Morsels for the mind – 5/4/2013

5 April 2013 by Malcolm Campbell, posted in Malcolm's linkfest

They say that the most important meal of the day is breakfast, for the health of your body. Our experience is that the most important meal for the mind might be #SixIncredibleThingsBeforeBreakfast.

Here we’ve collated some of the tastiest morsels from the past week, creating a veritable smorgasbord for the brain. 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

Do cranes whoop it up? They might just be at play. No joke.

Mice might be natural born singers. Singing may be innate for our murine friends.

Monkey see, monkey do? Indeed, if you are a gelada monkey. They mimic facial expressions.

See spot. See spot add up. How animal coat patterns might be determined by Turing’s mathematical model. Or not.

Meanwhile, other patterns in nature based on Mandelbrot’s mathematics.

Imagine you are eye-to-eye with a whale. Now imagine what the whale might see. Phenomenal.

We can swim like dolphins can swim. Or watch them swim. (And still be heroes)

Smells underwater by sniffing bubbles of it’s own making. Oh, star-nosed mole, you are too funny!

It’s a big deal. Why large dogs die early.

When flocks take flight, migration is simply amazing.

The long and short of it. There’s a lizard with a VERY short tail.

Creating an escape claws. Frog busts it own bones to produce protective barbs.

So nice to meet hue. Gorgeous blue colour of a new species of fish.

Inking the deal. The sea hare has a pretty nifty way of protecting itselffunky ink.

Getting into a scrape. Interesting scrapes found on the ocean floor. What caused them, amorous squid or sperm whale strike?

Disappearing acts. Some sea critter really have invisibility sorted. This amazing interactive shows how.

Ah, now this is deep beauty. Benthic species.

Some animals have a stone cold stare. Literally. Their eyes are made of stone.

Mom has spots. Dad has spots. Baby has a maze. What happens when fish hybridise. And this is what happens when they adopt.

What’s a “living fossil”? Not deep sea vent creatures. And we should probably make the term “living fossil” go extinct altogether anyway.


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

Sure, they don’t breath fire, but dragonflies are awesome anyway.

Ants really get it together. Well, army ants do when they are assembling a bridge of bodies.

A mystery no longer? Might “fairy circles” be solved? Could very well be termites - “beavers of the desert” creating water reservoirs.

Some spiders are beautiful. Others are as big as your face!


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

If there’s one thing that is truly a deadly beauty, it’s the pitcher plant. Drop dead gorgeous. With an amazing ecosystem inside.

Plants really do seem to live the sweet life. Sugar makes them mature.

Fields of dreams. Beautiful flora.

Do plants show altruistic behaviour? Hmmm.


Fossil finds – organisms of times past – dinosaurs and beyond

Now here’s something to chew on – an early mammalian jaw.

To get a leg up on limb fractures, racehorse specialists use ancient equine fossils to set the pace.

Turns out that palaeontologists sometimes have their minds in the gutter. Well, gutter-like fossil traces, at least.

Ancient human may have had long distance relationships. Native American bones have Polynesian DNA.


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

Fascinatin’ rhythm. Microbes help squid with their circadian clock.

Some microbes are just so crusty. Well, that’s where they live after all.  And it may just be the largest ecosystem.

Blessed be the zombie makers. Lovely parasites that take complete control of their host.

Think you’re a java junky? These cells may have you beat. They need caffeine to survive. Literally.

A mighty big sink. Loads of carbon don’t go down the drain, but are captured by microbes that associate with plant roots.


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

It’s a small world. Marvellous microscopy. Cells up close and personal.

Best foot forward in the development of a new vaccine for foot and mouth disease. Amazing piece of biochemistry and immunology.


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

When there’s a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on, you may want to see if humans are the root cause.

Goes with the flows. A lot of terrestrial water tied up in the plant transpiration stream. (Water flow written by someone named Fawcett.)


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

A big thing in a small package. They may be wimpy, but mini-supernovas are stunning. And so are ones that aren’t so mini.

Picture this: Real live pictures of a 3 body celestial system beyond the solar system.

The next best thing to being there? Amazing 3D panorama of Curiosity’s view on Mars. Now, perhaps it should visit one of those amazing Martian gullies. Because, for us to get there is a really, really, really long trip.

A little light entertainment. It’s the aurora borealis, and it’s amazing.

Sitting in pole position. Amazing, powerful polar storms in our solar system.

A star is born. Actually, many are born in celestial maternity wards like this one.

A lost galaxy is found.


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

Crystallography sans crystals. Yes, really. And it’s going to change everything.

Magnet makes molten metal madness? Yes indeed! Marvellous!

What do a choir, a composer and a cassowary have in common? Evolution of course! Lovely read.

Looking for the life you always wanted? Maybe it’s in the multiverse!


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

Now here’s a great way to catch a wave…a brain wave that is.

Chimps think about thinking. I think.

Good dog? How we classify dog faces in terms of behaviour.

And now for something completely different. This is how your brain interprets ambiguous images.


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

Only human. The incredibly emotional side of Charles Darwin, revealed by his correspondence.

24 hour party people? Is Twitter an ongoing party to communicate cool stuff? It can be.

What do you mean? Make sure you let people know the meanings of the words you are using when writing science stories. Because some scientific words are horribly misused.

Should science have a change in pace? Slow things down?

Should all scientists work on duck penises? It mightn’t be a bad idea at all.



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