I’ve Got Your Missing Links Right Here (16 August 2014)

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Top picks

Forget the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week tripe. Instead, watch Emily Graslie’s wonderful five-part series on sharks: how many there are, why they’re important, why we’re killing them, fossil sharks, and utterly badass shark tooth weapons.

In the wake of Robin Williams’ sad death, I’m going to highlight the best pieces I know about depression.

The Beauty of Anatomy – Adam Rutherford’s new doc on anatomy and art.

Natalie Angier, waxing poetic about Africa’s most efficient predators: the African wild dogs

Suicide contagion and social media: The dangers of sharing ‘Genie, you’re free’. Relatedly: Reporting suicide—how not to kill your readers

This is excellent. News is “the modern expression of ancient myths”, by Jack Shafer.

Carl Zimmer on 100 million years of evolving noses.

A new study looks at the cognitive development of recursion by showing fractals to kids. By Virginia Hughes

Great piece on DIY mind-controlled gadgets, inc. a tiny robotic “battle spider”. By Eliza Strickland.

While cracking the Enigma code, Alan Turing also cracked how the zebra got its stripes. Kat Arney investigates.

“A biologist’s banquet and a marketer’s dream”: superbly told piece on the data of pregnancy, by Nathalia Holt.

A really good explainer on using experimental drugs in the Ebola outbreak. By Erika Check Hayden.

“The easiest way to [tell] a legitimate rule of usage from a grandmother’s tale is unbelievably simple: look it up.” Steven Pinker versus tiresome linguistic prescriptivists


Magpies: not actually attracted to shiny things.

“To Appear Less Heartless, SeaWorld Is Building Bigger Bathtubs for Its Killer Whales.” Ouch.

As always with tragedy, there is profiteering. Here’s a company selling fake Ebola treatments.

Sharks: eating your data, cutting off your internet.

Mix-up with bird flu occurred when scientist was rushing for a meeting!

Will driverless cars change the demand for organs?

When a snail loses purpose, the universe reels.”

Psychologists: cheer up! Education research has even lower rates of replication than psych. 8x lower.

Crowd sourcing the Olinguito: what we’ve learned in a year

Probably the best pictures of bees you’ll ever see. And not just honeybees either.

This press release about an impossibly white beetle has an unbeatable headline

How many midges does it take to make a self-organising swarm? Ten.

Why it’s so hard to catch typos

Leave the textbooks alone. New groundbreaking “pterosaur” turns out to be a… turtle?!? And the authors respond with some bizarre uninterpretable comment about Transylvania.

Research misconduct accounts for <1% of total NIH funding (altho that’s just the direct costs).

Carl Zimmer considers a new hypothesis about whether our microbiome is acting as our puppet master.

CRUK dissects a new big study about obesity and cancer.

47 skeletons of new pterosaur uncovered in unprecedented boneyard.

How will the deep ocean react to mining? I bet it will totally cheer and throw a party and make little canapes.

In order to understand the sharks of today we’ve got to know what the sharks of the past were like

Mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani becomes the first woman to win the Fields Medal.

Placebo buttons” at UK pedestrian crossings laugh at your illusions of free will and control

Crayfish turn blood into brain cells – and could one day help us regenerate our own

From ferns to forests, Brian Switek looks at how plants recover from mass extinctions.

The Tacit Supernaturalism of Popular Science

Lab-grown 3-D rat brain tissue includes networks of neurons that appear to behave normally after an injury.


33 facts that are not facts.

“It certainly looks bad 3 Westerners have gotten the [Ebola] drug while most of the people with Ebola are African”

Harassment in Science, Replicated.

Predictable pattern of microbe shifts in early infant guts. (Although NB: preemie pattern prob not the norm)

Discovery misled researchers to get them to appear in Shark Week shows, editing interviews into falsehoods

On Jul 3, the face officially became an “organ” [in US policy]

“One wonderful thing about using computers to help us is that if we’re not careful they’ll tell us who we really are.”

A great primer on the culture of harassment and what you can do about it

This guy changed our understanding of one deadly snake by getting bitten & writing down every horrible symptom

Nursing Patterns and Mother’s Milk! From echidnas to monkeys to humans.

IBM’s recently announced neuromorphic chip ‘TrueNorth’: exactly how “brain-like” is it?

Tracing Africa’s Ebola outbreak to a 2-Year-Old

The 10 biggest dinosaur mysteries we have yet to solve


The Time I Spent On A Commercial Whaling Ship Totally Changed My Perspective On The World

And the award for the silliest Ebola story goes to…

“A comprehensive list of possible futures, ranked from least desirable to most desirable”


A great documentary about a little person who used a button cam to record how people react to him.

One of my favourite genres: “American meets the NHS“.

Kill all comments and let discussion happen across sites and publishers. A fine argument by Nicholas Jackson.

Culture Dish – new site aimed at minority science writers in the US, to improve diversity in the industry

One death too many: on the dreadful reporting of Robin William’s death

A (probably foolish but certainly ambitious) bid to buy The Times through crowdfunding.

The Indian Animal Farm where Orwell was born

My friend Alex Marshall is writing a book about national anthems & it’ll be great. Here he is on the Star-Spangled Banner

“It should be noted that Wikimedia is not saying that the monkey owns the copyright, as others have reported”