I’ve Got Your Missing Links Right Here (29 March 2014)

Sign up for The Ed’s Up, a weekly newsletter of my writing. Here’s a recent example.

Top picks

Excellent piece by Erika Check Hayden on the problems with poorly conducted mouse studies: wasted money, wasted lives, harmed patients.

Great Barrier Reef: an obituary. An immensely sad, interactive tribute to a fallen ecosystem.

The humble heroes of weight-loss surgery are stomach acids and gut microbes. Great piece by Virginia Hughes

The rise of ancient DNA is one of the most spectacular recent developments in biology. Ewen Callaway gives us a tour

EPIC! All 339 books referenced In “Gilmore Girls”. Also, god I miss those people.

How will science confirm this week’s big discovery about cosmic signals from the infant universe? Nadia Drake on the week’s big discovery.

““I had never seen a brain inside out before,” Gazzaley told me. “After that I couldn’t get back to work.” Carl Zimmer on new ways of visualising the brain.

My short feature on camouflage in the natural (and human) world, for New Scientist. Paywall.

Scientists synthesise an entire yeast chromosome from scratch (and with surprisingly heavy edits). By me.

How psychedelics are helping cancer patients fend off despair. Nice to see a piece (and research) on palliative care in cancer.

A gif of the skull of a two-faced calf, getting cleaned by flesh-eating beetles. And the video that inspired it. By Emily Graslie. Not for the faint-hearted.

Robots, robots everywhere: here’s Oliver Morton’s guide to his wonderful Economist special on robots.

Don’t write a story that is wrong. This is harder than it sounds.” Ian Sample’s excellent tips on good science journalism.

The New Yorker on the quest to apply artificial intelligence to the Chinese board game Go


As climate change progresses, Bangladesh will face the consequences earlier than most.

FDA says almost all manufacturers agree to agricultural-antibiotic controls. End of the battle, or just more of the same?

Hypnotic Art Shows How Patterns Emerge From Randomness in Nature

Pterosaurs are amazing, but surprisingly rare. Why?

Cuvier’s Beaked Whale sets new deep diving mammal record at 9,816 ft, 2,500 ft deeper than sperm whale

Lion versus croc, in a fight over hippo

Deep brain stimulation–a tool for treating Parkinson’s, but also a new way of eavesdropping on the brain.

Google Flu has been a spectacular failure. When it comes to Big Data, you can’t polish a turd.

So, why do snakes have two penises? (Post features all the snake penis photos you could possibly want.)

Conchs foil human collectors by evolving to be smaller.

Boom! Kakapo baby boom.

260-million-year-old spider tracks

An homage to Jane Goodall, who turns 80 next week.

Scientists convince people their hands are rocks

Nadia Drake asked a bunch of astronomers to name the Solar System’s biggest surprises

Mesmeric time-lapse scenes of swarming fireflies

A “fire tornado” whirls above a prairie

“Riding, poking, prodding or otherwise harassing a free-swimming large predatory animal for fun is a bad idea.”

18th century biologists made frogs wear tiny pants while having sex

New dwarf planet discovery hints at a hidden Super Earth in solar system

Neurosurgeons successfully implant 3D printed skull

Wagenmakers to priming psychologists: “nut up or shut up”.

Here’s Radiolab on what would happen if we annihilated all mosquitoes

Two halves of a fossil turtle bone are reunited after 163 years.

The de-extinction issue wastes considerable time “debating the consequences of a science that is yet to be realized.”

Squirrels Hibernate So Hard You Can Juggle Them

This post is a hilarious look at the sort of questions that people in medical charities get.

Heh. Classic children’s books that would be ruined by modern medicine

What happens when you put a fly in a particle accelerator? You get a really cool video

Nadia Drake has given the Milky Way 4 billion years to live, unless you concede to her demands.

Jimmy Wales has told a bunch of alternative medicine people moaning about Wikipedia where to stick it

Slo-mo vid of a goshawk flying through variously-shaped small holes

Gonorrhea bacteria hitchhike among people using ‘grappling hooks’ that grab onto semen proteins.

The cost of anti-vaccine fears in a gif. More from NPR

“What is it about meditation that opens the brain up to these kinds of hallucinations?”

When lab scientists used to pipette with their mouths

Homeopathic products recalled because they might contain actual medicine.

This computer can tell when humans are faking pain. More effective torture droids on the way.

Stick insects started mimicking plants 126 million years ago

Interactive images of how animals see the world

The evidence that phthalates damage male fertility is surprisingly strong. By Deborah Blum.

“The revived moss [has] been in a state of suspended animation since the age of King Arthur.”

Rootworm evolves resistance to GM corn, highlighting importance of crop rotation.

Why are there so many frickin’ huge ants?

“It might sound strange, but a shriveling Mercury is not unexpected.”

Add carbon nanotubes to plants to supercharge photosynthesis. Okay but how would you ever apply this in practice?

Weed: a gateway drug through the generations?

Refuting MMR/autism link decreased intent to vaccinate among parents w/ unfavorable vaccine attitudes

The NYT on the new generation of programmed ‘detect and respond’ brain implants for epilepsy

Two twins, separated by space. No, really, By Space.

“As consumers, when we own a black box, we’re letting other people design our world.” The wonderful Aatish Bhatia hacks Kinect to make a dance video

When Nature Looks Unnatural“—Sean Carroll on the recent discovery about inflation and the early universe.

10 persistent cancer myths and why there’s no evidence to back them up

What was the biggest animal gathering ever? Featuring herring, starlings, and Rod Stewart


“Mellow.” “Clucky.” “Stentorian grunting.” The mating calls of male tortoises

Dad turns kid vids into amazing superhero feats

Life before the internet

Bravo, Tom Whipple. You win the lede awards.

Huh. Cool things happen when you chuck sand in the air and photograph it with a high-speed camera

Onion: How a Predator drone works

A recent study has shown that if US parents read one more think piece about parenting they will go f**king apes**t”

Dr Manhattan performs Let It Go from Frozen.

Explaining phylogeny using candy bars

Teacher spoils a Game of Thrones death every time his class gets too noisy

Close-up shots of flames mid-burst look eerily like brains

Check out the winners of the Wellcome Image Awards, from a beautiful nit to a gorgeous kidney stone

The 20 best TED talks ever. This is absolute gold. Mine is basically #17


A journalist tells his mental illness story

Should you give journalists metrics about their stories?

“References enable TED to fulfil its goal of hosting ‘ideas worth spreading’ rather than mere ‘stories worth telling’.”

Utterly horrifying piece on what happens to ghost flights.

Q&A from Megan Garber, explaining Oculus Rift—Facebook’s recent mega-purchase. I especially like: “Sorry, but this whole thing sounds really nerdy.”

The radiovota: a 1930s “Like” button for the radio… that took 7 hours to register

Retraction Watch is a bastion of solid, important science journalism. Help Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus with a small donation

Solid advice on story structure in book writing, and drawing inspiration from screenwriting.

Reason #7394 to kick the Daily Mail in its pathetic bigoted crotch

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet