I’ve Got Your Missing Links Right Here (17 May 2014)

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Top picks

Is This Mind-Controlled Exoskeleton Science or Spectacle? Very good Greg Miller piece on Miguel Nicolelis’ World Cup ambition. It doesn’t inspire confidence when a scientist refuses to talk to a journalist who included critical voices in previous coverage.

How the Syrian civil war is destroying the historic Aleppo pepper. Maryn McKenna on fine form at National Geographic’s new food blog, The Plate.

12,000 yrs ago, a teenage girl fell in a cave, broke her hip, and died. And now, we can sequence her DNA.

On the lives of sociable spiders, by Natalie Angier.

Sugar is not only complex, it’s iniquitous.” Wonderful Ann Finkbeiner essay on sugar chemistry.

I totally agree with Virginia Hughes’ piece on the travails of health reporting. Perhaps we need less of it. Relatedly, this story says that researchers found that journalists do a lousy job of reporting on health studies, when it was actually a journalist who found that out. Ring the irony klaxon!

This is a really clear explainer from Carl Zimmer on “junk DNA” and what it does and doesn’t mean

“We need to resist the urge to interpret our personal microbiome data.” Important piece by Tami Lieberman.

I love the lede in this piece by Maggie Koerth-Baker on the cool pitch-drop experiments. The 4th graf is brilliant.

How close are video games to simulating human reactions to things like pandemics? By Rose Eveleth.

Growing rice vs. wheat could affect regional psychological differences. By me.

The oldest stars live in the galactic suburbs. Why? Beautiful writing from Nadia Drake.

Oh, no big deal. Just six bases. Instead of four. In a living bacterium. Dum de dum.

The oceans of Jupiter’s ice worlds might be swimming with life — so why do we keep sending robots to Mars? By Lee Billings.

“Perhaps exploding whales force us to confront something profound about ourselves.” By Andrew Thaler.

Smallpox may be vanquished but it might not be gone forever. Fascinating feature from Sara Reardon.

In an accident, should your self-driving car veer right to kill you or left to kill 2 strangers? Fascinating ethical debate.

Within 12 hours of going online, Nadia Drake’s  post on exoplanets had to be updated because another exoplanet was discovered.

On warning signs that will work 10,000 years from now

A beautiful, thoughtful essay about our fascination with animals, by David P. Barash.

Great piece by Ethan Siegel on the true nature of scientific arrogance, and the casual dismissal of other ways of understanding the world.

Science Studio, a collection of the best audio and video about science, has relaunched.

Check out Adam Rutherford’s radio series on the genetics of intelligence



The Comedy of Climate Change

Erik Vance tries to settle an earthquake-based dispute with his wife by asking his father-in-law–a quake expert

“I was a Bad Mother within 48 hours.” Tania Browne on the bitter reality of postnatal depression.

How people began measuring the blueness of the sky

Scientists, did your paper get rejected? Just call the Times; you could get a front-page splash. And here’s the full referee comment for the rejected climate paper that the Times has inexplicably splashed with.

Ugh. A lesson on how neurobollocks could creep into education

Saving an ancient fish… by catching it, filleting it, and selling its eggs.

NIH tells scientists to start including females in tests.

“An aquatic reptile whose body was encased in a tube of bone

Fem kills Masculinizer: on sex in silkworms.

A fisherman idly dangling a line off a dock may not appear to be an agent of ecological collapse, but…”

A forest of continuously disrupted sleep and porous dreams.

“Someone has to do artistic justice to the evolutionary tree of life,” says Carl Zimmer. Dan Graur suggests an elegant alternative.

How to Learn to Love Your Doppleganger – Hallucinating yourself can be both a symptom and a tool.

Out damn spot! Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is shrinking.

3D-printed shark skin could make better swimsuits & racing cars

Dietary supplement extends life in worms

John Timmer on the new phone/cancer study

Coyne on Nicholas Wade’s new book: “an irresponsible book that makes unsupportable claims”

“You don’t love science, you’re looking at its butt as it walks by.”

The scariest inhabitant of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not what you think

New giant ‘Samba virus‘ discovered inside amoeba of the Amazon River

Sudden huge blooms of jellyfish can now be predicted by monitoring ocean winds http://t.co/Zi3KUtYpvl

A great art project: encode Wikipedia in an apple’s DNA.

The 9 Most Influential Works of Scientific Racism, Ranked

Why Fly? Flightless Bird Evolution Mystery Solved

Meet the slowest planet in the known universe, where one orbit takes 80,000 years.

Cleaning an Egyptian obelisk with lasers.

No, brain stimulation won’t give you lucid dreams

More Dead Bees, More Sloppy Science.

