I’ve got your missing links right here (22nd January 2011)

ScienceOnline 2011

Christine Russell wrote a good piece that captures the flavour of the conference well. Robin Lloyd has two great write-ups, about the conference itself and the sessions on journalistic standards and bullshit filters. Paul Raeburn covers it for the Knight Science Journalism Tracker. “They don’t crow about discovering the future of science writing–they are creating it,” says he.

Maryn McKenna wrote up the session on journalism standards that she ran, Dave Mosher considers how disclosures and standards could be applied to online writing, I questioned a case study of how such standards might be applied.

Chris Rowan deals with the elephants in the room, and the idea that not all bloggers want to be journalists, Bora Zivkovic talks about the benefits of multiple levels of explanation, John Hawks says “More than most will admit, scientists today depend on good science writing,” Maria Wolters talks about the intersecting spheres of science blogging, and I explain why I keep on yammering on about broad audiences.

Speaking of which, Carl Zimmer and I ran a workshop on writing for a broad audience. Christie Wilcox has a good summary. For anyone who couldn’t make it, or who wants to revise, read Carl’s beautifully written (and structured) post on the topic . In particular, have a look at the wonderful discussion in the comments on writing about maths without jargon, featuring a glorious dragon-punch-to-the-jaw by Jennifer Ouellette. Meanwhile, Tim Radford’s legendary Manifesto for the Simple Scribe is finally online! If you read just one thing on science writing, read this (and Alice Bell’s updates for the 21st century).

Alice Bell discusses science’s spam filter, an analogy she used in our session on blogs and boundaries, while Marie-Claire Shanahan compares arsenic and cold fusion as examples of online critique.

Emily Anthes wondered if we’re all stuck in an echo chamber, and I replied. Colin Schultz takes a look at the Nation of Science Blogging. Jason Goldman has a post on supporting new bloggers.

Oh and I angered a lemur.

Top Ten Picks

In the wake of the recent Arizona shooting, would-be assassin Jared Loughner was variously described as “crazy” and a “paranoid schizophrenic”. “For many, the investigation will stop there. No need to explore personal motives, out-of-control grievances or distorted political anger. The mere mention of mental illness is explanation enough,” says Vaughan Bell. “Severe mental illness, on its own, is not an explanation for violence.” Martin Robbins and Daniel Lende also have good takes on this problem.

Blogs and tweets are ripping papers apart within days of publication, leaving researchers unsure how to react.” From past experience, blind panic… A great piece by Apoorva Mandavilli in Nature.

Welcome Daniel Macarthur’s superb blog Genetic Future to Wired. He kicks off with an excellent analysis of a new paper on sharing genes with our friends.

Jesse Bering wrote a piece in Slate about how women’s minds and behaviour have evolved to avoid rape. Amid multiple critiques, John Rennie’s stand out but it’s also worth looking at Bering’s defense (which links to all the other critiques).

This is an incredible new illusion, which shows how perception of objects changes as soon as they start moving. Catherine de Lange reports.

“There are people who sneeze when exposed to sexy thoughts.” Scicurious explores the basic biology of sneezing.

Here’s a wonderful story. Darren Naish’s blog Tetrapod Zoology inspires palaeontologists to name a fossil reptile after palaeontologist Mike Benton. Enter Bentonyx.

Chess-boxing: rounds of physical violence interspersed with a strategic boardgame. Sounds amusing, but Andrea Kuzsewski thinks it’s more. It has “exciting implications for the future of aggression management and preventative treatment of maladaptive behaviors.”

“The biodiversity crisis we are currently encountering isn’t just a loss of species, it’s also a loss of knowledge regarding them.” Craig McClain writes about the loss of taxonomists in Wired.

Two whale penises. One whale vagina. NSFW, obviously


A cool new find: Tim de Chant is writing a blog called Per Square Mile, which is about density. If that seems a bit strange to you (it did to me) have a look at this great post which looks at what the world’s population would look like if it lived in one city.

Did the ancient Egyptians know about pygmy mammoths? Darren Naish discusses.

