I’ve Got Your Missing Links Right Here (8 December 2012)

Top picks

Perfect match of writer and topic: Carl Zimmer on the science of zombifying parasites, following a new special issue on the topic (also summarised by Kathryn Knight).

Hilarious, depressing take by Vaughan Bell on the finalised DSM-V – the new manual for psychiatry. Meanwhile, ex-chairman Allen Frances unleashes a scorching response

Amy Shira Teitel is fast becoming a go-to person for space news. Here’s her take on NASA’s Mars plans and on Mercury—the closest planet to the sun, and loaded with ice!

David Quammen meets the President. No not that one. The world’s 2nd biggest tree. Gorgeous

“The editors decided to make a historically accurate, real scorpion bomb.” By Adrienne Mayor

What happens when a man has an extra Y chromosome? Not that much—XYY people say more about our beliefs about men.

A bizarre koala viral outbreak gives us valuable lessons about our own evolution. Excellent stuff from Carl Zimmer.

Hilarious. A study of the brain regions most likely to get you published.

“I’m all for replicating, and reporting null results, but what about the bees?” Great piece from a very promising new-ish neuroscience blog – The Magnet is Always On.

Our black marble – check out our impact on the night

Wired’s best scientific Figures of 2012, chosen by Brandon Keim. Lovely idea. Beautiful images.

Cells are often drawn as dots floating inside a circle. These paintings capture the reality

It’s great that neurobollocks is being discussed but there’s also this straw man of “abandoning neuroscience” (used in the NYT piece linked from this post. Meanwhile, SciCurious discusses why neuroscience won’t get a Newton, and doesn’t need one.

Jonathan Eisen lists more scientific lapses from the NYT’s immortal jellyfish story. See also: Paul Raeburn’s critique that I linked to last week, and a comment from one of the original authors on the paper that started everything. To me, this story epitomises a lot of problems in science writing: a generalist writer seduced by one man’s spiel, science suffering as a result, and (in some of the reactions on Twitter) people *still* calling it a “good story” because it’s nicely written. Just… no.

John Hutchinson did a Reddit AMA about dinosaurs, frozen body parts, and his awesome dissection research. Worth a read

Okay, “dive a coral reef with a UV light” just shot to the top of my list of things to do before you die.

Gary Marcus piece on Noam Chomsky’s infuriating contributions to linguistics

This is lovely. Darwin’s Tangled Bank in Verse, by Michael Eisen


A lovely thing involving bubble wrap and bus stops, and Robert Krulwich musing on the psychology of “occupied time”

Great Rebecca Rosen piece on the invention that our electronics age depends on: the clean room

Antiseptics Used To Prevent Health Care Infections Might Cause Them. Oops.

TED to TEDx organisers after a monumental failure of vetting: “It’s not your audience’s job to figure out if a speaker is offering legitimate science. It is your job.”

Report finds vast majority of UK research with monkeys produces scientific or medical benefits. And yet, this headline

The NYT says that bedbugs in libraries are a big problem. Except that’s not true and several sources were misinterpreted. And here’s Brooke Borel’s good take.

“Why I’m feeling so crabby about cancer conspiracy theories“, by Cath Ennis. The infantry battle line is golden.

Redder than red: scientists tweak eye pigment so it can detect reds that we cannot see.

What Ebola means for the great apes

Heart cells coaxed to divide and conquer

Okaaaay… this guy is suing the Nobel committee for awarding the Gurdon/Yamanaka prize; he says he got there first (PDF)

A company is selling tickets to the Moon at $750 million per seat.

What do bison and koalas have in common? Hint: it involves sex. And shouting.

Snake on a plane! Man smuggles Egyptian cobra on board; it bites him.

Thoughtful writing from medicine’s frontlines: “Being Sorry” by Shara Yurkiewicz

The (former) world’s oldest person died aged 116 this week. When she was born, Victoria I was queen, the US only had 45 states, X-rays had just been discovered, and the first modern Olympics had occurred.

Climate buffoon Lord Monckton banned for life by UN after pretending to be a Myanmar rep at the Doha talks.

