I’ve got your missing links right here – 14th November 2010

Science writing

David Dobbs writes about the development of schizophrenia in the young brain. My read of the week: this piece is a masterclass in explaining difficult concepts clearly without shying away from them. Other science writers take note.

“This is about my dying: and how my life got here.” An incredible memoir of living with a brain tumour and its effects on speech and life.

“A British team is celebrating the launch of a paper aeroplane into space.” YEAH! Take that, NASA.

Sterile mosquitoes wipe out dengue fever in field trial. This is potentially very big, but I’d love to see more data. Or actually, any data, rather than just a press release.

Today I will donate an orgasm to science.” In which a scientist gets female volunteers to pleasure themselves in an fMRI scanner, bound by restraints. For knowledge!  SciCurious also chips in on female orgasm.

An international conference called for a moratorium on geoengineering “until there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities and appropriate consideration of the associated risks.” Nature News has the story.

Deborah Blum on the really-quite-terrifying frequency with which carbon monoxide poisoning shows up in the news. Oh and she has fun with structure.

Conjoined twins Tatiana and Krista may see through each other’s eyes and even share unspoken thoughts. Wow.

Who are the world’s hardest scientists? Ian Sample wants your nominations.

Our minds wander half of the time and this makes us less happ.. OOH SQUIRREL!

Two-sided arguments *that refute the opposing view* are more persuasive than one-sided ones

More after the jump…

The Feds are criticised as an “apocalyptic bat disease” sweeps the US. Brandon Keim investigates (and you can support his work here).

“Volunteers were actually watching an elaborately rigged video of a tarantula which they believed was near their foot.” For SCIENCE!

A new species of all-female lizard discovered… served in a restaurant. And a tangential shout-out to Emily Anthes’s awesome Venn diagram.

Can science prove we’re psychic? An intriguing study gets covered well by Peter Aldhous at New Scientist and Alan Boyle at Cosmic Log.

Was the Earth oxygenated early (and why does it matter for the evolution of animals)? Joe Milton considers the evidence at The Great Beyond

The 10 Commandments of Helping Students Distinguish Science from Pseudoscience in Psychology – an excellent and educational list.

The five stages of grief are: fear; surprise; a ruthless efficiency… wait. Vaughan Bell on misconceptions about grief.

Why making dinner is a good thing – Jonah Lehrer discusses the IKEA effect

Here are some words you don’t want to hear in conjunction with wildlife deformities: sudden, widespread, unexplained

Hufflepuff trumps Ravenclaw. Why it’s better to be hardworking than smart

Slave-making ants target the strong not the weak, says Ella Davies at the BBC

Do nice guys finish last? Not necessarily says Tim Harford.

Why do fish shoal? Hannah Waters considers the question at Scientific American, but fails to acknowledge the hypothesis that it makes it easier for David Attenborough to film awesome documentaries.

“Many men have come to understand the risks of increasing scrotum temperature“. But most are just thinking “Heh… scrotum”

Female sea lions sometimes adopt orphaned pups. Awwww….

Waterboarding a seal? “These images do not show animal abuse of any kind… Some led to breakthroughs that change how we think about the natural world. They also happen to be quite funny if you view them out of context.” From Southern Fried Science

Maryn McKenna continues to terrify us all with more news about the drug-resistance factor NDM-1

Wired catches up with Kate McGroarty, the teacher who won a competition to spend a month living in a science museum

Horned dinosaur evolution is more complex than people think – a recurring theme from Brian Switek.


Ahahaha! People who aren’t in Britain, we pity you.

Save the words! An awesome website. View with the sound on.

Realistic anatomies of cartoon characters. Cool but somewhat terrifying.

The world’s best underwater photographs 2010

What is gravity?

This fire exit, photographed at a recent scientific conference, is reserved only for the most agile attendees.


Be sure to check the summaries of the National Association of Science Writers’ conference, which I’m sorry I missed. You can watch all the slidecasts here, and the Rebooting Journalism session with David Dobbs, Bora Zivkovic, Emily Bell and Betsy Mason is especially illuminating.

“Online, The Times has stopped being a newspaper… instead, it is becoming a newsletter.” Ouch! Clay Shirky on the paywall situation.

A fascinating discussion on whether objectivity and impartiality in journalism are more important than transparency and taking sides. Pros and cons of both sides of the argument.

While accurate numbers are hard to come by…”  Slate on the sneakiest phrase in journalism.

“If I knew the rules, I would probably have to break them” Brian Switek on writing books

Sign of the times #1232: the New York Times to publish e-book bestseller list early next year

Should science papers be retracted because they’re mistaken? Ivan Oransky covers a recent retraction that raises this intriguing question and Doctor Zen explores it further.

“Denied press pass by the Cetacean Society ’cause I refused to guarantee them a story. Most disturbing line: “What are you gonna do for me?” The American Cetacean Society opens a can of whales, and Ivan Oransky watches as it beaches itself.

And finally, the countdown to ScienceOnline 2011 has begun! Registration opened on Wednesday and closed 45 minutes later after every one of the 250 places filled up! I’ll be there, taking part in four different sessions:

  • Blogs, Bloggers and Boundaries? on whether blogs are reaching new audiences or ending up as echo chambers, and how they could break boundaries between writers and audiences. With Alice Bell, Marie-Claire Shanahan, Martin Robbins and Viv Raper
  • Death to Obfuscation – a workshop on the use of language in science writing. With Carl Zimmer
  • Science journalism online: better, or merely different? – a look at the past and present of science journalism and the opportunities, changes and pitfalls provided by the web. With Virginia Hughes, Deborah Blum, John Rennie and Steve Silberman.
  • Keepers of the bullshit filter – on crowdsourcing accountability and accuracy in the new media world. With David Dobbs, Steve Silberman and Ivan Oransky

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