I’ve got your missing links right here (10 August 2013)

Top picks

After Shark Week jumps the shark, David Shiffman did a wonderful Reddit AMA, Al Dove collates some five amazing actual facts about sharks. Also, Matt Bonnan on why it matters, and Perrin Ireland collates some of the links, as does Wired.

After Decades of Research, Henrietta Lacks’ Family Is Asked for Consent. Great piece by Carl Zimmer, and a huge victory for the Lacks family. Kudos to Rebecca Skloot for writing the story that led to this. And another good piece by Ewen Callaway and a Q&A with the NIH director Francis Collins

Ridiculously cute robot meets pack of lions. This is the most wonderful way of presenting a video collection I think I’ve ever seen. Congrats to National Geographic

Don’t miss these mesmerising GIFs of our breathing Earth. Watch ice and vegetation wax and wane.

In a box marked “microminiatures”, a librarian found a book the size of a ladybird. What was it? By Becca Rosen.

In 1996, a captive Komodo dragon started a salmonella outbreak among Denver children. By Jason Goldman.

An amazing flythrough of the neurons in a mouse’s retina.

H7N9 experiments proposed, echoing last year’s controversy around H5N1. Better this time round, or same mistakes? By me.

Malaria vaccine is first to provide 100% protection but there are big logistical hurdles.

Delighted to co-author this piece on John Rogers’ amazing flexible electronics with Valerie Ross. Subscription required, unfortunately.

Dolphins can remember their friends after 20 years apart.

The most beautiful periodic table I’ve ever seen, by Alison Haigh.

Two great posts celebrating Curiosity’s year on Mars, including the lead-up by Megan Garber and what’s happened since by Adam Mann.

A lot of hullaballoo this week around artificial meat (Pissteak? Facon? Shamburger?) but this is my favourite take: A history of (mostly wrong) predictions about in vitro meat, by Alexis Madrigal. This old Discover post is also apposite. Aaaaand

Drunk fish have no fear of robots.

Why Y “Adam” & mitochondrial “Eve” are bad science-communication. By Melissa Wilson Sayres.

Good piece by Tom Bartlett on a silly misuse of chaos theory embarrasses positive psychologists

“Scientists currently know of 112 species whose preferred habitat is the renal sac of a cephalopod.” – Craig McClain.

Oh look, a herb used in traditional Chinese medicine can cause cancer.

This is a truly wonderful palaeontology headline.


Cave fish species discovered in Madagascar commemorates the fever caught by the people who discovered it

Detailed look from Nat Geo at the leak of radioactive water from Fukushima into the ocean. Although note this.

Rethinking the neuron doctrine

Termites headnesting.

Three awesome science writers—Mun-Keat Looi, Colin Stuart and Hayley Birch—have written a book on big Qs in science.

Carl Zimmer’s tribute to penis bones

Camels in Oman have antibodies to MERS.

These butterflies mimic themselves. That’ll make them go blind.

This is cool. #6SecondScience – a science fair, on Vine.

Wisdom of the crowd or over-enthusiasm of the herd? New study on the pitfalls of online ratings

“More than 10yrs have passed since last dose of Lariam, and I still get depression, panic attacks, insomnia”

Steven Pinker’s essay on the Humanities vs. Science. And, er, for a counterpoint, a sweary rant.

There’s a little black spot on the sun

“Given we’ve got the biggest sewers and this is the biggest fatberg we’ve encountered…” Also: “We must change our ways to fight fatbergs.”

The psychology behind Pacific Rim’s mind-melding

The Unlikely Rocks Found in Mosques, Siberia & Outer Space

Healed whale rib gives away prehistoric shark bite

This is a v. cool video Q&A about the business of running a natural history museum.

Video Shows How Silk Draglines Help Jumping Spiders Steer.

US denies controversial request to import 18 beluga whales from Russia for public display

Pangolins in Peril: All 8 Species of Endangered by Illegal Trade

Slate’s great takedown of ELLE’s astonishingly bad piece on GMOs. And a piece on “shills“, “industry defenders” and phrases all to readily bandied about in the GMO debate.

Experiments reveal that crabs and lobsters feel pain. And a good response.

On the psychology of anger and aggression.

Fossils throw mammalian family tree into disarray. Also: the Knight Science Journalism Tracker rounds up the coverage.

Animal superpowers—a video by Joe Hanson

“The patient confessed he had regular untroubled intercourse during 2mths w/the swollen tick firmly attached to his member.” NO.

A Tiny Dolphin and a Big Problem

My Brain Did It!” Neuro Talk In Everyday Conversation

Why rabbits have white tails

George Monbiot builds a straw man of de-extinction and Carl Zimmer dismantles it.

Carnivorous harp sponges envelop prey in a membrane to digest whole

Parasitic wasps might mitigate the damage wrought by scale insects.

Children given lifelong ban on talking about fracking by court

Helping locked-in patients communicate through pupil dilation and maths quizzes…

“It wasn’t possible to deploy real caterpillars in the field, so we used artificial ones made of flour & lard.” t.co/KAYu8BDs0E

Navigational Cell Systems Located in Human Brains

Plants can communicate via fungi to warn each other of aphid attacks

Costa Rica is closing its zoos and releasing all animals from captivity

Two neural circuits in your brain race each other to stop you from singeing your hand

How we use pronouns in emails/twitter reveals when we’re hiding a secret

What happens when an esteemed college psychology professor is revealed to have killed his family 46 years

Placebo buttons do absolutely nothing, and they are EVERYWHERE


Khal Zimmer says there is no word for science in Dothraki.

What a groundbreaking study!

Winners of the 2013 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Absolutely amazing portrait of a stick insect by Robert Oelman.

@phil_torres is well worth following on Twitter for amazing pics from the field, like this one of a nymph just sitting on a scorpion’s claw

Amazing high-speed videos of Insect flight

Watch as the world’s cetaceans are approached by a shadowy cabal of inappropriately touchy divers. Also: “cetacean needed”.


Londoners, recycling bins are tracking your phones.

One second on the Internet is crazy

Massive congrats to Hillary Rosner for winning a Society for Environmental Journalists’ award for her outstanding “Attack of the Mutant Pupfish” feature

Bitly For Feelings

Beautiful essay on missed connections, in the form of a Craigslist ad

Press Gazette deconstructs months of news-free Daily Express front pages

“You can’t take a good story back.” Alexis Madrigal on the transmutation of fauxlore into fact

Comment writers as the tongue-eating lice of the media – my new favourite metaphor

The making of Marvel’s unified movie universe (and why DC might not be able to do the same),

The Mars Exploration Barbie is very, very pink.

UNM formally censures Geoffrey Miller over his fat-shaming tweet, which “violated… policies regarding integrity/honesty.”

OOH. Google’s launching a new feature to help people find longer, in-depth stories

“Once everything in your house contains a computer, everything in your house can be hacked.”

Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post. Two amusing takes—Onion and New Yorker—and one serious one from Emily Bell.

On a new renaissance of science writing venues, by Tom Levenson.

Tom Stoppard’s ‘Arcadia’ at Twenty. It’s a work of genius. I’ve seen both London productions; wish it was produced more often.

The Daily Mail finds nifty way to cover science: steal others’ stories! Featuring me, Brian Switek, and this longform story by Brandon Sneed.

“[Dawkins’] output resembles that of a man desperately grasping for attention and relevance in a maturing community.”

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