Jonah Lehrer has a great follow-up to my post on the dark side of oxytocin, where he considers why it’s so hard to love strangers.

You’re probably less popular than your friends. And it’s not just because of the smell and the biting.

“A collection of essays that together provide a primer of current developments in neuroscience and highlight interesting issues and questions for society and policy” from the Royal Society.

Global worming: phishing scammers target climate scientists with very convincing fake websites.

Remember the arsenic story? A new paper shows that phosphorus compounds are more stable than their arsenic equivalents by a factor of ten… to the power of seventeen!

Deborah Blum has a beautifully written and personal essay on cigarettes, cancer and death as a benediction.

Colbert creates army of zombie worms that obey his every whim. Sort of.

Plastic in raptor nests advertises their level of fitness

Lizard venom: the next big thing in heart medication.

Triceratops and Torosaurus were the same species. Or were theyOr were they?

We’re close to reaching Lake Vostok – one of the last untouched environments on earth. Should it be done?

Why do women cry? Obviously, it’s so they don’t get laid. Christie Wilcox does a marvellous takedown of some terrible MSNBC reporting.

The vote in Southern Sudan could consign an ancient disease to extinction.

Jonah Lehrer wants you to go on holiday. Go on. Why are you still here?

How is it possible to survive a gunshot wound to the head, as suffered by Gabrielle Giffords? Slate investigates.

The Guardian has a great piece about stammering, making good use of the The King’s Speech to raise awareness of this neglected issue

A tree-like giant is the largest molecule ever made. I have molecule envy.

What did Velociraptor eat? Clever girl…

A fossilised pterosaur mum with her egg attached

Focusing on the astonishing undervalues incremental progress, hard work, the long view.”

A mouse mirrors social quirks of the endlessly fascinating Williams syndrome, a condition characterised by extreme social behaviour and a lack of racial stereotypes.

Concerned about birds falling out of the sky? Here’s the real story that should concern us.

Why international justice will suffer if UK forensics takes an axe to the back.

What’s a medically induced coma and why is it used?

When your prey has skin like sandpaper, your teeth will wear down to the gums.

Tevatron will be shut down in October 2011. Last raspy words: “Wait…. I stil function…”

“Writing is the most dumbed-down subject in our schools.” Never fear – there’s a journal devoted to superb high school research papers.

A free online game called EterRNA will help researchers model folding molecules.

Ben Goldacre vs the “bullshit churnalism” of the most depressing day of the year.


Happy sad happy sad happy sad. I could spend hours watching this.

An octopus throne.

Sea Captain Date – “the only place for Sea Captains to connect with men and women who share a love of the ocean.”

Stan Carey talks about amusing biological names

The public have a right to know

Sad Star Trek

Cut the top off a champagne bottle with a knife – and learn physics!

The truth behind the mass bird deaths revealed

Why does Chewbacca use a crossbow? Carl Zimmer asks one of the big questions of our time.


“We gradually discover that what we thought was casual has become an essential part of the record”. Scott Rosenberg has a great series of posts on what to do if you tweet something inaccurate.

Cassie Willyard does what all journalists should do – she takes a mistake and turns it into an opportunity for learning and discussion.

Ace science writer Mark Henderson is writing The Geek Manifesto, a book about science and politics. And her wants your help.

Ben Goldacre: If you don’t link to primary sources, you are dead to me

Things that Steve Yelvington wishes tech journalists would learn: “Blogging about a rumour posted on some other blog isn’t journalism.”

“We talk a lot, then we dive deep.” Clive Thompson talks about how tweets and texts can nurture more in-depth analysis

Should editorials remain anonymous? An interesting but (to me) ultimately unconvincing argument.

A truly awful piece of science writing by David Brooks in the New Yorker. Leaving out the science, which this frequently does, this is what writing looks like when someone thinks to himself, “I’m really going to WRITE now.”

The Daily Mail – no subject too complicated for its writers to boil down.

Paul Raeburn skewers misleading headlines of new breastfeeding study. And don’t miss the kicker!

Use fewer words.

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