Morsels For The Mind – 8/11/2013

10 November 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

Evolution, you are ADORABLE. Or drunk. Because pink fairy armadillos. Yes, really. Susan Milius shows off the cutest of mammals. (Thanks to Scicurious for fixing the headline!) View of the week.

The name game. Designating species can be tricky, & sometimes very important. Rachel Nuwer on a tricky problem.

Spot the difference? Coat colour & fox domestication. Interesting story by Dog Zombie.

“The puzzle isn’t whether or not the cat is alive or dead, but whether or not she is cognizant of her future.” Quote from a poignant piece by Jessica Winter on a feline’s awareness of impending death.

Cool for cats. Nice observation of feline behaviour, with excellent comment.

The cat came back. Incredibly rare & elusive wild feline spotted by camera trap. John Platt on an intriguing find.

Dog only knows. Tail wagging study raises as many intriguing questions as it answers. Awesome, balanced coverage of a shaggy dog story, by Sci Curious.

Shake dog shake. Contradictory findings re: dog emotions & side of tail wagging. Good reporting, by John Bradshaw.

Different sense of direction. Right or leftward tail wags may convey dog emotions. Virginia Morell reports.

Makes good scents. Male bat is perfumer. Fascinating story by Jason Goldman.

Their winging ways. The great things bats do. Excellent piece, by Leigh Cowart.

Origin of the species name. Linnaeus's elephant type specimen not as thought. Amazing feature by Ewen Callaway. Read of the week.

Magical! Henry Nicholls starts his new blog “Animal Magic” with Guardian Science. Super news!

A big deal. The remarkable early life of Jumbo the Elephant. Fascinating & touching instalment of a three part story, by Henry Nicholls.

The show must go on. Jumbo the Elephant’s bizarre mid-life as a circus performer. Part two of a three part, interesting story, by Henry Nicholls.

Pachyderm peril. Creating elephant orphans runs risk of destroying their culture.

Elephants never forget. Mass killings haunt them for decades. Sad, but superb by Virginia Morell. Read of the week.

Elephant etching. Rembrandt captured taxonomy's first Asian elephant on paper. Intriguing find, reported by Rowan Hooper.

Wild at heart. Is it reasonable to expect special behaviour of wild dolphins? “No”, is the answer provided by Justin Gregg.

Sweet smell of success? Might sniffer dogs be used to detect diabetes?

It’s a shore thing. Sea turtles sniff out land. Intriguing find, reported by Cameron Walker.

It’s a drag. Tagging turtles for research purposes modifies their swimming. Not good. Elizabeth Preston explains why.

On a kneed to know basis. That "new" knee ligament? It’s been known for over 130 yrs, as detailed by Robert  Gonzalez.

Hanging out with the peeps. How chickadees overwinter. Great story by student bloggers, Machickadees.

Perfect penguin pairs. How iconic birds get it on.

Lizards get the blues. Blue-bearded female lizards unlucky in love. Becky Crew explains how.

Mighty mouth. Goblin shark’s gobble. Matt Simon describes a spooky fish.

Sound solution. Oysters use noise to select their home, as reported by Sci Curious.

C'mon feel the noise. Oysters choose their home reef using sound. Mary Beth Griggs explores.

Cephalopod splendour. The wonder that is the octopus. Great interview of Katherine Harmon Courage by Lindsay Abrams.

Spectacular cephalopods. Amazing octopus, by Rachel Nuwer.

Animal accidents. Certain behaviours can have dire consequences.

Remarkable rotifers. Amazing critters, seen close up from 1665 to today. Shared by Joe Hanson.


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

Visions of loveliness. Might we sometimes see mimicry for more than what it may be? Superb analysis by Morgan Jackson.

Frisky business. How flies avoid sexually transmitted disease.

The price of retaining a monarch. What folks will pay to help save monarch butterfly. Illuminating, by Francie Diep.

A matter of choice. Do bees think about decision making? Interesting story by Jalees Rehman.

Building on past mistakes. Most "Carpenter Ants" are not. Alex Wild explains.

Stepping it up. Dung beetles may gallop so as to count steps for optimised poo collecting.

Cold comfort. How devastating pine beetles survive winters. Tough topic, expertly shared by Dezene Huber.

