pitch perfect. Your enjoyment of someone’s voice comes down to a matter of tone.

Big boys don’t cry? We have unusual social conventions around crying.

It all depends. We are remarkably reliant on each other.


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

Looking for the right number? It might be right here.

Hold the hype! Big caution is needed with Big Data. Important.

Navigating the waters of science engagement, using a COMPASS.

Good science is like porn. Or something.

Everything counts. It’s important to mind the stats when reporting on science.

Creating victims out of grad students isn’t a useful strategy to bolster the case for science funding.” Indeed.

The kids are alright. And they do amazing science at science fairs.

Great advice for science outreach with kids: “Don’t be afraid to say ‘I don’t know’”. After all, “I don’t know” is where wisdom and learning begins.


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