I’ve got your missing links right here (2nd January 2011)

It’s been a light week, both in terms of news and in terms of what I’ve read. This week’s links round-up is therefore a bit truncated. We’re back to full service next week, and the first mind-blowing story of the year on Monday.

“The logical thing a reporter should then do is ask, “How exciting can this conclusion be, when you never actually made it in the paper?” Indeed. Carl Zimmer and Brian Switek take on the week’s non-story – the discovery of fossil teeth that apparently double the age of our species from 200,000 to 400,000 years, but actually may not even have belonged to humans.

What a wunch of bankers. The UK banking trade association asked Cambridge University to censor a student’s master’s thesis because it “documented a well-known flaw in the chip-and-PIN system.” Cambridge’s Ross Anderson wasn’t impressed and sent a legendary reply: “Cambridge is the University of Erasmus, of Newton, and of Darwin; censoring writings that offend the powerful is offensive to our deepest values… Your letter shows that, instead, your member banks do their lamentable best to deprecate the work of those outside their cosy club, and indeed to censor it.”

Some year-end round-ups: Al Dove picks his top five marine science stories, Brian Switek recaps a year of dinosaur stories, Petra Boynton lists the best and worst sex stories of the year, Alex Wild chooses some of his best photos, and Emily Anthes lists her top posts (and they are top indeed) of the last year. Meanwhile, Nature predicts some stories for 2011.

New Year’s Resolutions on your mind? Oliver Burkeman suggests abandoning them from the get-go while Massimo Pigliucci talks about how to want to change your mind.

Is it possible to have the first newborn of the year on purpose? And when do astronauts celebrate New Year’s Eve?

Science in the White House – Eli Kintisch at ScienceNews scores a great interview with John Holdren, the president’s science adviser

How do you name a dinosaur? Find out in this wonderful post by David Orr. Just try to do better than “Irritator

Polar bears get the better out of spy cameras.

2011 was one day old, and we already had a contender for crap reporting of year. Here, a “journalist” quotes another “journalist” who quoted a third writer. Also the fourth sentence refutes the headline.

How many friends do you have? A rough answer can be predicted by the size of [a part of the brain called the amygdala]”

Rebecca Skloot is collecting stories about how the story of Henrietta Lacks has affected the people see or do science. Please share if you’ve read her book.

7-month-old bouncing babies betray their awareness of others’ beliefs. Scicurious covers an important study.

I was profiled on MuckRack, a site about journalism and social media

Baby beavers’ secret lives filmed

An awesome list of 10 biomimetic designs inspired by insects

How long has that been there? Fossilised food stuck in Neanderthal teeth suggests that they ate a plant-rich diet.

The Psychology of Climate Change Communicationa book with advice on knowing your audience, employing framing, using trusted messengers (often local voices), using the power of groupthink in your favor (rather than letting it turn against you), and much else.

Brain activity levels under general anaesthesia track pretty close to brain-stem death. Much like watching X-Factor.

Using Google’s Ngrams to distinguish real science from fads