I’ve got your missing links right here (4th December 2010)

A shorter list this week, because I spent two days leaking rhinoviruses…

Top five picks

So, the arsenic bacteria. For anyone not paying attention, bacteria in Mono Lake (a) can possibly incorporate arsenic into their DNA and other important molecules, (b) aren’t aliens, and (c) don’t represent another origin of life.

“Self-awareness is like gravity… We can’t touch it directly, so if we want to measure it, scientists must develop valid techniques to directly observe its effects.” Maggie Koerth-Baker has a brilliant piece about the flaws in the mirror test, a classic assessment of self-awareness.

Reactivating an enzyme called telomerase reverses some signs of ageing in mice. An awesome and dramatic study and here are two responsible pieces of coverage that get in the main caveats – it’s in mice, and there’s still a big potential cancer risk.

Japanese aquarium has an electric eel-powered Christmas tree. This is one of the great quotes of all time: “If we could gather all the electric eels from all around the world, we would be able to light up an unimaginably large Christmas tree.” Do it for science!

Conjoined ants. No really. Conjoined ants. Myrmecos blows my mind on a regular basis.


Blue on blue: Researchers shine blue light into mouse’s brain to relieve depression. Great piece by David Dobbs.

If you want an engaging primer on neuroscience, SciCurious has collected her Science 101 posts in one handy place

It’s okay, folks. You can send papers on fellating fruitbats to your colleagues. You should do so at once.

“We like to say ‘it’s not a simulation of evolution, it’s evolution.’ The difference is that these are computer programs.” Brandon Keim on digital creatures that evolve firefly flashing.

Never let Jonah Lehrer buy you a drink. Especially a coffee. He probably wants something.

This is important. It is, apparently, really very simple to fool a “lie detector brain scan”, says the Neuroskeptic.

“There are two ways to go about testing this, neither of which are practical. One requires the energy of dozens of Large Hadron Colliders. The other could yield a cauldron-full of flaming plutonium.” A wonderful thought experiment: what would happen if all the elements in the periodic table came into contact simultaneously?

Dear evolution, thanks. Thanks a LOT

A man with a bowel disorder self-medicated by eating thousands of whipworm eggs. Presumably, he’s now seeking a treatment for whipworms.

“Using two resources that the Sahara has plenty of, sun and sand, the Sahara Solar Breeder Project hopes to build factories that will refine the sand’s silica into silicon.”

“It was literally an elephantine task, because we had to find specialist equipment and modify it.” Filling a cavity is hard when the tooth is an elephant tusk.

“To ghostwrite an entire textbook is a new level of chutzpah”. A popular text on psychiatric diagnosis turns out to be written by pharma ghostwriters.

The Genome 10k Project aims to have 101 vertebrate genomes in 2 years, and 10,000 by 2015. I’m not sure they’ve phased that very well 😉

There’s more than one way to make a sabretooth. Brian Switek covers one of my favourites – Thylacosmilus. Like a sabre-toothed cat, only much sillier.

Phil Plait explains why some woman in Spain doesn’t own the sun

Augmented reality brings dinosaur fossils to life at the Natural History Museum

Evidence-based anti-woo! Can psychology help combat pseudoscience? Christian Jarrett reports.


Crows arrange gladiatorial combat between kittens. Crows are awesome. (And no, I’m not implying the crows have some sort of Machiavellian plan; it’s funny, okay?) Sadly inactive now.

Freezing soap bubbles: video and stills


“The bottom line is: Scientific accuracy can be wordy. And journalism… doesn’t do well with wordy” A nice piece from Science Progress on why longer pieces work well for science writing.

“Jailing Edison in 1890 wouldn’t have darkened the night” A great Economist piece on WikiLeaks. For anyone not following the story, the Guardian has the key points at a glance.

Here’s a fascinating story in the NYT about a sleazy merchant who used astonishing rudeness to game Google, and how Google fought back. Score one for journalism.

“The [New York] Times’ system is the most sophisticated linking system I’ve ever seen,” says Alexis Madrigal.