I’ve got your missing links right here (29 December 2012)

For new readers, this collection of “missing links” appears every Saturday and compiles all the fascinating stuff I found around the internet in the preceding week. It’s separated into Top Picks (the best stuff), Science/News/Writing (science writing), Heh/Wow/Huh (silliness, satire, photos, videos), and Journalism/Internet/Society (a miscellany of my other interests). If links are broken, let me know in the comments.

Top picks

The fine writers of Last Word on Nothing are doing a great “Secret Satans” series about the scientific fields that they hate writing about. Which so far include: biology, neuroscience, archaeology, chemistry, and technology.

Earthworms that poo quantum nanotechnology. Let Carl Zimmer blow your mind.

What does randomness look like? Just a great post by Aatish Bhatia

“Ukraine has become a world centre for untested stem cell treatments.” A worrying trend, covered well by Vaughan Bell

Magical: Simon Beck walks all day to create beautiful crop-circle shapes in snow. Here’s his Facebook page.

New Focus on the ‘Post’ in Post-Traumatic Stress, by David Dobbs, and more from Daniel Lende

Regarding the tedious UK science-communication Cox/Ince bust-up of the past week, Jon Butterworth has the best comment piece around. If only everyone wrote as clearly.

Think social media is new? Here’s a history lesson. Awesome bit of historical digging by Daniela Hernandez.

Generosity and the Social Brain, One Neuron (and monkey) at a Time, by Virginia Hughes.

This Is How Cities Would Look at Night Without Lights

The first living beings to see an Earthrise from the Moon were communist turtles. By Amy Shira Teitel.

The genetics behind the werewolf myth, by Ricki Lewis

Biologist proposes to his girlfriend using DNA fragments. Daaaawwwww.

Weirdest animal stories of 2012 – a list close to my heart

The NYT asked five noted scientists about their favourite childhood toys. The results are rather lovely.

When “Mental” Illness Isn’t. The problem with the fundamental anti-psychiatry argument. Great stuff from Neuroskeptic

The most important new pharmaceutical of 2012, by Matthew Herper


A genomic analysis of Newtown shooter Adam Lanza is being planned. This is the type of bone-headed project that makes you question someone’s grasp of genetics, and humanity. It will tell us precisely nothing, unless you really want to know if Lanza has a slightly higher risk of diabetes or could something funny his pee after eating asparagus. (If you’re not sure why this is ridiculous, here’s an old piece I wrote about the inaccurately named “warrior gene”. Many of the same lessons apply.)

Monkey brain area keeps count of kindnesses – a tally of altruism in the brain.

“I feel the skeptics are stuck in some kind of late 2000s battle re-enactment, vanquishing the same dragons over and over again.” – Frank Swain on the “Golden Duck award for quackery

Why do we blink so often? Cool new study suggests an explanation

Where to find good information about the infectious diseases that are going to kill you horribly

Gigantiops destructor is a skittish, timid ant that does not sting.”

Science is wonderfully imaginative and creative, but many people don’t realise that. Virginia Hughes discusses

Search for life at Lake Ellsworth in Antarctica is called off – sad news for the British Antarctic Survey

Dental Damage Complicates the Fate of America’s Greatest Fossil Cats

Four children observed reindeer, but none of them remembered being attacked by a fly.” Terrifying.

Amy Harmon debunks the stigmatizing nonsense about autism post-Newtown.

“Hyung-In Moon is a genius, says Hyung-In Moon” and other retraction stories from 2012

Animals virgin-birthing all over the place, from Komodo dragons to bonnethead sharks

The most-read Slate story of 2012 was a science piece by Tara Smith, beating out all their political coverage. I’m delighted by this.

How to kill an earworm

Monkey brain area keeps count of kindnesses

Religion rises after a disaster (but doesn’t help)

Discus fish parents secrete a highly nutritious mucus all over their bodies that the young feed on”

MRSA detected in UK milk. Well, bloody hell.

Series of small walls: The key archaeological finds of 2012

As forests disappear, some scientists are trying to understand exactly how trees die.

Does a thermostat have consciousness? Interesting thought piece by John Kubie

The baiji dolphin is extinct, and the Yangtze finless porpoise may soon join it.

How Intelligent is IQ? Has a new study debunked the ‘myth of IQ’?

Erin Mckiernan wants you to help her decide which project to tackle next

How a lizard fossil ended up with skin and teeth but no bones

Chance that massive asteroid would hit Earth in 2040 falls from 1 in 500 to 0. Merry Christmas!

Inject Rhino Horns With Poison and Paint Them Pink – That’ll Stop Poachers. (This plan does not involve rhinos running around with venomous attack horns. Sadly.)

FDA says genetically engineered salmon poses no threat to health or the environment. I’m sure everyone will agree, right? Right? Oh.

Infectious disease researcher Stephanie Mounaud coaxes mold to grow into seasonal artworks. He’s a fungi.


Time-lapse Images of Nude Dancers Created with 10,000 Individual Photographs (SFW)

The history of dogs as a power source for kitchen appliances

The 100 greatest lists of all time. (#4 The Ten Commandments; #3 Craigslist.)

Lovely nature photos from Alexis Madrigal. I’m lichen what I’m seein’.

The strangest, most haunting images of Saturn you’ll ever see

Gorgeous picture of Jupiter, taken from Earth

Stunning photos of microbes from NatGeo

Useful present for freelancers

The only Christmas GIF you need.

Going on my wishlist: “100 diagrams that changed the world

“Why yes I would like to take receipt of this $2 billion package, which consists of a space shuttle.”

Sort-of robot uprising: Watch the most useless machine ever created defy your every move

Scientists isolate ‘the vibe’

A scholarly examination of justice in superhero cartoons: “derides rehabilitation and emphasizes incapacitation”

I’m simultaneously amused, enchanted and terrified by this video of a digging, self-burying spider


12 Most Annoying Technologies as Chosen by Wired Commenters

Good news for journalism: The New York Times paywall is working better than anyone had guessed

CJR’s list of the best profiles of 2012.

Two nice pieces on atheism and faith, by Alom Shaha and Jim Al-Khalili

Amazon is cracking down on dodgy book reviews

Oh, Mensa. If only scoring well on an arbitrary test stopped you from being a gigantic ass

Write less

Mansplained“. Sad but true stories of women in science

Foul-mouthed myna bird censored in China

Just when you thought 2012 had seen its poorest writing, Sean Penn plays a last-minute blinder.

Searing account of rape in India.

New York makes it astonishingly hard to become a licensed falconer. Featuring the best form ever.

Read the Download the Universe review of the NYT’s interactive story Snow Fall, which has over 3.5 million views so far.

The revolution will be footnoted: How a book on vaginas gave Frank Swain an idea for a new way to blog

“Why the eff didn’t you watch these talks?” A list of under watched TED talks from the best curmudgeon on the TED staff

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