The biosphere’s biggest ever change: evidence found for the origin of photosynthesis

Confronting the ‘sloppiness’ that pervades science, by Suzi Gage and Pete Etchells

Expert tours his own exome: “most detected genetic “variants of interest” are either not variants or not interesting”

Cancer Research UK invites volunteer citizen scientists to help analyse its data

Yassar Arafat and the Radioactive Cigarette – Deborah Blum on the radioactive secret inside tobacco smoke.

This BBC “binge-drinking gene” story is so poor it doesn’t even have a byline. Here’s a much better interpretation from Suzi Gage

New science writing competition for European scientists – an interesting move to restrict topic to 1 of 9 possible articles

“Good scientific theories are the closest things we humans can have to facts.” Great response to a silly Nicholas Wade op/ed

The toughest eggs in the world are laid by a wee shrimp

Prehistoric artists better at depicting the gaits of four-legged animals than some artists today

City birds lining nests with material from discarded cigarettes may help keep out parasitic mites.

Ever heard of a “meteotsunami“? It is, apparently, a thing.

The first dinosaur. Or not… Dave Hone on Nyasasaurus

Astronauts will spend a year in space testing effects on body and mind. I wonder if they’ll get along

A new study says being a good listener has a stronger effect on people’s influence ratings than being a good talker

Swimming robot reaches Australia from the US, becoming 1st thing in Australian waters that won’t kill you

Maths paper retracted because some of it makes “no sense mathematically”. Yeah, that’ll do it

Becoming Batman: What can a real human body take before injury occurs and how long till recovery?

€50 million project aims to produce 1,500 stem cell lines for drug discovery

Are nitpicking experts making Wikipedia harder to read?

James Cameron does what James Cameron does because James Cameron IS James Cameron.” Here’s what his deep dive uncovered.

Black market fossil crackdown – US customs officials seize Tarbosaurus skull from Wyoming home

The folks behind Spaun, the most sophisticated brain simulation yet, did a Reddit AMA

Researchers ruffled by US plan to subject H5N1 bird flu studies to special review

Should you do a Masters in science writing to get into science writing?

“A remarkable study from 1938 where researchers hid under the beds of students to record their conversations.”

Spiders that live in cities tend to grow bigger, fatter

Stephen Curry gets irate about reporting screw-ups around some cool microscope images of DNA

An agency that matches jobs to the particular talents of autistic people

A new fish named after Obama

Pop-up self-assembling robotic honeybees.

WIN! SO MUCH WIN! All free schools in England must teach evolution – or lose funding

Jack Gilbert will take your sh*t. He craves it in fact. He wants it through the post.


Beautiful mini dioramas created by cutting tiny bird shapes out of feathers

The EU spent £80k on the abominable “Science: It’s a Girl Thing” vid. Bristol scientists made a funnier one for £7.66

MIT makes little tiny steampunk transformer

A steampunk ant, and some interesting discussions on tracing photos for art.

The top ways in which we injure our genitals. The physician’s notes are amazing.

“A functional ectopic vaginal anus: a rare clinical entity.”

Onion: “What we’ve discovered is that cancer cells are little pricks that think they’re the king of the f**king world”


A masterclass in science writing from Rebecca Skloot, Jad Abumrad & Mary Roach

Every bomb dropped on London during the Blitz

Oil and troubled waters” – British universities’ links with repressive, anachronistic autocracies.

If you get nothing out of Twitter, maybe “your friends and associates are terrible and boring.”

A critique of Clay Shirky’s view on the Internet’s capacity to revolutionise education.

Amazing trip: reporter will walk from Africa to South America over 7 years, reporting as he goes.

30 words that journalists should stop using.

Tracking what major websites pay writers.

Science writing: ‘When a kid is excited about ideas, that feels good.’ Six great writers talk about the craft

Want to know what to get a writer for Christmas?

Lord Leveson copies out of Wikipedia. Brilliant

Moving, important piece on sexual assault: What Can’t Be Published

Sean Carroll leaves Discover & sets up his own indie blog (Cosmic Variance will still continue)

The highway robbery of prison phone rates

That breathless Guardian story about OED editor deleting foreign words? Not really true.

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