I’ve got your missing links right here (27 October 2012)

Top picks

Five Italian scientists were sentenced to 6 years in prison for failing to properly communicate the risk of an earthquake that devastated the town of l’Aquila. Here are several pieces about the ill-judged decision:

“People will… hypothesise invincible, transsexual, border-hopping serial killers just to keep the story coherent…” Vaughan Bell on the subjectivity of forensic science.

The genetics of stupidity are more interesting than those of intelligence, says David Dobbs.

Why do children hide by covering their eyes? The answer is really complicated, and very cool. By Christian Jarrett.

Really enjoyed Alice Roberts’ Prehistoric Autopsy – a great documentary about prehistoric hominids. Brits can watch on iPlayer. Everyone else can use an anonymiser.

On prosthetics: “If your leg isn’t comfortable, who gives a crap how expensive or amazing your foot is?”

Big, Smart, Green: A Vision for Modern Farming. Brandon Keim covers a fascinating approach in his typically excellent fashion.

You don’t buy e-books from Amazon; you rent them under an unlimited, but easily revoked, licence

Another yawning dogs study, but Alexis Madrigal finds little to yawn about. He muses instead on science’s zig-zags

Scientist tries her hand at journalism for a few weeks, and finds that it’s really hard. Love this.

“Tracing the backstory can be just as intriguing as reporting the news.” Top post on the baby-DNA-in-mum’s-brain story

Really huge planets could apparently survive being swallowed by a star. “It’s still good! It’s still good!”

Did T.rex eat Triceratops by *pulling off its freakin’ head*?? Bonus: an illustrated step-by-step guide!

Ski slopes vs. craggy mountains – good balanced piece by Dan Fagin on the controversial behaviour of hormone disruptors

Saudi Arabia fires top virus-hunter after he finds virus – that new coronavirus that had everyone worried a while back. Great reporting from Debora Mackenzie

I like this a lot: it’s an ad guy talking to other ad guys, but totally applicable to science communication.

Really good take on the discovery of those feathered ostrich-dinosaurs that I wrote about. Veronique Greenwood goes into the details about how they were actually found.

Big parts of Wikipedia are basically completed & that’s something of a problem for the encyclopedia, says Rebecca Rosen

If you’ve ever wondered what doing research feels like…

Good piece from Bora Zivkovic about a recent fossil-fest conference, and what palaeontologists actually talk about

Rewrite the textbooks! Penis worm develops anus-first.


Surprisingly beautiful: the half-erased blackboards of quantum physics labs

10 most horrible deaths in a DIY space project. “Complete rocket explosion” is only #10

Hilarious list of 5 reasons why “cleansing” your colon is nonsense. I liked “It’s rude to firehose your friends”

This Atlantic piece, about creating a personalised virus that targets leaders of state, connects a good summary of several current scientific trends, and some stirring science-fiction, with some huge logical gaps. It never justifies the “personalised virus” angle, which means that the lede becomes a red herring that subverts the rest of piece

CNN retracts a story on hormones and voters – should the story have been dropped in the first place? Meanwhile, Kate Clancy and SciCurious eviscerate the paper

When you’re almost extinct, your bounty goes up

How archer fish create super spit

How Scientific American’s Bec Crew was plagiarised by the Daily Mail’s Damien Gayle. What. A. Prat.

Harvard hospital apologizes for promoting “weak” data on aspartame, cancer. A win for responsible journalism, PR and more.

Neanderthal vs modern human: who would win?

I rather like this – straight NYT profile of a guy who likes nature.

Vic Charlton on the science of tobacco and “harm reduction

Big splashy medical results are probably too good to be true—new Ioannidis work

Why we can’t get along with our future selves. My future self’s burning through all my savings, that’s why.

A strong wave of new bloggers over at SciLogs. I’m particularly looking forward to Amy Shira Teitel, Nathalia Holt and Matt Shipman’s contributions.

21 words that could clear up the recent methods-reporting issues in psychology

Climate scientist Michael E Mann sues for defamation

How did 4-winged dinosaur Microraptor fly? Kate Wong covers a new study.

New evidence for dinosaur protein preservation, but the DNA claims really are just taking the piss, surely?

Nature sums up the recent furore on a rogue iron fertilization experiment

A celebration of biological blues

Badgers live to badge another day

Never Go Into the Sea, Part #38108 – the Bobbit worm

On oxytocin and The Walking Dead

Fossil scars capture dinosaur headbutts

Brain scans during sleep can decode visual content of dreams. Sort of. Not well.

The mysterious origins of the “8 glasses of water a day” rule. Which is nonsense.

Watch sea lice devour a pig from the inside-out

Fish use skin crystals to swim around law of physics

The Assoc of the British Pharma Industry to Ben Goldacre: “LALALALALALALALALAICAN’THEARYOU”

So, it turns out urine isn’t actually sterile.

Japanese Cabinet members chip in to buy Shinya Yamanka a new washing machine, following his Nobel win. (You’d have thought Yamanaka could just reprogram a dishwasher into a washing machine…)

The Ukrainian Navy teaches dolphins how to kill people, says an… anonymous source. Right. Are they also training journalists to jump the shark?


Here’s world-renowned geneticist Eric Lander dancing to Gangnam Style.

Most terrifying cause of death ever?

Amazing photos of small and microscopic things. I especially love the fruit fly eye.

Herpes cupcakes! Smoker’s lung cake! The world’s most revolting (anatomically correct) cakes

Why field biologists shouldn’t get their feet wet (literally)

An amusing trawl through Wikipedia


Bora Zivkovic on beats vs. obsessions, columns vs. blogs, generalists vs. specialists

Rebecca Watson sums up her experience of misogyny, harrassment and rape threats among the “skeptic” “community”

Really good presentation about Impostor Syndrome

Some good tips on pitching stories, from the Open Notebook

How a parody Twitter account resurrected a god-maker

So… how DID Google bring Street View to the Grand Canyon? With these guys

“What It Was Like to Be a Telephone Operator on the Night Orson Welles Broadcast ‘War of the Worlds”

Very sad to learn of the Radiolab “Yellow Rain” controversy. Here’s a cogent summary and viewpoint, and a response from RadioLab.

Pregnancy via rape: all part of god’s beautiful plan. Said–yes, you guessed it–a Republican Senate nominee

Be sure to check out Deborah Blum’s new e-book. It’s a true crime story, but be warned – some truly disturbing stuff here.

I rather love this post explaining why The Avengers was really Black Widow and Friends.

Oddly moved by hearing the laughter of 19th-century peoplelaughter of 19th-century peoplelaughter of 19th-century people who are definitely all dead

Matter is about to launch, with its 1st story in Nov 15.

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