I’ve got your missing links right here (19 October 2013)

Sexism and harassment in the science-writing world

It’s been a bit of a week in the science-writing world. First, Scientific American blogger Danielle Lee wrote about an editor who asked her to write for free and called her a whore when she turned him down. SciAm took down the post with inconsistent explanations, prompting a fierce online response. Maryn McKenna sums up the story and I’d really recommend this post by Kate Clancy. The post is back up; the editor, fired.

In the wake of that, writer Monica Byrne accused Bora Zivkovic, a leading figure in the science blogging community, of harassment. He apologised, but concurrently other women stepped forward, including science writers Hannah Waters and Kathleen Raven. The women are brave; their accounts, devastating. Raven’s is the most gut-wrenching thing I have read in recent memory. Trigger warnings apply.

The event has also prompted a lot of good pieces on gender and power issues in the science community. This is a non-exhaustive list, but: many good pieces on Ladybits; Melanie Tannenbaum on the psychology of impact vs. intent; Alice Bell on the nature of the sci-blogging community; Laura Helmuth with sage advice for people seeking mentorship (and those who can provide it), and more; Martin Robbins on keep-it-quiet-ism.

The whole thing also led to the heartbreaking #ripplesofdoubt hashtag as many people shared their stories of how pervasive harassment and sexism affects them. See Hope Jahren’s piece.

I’m pushing this to the foreground because it’s more important than any of the stuff below. We need to open our eyes. We need to ensure that our colleagues don’t have to go through this, and certainly not alone. We need to speak up about it because doing so will create a culture where people can speak up about it, where they can stand up and be supported. Not this.

Top picks                                                               

The patient, “coincidentally trained as an invertebrate biologist”, pulled the worm from his mouth. This story from Deborah Blum is pure storytelling gold.

A new Tumblr: That’s Not How You Pipette

Instant IgNobel! All mammals pee for an average of 21 seconds, regardless of size.

A collection of the best science audio and video on the internet. Kudos to Rose Eveleth and Ben Lillie for making it happen.

Scientists like to think of science as self-correcting. To an alarming degree, it is not. Good sweeping Economist piece

Ross Andersen visits Star Axis, an astonishing piece of geological art, 40 years in the making.

On words that you can no longer use, by Brad Leithauser.

New type of botulinum, one of the deadliest known substances, is discovered. Its DNA sequence has been censored

Jurassic Park’s iconic fossil of a blood-filled mosquito was fiction… until now. (Still no dino DNA, sorry. Science hates your dreams.)

Virginia Hughes on why Big Brain is no Big Genome

“The minerals in our electronic devices have bankrolled unspeakable violence in the Congo.”

1) Read all posts from Nieman’s Storyboard 75 writerly wisdom-a-thon 2) Hope for osmosis 3) ??? 4) Become really good

Viruses are adaptable and heedless. Humans are adaptable and smart.” – David Quammen on the next big one.

Ada Lovelace Day, a celebration of women in science.


Kenya is planting a microchip in the horn of every rhino in its borders, to crack down on poaching

A bird with a remarkable double-con.

870,000 Toyotas recalled because of spiders. Basically, webs in your airbag deployment system =not good

What’s the point of finding cancer mutations? By Jessica Wapner. Good piece; love the haystack metaphor

Skull of Homo erectus throws story of human evolution into disarray. By  Ian Sample.

Why does music help us exercise? By Virginia Hughes.

On the origin of ants—from wasps. By Carl Zimmer.

Of heads and headlines: can a skull doom 14 human species?

Annual frog-jumping contest shows scientists what bullfrogs are *really* capable of.

Why not lasso a comet w/bungee cords and ride it like a horse?

Why Darth Vader couldn’t be Barth Vaber

Vaughan Bell on the terrible headlines about Oreos being more addictive than cocaine.

Benthic ctenophores colonize sea stars and use them as fishing piers

Stuffed python suggests language evolved from a song.

Professor Jones has based his criticism on media reports, not what I actually wrote” Cumming on genes, IQ, and school.

Sweeping wonderful Alice Bell piece on diversity in science, of all forms.

Swarms of insect cyborgs can be used to map collapsed buildings

Glowing antibiotics reveal infections in real-time

The useful stories hidden within ancient poo

1 in 2000 Brits carry infectious prions, but how many will go on to develop disease?

Bats making ear trumpets? Study seems weak. No data on bats’ response; could be irrelevant side-effect of roost shape.

A sound critique of physicist Paul Davies’ new/old evolutionary theory of cancer

How your cat(s) see the world

Lovely Michael White piece: “Your Genome Is a Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland

Danish neuroscientist Penkowa, found guilty of misconduct, reappears as Scientology group headliner

Modellers react to chemistry award. Their reactions were predictable.

Fish evolve stabbier genitals when predators are near

A marine science instructor found this 18-foot long oarfish

Whales don’t spray water from their blowholes

“The Brazilian free-tailed bat is of special interest because it is a mammal that sings like a bird.”

Giant Amazon Fish Is Actually Five Different Species

Some bonobos comfort each other.

The Backfire Effect shows why you can’t use facts to win an argument

The remarkable story of how Emily Graslie went from studio artist to science YouTube host.

Mammal species declined as flowering plants evolved

“Delightfully passive-aggressive messages in the name of world peace.” Megan Garber on the Nobel Twitter feed

This giant salamander smells like pepper and makes noises that sound a bit like a child.

Do babies have morals?

British fossils being damaged through vandalism.

Ghost elephants win Wildlife Photographer of the Year prize.


Headline perfection

Reporter asks Gravity director Alfonso Cuarón if it was difficult filming in space

Fly business class they said. Extra legroom they said.

If only we could, XKCD, if only we could.

Zombies vs. animals? The living dead wouldn’t stand a chance

Medieval Land Fun Time – a dubbed version of Game of Thrones

In which the resolution of a taxonomic debate allows for an almighty pun

Hey, who wants to do an unpaid volunteer postdoc? Wait, where are you going? Why are you crying?

Astonishing footage of a jaguar attacking a caiman, and a leopard taking down some impala in an EPIC kill.

Fukushima Industries (a fridge company) have developed a new mascot called “Fukuppy”.

This is a straight line on a globe

“This is a blogger who is showing us what can be done with the medium.”

Man Spends 40 Years Building Giant Kinetic Carnival Rides to Advertise Family Restaurant in Italy

This is magnificent. “The Ferrets are bending the rules”

Due to “criticisms from our mothers & several failed relationships with women”, scientists conduct urine stream study

A Drowned World: Incredible Underwater Images Of Miniature Men And Marine Life

National Geographic Calls on Photographers to Show Our Changing World



Teaching people to code maybe isn’t the answer to homelessness. Shocked. Shocked, I tell you.

A Simple Fix to the Golden Gate Bridge Would Save Hundreds of Lives

Artist trolls the NSA with his emails.

Blessed are the shy, for we are mighty in our own awkward shuffling kind of way.

For shame: Trolls defeat Scientific American, Popular Science

Iceland publishes more books, reads more books, and has more writers per capita (one in ten!) than any other nation

The Landfillharmonic makes musical instruments from garbage.

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