Morsels For The Mind – 11/10/2013
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 / views of the week”.
Feather, fur & fin – birds, beasts, fishes, and the things they do
Right to the point? Evidence suggests that elephants may understand human pointing gestures. Carl Zimmer, Tia Ghose, Victoria Gill, Sarah Zielinski and Jack Flanagan covered this story wonderfully here, here, here, here, and here. Veronique Greenwood, and especially drugmonkey, took a decidedly more sceptical view here and here. All excellent reads.
False friends. False killer whales chum with dolphins.
Better to burn out than to fade away? Tiny marsupial has such furious sex life that it dies. It literally gets loved to death.
Binturong, it must be right. Fascinating bearcats.
Obsession, for men. And for luring jaguars to camera traps. Well, that makes scents.
Owned or their own? Greg Berns asks if brain scans can shift dogs from being thought of as property to “persons”. Hal Herzog is not convinced, and suggests that over interpreting MRI studies is a problem…for dogs.
Curious canines. Remarkable dingo behaviour.
Fair game? Folks who trained animals as fairground attractions also trained them as spies. Fascinating bit of history by Tom Vanderbilt.
Song sung blue. Birds’ calls visualised. Stunning. Must view. View of the week.
Pops’ songs. Dads have big impact on birdsong.
Unseasoned travellers. Why juvenile birds get jammed up during migrations.
No fibbing. Pinocchio lizard rediscovered after 50 yrs.
Time for a change. Fish alters penis when predators near.
Terrifically tough teeth. Chiton is mollusc’s key to success.
Getting a leg up. Octopus inspires robot inventors.
Cut it out. Rebecca Helm makes clear why a robotic jellyfish-slicing killing machine is a bad idea.
Bugs’ life – insects and other things that creep, crawl and otherwise delight
It stems from this. Twig insect tethers to a twig.
Catchy design. Dragonflies are built to hunt.
Beyond the usual crap. A shield of faeces.
Not exactly the bees’ knees. Why autumn honey can smell rank.
It makes scents. The stink bug invasion, and what can be done about it.
Fossil finds – organisms of times past – palaeontology, archaeology, history and the like
Quite a mouthful. Platybelodon had a spork-like jaw.
Swimming with sharks? Mosasaurs swam *like* them.
Give her a hand! Cave art handprints suggests first artists were mostly women. Awesome discovery beautifully explained by Virginia Hughes.
Perfectly primed preservation. 4K-year-old human brains were boiled in their own juices.
Beautiful botanicals – wonders of the photosynthesising world – that is, mainly plants
Brilliant blobs. The tiny vesicles that protect plants & make tea & wine tasty. Brilliant piece of science writing by Leigh Cowart. Read of the week.
Heard it through the grapevine. The things learned by following grapes over a year.
Small spectacles Marvellous microscopy.
Microscopic marvels – smaller than the eye can see, but big in action – bacteria, fungi and viruses
Cagey thinking. 3D-printed cages reveal microbial colonisation dynamics.
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)
X marks the spot? With chromosomes, not so often.
The X factor. The transformative discovery of X-ray crystallography. Enjoyable read by Stephen Curry.
Malicious mutations. Small pedigree studies suggest ties between genes & eating disorders.
Earth, wind and fire – planet shaping – geology, meteorology, oceanography, the environment & climate
What’s in a name? When it’s “supervolcano”, great irritation to volcanologists.
It all got ironed out. How Earth’s core got its iron.
Soggy sights. Wonders seen after autumn rain.
Star attractions – the final frontier, space
The after life? Does a wet asteroid around a dead star hint at a living past? Interesting find, nicely explained by Lizzie Wade.
Cloudy, with a chance of diamonds. Glittering forecast for Jupiter & Saturn.
Forces of nature – big-ticket items – cosmology, mathematics, computation, chemistry, physics, ecology & evolution
“A hidden code pointing to a rich and vast cosmos, in which our own universe is but one humble member.” From an awesome piece by Laura Mersini-Houghton on the multiverse. Read of the week.
Taking sides. Improbable 12-sided unit, 2D quasicrystal.
Holy Higgs, Batman! Eugenie Samuel Reich explains how “Higgsogenesis” may have created asymmetry of matter & antimatter.
A matter of matter. Explaining the Higgs boson. Fantastic interactive explainer.
Matters of mind – how we, and other animals, perceive our world and our place in it
Sex on the brain. The fraught topic of differences in female & male brains. Masterfully handled by Mo Costandi.
Not exactly rocket science. But still good science behind good parenting.
You snooze, you lose? Actually, getting an hour’s extra sleep could benefit your health.
Better natured? 3500 respondent study finds nature *does* make folks feel good.
Spreading good news. Peanut butter may help get a whiff of early stage Alzheimer’s.
Buy the numbers? Analysing literature by algorithm. The science of humanities.
Senses working overtime. Using scents & sounds to create novel maps.
Behind the scenes – the workings of the museum – discovery and communication
The final frontier. What does sci-fi starship size tell us about our dreams of space? Superb examination of the limits of our imaginations by Kyle Hill. Read of the week.
Game of cat & mouse. Great “behind the scenes” story of Toxoplasma publication by first author Wendy Ingram.
Eye on the prize. As one accrues data, how to avoid being sucked down research rabbit holes? Melonie Fullick shares her experience.
Faux pas. Last week, Science Magazine published a report by John Bohannon on a “sting” that used a faux paper to reveal flaws in the review of manuscripts submitted to open access journals. Not only was the “experiment” flawed (it lacked a proper control), but it was a monumental waste of time for editors & reviewers at legit open access journals. It’s the kind of experiment that would not have passed peer review itself, let alone been approved for ethics. If anything, it uncovered only a flaw in peer review, full stop. Great critiques were made by by Curt Rice, Martin Eve, Kausik Datta, John Hawks and Michael Eisen.