I’ve got your missing links right here (29th January 2011)

Top Ten Picks

ScienceOnline 2011 was a blast and for those who couldn’t attend, Alok Jha’s wonderful and funny podcast captures the flavour of the event well. It’s a good case study for using a narrative (the Quest for Bora) to unite a fairly disparate series of topics. And also, I’m tremendously flattered by the stuff about me at the end. Apparently, “in a growing constellation of science bloggers, Ed is the North Star. As someone said on Twitter, ignored and irrelevant to an entire hemisphere…

A link I really didn’t want to have to point to: JR Minkel, a promising talent in the science writing community, recently took his own life at the age of 31. John Rennie has a moving, funny and fitting tribute to JR.

One of the best sessions at ScienceOnline 2011 dealt with the issues that female science bloggers face. The panel has launched one of the richest sets of posts on this topic for a while. Kate Clancy started the ball rolling with a great summary of the session and some of the discussions beforehand – don’t miss the superb comment thread. Christie Wilcox took the baton with a personal post on sexist comments, standing up and being counted. David Dobbs stood up as an ally. Stephanie Zvan asked some important questions of male science writers: “If you want us to be recognized as science writers, engage with our science writing.” SciCurious wondered where the female science bloggers are. Later, she and Miriam Goldstein have a valuable conversation on using sex to sell science, I celebrated some of my favourite female bloggers, Jason Goldman shares his own picks, Sheril Kirshenbaum feels that she’s not shouting against the wind alone. Speaking of role models, Tanya Munro, a 37-year-old female professor, was named 2011’s Australian of the Year for her work on glass optical fibres. And back to Kate Clancy, who’s collecting the posts.

Four high-school students have started blogging on Nature’s Scitable network. Go and support them (Our Science, Green Science, and MedSci Discoveries)and spare a nod of congratulations to Stacy Baker, their inspiring teacher. Christine Russell writes about their story for the CJR.

This is incredible and sinister. Watch a malaria parasite break into and kill a red blood cell. Insert political metaphor here.

“What would happen if all the editors and reporters of the extended science press, including the legions of science bloggers, self-imposed a moratorium that forbade writing about new scientific findings until six months after their journal publication?” The best recent piece on science journalism, by John Rennie, who would know.

Placebo activism.” “Like placebo medicine, placebo activism is practiced not with a true desire to blind oneself to bias, but simply to feel better on having acted, regardless of the true impact of their efforts. An excellent analysis by the Tribal Scientist

Insert here – John Timmer wrote a great feature on placeholder explanations in science, and why even the wrong ones were important.

Fritz Haber – a scientist who championed chemical warfare, and developed a reaction that earned him a Nobel and fed the world.  Biochembelle beautifully tells Haber’s story in a must-read post about the nature of greatness.

“Vladimir Nabokov may be known to most people as the author of classic novels like “Lolita”… but he had a parallel existence as a self-taught expert on butterflies.” Carl Zimmer on Nabokov and evolution.


Reverse bestiality – where an animal makes unwanted sexual advances on a person – is a true problem for scientists working in the field where the actions of wild animals are completely unpredictable.” By Christie Wilcox.

Seen The King’s Speech? Jonah Lehrer – a former stutterer himself – talks about the outdated portrayal of stuttering in the film, and what the modern evidence base tells us.

Paul Nurse filmed a documentary on attacks on science for the BBC. While I love to see James Delingpole humiliated as much as anyone (apparently, it’s not his job as a journalist to read papers; he can presumably just smash the keyboard with his fists and face), Michael Brooks has a great critique of the show. White-haired white male scientists wring hands over public engagement.  This is a more charitable review.

Bloody hell. The Haiti cholera epidemic spreads to Dominican Repub, Mexico, US, Venezuela, Spain, by Maryn Mckenna.

So how do geologists cope with insanely long periods of time? by Silver Fox.

“I sat on the floor of the nursery with a sick baby orangutan napping in my lap. I watched one empty the contents of my bag: she used tissues as a hat and puzzled over how to open my water bottle with her hands.” Please welcome award-winning science journalist Hillary Rosner to the world of blogging.

Even infants know about David and Goliath, reports Ferris Jabr, the latest assimilatee of New Scientist. Kick him in the nads, li’l green block!

Jeremy Yoder on homosexuality in the animal world, and what evolutionary theory has to say about it.

Blindfolded dolphin can still mimic its mates, by Sandrine Ceurstemont

Ann Finkbeiner has a great profile of Freeman Dyson,  riffing off a longer piece in the Atlantic. On another note, doesn’t Dyson look a lot like Dobby the house-elf?

Animals finding ways to get around human din, by Rose Eveleth.

Jonah Lehrer ponders the disappearance of the lone genius, while stroking a cat in his secret volcano lair.

Salmon fMRI. Brain-scans look at a salmon’s ability to swim home, by Doctor Zen.

Practice in medicine is very commonly not evidence-based. Why is this?” Ben Goldacre lists seven reasons.

Switzerland. From the country that brought you plant dignity and minaret bans, comes official recognition for homeopathy, by Debora MacKenzie

Who’s the dominant chimp? Even humans can tell from the face, by Charles Choi.

Brian Switek talks about Linhenykus, the weird dinosaur that looks like it fell onto some toothpicks.

“Just the facts: cephalopods are awesome” Maggie Koerth-Baker has a great AV feature on octopuses and their kin.

