I’ve got your missing links right here (18th September 2010)


Brandon Keim has my favourite story of the week: a haunting tale of thousands of birds, trapped by the 9/11 memorial lights.

Four people contracted fatal brain amoebas through organ transplants. Maryn McKenna on a nightmare scenario.

“Those who get a lot of practice, say, killing zombies attacking from haphazard directions in a shifting, postapocalyptic landscape pump up their probabilistic inference powers”. Gamers are better at fast decision-making. They can tell you that Susan Greenfield is full of crap faster than you can say “mind change”.

Offender profiles are so vague as to be meaningless…  At best, they have little impact on murder investigations; at worst they risk misleading investigators and waste police time.” Ian Sample reports.

A brilliant post by Frank Swain about the secret messages written into the fabric of our world, including the famous BBC television test card, (No, this isn’t about numerology. What do you take me for?)

“So we used to refer to this as the “kill whitey” study.” David Dobbs on trolleyology, race and morals.

The Atlantic tracks down the first child diagnosed with autism. He’s 77 and pretty happy.

Alexis Madrigal dug up an old 1982 Atlantic feature on living with a computer. “Staying up into the wee hours of the morning”? Check. “Nearly destroying his health in the process”? Check. Plus ca change…

Worrying stuff: Ivan Oransky reports that work from noted gene therapy researcher Savio Woo is under scrutiny after a wave of retractions, and two of his post-docs have been dismissed for fraud

More after the jump…

A nice interview with Nicholas Cristakis about predicting epidemics with social networks

The more victims, the less severe the judgment. Jess McNally writes about identifiable victim bias.

“Think of the internet as a giant cocktail party” Jonah Lehrer talks about creativity and distraction… OOH SQUIRREL!

“Differences in people’s ability to gauge their own accuracy may be linked to having more volume–and more connections–in the prefrontal cortex,” writes Katherine Harmon

Alok Jha tries very, very hard to pin down David Willetts on science cuts & homeopathy.

Pelagornis, an extinct bird with a record-breaking 17ft wingspan

“When we leave out variations in culture, we risk profoundly misunderstanding how these genes — and the people who carry them — actually operate in the big wide world.“ David Dobbs on the depression map

Meanwhile, the NYT has retractions of its own! A triple-burst of admitted failure, regarding the Alzheimer’s test story.

The evolution of the tyrant lizards.

The Beagle, the astronaut and a party in Brazil put the awe back into science, as does Karen James

The man who encourages the sick and dying to drink industrial bleach, by Martin Robbins

The chocolate genome has no A, G, C or T, only MMMMMMMMM

Why are women chosen to lead organisations in a crisis? BPS Research Digest discusses the “glass cliff” in a story with a depressing ending.

NYT: “Recruiting the shark victims to advocate for their attackers was easier than she expected”

Ozone holes, imaginary numbers, gut bacteria and more. New Scientist tells the story of 11 unlikely ideas that changed the world. Hopefully, Vince Cable is listening.

The world’s worst-tasting burrito – it’s the head of a crocodile, served with gauze, formaldehyde and alcohol. Mmmm….

Thousands of blubbery tusked animals are mobilising in Palin country

Do mobile phone base stations affect sleep? Only if you’re worried & think they’re switched on.

“The barriers between species are not necessarily vast, unbridgeable chasms; sometimes they get crossed with marvelous results.” Sean Carroll talks about zorses, wholphins, grolars, ligers and mules.

Frank Swain’s excellent Wired piece on nanotechnology is finally online.

Discover gets eminent scientists to predict the future.

Go into space and risk your fingernails falling off.

Rich-world diseases could hijack poor world’s biotech, says Debora MacKenzie

Religion drives evolution? A religious ritual stimulates adaptive changes in a cave fish

Breastfeeding may prevent disease by changing which genes are activated in baby’s first gut bacteria, by Melinda Wenner-Moyer

Maryn McKenna on the terrifying resistance gene NDM-1.

Jason Goldman writes about why we eat chillies, and I offer an alternative explanation.

What are participants really up to when they complete an online questionnaire? From BPS Research Digest

John Rennie takes a thorough look at a CNN report about a regenerated fingertip.

Why are a small minority of obese people seemingly healthy? Obesity Panacea considers the answer in a five-part series.

Decepticons, scramble! A lying robot plays hide-and-seek, schemes.

This sensitive electronic skin will allow machines to feel your rough, callous touch.

A few years ago, I wrote about solar-powered slugs. That story just got more interesting; more at Prof-Like Substance’s blog.

Dinosaur metaphors for human endeavor tells us more about how we view them than what they were actually like,” says Brian Switek

Southern Fried Scientist talks about why the Sea Shepherds are failing to stop Japanese whaling, why they may be making things worse and what they should do instead.

“Taken together, creative thinking does not appear to critically depend on any single mental process or brain region, and it is not especially associated with right brains,” says Vaughan Bell.

Swearing can be used as a psychological tool in the service of helping.” Evidence-based swearing!

The Tasmanian devil is in the details. Its draft genome sequence is complete; will it help to save the devil from a contagious cancer?

It would cost $10,000 a year per cat to save the world’s remaining tigers.


The ant death spiral, a hauntingly freaky phenomenon explained here.

Pope’s astronomer says he would baptise an alien if it asked him. How many people will now approach the Pope’s astronomer in alien costume?

A bacterial lightbulb!

Booze under the microscope.

Christopher Walken’s face tastes of ham & chocolate. I’d always suspected. A synaesthete describes the flavours of famous faces.

Meanwhile, this ant needs a death spiral before it terrifies me any further.

“This might not sound like a good treatment since it involved smashing the penis

God taking credit for any old crap http://bit.ly/9jL7RO

Language Log nukes a professional grammar pedant.

Prize to Tom Levenson, for inadvertently sending the week’s funniest tweet. See if you can spot why.

When your own sweat is staining your pants red, you might wanna cut back on the red food colouring.


Another week, another new science blogging network. But what a network – this one by Wired already had Jonah Lehrer, but now has the cheek to also nab Brian Switek, David Dobbs, Daniel Macarthur, Maryn McKenna, Rhett Allain and Brian Romans. No fair!

This announcement, prompted Kate Clancy to observe that networked bloggers are mostly male. Jenny Rohn crunched the numbers and sparked off a debate, and Martin Robbins took it upon himself to collect a list of female bloggers. Go have a look – sample a few new blogs.

“The most underused words in the news business today: let’s pass on that.” This piece on the “Hamster Wheel” in the Columbia Journalism Review is one of the best things I’ve read this week. “The Hamster Wheel, then, is investigations you will never see, good work left undone, public service not performed… The Hamster Wheel, really, is the mainstream media’s undoing, in real time, and they’re doing it to themselves.

Douglas Blane has an interesting analysis of the readability of science blogs.

Congratulations to David Dobbs, Sheril Kirshenbaum, Chris Mooney, Steve Silberman, Jonah Lehrer and others for featuring in the Best American Science Writing compilation.

Gimpy gets a case of online Tourette’s and discovers an odd case of censorship in Google’s instant search; he also has an interesting post about blogging collectives, which I disagree with but recommend nonetheless.

John Naughton defends “serious investigative writing” and long-form journalism on the web.

“Is looking clever worth making someone else look dim?” Alice Bell takes a serious look at science jokes.

Mashable has some familiar ideas about the new world of journalism, but they’re worth repeating.

This is an interesting tool for comparing Twitter followers. It uses out of date data, but still useful for testing the idea that science-tweeting is insular.

And finally, congratulations to Maggie Koerth-Baker, the new science editor for Boing Boing, and Bora Zivkovic, the new blog and community editor for Scientific American.

Various histories of science in 140 characters or fewer.

Ha! What does this post about what things mean for journalism mean for journalism?

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