I’ve Got Your Missing Links Right Here (4 January 2014)

Sign up to The Ed’s Up – a weekly newsletter of my writing and other activities. Here’s an example.

Top picks

How a Tiny Wasp May Save Your Life. Fantastic tale of ecological dominoes, by Rob Dunn

Antarctica is not just cold, windy and wet. It is the extreme of all those things.” Alok Jha has been live-reporting his voyage to Antarctica, including the last few weeks spent stranded in ice!

Those mysterious silken towers, discovered in 2013, are made by spiders! But what spiders? And why? Nadia Drake has the story.

Piranhas have always been among our favorite subjects for sheer, sputtering nonsense.” By Richard Conniff.

Netflix reverse-engineered Hollywood and Alexis Madrigal reverse-engineered Netflix. Incredible.

Antarctic sea anemones found living embedded IN Antarctica’s ice sheets. Wow! By Catherine de Lange.

“Tremblay wasn’t just seeking to mitigate bad behaviour [but] uncover where it began.” Stephen S. Hall on the accidental epigeneticist

Dolphins are probably not getting “high” off pufferfish. Tetrodotoxin won’t cause a high, will really kill you

Body Atlas Reveals Where We Feel Happiness and Shame. Shame is Spider-Man.

Shark-fin diplomacy could be China’s chance to signal that it’s ready to get serious on environmental issues

This falcon specialises in eating wasps. Your move, invertebrates. By Gwen Pearson.

State retains custody of teen in limbo at Children’s Hospital for 10 months—a follow-up from the Boston Globe’s incredible story about diagnostic disagreement leading to broken families.

“You cannot justify quality reporting produced from the spoils of the opposite.” Great piece on Buzzfeed, content farms, and the “year we broke the Internet”.

“The first challenge is that hippos hide their genitals.” Liz Preston on why it’s nearly impossible to castrate a hippo and why you’d ever want to.

Does a woolly mammoth need a lawyer? What would the legal status of a saber-toothed tiger be? Carl Zimmer considers.

As good a list of writing tips as I’ve ever seen, from Mike Sager.

This is fascinating. Guy tries to build termite-mound-inspired building. He fails, but succeeds. By Lee Billings.

“What happened to the Neanderthals?” asks Holly Dunsworth. Extinction is one answer, but…



Gary Marcus the NYT’s breathless piece about “brain-like” “computers” that “learn” from “experience”.

How Did People in Ancient Pompeii End Up Eating Giraffes?

“Enough about [Bat] Cunnilingus, what about Statistics?”

Claiming that dietary supplements cure concussions is genius. Skeptics will headdesk & turn into your target market

Drugs companies ‘routinely withhold results of medical trials’ from doctors, researchers and patients

How Language Seems To Shape One’s View Of The World

Rose Eveleth considers the links between prosthetic limbs and pharma. Wait, I mean farmer.

Invasion of the sperm robots!

Smaug Breathes Fire Like A Bloated Bombardier Beetle With Flinted Teeth

Dialogue ruined the dinosaurs.” I thought it was an asteroid, but Brian Switek’s the expert

Endless forms most toxic. Carl Zimmer on whether the diversity of the rainforest the result of chemical warfare.

ELEVEN new ancient European genomes & more mystery populations to kick off 2014

Spray bacteria to halt the desert’s spread

Man stole human brains from museum and sold them on eBay

Pew released a new survey about US attitudes on evolution but Dan Kahan finds it wanting.

A screening program that falsely alarms about half the population is outrageous.” On the pros and cons of breast cancer screening.

Maria Konnikova’s book on thinking like Sherlock Holmes comes out in paperback just as S3 begins.

Ten of the species we declared extinct in 2013

From Himalayan jumping spiders to Iranian space monkeys, @InkfishEP has the ACTUAL Top 10 animals of 2013.

10 surprising links between Hollywood and neuroscience. #7 is especially interesting.

The Pacific leaping blenny – a fish that spends its entire life on land, flopping around on rocks

Science needs vigilantes

A way of doing facial recognition on pictures of people reflected in someone’s eye! Enhance!

Some predictions of what to expect for science in 2014

Jason Goldman and Matt Soniak pick the best animal stories of 2013.

