I’ve Got Your Missing Links Right Here (14 June 2014)

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Top picks

A cadre of elite writers has created a new venture called Deca—every month, one of them publishes a story, and the others support. The first one, by the awesome Mara Hvistendahl, is a great read on the true crime murder of Canadian model in China. Well worth your $3. Here’s their Kickstarter campaign

“Can neuroscience help us rewrite our most traumatic memories?” A spectacular feature by Michael Spector, seamlessly melding narrative storytelling with clear explanatory writing.

Step 2 of 7: “Ask a stranger to FedEx a whale vagina” By Marah Hardt.

Does brain imaging get a bum rap? Really good defence by Virginia Hughes.

Was a Fisher Price alphabetic fridge magnet set responsible for a generation of synaesthetic people? Great piece by Frank Swain.

“Do Animals Suffer From Mental Illness?” Laurel Braitman’s new book sounds fascinating.

This piece on the history of pepper spray for bears is a constant stream of gold. By Amanda Hess.

Sialoliths—salivary gallstones—are a thing. A terrible, terrible thing. By Cassandra Willyard

“Genes are not gods; they are cogs.” Patrick Clarkin on nature, nurture, and the wonder of developmental plasticity

Good piece on the controversy about 2 papers on MERS, about the same patient, which had different conclusions. By Kai Kupferschmidt.

A rousing call to halt microbiome hype, while still celebrating its potential. I care about this field and I’d hate to see it go the way of dietary epidemiology—a graveyard of empty correlations.

A really sweet story about Bill Watterson’s brief return to comics

This is like Catch Me If You Can, but with dinosaur smuggling. Paige Williams follows up on her amazing New Yorker feature on the black market trade in fossils.

The obsessed heiress who made forensics a science. A wonderful piece from Rachel Nuwer featuring blood-spattered dollhouses

“My mom, Amahl, is one of those Voyager voices. She’s speaking her native Arabic, and her message is simple: “Greetings to our friends in the stars. We wish that we will meet you someday.” By Nadia Drake.

Can we address our food problems by supercharging the relationships between plants & microbes? Cynthia Graber investigates.



A string of good environmental news stories leaves a journalist flummoxed.

Fragmented Landscapes May Help Spread Disease

Why do plants get to be many thousands of years old, and animals don’t?

Here’s what your ancestors may have looked like 505 million years ago. Carl Zimmer on Metaspriggina

A tour through the many ways in which animals inject venom.

Are you a secret ‘superforecaster’? Some see the future with exquisite accuracy

The flu debate kicks off again with the same talking points, repeated again and again with each new controversial study. Here’s Mike the Mad Biologist on what scientists risk with the spate of dangerous flu experiments: their credibility. Featuring a real-life incident of viral escape from BSL-3 lab.

“The largest survey of Mexican genetics performed so far reveals tremendous diversity in the country. In some cases, the people studied are as genetically distinct from each other as are people from different continents.” By Erika Check Hayden

Scarlet kingsnake avoids predators by mimcking a dangerous species that isn’t around any more?

Ant sperm swims faster in groups.

Yes, humans are animals — so just get over yourself, Homo sapiens

Jesus and Hitler beaten in Wikipedia influence list by Carl Linnaeus.

“This is bro science – dudes pummeling each other driving human evolution.” Brian Switek on a recent paper on face-punching.

What is the secret ingredient in young blood that reverses aging? Carl Zimmer considers the case for oxytocin.

Diseases spread in weeks. Epidemic research takes years. This must change

“…like a nasty blood-sucking beret that stay attached for years.”

This animal can be brutally torn apart and will come back together again. Writers sympathise.

No, computers haven’t passed the Turing test. Here are some good analyses from Martin Robbins at Vice and Kelly Oakes at Buzzfeed

The first vertebrate sexual organs evolved as an extra pair of limbs.

Rats experience “regret” over bad decisions

Two truths: genes cause every trait, environment causes every trait.

What does a warming of 4.5C actually mean?

A virus has killed 1 in 10 pigs in the US, & no one’s sure how it’s spreading.



Clickhole – the Onion’s new Buzzfeedish site.

The most passive aggressive sentence ever published in an academic journal

Zombie ants in spoof interview questions.

Er, I don’t think I’m qualified for this job.

And all this time, I’ve been trying to mug people while making sad mime face. This paper changes everything.

Academic writing. Courtesy of Calvin and Hobbes.


This analysis of the fall of Byliner should be sobering reading for new media ventures

Delivery drones might work best with vans.

This wheelchair has tank treads, a 30mph top speed, and (in some versions) weapons.

“What has no name can’t be acknowledged or shared.” Rebecca Solnit talks to  Jessica Valenti on coining “mansplaining

“It may [surprise] him to find me among his critics” Portrait of divorce…reviewed by author’s ex-wife

Countries are still using bomb detectors sold by a convicted conman that DO NOT WORK