I’ve got your missing links right here (19th February 2011)

Top twelve picks

The “Haworth Misadventure” is over but it seemed important to collect some links for reference, given that it was one of the more interesting things to happen this week. For those who don’t know the story, it started on Saturday when I had a spot of bother getting hold of a scientist’s contact details thanks to a none-too-helpful press officer called Aeron Haworth. I put up the email chain on my Posterous blog (including the now-infamous line “I think you have all you need for a blog”), which led to an all-out outing on Ivan Oransky’s Embargo Watch and a… er… lively comment thread.  Maryn McKenna did the best job of summarising the subsequent events and collating links to the various takes (of which I’ll highlight Deborah Blum’s not least because it offers support to all science blogs support to all science blogs support to all science blogs and because I chuckled at the bit where she dusts off her Pulitzer and uses it as a rhetorical cosh). See also Bob’O’Hara, David Harris, MediaBistro and others. After a private and public apology on Wednesday, I accepted and drew a line underneath the matter. Subsequently, Tabitha Powledge and Charlie Petit did some post-mortems at the NASW and KJST sites. And another related story about a journalist forgetting the power of words on Twitter.

Wild animals devour an elephant in time-lapse. One hyena gets almost inside the thing!

How IBM’s Watson computer excels at Jeopardy! John Rennie explains. I bet I could take it in chess-boxing though. Meanwhile, in a case of Dr Watson meets Dr House, IBM are planning to apply Watson’s tech to medical diagnoses.

Andrea Kuszewski delivers a data smackdown on the recent “thinking-cap” paper, which claimed to produce insight with electrical stimulation. Do not miss the second half. Also on that study: thinking caps are pseudoscience masquerading as neuroscience, say a trio of scientists in the Guardian. And here’s my original take on that study

Evolution (well, mutation) in 500 lines. Wonderful.

How do you sedate a bear? Dangle a very brave man head-first into its den with syringe of tranquilizer on a pole. And you get a cool video of a snoring bear and some great data on hibernation.

Around the world in 800 days – be sure to catch up on Gaia Vince’s amazing trek across 36 countries and 5 continents, looking at the human impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss.

A great guest post by Ivan Oransky on Gary Schwitzer’s blog: why negative studies are good for health journalism & where to find them

Ooh, fascinating. Flies sniff out the difference between hydrogen and deuterium using quantum smelling. Notable because the author addresses criticisms in the comments. More coverage from New Scientist.

Rats. Wearing pants. For SCIENCE!

How wastewater stations could help to weed out illegal drug use in London’s 2012 Olympics, by Brian Mossop.

Phantom pregnancies. In men. Wonderful stuff from Emily Anthes.


An interesting interview with Frans de Waal, a fantastic scientist and writer, talking about emotion and intelligence in apes.

Firstly, it’s a filter-feeder. Also, it’s a MURAL!

How scientists unintentionally cured baldness in mice

Nature paper suggests climate change doubled or trebled risk of UK floods of 2000 – “the first time scientists have quantified the role of human-induced climate change in increasing the risk of a serious flood”

GCSE exam evolution FAIL – a teacher’s take on a ridiculous exam question, by Julia Anderson.

Roger Highfield talks about the end of BSE and our understanding of other prion diseases, a nice counterpoint to my post earlier this week on prion-ish proteins in ALS

Why you should avoid getting pregnant on the way to Mars. Every time Ian Sample writes about space, we all win.

Hummingbird robots

“To reduce this overflowing cornucopia of crap, the government is calling in reinforcements in the form of 11 Australian dung beetle species.”

I KNEW IT! Science proves that people take longer to leave a parking spot if you’re waiting for it!

Got a Nobel prize (or similar)? Then work in China and get paid $23 million.

Ben Goldacre, Petra Boynton and others debate the existence of Female Sexual Dysfunction

DRAAAAAAINAAAAAAGGE! Antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant bugs in our water.

