I’ve got your missing links right here – 7th August 2010


“We’ve created a multitrillion-dollar edifice for dispensing the medical equivalent of lottery tickets—and have only the rudiments of a system to prepare patients for the near-certainty that those tickets will not win. Hope is not a plan, but hope is our plan.”The most amazing thing I read all week was this piece in the New Yorker by the incomparable Atul Gawande, talking about how people die, how doctors care for terminal patients and society’s attitudes to death. It’s long, but it’s Gawande, so you won’t feel it. Grab some tissues, find a comfy chair.

What lives in the sea? A new census of the world’s marine life gives a thorough answer, complete with 15 new papers in PLoS ONE, an incredible website, an interactive globe, timeline, image gallery, video gallery,

Mary Carmichael has written a wonderful series on Newsweek about her quest to decide whether to do a personal gene test. It’s humane, well-considered stuff and you should read all six parts.

More after the jump…

Drakazoon is an excellent Latin name for an “ancient blob-like creature of the deep”.

Vernon Asper was one of the first researchers in the Gulf of Mexico to study the oil gushing out from the BP well. But it has not all been smooth sailing, reports Mark Schrope for Nature News

Genome-wide association studies are often criticised for providing little value at great expense. But a new study clearly shows the value of this approach, reports Mark Henderson in the Times (subscription required)

Jonah Lehrer is a total class act. He even uses horrendous trolling as a vehicle for more science writing about conspiracy theories.

Some squid can escape predators by taking to the air. Alternatively, they’re doing it to distract us from their nuclear enrichment program, the sneaky gits. Ferris Jabr has the story at Scientific American.

Fossils: the result of millions of years of intense pressure. Oh, and bacteria. By Brian Switek at Dinosaur Tracking.

Much ado over nothing as the UK panics about meat and milk from cloned cows. Tom Chivers and Colin Blakemore set the fearmongers straight. Honestly, this is a country where we regularly eat Turkey Twizzlers, Monster Munch and pork scratching, and yet meat that is exactly the same as other meat makes people nauseous…

Antarctic Octopuses Discovered With Sub-Zero Venom – Jess McNally reports in Wired.

The inflexibility of young children’s brains can make them better learners than adults, says Vaughan Bell in Mind Hacks.

1 in 200 men are direct descendants of Genghis Khan. Razib Khan (heh) explores the science behind Gengy’s legacy.

Meet the anti-laser, which absorbs the light a laser shoots out

A nice, if very small, study about the power of the placebo effect.


“Monkeys hate flying squirrels, report monkey-annoyance experts. The research could pave the way for advanced methods of enraging monkeys.”

97% of Nature’s readers have internet access, according to a survey of Nature online readers. Er…

Meet Pandarus rhincodonicus, a parasite that lives on the lips of whale sharks

Robot climbs walls, but in a slightly eerie way.


My list of science writer origins is still going strong at over 120 entries, and even got a mention at the Knight Science Journalism Tracker. If you’re a science writer and haven’t contributed yet, please do so.

Meet Scientopia – a new collective consisting of several ex-Sciblings, who have joined forces with many other excellent bloggers. Go and support the new community – it includes such favourites of mine as SciCurious, PalMD, and Adventures in Ethics and Science.

Frank Swain (Science Punk) gave a superb talk on the problems with the skeptic movement at Westminster Skeptics in the Pub. A podcast of his talk is now up, and it’s a must-listen. Noodlemaz has a good write-up too.

Gatekeeping is now a collective pursuit; we’ve become our own and each other’s editors,” says Ken Doctor at the Nieman Journalism Lab. “With social media, the serendipity that came with turning pages and suddenly discovering a gem of a story that an editor put there happens in new ways. We’re re-creating such moments ourselves, each of us―individually and collectively―as we tout stories and posts to each other.”

The Royal Society has a new blog on the history of science.

Bec Crew’s hilarious blog Save Your Breath For Running Ponies has been named Australia’s best science blog. Go and congratulate her.

Andy Revkin blogs about the increasing role for scientists in talking directly to the public. “Institutions that thrive in this world of expanding, evolving communication paths are those willing to engage the public (including critics) and to experiment with different strategies.”

Drunk with power from Embargo Watch, Ivan Oransky has launched Retraction Watch.

Posting audio interviews provides “valuable content to your audience while building relationships with the people you interview”

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