I’ve Got Your Missing Links Right Here (11 October 2014)

Sign up for The Ed’s Up—a weekly newsletter of my writing plus some of the best stuff from around the Internet.

Top picks

The largest, oldest creature on Earth? David George Haskell on the trembling aspen called Pando

Is evolution replicable? Emily Singer on a bold experiment with yeast that addresses this longstanding question (although ignore the title).

This is a *fascinating* piece on an aptly-named group of research-borking chemicals called PAINS. By Jonathan Baell and Michael Walters

Great story about a rebel doctor who’s transplanting organs from HIV-infected donors to HIV-infected patients. By Sara Reardon.

Are some parts of the world evolutionary incubators for invasive species? Carl Zimmer reports.

Dawn of the Plaintiff of the Apes. Great piece by Charles Siebert on a legal case about the personhood of chimps.

Superb piece on the ethics of testing an Ebola vaccine in the midst of the epidemic, by Jon Cohen and Kai Kupferschmidt

Woman gives birth after womb transplant. The future is now.

A feature on the married team who won a Nobel for their work on the brain’s GPS. By Alison Abbott.

Natalie Angier on the lingering mystery of giraffes

Scientist makes chance discovery while setting up lab at Imperial, builds £43 eye tracker

In which I quickly address a microbiology class about science writing and responsibility. (Hastily recorded; apologies for the shakycam)


What it’s like to carry your Nobel Prize through airport security

A battle of wits between a squirrel and a science writer.

This Nadia Drake piece on an enormous solar flare has the most amusing use of “Whew” I’ve seen in a while.

Similar-looking things ate different things. Part 1 and 2. Basically the same story, for mammals and then for giant dinosaurs.

Beyond the Nobel: What Scientists Are Learning About How Your Brain Navigates.

Scientists discover how lung cancers evolve over time

“Peru’s boner barons are driving the scrotum frog to extinction.”

Your beer attracts fruit flies on purpose.

Viral Photo of Great White Shark Stirs Debate Over Cages, Baiting

Doctors are more likely to prescribe unnecessary antibiotics in the afternoon

Good advice on talking about science.

Maryn Mckenna on airport screening for Ebola.

Next gen prosthetics provide realistic tactile feedback and improved motor control

Artwork in Indonesian cave dates back 40,000+ yrs, the oldest sign yet of human creative art

Does evolutionary theory need a rethink? A great point-counterpoint in Nature; to me, the counterargument is stronger and beautifully argued.

Ship noise makes cuttlefish change color

A professor’s quest to cure his children’s type 1 diabetes has led to a new way to make the insulin-producing cells

The Antikythera expedition was the first open water test of the Woods Hole Iron Man-esque exosuit

Mental health stigma hasn’t gone away.

When you hear “the sound of little hooves in the night” and it’s actually the world’s biggest spider.

Could another new dinosaur from Venezuela be the ancestor of all theropods?

How the Flash would redshift

Can Big Data Tell Us What Clinical Trials Don’t?

Time to retire the term “living fossil

A mosquito-eating spider that likes all mosquito stages

Mental health… in SPAAAAAAAAAAACE.

Elephants are Worth 76 Times More Alive Than Dead

Christian Jarrett’s book Great Myths of the Brain is out now in the UK

95% of Nobels have gone to men.

Upcoming BBC documentary Life Story looks really promising. Fingers crossed that the script lives up to the visuals.

Microbiologist Jack Gilbert calls for greater responsibility in self-experimentation and reporting of the same.

Sleeping brains respond to words.

This midge sucks blood from mosquitoes. I HOPE IT ITCHES, YOU LITTLE &$£!$&%S.

Scientists recommend vole shaving; voles are less enthused.

Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014 is out, edited by Deborah Blum.

‘My disastrous meeting with David Attenborough’

A glut of postdoc researchers is stirring a quiet crisis in science

GoPro films psychotic dinosaur attacking Australian cyclist

Why do astronauts get “space stupid“? The mind-warping effects of cosmic travel

How genes can influence children’s exam results. The best summary of this paper by study’s authors.

An interview with the man who makes the call to Nobel laureates. “I have a very Swedish accent, which helps.”

The monkey that became a midwife

What should have received a Nobel and hasn’t? Some answers from us at Nat Geo.

When snatched by a predator, some catfish sound the alarm by grinding their bones together.

No flying cars, but will lab-grown penises suffice?

Michael Balter takes leave of absence from Science in protest over firings + dishes some dirt about THAT cover.

Croc 1 Wild dogs 0

This Woman Can Sing Multiple Notes At Once

The physics of doing an ollie on a skateboard.

Measuring how untrue stories can spread around the Internet more quickly than the facts

Pygmy falcons are too busy dive-bombing the crap out of their prey to worry about domestic matters

Worm-eating leeches, bat-eating crocs, crab-eating crabs… really looking forward to Wonders of the Monsoon

A brisk, enjoyable, but often self-contradictory piece about whether octopuses are too intelligent to eat.

Giant Clams’ Iridescent Lip Cells

The psychologist ate my homework

Fire devils“: Aboriginal tales preserve knowledge of meteorite strikes thousands of years ago.

Patients-turned-researchers explain a prion puzzle that had stymied scientists

GSK accidentally dumped 45 L of live polio virus into the Belgian water supply. Next: blot out sun.

Hyena genitalia are so confusing that a zoo has spent ages trying to get 2 males to mate.



Should papers be retracted if one of the authors is a total asshole?

Wonderful book sculpture in Madrid

An Ohio man has become infected with misinformation about the Ebola virus through casual contact with cable news”


The Womansplainer

Hawk versus drone

“Can you spot nature’s masters of disguise?” Well sure, when they’re in the centre of every photo.

Don’t joke about having Ebola while aboard a passenger jet.

All UCL students are now nominally registered to some weird dragon sex thing and are all Ukip members”



This feels like a public wake for a friend that was buried a long time ago, but it’s still sad to see ScienceOnline finally fold. And John Hawks nails why the conference was once great.

Why The Trolls Will Always Win. Kathy Sierra’s troubling essay on the hostile online environment faced by women.

Slang words are quicksilver flashes of cool in the great stream.” A great salute to descriptivism

Here are a few killer whales attacking and killing a tiger shark

Best news I’ve read all week – print books outselling e-books by a significant margin.


Nobody knows what running looks like

Does relentless enthusiasm really help the world, or should generation TED learn to take a more sceptical view?

Here is the data journalism we need

Thousands of people duped by unfamiliar sorcery known as “growth

I really hate local news

Congrats to Longreads and Mark Armstrong on their new venture as publishers as well as aggregators.

Extraordinary trademark battle over the use of the word “How”

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet