I’ve got your missing links right here (6 October 2012)

Top picks

This is EASILY my new favourite blog. “Things I learned as a field biologist“. The combo of deadpan humour + parasites is very much working for me. “If you accidentally fall & stick your hand in hookworm-infested jaguar poo, don’t scratch your tick-bites.” “In your desperate, bamboo-hacking frenzy, please remember not to over-extend your backswing.”

This is what’s known as becoming part of the story. Scary infectious disease reporter Maryn McKenna gets a peanut butter-borne illness, and Brian Vastag gets West Nile virus.

Stumped by bed nets, mosquitoes turn midnight snack into breakfast. This is really worrying. Great coverage by Bora Zivkovic (love the 2nd picture caption)

“It’s strange to write a serious research proposal and have half of your bibliography be science fiction.” Ross Andersen on a cool project to find aliens.

Now here’s an excellent use of GIFs and infographics – conveying the awesomeness of the cheetah

A great history of spelling standardisation (standardization) by Maria Konnikova.

Drones are now spying on orangutans… for SCIENCE!

Fantastic lede + great story – the nerds behind the Obama campaign’s all-knowing hard drive.

Lucas Brouwers gives his gran a 23andme test to see how the risk predictions stack up in hindsight

Making new neurons by reprogramming another type of brain cell. A story by me in The Scientist. And more cellular hocus-pocus: stem cells –> eggs –> mice. Potentially very important.

Arsenclife bacterium “has evolved to extract phosphate under almost all circumstances.” The weak Wolfe-Simon responses continue, but here’s a great perspective from Carl Zimmer too: the arseniclife story has run its course but the bacterium is still interesting

Why Your Car Isn’t Electric, by Maggie Koerth-Baker. (Hint: it’s the society, stupid.)

Yet another study connecting GMOs and pesticides, reportedly terribly in the mainstream press. Keith Kloor reports. Also: The European Food Safety Authority publishes its assessment on the Seralini trial: “insufficient scientific quality” to be “valid”. And Kloor’s Slate piece that I linked to last week gets criticised.

Jack Gilbert makes microbes make sweet music. Presumably he has a really tiny baton. Hillary Rosner has the story.

Great story by John Platt: Dung from Critically Endangered Kakapo Parrots Could Save Endangered Plant

How will we cope with a planet covered with sprawling megacities? We still don’t know. By Tim de Chant.

Jennifer Ouellette guest-stars on my BBC column: Will we ever… travel faster than the speed of light? Spoiler: no, but as always, it’s the reasons that are interesting.

Lee Billings interviews Steve Silberman about his upcoming book on autism and neurodiversity, and then Steve Silberman interviews Lee Billings on the science of reaching the stars

2/3 of retractions are due to misconduct. Important analysis, covered by Ivan Oransky

The Hero Shrew has one of the weirdest skeletons. An 11st man can stand on it. Shrew-skating!

The Ant That Couldn’t Stand Up. By Alex Wild.

“The Internet Blowhard’s Favorite Phrase”: Correlation doesn’t imply causation. By Dan Engber. Piece meanders a lot but I agree with the basic sentiment. The phrase is apt in many cases but often used unintelligently.

Octopus breaks into baited canister while casually punching a shark with one arm

Utterly joyous. Submarine crew gets *really* excited when they ascend & see a bird at 150ft


Dawn of the dronarazzi: great stuff on drones and open-source innovation from Rob Carlson.

Published on the same day as my story on Kahneman’s letter about social priming, a BigThink with him on adversarial collaborations – very sound ideas.

Yoda worm brings Star Wars to the deep sea

11-year-old finds a mammoth carcass, another kid finds a mammoth tooth.

Steve Gaines talks on new Science paper about the state of the world’s unassessed fisheries. Important stuff.

Cryonics Photos Delve Into the Frozen World of the Immortality Faithful

I loathe nationalism. I despise nationalism when applied to science. But I rather love Alice Bell.

Newspapers in UK and US give climate sceptics most column inches

Ethan Perlstein is crowdfunding his crystal meth experiment. He swears its totally legit. Very interesting approach to open science, with a great video.

Choose-your-own-adventure books in the data age. “Coliloquy’s founders:… this is not writing by committee.” Except it is a bit.

Swiss Scientists building robotic sea turtle named Naro-Tartaruga. Whatever. It’s Mecha-Gamera to me

Still amused as how every mundane thing Curiosity does is a story. Today: it’s gonna eat sand!

“Internet addiction” story proves disturbing rise of Churnalistic Deficit Disorder (CDD)

Ben Goldacre’s “Bad Pharma” about the sins of drug companies deserves to be widely read, says the Economist. They’re not wrong.

Some sea otters eat so many purple sea urchins that their teeth/bones become stained purple!

Costa Rica may ban hunting for sport

Convergent evolution sucks

Simon Singh threatened with legal action for criticising health magazine. I have an idea for What What Doctors Don’t Tell You Doesn’t Tell You – a magazine about evidence-based medicine.