Superb headline. Puny humans meet to decide fate of killer robots

In the throes of book research, I sympathise with this story about a robot that dived too deeply and died.

Key West Antarctic glaciers retreating unstoppably

Maria Konnikova on ‘supertaskers’ who can multi-task without performance loss

Winning the war against birds. This robot arm can catch flying objects

Newly formed cells in the hippocampus could “dislodge previously learned information”

Polar bears quickly evolved to cope with an absurdly fatty diet. I’m taking notes.

Some fish species appear to have (somewhat) specialized in feeding on dolphin poo and vomit

Michael Lewis on how to explain complicated stuff in narratives: Find a protagonist who’s learning it, too.

Fishermen hook 12-ft hammerhead, see it’s pregnant, deliver 20 babies one by one

What connectomes can tell us about how brains (and eyes) work.

Radars of the lost shark: The battle to save the riches of Costa Rica’s Cocos Island

How to make your test sound great: invent your own statistic. For extra douche-points, use it in a test for suicide risk.

Study based on Goodall’s notes: Only known chimp war reveals how societies splinter

Last yr, the AMA labelled obesity as a “disease”. Melanie Tannenbaum explores the psychological implications of that

Birds changing in response to “unnatural selection” of radiation at Chernobyl.

Phineas Gage is reborn every generation as a different man: Each generation reinterprets [him] anew.”

The STAP stem-cell case is snowballing to absurd proportions.

How birds survived the dinosaur apocalypse by downsizing.

Jack Bauer has killed almost 2 times as many people as all sharks in the last 450 yrs in the whole world.

Polio, almost beaten, declared an international emergency

Fresh misconduct case in social psych. Same stats-based whistleblowing that brought down Smeesters & Sanna.

Lonely bacteria mutate faster

Fascinating look at induced hibernation in animals–including mice and, maybe, humans.

Things you can’t unsee (and what that says about your brain)

Light echoes act as astronomical time machines or portals to the past

When laughter is a symptom. Three fascinating case studies

“Nonhuman animals can lose their minds.” Laurel Braitman’s upcoming book—ANIMAL MADNESS—looks fascinating.

A study about sexual similarity gets framed as a major new finding of sex difference.

The top ten global warming ‘skeptic’ arguments answered

Rare footage of elusive jungle cat attacking a pangolin

Preliminary study (n=24) suggests that people could maybe learn to suppress own immune responses.

Darwin’s finches fumigate themselves with pesticide-infused cotton balls.

Young blood reverses ageing in mouse study. Yay! *cough*butmightcausecancer*cough*

A Desert Spider With Astonishing Moves

Case studies are hypotheses in the making”: Emily Willingham’s powerful essay on autism science


Blindfolded. Upside down. Hanging from helicopter. Rhinos.

A photo of Uranus, taken from Saturn. I’m so impressed I’m not even sniggering.

Well that’s delightfully horrifying: The Mouth Of A Blood Worm

“Can you explain it like I’m five?”

Sherlock is actually terrible at deduction.

Forever screaming now: ‘Alien catfish‘ has got some teeth.

The match you’ve always wanted: Safety Carl Zimmer vs Gamera

British slang, as (ineffectively) defined by an American.

Super Mario Game of Thrones.

Do you want to be a panda caretaker?

Sad photographer shoots her own tears under a microscope.

Octopus opens jar from the inside. And then just stays there. Because screw you, humans.

WHAT? Sea anemone eats baby seabird.

An 800-page Pantone book from 1692


The NYT’s digital strategy doc is really interesting. Frank, introspective, insightful. Although, maybe invest in a good scanner?

Jill Abramson, the editor-in-chief of the NYT was unexpectedly fired. Here are some of the best takes on the affair, by Ken Auletta, Emily Bell and Ann Friedman: “In real time, it’s hard to be sure what’s sexism and what’s you.”

“To truly shift social norms, the community has to get involved in enforcing them.” Laura Hudson on banding together to curb online abuse.

UK Sci Media Centre lambasted for pushing corporate science. Maybe also lambast the lazy journos who parrot their quotes?

Oxford Dictionaries delivers with these 18 ways to say “awesome

“Mostly, though, it’s made me more afraid.” Dispatches from fact-checking

Patreon: The Crowdfunding Upstart That’s Turning Freelancers Into Superstars

Meet the woman who coined the term “white privilege” in 1988. She’s wonderful, sharp, compassionate.

Crediibility of UK journalism being crushed to death by killer snakes.

For that vast continent, in all its diversity, you get that one f**king tree.”

A superb NYTimes article on writing: “I stopped shouting and bluffing, and slowly my writing improved.”

Ben Lillie’s Inside/Out interview on science & storytelling is funny and insightful.

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