I’ve got your missing links right here (22 September 2012)

Top picks

XKCD’s legendary world.

Study shows male & female scientists rate males higher than women with identical CVs. Sean Carroll discusses.

You MUST read Carl Zimmer’s saga of Richard Lenski and one of the coolest evolutionary experiments around

Lots of panicked headlines this week about GM-corn that supposedly led to tumours in lab rodents. The study’s incredibly weak – here’s an incisive analysis by SciCurious and another good one by Deborah Mackenzie at New Scientist. And here’s the real headline: reporters were prevented from even seeking outside opinions about the paper. Not only weak science but an absurd use of the embargo system

149,597,870,700 metres – the new, official, fixed distance between the Earth and the Sun.

The Best Sci Writing Online 2012 is now out! Poetry! Journalism! Long-form features! Critical analysis! Go buy it.

Really excellent post on Naomi Wolf’s Vagina from Maia Szalavitz. She just nails the issues with the science.

A mysterious kidney disease is killing young farm hands continents apart. Is there a connection?

Great Carmen Drahl feature on the trouble with forensics – “witchcraft that passes for science”

Archaeologists discover prehistoric drawings are animations. Wow!

Here’s another failed replication of one of John Bargh’s priming studies (regular readers will remember him from this) and another burst of bizarre behaviour – a strange omerta about his data.

Beautiful undersea “crop circles” turn out to be the work of a puffer fish

Lovely post by Megan Garber: The emoticon was born after a physics thought experiment.

Misleading talk of ‘three-parent babies’ helps no one – good piece in the Guardian about the controversy over mitochondrial disease. And solid reporting from Ian Sample.

Love this NeuroSkeptic post, in which he reminds us that the ultimate brain-scanning technology is… the brain

Fantastic Carl Zimmer post on the XMRV story as a case study for how hard it is to get rid of false positive results. With excellent comment thread. This one in particular.

This is incredible. Simple trick gets people to reverse their moral attitudes

The IgNobel prizes were announced! Here’s the full list. Some thoughts:  The dead salmon experiment is actually an important bit of neuroscience as far as urging caution about a technique. The Eiffel Tower experiment… I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve highlighted it to be as an example of the problems in psychology that I write about. And also: delighted to see Frans de Waal win an IgNobel. Lovely guy.


Journalistic deficit disorder. “There is an almost complete amnesia in the newspaper coverage of biomedical findings.”

“The scientist who put the nail in XMRV’s coffin” – Q&A w/ Ian Lipkin. And credit to Mikovits for abandoning her failed hypothesis.

Meteors giveth, meteors taketh away. Did a meteor strike initiate the reign of the dinosaurs?

Do journalists tarnish the reputation of science while covering academic fraud? Ivan Oransky argues otherwise and I’m with him. (To see what he’s arguing against, see this comment, which exemplifies every wrongheaded reaction to attempts at discussing sci’s replication problem)

The “NIH Superbug” spreads, and Maryn McKenna talks about how to contain it

Humans and Neanderthals. One species or two? Carl Zimmer discusses.

“Neuroscientists are trying to work out why the brain does so much when it seems to be doing nothing at all.” – Nature feature by Kerri Smith

Crows remember your face (and know you’re hiding in there)

Jim Pfaus… welcomed the controversy & seemed to care little if Ms. Wolf actually got the science right.” Christ. What an example of how not to responsibly communicate science to the public.

Ugh. “You know what cancer needs? More hype and cheap rhetoric,” said no one.

It’s rolling along, slowly! Yawn. ON MARS! Wow! It’s touching a rock. Yawn. ON MARS! WOW

Excellent Ferris Jabr post that defends the idea of evolutionary psychologyidea of evolutionary psychology when a critique goes to far. “You can’t slice the brain & mind out of evolution’s tapestry.”

Headache-relieving pills can cause headaches?

A handy guide: How to survive mass extinction

Lab-grown leather could redefine “lab coat”

No one likes an overachiever, bacteria. Bacteria replicate close to the physical limit of efficiency

At last, we can confirm that the oyster genome encodes traits that oysters have. This is like every animal genome story ever.

Congrats Wellcome Trust Sci Writing Prize winners. Let’s crush these future stars before they… wait, support, I mean support. Ahem

You donate your brain to science & they call it “clinically unremarkable”. Brain atlas revealed.

100+ papers by anesthesiologist to be retracted after decade of fraud. Like reviewers were asle… HEY!

ENCODE enters courtroom: “junk DNA” in DNA fingerprinting. This is so wrong-headed on many levels.

Reclaimed venoms! Snake venom may be ‘drug source’

Feathered dinosaurs drive creationists crazy, as Brian Switek explains

Thanks to us, almost all the birds in this island died, and were replaced by legions of snakes & spiders.

Is medical science built on shaky foundations?

Mind control… the good kind. “Control a robot with your brain”

Arctic expert predicts final collapse of sea ice within four years

How psychoanalysis led a botanist to the concept of an ecosystem


“With a name like Gliese 163c. I sound like a brand of piles ointment.”

More celebrity commentary should focus on the planet’s inevitable destruction by our own Sun

Twitter: Two Star Trek captains wait for the cable guy

U.S. Explodes Atomic Bombs Near Beers To See If They Are Safe To Drink

This is wonderful – it’s Ewan Birney’s original spread bet book on the number of genes in the human genome, by the Human Genome Project folks.

Astonishing. Dragonflies + other insects covered in dew

Crush Earth’s history into the 6000 year Creationist scale, & Henry VIII becomes the last king of the Devonian

Awesome astronaut self-portrait

World’s wisest man found on internet

Reddit’s mind-blowing sentences about science, in image form

London cinema tackles problem of disruptive movie-goers… with ninjas. I AM SO GOING HERE.



The NYT bans its reporters from “quote approval”.

Apple has royally screwed up its maps launch.

Today, every journalist is an editor-in-chief. Indeed.

“There’s only one country stupid enough to sell off its electricity industry: Britain.”

Remember when Facebook was about poking your friends, and not being the Stasi?

“When you’re the editor-in-chief of a magazine… you are the living god.”

Piece of papyrus apparently refers to Mrs Christ. “At least, don’t say this proves Dan Brown was right” says historian.

“People understand, almost intuitively, the diff between being inspired and being trolled” – Megan Garber on Newsweek’s cynical #Muslimrage hashtag

Amazing story: “Meet the human billboards that sold their skin to companies that don’t exist anymore.”

Seems Philip Roth actually ISN’T a credible source on Philip Roth (or, at least, his dealings with Wikipedia)

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