Robert Krulwich wonders about killer storks that may (or may not) have eaten human babies. Love the cartoons!

“Snares set out by human hunters can injure or kill chimpanzees, but some can now deactivate the devices,” by Jennifer Viegas

Brian Switek considers why mega-mammals still looked puny next to the biggest dinosaurs

Do we have a choice about happiness? Lena Groeger explains.

Foodborne Listeria acquires ability to attack the heart, reports Maryn McKenna.

10 political battles over endangered species by Brandon Keim

Why did seahorses evolve their strange shape? Well clearly because Aquaman would look stupid on a pipefish. Duh. By Gayathri Vaidyanathan

Incredible. Biofilms show lowest wettability of any known material – better than Teflon

A great slideshow illustrating the evolution of staph into MRSA.

“Cautious 60%” of US teachers teach “watered down version of evolution and often disassociate themselves from the content”

A fungus that infects the eggs of engendered loggerhead turtles, by Rachel Nuwer.

Dating tips from splendid fairy-wrens: wait till date is in mortal danger, then try it on. By Jason Goldman.

How male koalas get the laydeez by shouting, by Carin Bondar

We are Nobody – Lucas Brouwers on the role of contingency and convergence in evolution.

It’s the end of the kilogram as we know it, and I feel fine, by Patrick Morgan.

Have a look at Miriam Goldstein’s wonderful post on sustainable seafood. Despite their claims, the Deep Sea News trio are producing journalism that outstrips the work of many journalists.

Decapitation in Rats: Latency to Unconsciousness and the ‘Wave of Death’” Oh, the sad life of an “obsolete rat”

The world’s first brain scanner made for two, or “fMRI collides with Rule 34”


Badass Lego Guns

The Journal of Universal Rejection. All submitted papers are rejected. No problems with retractions, so Ivan Oransky interviews the editor.

Beautiful, fascinating map of worldwide scientific collaboration

Rectal stimulation, you say? I think I’ll stick with the hiccups. (SciCurious)

Onion: New Planet Discovered 400 Light Years Away From Public’s Interest. Heh.

Fibonacci pigeons

Spinning seeds inspire terrifying single-bladed helicopters. I call it the Decapitron.

LOL. Now that’s what I call collaborative science

The Daily Express is awestruck by arithmetic

The world’s stupidest product – a no-touch soap pump

A fish steals a snorkeler’s shot

Wonderful photos of leafcutter ant fights

Alice Bell reflects on calling “Strawman” in debates, and knits an appropriate scarf.

“MY GOD, WHAT HAVE WE DONE?” 8 Terrifying Animal Swarms Created by Human Stupidity:

The illegally modded robot camel jockeys of the Middle East, by Alexis Madrigal


Yes, astrology is rubbish, but if you’re going to call people stupid, at least be clever about it. Rebekah Higgitt provides some historical context to the recent debunking.

“As things change rapidly in mass media, the science beat keeps on providing the purest news… When done well, our reporting is about things new to human experience”. Read Charlie Petit’s paean to the glorious business that is science writing, and its shaky present

Should you work for free? Try this flow chart. It’s great but misses an important question: is it for yourself?

On the nature of freelancing. Featuring Superupscalesexyhighendyounghighfashionbeautystylecelebritygossip.com

Are scientists doomed to protect a world that fears and hates them? Alice Bell looks at the actual evidence.

“Then he lifted his shirt to reveal a heavy, boxlike device dangling from his neck. According to the note, it was a bomb.” The incredible true story of the collar bomb heist. An awesome tale from Wired.

Good grief. Behold the dazzling feat of PR alchemy that transformed this paper into this press release. Bacterial IQ? Really?

And then on page 36, a one-star review: “The waiter slapped my wife”. An amusing overview of TripAdvisor

The cult of Apple is so fevered that even a change of screw can prompt the Economist into hundreds of words of breathless excitement

Tim Radford debunks the myth that scientists can’t communicate. On everyday language: “It is not a difficult trick: even journalists have learned it.” Meanwhile, Radford’s lecture on life as a simple scribe has been recorded. A must watch.

TED and Amazon will launch a line of Kindle Singles – e-books for “busy people”  that can be read in an hour. ““Our goal with Singles is to allow compelling ideas to be expressed at their natural length.” ProPublica has a great piece on how the financial aspects will work.

“And I was bone-weary of the public.” A thoughtful piece on public science outreach, by Gaussling

Some very good advice on how to concentrate, by Paul Kedrosky.

The events in Egypt are newsworthy for many many reasons, but the shutting off of the Internet is fitting for this round-up.80 Beats rounds-up what we know, George Brock writes about what the autocrats didn’t get, Wired is crowdsourcing tips on how to communicate if your Government shuts off your internet. I’d wail, cry and go looting.

Does science blogging help or hinder you on the tenure track? Viv Raper reports, featuring several familiar names.

“The byline doesn’t take credit for work, but serves as overarching tag.” I sense a Cooks’ Source moment.

FDA says reporters can’t interview anyone before its embargo lifts. Oh. PISS. OFF.

Geek Calendar has so far raised £15,433.84 for the Libel Reform Campaign. That is astonishing for a grassroots product created by three passionate people. Hats off to Alice Bell, Louise Crane and Mun-Keat Looi. Clearly, it was all down to the charming chap on the right in September.

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