I’ve Got Your Missing Links Right Here (27 September 2014)

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Top picks

The Forest Unseen, by David George Haskell, is the best science book I’ve ever read, and I say that without hesitation or exaggeration. Haskell spends a year trekking to the same small patch of Tennessee forest to watch life. It is flush with beautiful scientific observations rendered in achingly beautiful prose. It encapsulates everything that I love about science and science writing: the deep understanding that they can bestow upon the invisible and mundane; the sense of connection across scales minute and vast; the poetry that suffuses the world around us. It is magical.

Murder in a Time Before Google. A beautiful piece by Nichole Beaudry about the hazy death of her father.

Erika Check Hayden tells the story of a hospital in Sierra Leone, which has struggled to continue its research amid the worst Ebola outbreak in history. A superb piece.

Jupiter’s moon Europa has tectonic plates made of ice. Wonderful piece by Nadia Drake.

“HIV messaging has swung from black to whitewash.” Some people now believe HIV can be controlled by popping pills. Patrick Strudwick meets 4 different people to show what life with HIV is really like, from stigma to side effects.

This Bizarre Organism Builds Itself a New Genome Every Time It Has Sex. Greg Miller on the wonderful Oxytricha.

The factoid that out microbes outnumber our cells 10:1 is a wild estimate and probably wrong. An excellent corrective by Peter Andrey Smith.

“The idea that emotion impedes logic is pervasive and wrong.” Virginia Hughes on top form.

Richard Conniff on wildlife: “I am bored of pretending usefulness is the thing that really matters.”

Misogyny isn’t human nature, despite the internet’s bitter baboons. Wonderful essay by Eric Michael Johnson.

How forks shaped our jaws & how the atomic structure of spoons changes the way food tastes. Great new podcast on the science and history of food by Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley.

“It’s the earliest child in the history of humanity. That discovery was 100 percent Ethiopian. It was by Ethiopians, on Ethiopian land, led by an Ethiopian scientist.” The World’s Oldest Graveyard — a tremendous story by Amy Maxmen


Supposedly extinct chinchilla rat is rediscovered, looks weak and tasty.

Paralysed rat walks again with the help of a computer attached to its spinal cord

Great feature + editorial from Nature about the pressures of coming out as LGBT in science.

“When everything is awesome, nothing is” John Hutchinson on adaptation, Gould and spandrels.

Europe’s Insane History of Putting Animals on Trial and Executing Them

A ‘negative’ CV detailing academic rejections

Viroids: tiny, minimalist plant pathogens which might be relics of the “RNA world”. By Carl Zimmer.

Ebola patients buying survivors’ blood from black market, warns WHO

The Amazon is being fertilised by the remains of ancient fish from Africa

The problem with John Bargh’s definition of “unconscious“,

Hope Jahren’s NYT op-ed on science’s sexual assault problem is a brave, important piece

Warning: This Post Will Change Your Brain

World’s largest protected marine reserve announced

The 5 Biggest Mistakes in the Ebola Outbreak (So Far)

India pulls off Mars mission on first attempt, with a smaller budget than the film Gravity.

Female cosmonaut sick of ridiculous sexist questions

MIT held a Make the Breast Pump Not Suck hackathon

The rise of Big Cricket.

Today I learned that some algae make shells that look like nuclear radiation symbols.

Criag McClain peels some of the hype from that recently discovered unclassifiable mushroom-like sea creature.

‘Left-handed’ electrons may have led to life’s asymmetry by destroying some organic molecules faster than their mirrors

A grand bull elephant of Tsavo rescued from poaching. Heartbreaking pictures.

Ants don’t collectively outweigh humans.

A wonderful animated documentary on van Leeuwenhoek and the discovery of the microbial world.

“Under the Knife – a series dedicated to the horrors of pre-anaesthetic surgery.” Awesome. Lindsey Fitzharris talks about the clockwork saw.

Before whalefalls, there were ichthyosaurfalls.

Cannabis use in teens, suicide and school dropout: the jury is still out.

Before bone was the stuff of internal scaffolds, it was the stuff of external armour.

What Slipped Disks Tell Us About 700 Million Years of Evolution

Fishing competitions could help to keep invasive lionfish populations in check.

Miss Sweetie Poo, an adorable 9-yr-old, would repeatedly shout “Please stop. I’m bored” if they went over time.”

“If Ebola becomes endemic, the region could pose constant threat to the rest of Africa and other parts of the world.” The NYT on what happens if Ebola becomes a permanent feature in West Africa.

I love that NASA basically fixed its asteroid-hunting spacecraft by rebooting it.

551 Feet Under the Sea: What It’s Like to Ride in a Deep-Sea Sub

Self-control isn’t just about “willpower”. David de Steno on Cookie monster, marshmallows & the science of self-regulation

The Economist’s guide to the actions that have done the most to slow global warming

The falsified papers had a linguistic signature”

One ant’s really bad day, preserved for eternity.

Size Matters: Narwhals With Longer Tusks Have Bigger Testicles

Hmm… I love venison; can someone loan me a baby?

To linguists, this is like finding a planet on which matter is made up of molecules that don’t decompose into atoms”

The modern European gene pool was formed when 3 ancient pops mixed within the last 7,000 years

Where do new genes come from? Carl Zimmer explans, via animation.

Congratulations to the excellent Eric Michael Johnson for winning the Three Quarks Daily science writing prize.

How do you do chemistry with an element that doesn’t exist in nature when you can make less than one atom of it per hour?

Great post contextualising the recent artificial sweetener/microbiome study

Mark Witton reacts (and gathers reactions to) the remake of giant dinosaur Spinosaurus.

Audubon’s new study reveals the devastation global warming will likely bring down on birds―and identifies the habitat strongholds they’ll need to hang on. Great piece (with great photography) by Michelle Nijhuis.

Rachel Nuwer on our deep fear of cockroaches.

I Had a Stroke at 33

How Do You Rhyme in a Sign Language?

Farm workers are an inadvertent conduit for antibiotic-resistant bacteria moving off farms that misuse the drugs



Man Tries To Enter Canada With 51 Turtles In His Pants

A leopard tries marmite

Incredible photo/video of a leopard dive-bombing an impala from a tree. From Richard Conniff.

“We found this picture of outer space with the words Neil deGrasse Tyson written on it. Is this good enough, George?”

“There are only so many ways to convince a mouse lemur to urinate. And you NEED that urine. Because science.”

My spirit animal

Gorgeous aerial photos of Africa’s last elephants

Does Santa Exist? The Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Video



Because it was the goddamn best, that’s why.

Before Computers, People Programmed Looms

There is a new William Langewiesche piece about planes and that is all I need to know.

Devastated! Robert Krulwich’s blog is shuttering.

Blogging has become almost an expectation in [science journalism]”

A totally serious Slate experiment on the economics of airplane reclining.

Soderbergh strips color and sound from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

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