Morsels for the mind – 4/10/2013

5 October 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 of the week”.


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

Hitting the high notes. Aggressive singing enables a mouse to mark its mountaintop territory. Love this Elizabeth Preston story: “Julie Andrews mice” singing scares low altitude species from climbing every mountain. There’s an awesome video of the singing mouse here. Read of the week.

“For him, death is a tug toy.” On dogs & forensic work. Excellent read by Cat Warren. Read of the week.

Hard luck story? While a caustic lake makes statue-like bird corpses, these “petrified” birds belie natron lake’s rich life. “Deadly” lake also supports vibrant life - like flamingos, and fish swim happily in its waters.

Heads up! The hole that keeps skulls upright. Very cool aspect of our anatomy and evolution, expertly conveyed by Brian Switek.

Sound solution. Mary Bates tells us how dolphins imitate using echolocation.

A matter of pride. Lion hunting habits.

Gone to the dogs. Canines adorn the pages of medieval manuscripts. Illuminating.

Le petit mort? Do other animals have orgasms? What everyone’s dying a small death to know.

Tearful separation. Young mouse tears ward off sex.

Kinky kangaroos? Joseph Castro fleshes out the iconic marsupial’s intriguing sex.

Fertilisation fight. When sperm do battle.

Able semen? Hens jettison undesirable sperm.

Caws & effects. Annalee Newitz shares an amazing example of the extraordinary intelligence of crows.

Finch feels the pinch. Darwin’s finches at risk from parasitic fly.

Back in black. Super crow portraits by Sean McCann.

Paradise found. Birds-of-paradise extraordinary courtship moves. View of the week.

It’s not easy being green. Yet lizard has toxic emerald blood.

Slippery when wet. Spectacular salamanders. An outstanding overview by Darren Naish.

Out of this world. Yet of our oceans. Nadia Drake has compiled exceptional photographs that will awe.

You’ll get a charge out of this. A new genus of electric fish.

Land ho! Fish lays eggs on terra firma.

Whale of a veil. Monkfish’s phenomenal egg veil, revealed by Megan Gannon

Escape claws? Nobody knows how remarkable crabs got to Ascension Island.

Arms race? Without an active immune system, how do octopuses outrun pathogens? Katherine Harmon Courage on amazing cephalopods. Speaking of which…

“With its distributed brain, the octopus is like the Internet.” Katherine Harmon Courage continues to share her love of all things cephalopod in this piece on octopod intelligence.

Koala killer. Charismatic animals to fall prey to climate change.

A change for the worse? What impact will a changing climate have on gorillas?

Oh, rats! Forest fragmentation dire for mammals, except invasive rat.

Eyes on the prize. Trophy hunting can benefit bear conservation. Yes, really. Jason Goldman explains the paradox.

Change for the better? Should genetic engineering be used to save species at risk? Michael Thomas and colleagues pose a provocative question. Carl Zimmer follows up with a good perspective piece.

There’s a catch. The tension between sustainability, fishing, & employment.

There be monsters? What is really the likelihood of cryptic species like bigfoot? Kyle Hill looks at the odds.


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

Digging in the past. Uncovering the natural history of an ant-mimic jumping spider. Chris Buddle shares a wonderful story that spans more than a century. Read of the week.

“Good Heavens what insect can suck it?” Darwin, orchids, & moths. Evolution’s predictive power. Superb piece by Dave Hone.

It knows nose. A nostril-riding tick.

Stepping it up. Clawed spider’s ladder-like web.

Building a buzz. Awesome insects. Awesome photography by Sam Droege brought to you by Megan Gambino.

They feel under the weather? Sci Curious tells us how insects base sex lives on the forecast. Sarah Williams expands on insects’ stormy relationships. Brian Owens discusses how rain storms turn insects off. Cloudy, with a chance of abstinence?

What’s that smell? If it’s like rotten coconut, or Roquefort cheese, it may be ants.

Scrumpdillyiscious! Marc Lallanilla highlights seven insects that should be making their way onto menus.

When your subject really gets under your skin. Literally. Hazard of entomology. Phil Torres delivers the “ick” factor big time.

“A celebration of the diversity of all things tiny & crawly.” Bug Girl launches her awesome blog Charismatic Minifauna with Wired.


Fossil finds – organisms of times past – dinosaurs and beyond

Pollen’s past. Flowering plant origin 100M yrs earlier than thought.

Tender trap. Frog fossil has astounding soft tissue detail.


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

Funky fertilisation. Sarah Shailes shares just how plants do it.

Pit stops. Bordered pits ensure trees don’t bleed to death.

Making flippy floppy. Seaweed’s bendy joints survive thrashing.


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

The hole truth. Spelunking may lead to new drug discoveries from cave microbes.


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)

“Soup had its greatest moment in 1953.” Life’s origins & primordial goo. Steve Mirsky reports on Adam Rutherford’s exploration of a goopy subject.

“We want DNA to give us answers, to tell our future.” Christina Agapakis on our stories in DNA & the trouble therewith.

Pass it on. Folate deficiency impact carried for generations.

Night of the living dead. Like zombies, endocrine disruptors regroup in the dark. Mark Peplow delivers the frightening find.

All in the family? The internet & DNA testing have made genealogy a privacy minefield. This is a spectacular extract of an amazing article by Virginia Hughes.

The secret to a long life? For naked mole rats, it may be near-perfect proteins.  They seem to have perfected protein production.

A leg up on pain. Centipede venom powerful painkiller.

Wanna new drug? The genome hasn’t been the most fruitful place to look.

Fitter happier. Exercise better than drugs for treating some diseases.

Taking others’ lives in their hands. Choosing *not* to vaccinate is like drinking & driving.

Meat of the matter. Designing chicken that’s not fowl.


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

As pure as the driven snow? Observing snow dusting & its implications. Superb long read.

Stupendous stacks. Hawaiian islands are like layered lava crêpes.


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

Cloudy day. Seen on an exoplanet. Astonishing.

Density intensity. Astonishingly dense galaxy.

Out for a spin. Pulsar missing link is spinning star.

Curious chemistry. Hydrocarbon rain falls on Titan.

Dancing with the stars. Celestial pair spin together.

Beautiful blue bubble. In space. Wow!

They rocked their world. Literally. Ancient supervolcanoes, made marvellous work of the Martian surface. These lava-spewing supervolcanoes erupted on Mars billions of years ago. They likely contributed to shaping the Martian climate. Oh, but please be careful calling them “supervolcanoes”.

Blast from the past. Mercury’s sunken volcanoes.

X factor. Eclipse in X-ray from space.

Showing its age? Our moon is 100M yrs younger than thought. View of the week.

Dawn of humanity? Did our hominid forebears see the light of a supermassive black hole?

A thief in the night? Did the Earth steal our moon from Venus? Interesting thought experiment shared by Dan Nosowitz.


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

The ties that bind. First image of hydrogen bond. Astounding discovery shared via George Dvorsky.

A chip off the old space-time continuum. Gravitational lensingon a microchip!

Hair-raising thoughts. Imagining a black hole with hair could help test general relativity.

Get outta here. Velocity needed to exit the Milky Way.

Ironing out the details. Iron-based crystal revives superconductivity hopes.

Solid understanding. The number that proves that even solids go with the flow.

Up & atom. Building elements. Awesome interactive.

Ironing it all out. Fe + CuSO4 -> FeSO4 + Cu  Beautiful.

Faking it. Chemists’ “fakes” aim to improve on nature’s designs.

Who rejects a Fields Medal, the International Congress of Mathematicians prize, and the $1M Clay Millennium prize? This guy. Jennifer Ouellette delivers a story of the mathematician who was happiest with his discoveries without the fuss.

Divided by a common language. When words of mathematics don’t equate with common use. Evelyn Lamb shares a problem with definitions.

Diversity in adversity? Might Anthropocene invasive species raise biological diversity?

Why the change? New hypothesis to explain evolution of human menopause. Intriguing, but unconvinced.


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

“There is a growing sense that connections with the natural world are vital to digital well-being.” From an outstanding, thought-provoking piece on “technobiophilia” by Sue Thomas. Read of the week.

Trumpeting tears. Do elephants cry as an emotional outlet? This fascinating, thought-provoking piece on crying elephants, by Marc Bekoff, has a great quote: “the plural of anecdote is data”.

Pass it on. Fame is a product of a social contagion. Superb, thought-provoking read by Peter Dodds.

It’s about time. Some organisms have a lunar clock. “Under the moonlight, the serious moonlight…“, it’s a tide-y solution. Surf’s up for these marine animals.

A matter of time. Unjetlaggable mice show how body clocks reset. Ed Yong returns from vacation in fine form with this awesome piece.

Who gives a hoot? Night owls should, as they could be suffering from permanent jet lag.

To err is human. Why do our brains create false memories?

Dizzying discovery. How dancers are able to spin & avoid falling down.

Eau de bébé? The scent of a baby, and the implications thereof.

The real bionic man. Rewired nerves control robotic leg. Amazing.

Word up! The mutation of words reveals the evolution of language.

Here’s a thought. The meme as meme.


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

For the record. What journalists want from scientists & why they want it. Useful insights from Esther Nakkazi.

Breaking news? Hypotheses are designed to be falsified. It’s not news when they are.

A hit & a myth. How science successes transmogrify into fables. Excellent.

Publish & perish. Research misconduct a side-effect of rewarding publishing in high impact journals.

Running smoothly. How the charity “Run For The Cure” directly supports research.

Don’t take it for granted? How crowdfunding could support unfunded research.

Leading the crowd? University establishes its own research crowdfunding site. Is this a good thing?

Making it big time. Interdisciplinary partnership is the big challenge in big data science.

Better natured. The best thing about being in the field is the connection with nature. I compiled this piece that contains wonderful quotes from a group of super researchers. Their words are worth a read.


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