The scientists who are trying to speak with dolphins (and a slightly tenuous link to aliens and SETI)

Richter scale for media events: stories on blogs spread like earthquakes

Are cities “our species’ greatest invention” asks the Economist  Do they make us more inventive/productive?

Which A-Levels should you study if you want to get into a top university? Tom Hartley’s analysis gives a thumbs-up to science.

IMRAN VICTOR! “The Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) today claimed that the Government’s new immigration rules represented a victory for the science and engineering sectors. The new proposals give significant rewards to applicants with science and engineering qualifications.”

That Brian Switek can’t help spoiling super-predators with his “facts”. First the terror-birds, then the mega-bear.

A fascinating NYT piece about the value that different government agencies put on a human life.

Natural selection limits how many attractive males can exist in a population? Screw you, evolution.

Containers of jokes and metaphors – Stan Carey talks about the scaffolding beneath the structure of our imaginations

Tenrecs – hedgehog-like mammals that live in Madagascar – have been filmed using their quills to communicate.

For Valentine’s day – when intelligent people the world over forget that emotion comes from the brain not the heart – Jason Goldman gave Valentine’s tips for lovestruck scientists, Christian Jarrett provided some great evidence-based wooing tips, David Manly writes about animal sex, and the Smithsonian put up a cool pic of the world’s first artificial heart

“The nerd defense” Study shows jurors less likely to convict those with spectacles

1 in 8 psychotherapists have a patient who confesses to murder

“Another group believe Monckton is vulnerable to ridicule because he accepts basic physics.” Sigh.

Study finds botox may make people actually feel happier by paralyzing frown muscles.

Lie Detection: Misconceptions, Pitfalls, and Opportunities for Improvement


Anthropologists trace human origins back to one large goat.

Did you read that New Yorker piece last week? This is a bit perfect.

An Open Letter to Stephen Fry. Pure joy.

The Good, the Bad, & the Cell Type-Specific Roles of HIF-1 in Neurons & Astrocytes” Papers named after movies and songs.

Have you noticed how it’s sometimes quite difficult to write about science without making it all sound like a sinister abduction plot? “The researchers took 10 people and…”  “They followed 2500 people for 7 years and…”

A truly wonderful animation about the placebo effect in 3 mins.

“I was trailing a squirrel and crouched to shoot it with my blowpipe when I saw the tiger.”

If Apple made water

Hehe. Cuts in UK science journalism take their toll on New Scientist.

This genius got a homophobic Leviticus tattoo. Leviticus forbids tattoos.


Go and support Jennifer Ouellette & the crew at Cocktail Party Physics on their 5th bloggoversay

It’s an absolute joy to see a science book on the shelves of my local supermarket amid the crime fiction and chick-lit. No prizes for guessing which one

Does science have a liberal bias? Martin Robbins raises an interesting issue (one comment from me)

Jay Rosen skewers the “Twitter can’t topple dictators” genre

How Steve Jobs stole Winnie the Pooh from David Dobbs, the heartless fiend.

Wonderful. The Royal Society Books Prize has been brought back from the brink for another 5 years! Because Rebecca Skloot hadn’t won this one yet 😉

Alice Bell picked apart the rather silly idea of a People’s Panel for science.

What’s New With Science News“, a podcast with John Rennie, Bora Zivkovic and Robin Lloyd

Ah, the Internet. Making it harder to spend f**king ages doing stuff since the 1990s. More curmudgeonliness.

A vaguely researched NYT piece prompts a much better discussion about the relative merits of health websites

Guardian no longer to use ‘today’, ‘tonight’, etc.

Can zinc stop colds? Gary Schwitzer reviews three stories from Reuters, NYT and WebMD

Look, if something’s a lie and you call it a lie, that’s not “opinion”. That’s journalism. If you don’t call it a lie, that’s monkey facepalm.

Informed by Nature: a great initiative to help small science outreach projects get funded and not revinent the wheel

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