I’ve got your missing links right here (17 December 2011)

 Top picks

I’m compiling a list of my top 12 science long-reads of the year (defined here as features longer than 2,000 words). Here are one, two, three and four. Read them all and follow the series on twitter with the hashtag #12longreads.

“It’s quality and content of the information that matters to press freedom, not the people spreading it.” – wise words on bloggers and journalists by Becca Rosen.

From the Big Picture: the 50 best photos of the natural world from 2011

“We can see the unborn brain flowering into a neurally connected marvel” – My, Vaughan Bell writes beautifully.

“I watch as Christina controls Prof Haggard’s fingers like a marionette”- great Tom Chivers pieces on neuroscience & free will

Some tiny spiders have brains that are so proportionally big that they spill out into their legs. Also some of them have hundreds of fine hairs that are hundreds of tiny ears

“Dancing the American Smooth, will humpback whale and bottlenose dolphin please take to the floor”

“It takes a certain kind of Stockholm syndrome to see the Durban outcome as a significant breakthrough” – good Nature editorial on Entmoot the climate talks.

Lungfish can walk which means your ancestors may have walked underwater 400million yrs ago, before feet – great Carl Zimmer piece.

NASA Builds Six-Foot Crossbow to Harpoon Comets

“It’s bad for science, losing creative, diverse, potentially brilliant minds in favor of long hours & self-martyrdom” – SciCurious on the long-hours culture of science

“If you can’t notice a gorilla in plain sight, how can you testify as a witness?” asks Daniel Simons.

Very interesting comment thread discussion between a scientist who claims that leaning to the left makes the Eiffel Tower seem smaller, and another who thinks it’s bollocks. With a fuller critique from Andrew Wilson here

Possibly the greatest use of an infographic ever. Now to do something about that mountain.

The use of gene therapy to actually treat people with haemophilia B is one of those things that can reasonably be called a “breakthrough”.

Xeni Jardin’s beautiful, poignant piece on her own breast cancer diagnosis

It’s finally the future…our jet packs are here, and they’ll let you swim like dolphins.

“It’s the amplification of Grandma’s voice.” How technology is saving dying languages, not finishing them off

Brevetoxin – a beautiful caterpillar-like chemical. Also aerosolised weapon unleashed by red tides

A fascinating article about a transgendered child… who has an identical twin


Smallest frogs found—and each is tinier than an M&M

What’s the ‘value’ of a cancer treatment? The Venn diagram of patient/NHS/industry desires is genius.

Uncommitted newbies can foil a forceful few: “Whatever the ideal dose of ignorance may be, current levels clearly exceed it.”

Naked mole rat superpower #12 – they feel no pain from acid

Lessons from plants that eavesdrop on each other’s pain

Sweaty bums make mosquitoes cool

The age of Neanderthal personal genomics begins. (I’m 2.6% Neanderthal)

From Frank Swain: Scientists complete work on Daily Mail headline generator

Japan’s Prime Minister Declares Fukushima Plant Stable. Local teacher: “I feel no relief.”

Bacteria that could pass as X-Men: part 1 and part 2

3 dinosaurs for price of 1! Now Horner says Nedoceratops & Torosaurus are both Triceratops

The New Meanings of How and Why in Biology?

Alex Wild visits a Devil’s Garden, where ants kill trees

Drawing is first and foremost an exercise in looking and noticing–two skills still vital for naturalists” – Why field notes are still important.

Institute of Medicine report: “invasive medical experiments on chimpanzees are largely unnecessary.” Although note an interesting counterpoint from Barbara King

More yeti crabs!

Rose Eveleth meets the world’s most successful tumbleweed saleswoman

In which David Eagleman scans his oldest patient, a 3,000 year old mummy

Cell Phone Cameras Capture Microscopic Images to Diagnose Malaria and other Diseases

The Weird Wingless Ant That Glides About Backwards, Leading With Its Rump

Apparently, mosquitoes will sometimes suck blood from other mosquitoes that have previously sucked blood

What Are The Chances Of Six Double-Yolkers? In a box of six eggs.

Awesome 17-Year-Old Girl Invents Nanoparticle That Kills Cancer Cells

How the Turkish government are using a porn filter to censor Darwin / evolution.

Acidic oceans threaten fish

Do Antidepressants Make Some People Worse? Complicated.

Mark Changizi bursts the bubble of human intelligence at the Crux

The physics of great white sharks leaping to catch seals.

Evolution among the echoes – a beautiful tale of bat evolution by Lucas Brouwers.