Curiosity makes FourSquare check-in on Mars. It’s probably a shoe-in for the Mayor title.

Why reintroducing giant spiders into the British countryside is a good thing.

Be afraid of fear, not personal genomics. I kind of agree w/ Holly Dunsworth but browsing 23andme’s forums is not assuring re: being “informed”.

Royal Society journals caught in the act of fudging stats about peer-review process. Mike Taylor reports, and the editors chime in the comments.

Faster DNA sequencing can pinpoint genetic diseases in newborn babies within days

A list of essays on death, packed with moving, classic long-form

Your finger swipe could become your password.

10 of 23 Macarthur fellows are scientists, and 4 of those scientists are women. Nice. $500,000 to do your own thing and generally be a bit brilliant. .

A fanged, porcupine-quilled vegetarian dinosaurs. Also National Geographic’s “Explorer-in-Residence” is an inadvertently amusing oxymoron.

Has ENCODE redefined the meaning of ‘gene’? Note: technical.

Neuroskeptic on the difference between fraud vs bad science. Not sure I entirely agree, but this is an important discussion to be having.

SARS veterans tackle coronavirus

Fossil horseshoe crab looks like a nest of snakes exploding from a croissant

Scientists have mapped the roundworm’s entire nervous system. Now what? Was it worth it? What does it mean for equivalent human projects?

How animals’ skulls, including those of head-banging species, reflect evolutionary adaptations

Bar fights, terrorists and strip clubs: a brief note on research methods in sociology. And just why exactly do so many studies happen in strip clubs?

There are up to 40 million viruses per cubic meter of air. You breathe in several hundred thousand per minute.

Important tips here about scientists who want to claim they’re first to discover something. Don’t screw over authors who published in same journal. Especially if you asked them for help first.

Bats are afraid of the moon. They prefer… a dark night? Rimshot!

Wellcome Trust science writing prize winner: on the importance of estimates

The venerable, yet chronically misidentified, CTD. Not the “workhorse of oceanography”

Jupiter’s Big Moon Ganymede Mapped by Amateur Astronomer

What jumping spider attack methods teach about memory and spatial perception. AMAZING photos.

The Sunday Times (Leake, natch) report that there are 100 adult cod left in the North Sea. The Telegraph churnalises the ridiculousness (note the footnote). The BBC takes them to task.

Paleontologists use artificial intelligence to pinpoint new fossil sites

“Reality, of course, is bipartisan.” Vaughan Bell with 2 links on why it’s not just conservatives who reject science

The brain: neat Manhattanesque grids, or messy London networks?

I recognise the culture of negativity that Frank Swain is talking about in the science twittersphere but my feed is mostly joy. I wonder if there’s a difference between the science and sceptic spheres.


Now you can get text messages from a cow’s vagina

Volcano + river = wow

“Back from another globetrotting adventure, Indiana Jones discovers his bid for tenure has been denied”

Doughnut mitosis. Awesome

Camera-Trap Animal Parade From the Indonesian Rainforest – elephants, hog-badgers and tigers, oh my!

What would happen if every creature in the animal kingdom had a human skeleton? Terror.

The world’s most incredible Lego contraption is a bunch of endless balls

FMRI = Fruit Magnetic Resonance Imaging

That famous Kissing Sailor image? Turns out to be sexual assault


Site tracks Twitter homophobia. In last 3 mths, “faggot” was tweeted 2.6m times. Probably not meaning kindling or meatballs

Other countries’ reactions to US elections. No UK. Surely we’re just looking across and screaming “DON’T &$%£ UP”

Moving photographs of holocaust survivors, their descendants, and their shared tattoos

Eureka – the Times’ science magazine – has been held up as a counter-example to fears of science journalism’s mainstream decline. Hence: sadness at its imminent closure after 3 years.

As always, superb, no-holds-barred advice for writers, by Chuck Wendig.

Maine Republicans say Democrat candidate isn’t fit for office cos she’s an orc assassination rogue

“It’s no part of a reporter’s job to give BS equal time with serious expertise.”

The forgotten mapmaker – in the wake of Apple’s mapocalypse, Alexis Madrigal checks out the excellent maps of… Nokia

This is the most vomit-inducing thing I’ve seen in ages. TED’s founder says the conference is too “orchestrated” and his solution is a new $16,000-a-ticket, “intellectual jazz” event where you can, for example, hear the man who sat in ice for 63 hrs talk to the woman who ballsed up a Spidey musical. The world’s most expensive circle-jerk? At least, can we call it SuperTED?

“The kind of obvious no-no that should’ve gone out w/ blinky text.” An argument for single page articles

Journalism has an originality problem, not a plagiarism problem

Erik Vance on how moving to Mexico boosted his science reporting career

A brief history of mechanical horses. No, not cars. Actual mechanical horses

Even in Texas, 3-D printing your own handguns is frowned upon

A blog discussing the use of drones in journalism. (That’s unmanned aerial vehicles, not interns). Fascinating question.

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