I’ve got your missing links right here (5 January 2013)

Top picks

Noroviruses are perhaps the perfect human pathogen.” – Carl Zimmer on the everyone’s favourite cause of gutastrophe. Bonus: To study norovirus, scientists build a “humanoid simulating vomiting system” called Vomiting Larry.

If you own a diamond, it probably passed through one Indian city. Superb feature by Jason Miklian.

For those of you in the UK, flirty rhinos, fighting giraffes, carnivorous crickets, and more incredible scenes from David Attenborough’s new series: Africa.

Brian Cox and Robin Ince interview David Attenborough, a man whose greatness comes not just from his amazing work but from his unerring humility. Plenty of that on display here.

A truly fascinating piece about people who wake up under anaesthesia.

It’s been a week of great loss for science. First, the death of Nobel prize-winner Rita Levi-Montalcini at 103. Read Alison Abbott’s classic feature about her life. Also note: she published her last paper at 102! Then the death of Carl Woese, the man who discovered life’s third domain, died this week. Here’s the NYT’s obituary and Mark Martin’s wonderful tribute.

The Lost History And Unintended Consequences Of The Chicken Nugget, by Maryn McKenna. With more on her blog.

Extinction not only erases an animal’s future. It severs connections to nature’s past.” – Brian Switek on the Javan rhino

A Pickpocket’s Tale: the spectacular thefts of Apollo Robbins – great feature in the New Yorker

In a deconsecrated chapel, a supercomputer is trying to simulate the human heart. By Alexis Madrigal

Ice-crawlers: “six-legged Goldilockses” and the “polar bears of the insect world.” By Robert Krulwich

Fascinating! A map of the most common word in the Wikipedia entry “The History of” each country’s name.

The “end of history illusion“: people of all ages think they won’t change much in the future. My piece for The Scientist.

If we lose our memories, do we lose ourself? A beautiful personal piece by Dan Levitin

A superb, fascinating, often heartwarming list of 2012’s best animal stories, curated by Jason Goldman and Matt Soniak

The so-called “Dullest Culture on Earth” frowns upon sex and bans play

First person in the UK to have a hand transplant is making “good progress”

“While a lichen may live forever, a biologist will not.” Wonderful piece by Hillary Rosner on immortality in a graveyard

The Washington Post is following the money behind the DSM-V. It’s not pretty. Also see

Incredible post about gene therapy – not a medical miracle but a slow odds game. By Virginia Hughes

How space radiation hurts astronauts, by Maggie Koerth-Baker.


The American Cancer Society’s Otis Brawley gets abuse over his (correct) stance on screening & overtreatment.

The Chinese predictive-text typewriter, and how autocorrect might screw with your mind. By Michelle Nijhuis.

A shocking satellite photo of Mt Vesuvius – “a paean to humanity’s inability to learn”.

Cool art project: What if Mars was covered with oceans & life?

Obama signs Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act– law dedicated to putting greater focus on deadly cancers

Come on, let me see you shake your tail feather, oviraptors

OMG! Mark Lynas does about-turn on GMOs! (See what I did there?) John Hawks’ reaction is spot-on: for years, he spoke from a position of ignorance and was still given many platforms from which to do so.

Irony? Paper by author whose attorneys sent cease-and-desist letter to Science Fraud retracted

How the Brain Crunches Numbers, Brought to You by Sesame Street, by Virginia Hughes

London zoo begins its annual census. (Also note the pic: zoo meerkats are always obese)

When a stranger calls, bonobos share.

Love Sherlock Holmes? Want to train your brain? Check out Maria Konnikova’s new book Mastermind

Scratched by monkeys, bitten by rattlesnakes: lab injuries reported in Nature’s story on lab safety

Do you suck at origami? Just get cells to do the folding for you

Cambrian Penis Worms Were Voracious Opportunists

Great profile of John Iaonnidis, who wants to end science’s reliance on bad stats and flawed research.

A review of Diederik Stapel’s “Derailed”, an account of his scientific deception. Note: Stapel is not a credible source on Stapel.

A glimpse of the diverse species that call a giant sequoia home

Hooray for Dinofuzz!

Fascinating bit of ecological engineering: How prawn farms in Senegal are combating schistosomiasis

The trailer for Wonders of Life by Brian Cox is great. *LOVE* the Eric Idle song.

Polly wanna vaccine? Virus pushes South Africa’s parrots to brink of extinction

“How is a good sense of direction like a bad case of acne?” Carl zimmer on sex differences in spatial abilities

“The great majority of crimes, including violent ones, are not committed by people with mental illness


Narwhals explained.

Pandas are either terrible or great at slides.

King cobra: not a cobra. Also most snakes are self-governing. Great list of misleading animal names.

Late New Year’s Resolution: Use Pavlovian conditioning for evil

“Shooting dead people

Fireworks in reverse. Lovely.

TRUE FACTS about anglerfish

Ha! Physicists at CERN caught ‘colliding’ household objects.

On correlation without causation.

In which the Daily Mail breaks the irony meter

“Plot holes” in World War 2

Gorgeous. Magazines carved into beautiful waves of colour

Could we speed up the Earth’s rotation so we don’t have to worry about leap seconds?

A T-shirt I got for Christmas: Darwin’s *other* finches

What do all the James Bond actors look like morphed into one super Bond? KILL IT WITH FIRE.


The Man Who Collected 1,320 Best-Books-of-2012 Lists

Gia Milinovich praises those who create, rather than merely commentate

Tech conference gets 22 speakers, all white men; organiser can’t understand what’s wrong with this. Becca Rosen has a simple suggestion for fixing this.

This comment piece on science communication challenges in a “Web 2.0 world” reads like it fell through a time portal from 10 years ago. Here’s the equally dated press release (who press releases a comment piece?).

Patently absurd: Somebody’s trying to charge everyone $1,000 for using a scanner

That day William Shatner tweeted at an astronaut, and the astronaut replied

Excellent piece on the many challenges of health journalism, and why journalists regularly fail to meet them

Veronique Greenwood reviews Joshua Davis’s ebook about John McAfee and a mysterious murder in Belize.

“While it is true that this case is ostensibly about the Batmobile, which some may find to be trivial…”

Why Umberto Eco loves Buzzfeed. Sort of.

The upcoming year in anniversary-based journalism

Chuck Wendig’s 25 Writer Resolutions For 2013 (And Beyond)

The best Letters of Note from 2012. Heartwarming fare.

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