How The Public And The Media Got Angelina Jolie’s Breast Cancer Message Wrong

Interesting case study on dual-use research: a new bacterial toxin that’s not neutralized by existing antitoxins and is being redacted for now.

Indian engineer exposes conference by submitting Sokal-esque papers w/ “significant passages from “My Cousin Vinny”

Take a moment to remember Sanger, Kavli, Jacob and all the other scientists we lost in 2013

NASA vs Beyonce

I *love* how Tom Holtz regularly updates his wonderful dinosaur book with this evolving online appendix.

2013: a year in horrendous bullsh*t “science” stories.

This is not a shark photobombing kids. This is a dolphin.

The families of those born with socially challenging bodies don’t see them in the same way as the medical literature.

The cytokine storm within: Why H7N9 influenza kills some patients, but not others

The Walking with Dinosaurs Movie: a botched attempt to make a topic that is relentlessly appealing to kids be appealing to kids

What we can and can’t learn from the Many Labs Replication Project—an insightful piece by Tal Yarkoni.

An update on the mysterious nodding syndrome – a crack of light but still an enigma

Sharks use Twitter to warn swimmers.

“A valuable reality check”: Feathers were the exception rather than the rule for dinosaurs. At least, for now…

Researcher faked results to make HIV vaccine look more powerful in animal tests.

“When our ancestors’ brains expanded, those tethers ripped apart, enabling neurons to form new circuits.” An interesting new hypothesis, covered by Carl Zimmer.

When Whale Watching Turns Deadly

For That Zeus Bug in Your Life. On nuptial gifts in the animal world.

That’s no exomoon, that’s an exospacestation.

Male spiders vibrate to avoid being eaten before sex.

Museum 3-D prints a taxidermied cheetah for an epic prank. Wait, sorry, an exhibition.

Keith Kloor on the fallout from our “natural” foods fetish, with a good point about selective use of precautionary principle

Shocking Memories Away – Virginia Hughes on a fascinating experiment in electro-convulsive therapy and memory erasure.

Laura Hercher rounds up the top 10 genetics stories of 2013.

Game-changer“: a non-invasive way of sequencing DNA in human eggs without destroying them.

Scientists call for urgent talks on mutant H5N1 flu research in Europe. Here’s their full letter of concern.


Well, we all knew this, but it’s good to get some confirmation.

Last line of this scientific abstract: “Where this leaves the Empress of Racnoss we are unsure.”

There should be a Tumblr called Nobody Wants to Shake Francois Hollande’s Hand.

With this high, the news is now closed for 2014: Optimus Prime Wins Norwegian Gingerbread Competition

A cluster of harvestmen erupts. Do NOT watch if you’re arachnophobic.

The Snarky, Clever Comments Hidden in the “Acknowledgments” of Academic Papers

Sublime underwater portraits by artist Samantha French

Buzzfeed Christmas

The Food Lab baked 1,536 cookies to uncover the science behind the perfect choc chip cookie!


The story about Kim Jong Un feeing his uncle to dogs comes from Hong Kong’s 19th most reliable newspaper. Out of 21.

On “nondisparagement clauses

2013: guy wins contest to watch Breaking Bad finale w/ show’s cast. 2014: he’s arrested for running drug operation

Six things all journalists need to know about the Defamation Act 2013 (which is now in force)

How to successfully defend yourself when your photo is ridiculed on Reddit.

If you buy cocaine, you are complicit in some of the worst atrocities humans have ever invented.

Mat Honan on a year of wearing Google Glass

“I don’t have one simple take away, one magic idea. That’s kind of the point.” Interesting critique of TED talks.

In 2013, This Woman Read One Book From Every Country in the World: Here Are Her Favourites

“To single out Turing is to say all other persecuted gay men are not so deserving of justice b/c less exceptional.” On Alan Turing’s pardon.

A short history of language pedantry and why it is usually wrong

A top ten list of top ten lists on storytelling and narrative. Essential for writers.

Read This Next

Why did these shark hunters bury their dead with extra limbs?
I’ve Got Your Missing Links Right Here (11 January 2014)
An unprecedented mission for 500 baby sharks

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