I’ve Got Your Missing Links Right Here (12 July 2014)

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Top picks

Animals Who Drink and the People Who Cut Them Open, by Adam Rogers.

The Organ Detective: A Career Spent Uncovering Hidden Global Market in Human Flesh. By Ethan Watters

She’s Still Dying on Facebook. Heartbreaking piece by Julie Buntin

Planetary smashup (and some incredibly good luck) left Mercury with a metallic heart. By Nadia Drake.

“He rides around with a stack of mirrors, looking for people who have lost their limbs.” Fresh piece on phantom limbs by Srinath Perur.

“It is sobering.” Stem cell treatment causes nasal growth in woman’s back. Chilling report by Clare Wilson.

Oh, no biggie. Just vials of smallpox found in the back of some FDA freezer. Maryn McKenna considers what effects the vials might have on debates over whether to destroy the last smallpox stocks. Sara Reardon wrote this shockingly prescient Nature feature two months ago. And some of us had fun.

Virginia Hughes on the messy sexual politics of autism. First-class.

“It seems wise to rethink the larger notion of biosafety.” Laurie Garrett on smallpox/anthrax screw-ups & the implications for flu studies.

A beautiful tribute to bacteria, carved into paper

Did cellular life evolve in the backs of giant viruses?


A surprising and delightful story about how a moth got its name

“I decided it was time I actually did some experiments on this myself, rather than criticize.” Scientists recreate Dutch ‘hunger winter’ for mice, find epigenetic inheritance.

“One of the most influential sixth-grade science projects ever conducted.”

These pesticides are screwing both the birds and the bees

“In fact, if you shook this small moon of Jupiter, you might hear a sloshing sound.”

The “Mississippi baby” who was cleared of HIV now has the virus again.

With trademark elegance, David Dobbs calmly destroys Nicholas Wade’s book on race.

You can get jeans that are stressed by lions. This is probably just a sinister plot to train these lions to attack hipsters.

Some chimps are smarter than others and half that variability is due to their genes. By the ever-reliable Virginia Hughes. By contrast, here’s some terrible reporting from the ever-unreliable Independent.

Adam Rutherford debunks some terrible science/PR, while also offering himself as a sexual partner to all redheads

Publisher busts peer review and citation ring, and retracts 60 papers.

UK government to rush through emergency surveillance legislation

A genetic study of Congo’s elusive okapi shows ancient evolutionary origin & unexpected resilience

Scientists discarded the idea that electrostatics plays a role in the stickiness of gecko feet, perhaps too soon.

Good NYT piece on implantable ‘direct brain recording’ devices for memory defects

Sneaky octopus dismantles camera; interview also includes amazing story about Octopus Steve McQueen

Optogenetics turns 10

Direct-to-consumer microbiome project stresses, “This isn’t a diagnostic tool to detect disease.” THIS! THANK YOU.

Malaria parasite hides out in marrow.

Watch the American Museum of Natural History’s blue whale get a wash.

Amazing new CT scan images of baby mammoths

What does an 87% accurate Alzheimer’s test mean? And why can’t health journalists actually get their heads round this, like Gary Schwitzer does?

Buzz Aldrin’s AMA: colonising Mars and the moon’s ‘magnificent desolation’

You should sign up to Maggie Koerth-Baker’s newsletter: The Fellowship of Three Things.

The reviews at the end of this weak microbiome paper are a teaching example about why there are good hypotheses and bad ones, and about why open peer review is a good thing.

Explore a shipwreck in real-time

We are making Ebola outbreaks worse by cutting down forests

“In the arms race between humanity and nature, never bet against the house.” This Ebola piece by Leigh Cowart features some beautiful evocative writing

This bird’s wingspan was the length of 4 people. IMAGINE THE TURDUCKEN POSSIBILITIES.

What a raccoon virus six years ago has to do with your delayed flight at JFK

“We shouldn’t be fishing for sharks and swimming in the same place—that’s a no-brainer

Can This “Neuroscience Based” Music App Really Boost Your Brain Power By 400%? Spoiler: no.

Dolphins: intelligent, innovative, completely unable to remove barnacles growing on their fins.

‘Identity trumps fact’ on views of science of climate change, evolution & vaccines.

Alas, Gliese 581g, you had all the right conditions for life except that you don’t actually exist. It’s always something.

“Scientists have established that whisking gives rats a sense of touch”

Professors: don’t sleep with grad students

Hypocrisy oils the belching engine of modern media misogyny.” – Laurie Penny.

The gradual evolution of Triceratops’ horns

“We are left with a project that can’t but fail from a scientific perspective.” 150+ top neuroscientists boycott the Human Brain Project

That weird urge to jump off a bridge, explained

The dominant story about the future of the world food supply is logical, well known and wrong.

Virus Plagues the Pork Industry (killing 100,000 hogs a week), and Environmentalists Worry About Body Disposal

A hugely popular old psychology study has failed replication. What happens to the studies that built


Author of book on how not to get gored by a bull gets gored. Co-author: “”We will probably need to update the book.”

“I hope Germany wins. My dad bet all my savings on them.” – Kid in now-hilarious Singaporean anti-gambling ad

This paper title doesn’t mess around.

I was pretty satisfied with the search accuracy, but not that satisfied with the smallpox. So, averagely satisfied?

This is basically how lots of science reporting works, right? Health/biomedical, especially.

50 shades of ray. An incredible photo.


The various kinds of Islam in a surprisingly handy infographic

An oddly fascinating story about Vicks VapoRub

The world’s most popular online newspaper is also its worst.

On the Mistakes We Make as New Writers

The Princess Effect: women’s magazines demean powerful women—even when trying to celebrate them

Google reverses decision to delete British newspaper links