Kill it with fire? No. Just no. A bad spider control idea shot down in flames. Bug Girl sets things straight.

Problem put to bed? Has the bed bug invasion subsided? Interesting analysis by Alex Wild.


Fossil finds – organisms of times past – palaeontology, archaeology, history and the like

Endless love. Insect sex set in stone. Brian Switek reports on a solid relationship.

The incredible bulk. Might dinosaurs have been bulkier than thought?

The big deal. Sauropods were gargantuan. How did they live like that? Excellent coverage of interesting discoveries, by Victoria Gill.

Gone walkabout. How dinosaurs ambled.

Heads up! How did dinosaurs get such long necks? Interesting.

Body of evidence. Deinocheirus - not just arms anymore.

Rise of the tyrants. Amazing evolution of tyrannosaurs. Dave Hone on the week’s big dinosaur story.

Bad to the bone. Fossil reveals evolution of nastiness in tyrannosaur lineage. Alex Witze explains.

Slip sliding away. Dinosaur's slippery trek preserved, as reported by Stephanie Pappas.

Grave concerns. Why did theropods die en masse?

Oh poop. Fossil faeces reveal turtle on ancient shark's menu. Tia Ghose examines.

The whole tooth. Sabertooths had sexy teeth. Great piece by Lucas Brouwers.

“Platypus on steroids.” Ancient monotreme marvel. Rebecca Morelle reports.

Tooth & consequences. Fossil dentition reveals surprising evolutionary path of platypuses. Michael Slezak reports.


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

That’s sweet. How the nasturtium got its nectar spur. Amazing stuff by Jeanne Osnas.

It all adds up. Plant leaves do mathematics.

Sweet surrender. Acacia sap traps ants into servitude. Ed Yong gets to the root of the story.

The ice flower cometh. Autumn is the time of the year to be on lookout for gorgeous, unearthly frost flowers.

It stems from this. How plant stem cells sustain slow, steady division.


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

Gut reaction? Might gut bacteria contribute to autoimmune disorders, like rheumatoid arthritis? Excellent story and a balanced take on an intriguing find, by Beth Skwarwecki. Read of the week.

“Pure microbial awesomeness.” A welcome return by Annelie Wendeberg to blogging - new series on a super subject: microbes.

The weak shall inherit the earth. Babies’ lax immunity recruits good bacteria.  Sara Reardon reports.

That's cool. Ocean microbe diversity peaks in winter, which is why we should monitor it then. Holly Bik explains.

Ironing things out. Bacteria steal iron from blood.


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)

Pieces of mind. The genetic mosaic that is our brain. Carl Zimmer has an excellent exploration of novel finding.

Inner beauty. The most amazing things are found within cells. Like tiny vesicles.

Turning back time. Gene resets age of cells. Cool story reported by Monya Baker.

Milking it for what it's worth. Milk's marvels. Great report by Katie Hinde.

Pick of the pics. Joe Hanson’s selections for best of Nikon's Small World 2013 competition.  View of the week.

It’s a small, small world. Beautiful microscopy from Nikon competition. Astounding images, shared by Betsy Mason. View of the week.

Terrifically tiny. Magnificent microscopy. View of the week.

Better than Saturday morning cartoons! Stephen_Curry’s engaging & fascinating talk on X-ray crystallography. Growing up, there was *nothing* better than watching Saturday morning cartoons. So, being better than that is the highest praise!


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

Getting the drift. Examining snowfall is key to understanding Arctic ecosystems & climate.

On the top of the world, looking down on creation. Amazing photography of Yann Arthus-Bertrand selected by Betsy Mason.

Home sweet home. Our beautiful planet, & the peril that some parts are in, seen from above.  Astonishing photography by Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

Not cool. Arctic temperatures higher today than they’ve been in last 44k years.

Waving goodbye. A wave that eats bigger waves.


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

Far out! Billions of Earth-like planets in Milky Way.  Megan Garber on the reveal of the week.

Is there anybody out there? 2 billion potentially life-supporting planets may exist in our galaxy. Alok Jha reports.

Not so special after all? Kepler suggests Earth-like planets common.   Lindsey Kratochwill’s take on this week’s big space story.