Outlook for Tassie devils looks bleak; scientists turning to sperm banks and artificial insemination

The origin of Monkeyman begins here – Monkeys to Be Released into Fukushima to Test Radiation

Actual snake oil! Smear pit viper venom onto your face so you can look weird for your age

Megavirus, the world’s biggest virus. I love the justification of the name at the bottom

Astounding Deep-Sea Sponges With Carnivorous Ways, ‘Jaws Of Sharks’

Melanie’s Marvelous Measles” is an actual anti-vaccine childrens book

IQ is heritable, but we have no idea what the genes that influence it are

Interesting report from the Royal Society about the use of neuroscience in legal affairs.

Newspapers try to stir up storm of outrage over allegations that Frozen Planet polar bear footage was “fake”, even though the Beeb was totally transparent about it. Idiots like this first writer mistakenly say that it was CGI. Meanwhile, the lies stack up. This iconic footage was apparently faked, and more fake bear footage has emerged. And the Daily Mash: Attenborough died in 1972, admits BBC

Brilliant! Students aged 14-18 can submit ideas for experiments that’ll actually be flown on the International Space Station

In which I learn that soup accounts for 8% of all hospital burn admissions. Soup: threat or menace?

Phylo: Online Video Game Helps to Solve Genetic Origins of Diseases



They look like oil paintings – actually made of yarn

Here is a bearded dragon killing ants on a smartphone:

The people who comment under best-of lists.

Truffle detection by flying squirrels

George Takei calls for Star Wars and Star Trek fans to unite – against Twilight

For people disappointed by the CERN news, here are some pigs w/ bows on. Which is basically the same thing.

Biologists mock physicists.

Orphaned baby sloths have melted by cold, cynical heart

Strange Weaponry Dept: The Piano Catapult

The Daily Mash on mammoth-cloning

Best. Blog. Ever

Booty Call of Cthulu: Mimic Octopus mating

Your daily dose of schadenfreude: Pile-up writes off 8 Ferraris, a Lamborghini and 3 Mercedes. Only minor injuries



Amazon’s scummiest move yet – an app that lets you screw over bookshops

TIME’s Person of the Year is BULLSH*T. And with that, I have automatically become Time’s person of the year. Also Time’s #2 person of the year is Kate Middleton. Just wait till the #1 person of the year hears about that.

Forbes has a late candidate for the year’s stupidest op-ed. In response, a Forbes staffer implores us to ignore the trollish Forbes columnist. And Jess Zimmerman takes it all the way into full Onion op/ed with “If I Were A Rich White Man Pretending To Be A Poor Black Kid

Cautionary tips for journalists who become authors

Loyalty card rewards coffee fans for being disloyal

Top Google searches of 2011. Utterly depressing. Facebook is in there. As is Google.

Attention Norway. I have butter. Repeat: I have butter. I’ll trade it for a working copy of Mjolnir, or a fjord

Alter Ego – portraits of gamers next to their avatars

This year’s Screenplay Blacklist (the favourite unmade movie scripts, chosen by execs)

Disney meets 28 Days Later – an abandoned fake disneyland in China.

News Deserts. “Places whose economies cannot sustain any established business model for journalism.”

The Knight Tracker wins the headline competition

Where do great nonfiction story ideas come from? (Strange places.) Must-read piece for writers.

H&M’s use of CGI model bodies (w/ real faces) causes uproar, as industry forgets about Photoshop

Maybe health news readers prefer longer stories. Matthew Herper has got more traffic for fewer, longer posts

The Huffington Post continues its ironic science journalism series; the Knight Tracker continues its lovely rebuttals

Are you unethical AND forgetful? If so, this is for you: a service to check YOUR OWN papers for plagiarism

“We’re in a renaissance of long-form writing” says Steve Silberman, picking his longreads for 2011.

“What if there were rules for science journalism?” asks Slate. Erm… there are. We’ve only been laying them out for last decade! The problem with this misguided idea is that good journalists already abide by the rules and there’s no way of enforcing rules on the crap ones, thus making the entire concept meaningless. The problem isn’t that there’s a lack of rules, but that some people can’t follow *basic* journalistic ethics.

Evidence! New media expands news diversity exposure by 60-98%. The “echo chamber” is leaky.

If we are all journalists, should we all be protected?”

The Atlantic profiles @pourmecoffee, if that is even his real name.

“Is there much meaning left to one random web visitor hitting one random web page?”

Do yourself a favour – spare 5 mins to read Gaia Vince’s moving tribute to her grandfather

Sweden lets citizens take over official Twitter account. Either genius or insanity

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