We are not alone? Earth-like planets may abound in the cosmos. Phil Plait covers the details.

Hits where it hurts. Data suggest massive asteroid strike risk is underestimated.  

Way out there. Astonishing images of the cosmos.

The final frontier. Spectacular space pics.

Fantastic flares. Spectacular solar activity.

Goodnight moons. Saturnian quintet pose perfectly.

Martian marvels. A spectacular flyover of Mars.

Dramatic outburst. Our explosive universe.

"If we can’t treat our own moon with respect, perhaps we’re not fit for any planet at all." From an awesome piece by Veronique Greenwood on turning the moon into a protected park.


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

Illuminating guide. Casting light on dark matter. Nice explainer by Corey Powell.

A matter of matter. Those hunting for dark matter particles remain undaunted. Superb report by Rebecca Morelle.

When nothing is illuminating. Nice take on the non-detection of dark matter particles.

Still in the dark. No detection of dark matter particles…yet.

Family affair. Human culture - an evolutionary byproduct of family cohesion? Interesting hypothesis, explored by Stephen Asma.

Transformational experience. How the Fourier transform changed how (& what) we see. Aatish Bhatia expertly explains some cool mathematics.

Gee whiz! Physics of pesky, urinal splash-back. Science! James Morgan reports.

A moving experience? How much did plate tectonics contribute to evolution of bipedalism?  

On the edge of artistry. Fractal art via Megan Gambino.


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

Everyone loves a good story. Following a narrative sets our species apart. A Virginia Hughes piece on monkey movie-watching & human storytelling that is pure genius.  Read of the week.

Making up our minds. Brains are patchworks of genetic variation.  

Not so black & white. Our brain colours our world, even when it’s grayscale. Amazing piece by Pete Etchells.

Stress tests. Snail memory tried by tension.  Douglas Main gets inside their tiny minds.

Completely crackers? Might cheese consumption shape your dreams? Intriguing stuff by Dana Smith.

Love is a wonderful colour. If you have orgasmic synaesthesia.

Mind games. The ethics of deploying psychologists as weapons of war. Chilling story, by Chris Chambers.

Unleashing thoughts. Using fMRI to understand canine minds. Gregory Bern’s research, reported by Joseph Stromberg.

Count on it. Neurons that track numbers.


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

“If you discovered polywater, you’d want it to be real, too.” Quote from a genius piece by Joseph Stromberg illustrating the promise & foibles of science. Read of the week.

A dashing character. Mars Curiosity Rover uses Morse code to communicate. Yes, really.  

“His scholarly example is one that we need to foster more & more.” Quote from an excellent piece on Alfred Russel Wallace by Dezene Huber.

A Nobel cause. On Craig Venter, the human genome, hype & history. Superb analysis by Matthew Herper.

An animated life. Paper-puppet animation celebrating Alfred Russel Wallace. Awesome video by Flora Lichtman.

A complicated character. The contradictory life of scientist Fritz Haber. Incredible history, by Robin McKie.

Critical thinking on “critical thinkers”. Superb examination of “public intellectuals” by Melonie Fullick.

The good, the bad, the ugly. Balanced take on relationship between science & internet, by Paige Brown.

Write on. Want to get into journalism? Start a blog. Great advice by Andreas Kluth.

“This list might not give you hope for the information-sharing potential of social media.” Quote from a superb post on social media by Alexis Madrigal.

Baby tweets? On being a new dad & the relevance of social media. Superb post-paternity leave story, by Alexis Madrigal.

“Twitter is such a parasite…so effectively has it hacked my brain.” Brilliant post on Twitter, by Kathryn Schulz.

"Blogging has absolutely helped with my research." Super interview of Travis Saunders, by Paige Brown.

"It is time for our science to dig down deeper into the nature of biological causality." From an incredibly thought-provoking piece by Ken Weiss on delving deeper in biology.

"The great promise of science education is to have power over making the future." Let's get it right. Great directive by Alice Bell from a brilliant piece on science education.

Science by stealth. How to share science surreptitiously. Great advice by Matt Shipman.

Avoiding the same old, same old. How to circumvent giving stale seminars. Good advice by Athene Donald.

All the world’s a stage. In science, sometimes literally so. Excellent piece, with video, by Stephen Curry.


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