I’ve Got Your Missing Links Right Here (30 August 2014)

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Top picks

H is for Hawk is the story of a woman who started training a goshawk to cope with the sudden death of her father. It is an autobiography, a natural history book, a biography of author T.B.White, and an exquisitely beautiful story about grief, love, and our connection to the wild. It is the best book I’ve read this year. Here is an extract.

For a profile of David Mitchell, you need a writer who can weave many elements into seamless cloth. That’s exactly what Kathryn Schulz has done. This is just masterful—writing that’s worth deconstructing as well as savouring.

An exceptional story about the seven scientists who were convicted of manslaughter after the devastating L’Alquila earthquake. David Wolman offers a textbook example of careful structure & brutally efficient storytelling

“Krulwich is probably not going to actually drink Abumrad’s blood…” Polymathic piece from Jess Zimmerman on the history and science of using young blood to restore health.

This week, Pluto-bound spacecraft New Horizons swept past Neptune’s orbit, 25 years to the day after Voyager II did. Images of Pluto to come next year. By Nadia Drake.

Watch as an ant colony forms a daisy chain to pull a millipede! Alex Wild has an update on their strange, known, but never formally described behaviour

A paean to the gorgeous Portuguese man-of-war, by Jane Lee

The Ebola virus is mutating rapidly in W. Africa, as discovered by a team that lost 5 co-authors to it. By Erika Check Hayden. Also, here is a superb and important portrait of African heroes fighting Ebola by Adam Nossiter and Ben Solomon, and biographies of the five people who died.

What happens when you raise a fish on land? An amazing study with important implications for the evolution of land vertebrates, covered by that sonofabichir, Carl Zimmer

Memories switch from negative to positive with a flash of light!

Nadia Drake’s ode to exploding stars is magnificent. Explanatory science writing at its best.


For insects, molting includes hacking up the lining of the lungs.

Publication of non-replicable findings leads to enormous waste in science and demoralization of the next generation”

A beautiful profile of neuroscience power-couple Uta Frith and Chris Frith.

“I fall in love every time I look at a cheese rind.” That’s got to be inconvenient.

“The best thing you could do for the Amazon is bomb all the roads.”

Important reproducibility initiative: replicating 50 findings in cancer biology

Epigenetics are cool. Mind-controlling parasites, like Toxoplasma, are cool. Carl Zimmer fuses them together (with a lovely analogy about piano keys).

Scientists have finally spotted what moves the wandering rocks of Death Valley.

Birds sing the wrong tune when contaminated with mercury (scroll down to listen to the audio files)

How a super-fast fish inspired a super-fast car.

“If a complete history of autism is ever written, the 1950s and ’60s will be part of the dark ages.”

An image of Schrödinger’s cat made with entangled photons. The object was never directly photographed

Wolves may be vulnerable to contagious yawning

A rare glimpse of the dumbo octopus

Milk: it doesn’t just come from mums, and it doesn’t just come from mammals.

Pliny the Tosser, more like. The fantastically wrong legend of the fire-proof salamander.

These tiny scorpions would like to perform an important inspection of your old book collection, please

Baby fish swim towards the smell of a healthy reef.

Breeding deer to have more trophy-worthy antler sets

The world’s oldest muscle, from half a billion years ago.

“The Kitanemuk initiation ritual ceremony involves swallowing balls of live harvester ants…” Wonderful Vaughan Bell piece on how societies perceive hallucinations.

Well that’s intriguing. A book on cosmology, written in Upgoer Five text (only the 1000 most common English words)

A great talk on “WHY MODEL CLIMATE?” by Doug Mcneall

“We replaced Fredrickson[‘s] data with random numbers & continued to find… apparently statistically sig effects”. Absolutely brutal demolition of a positive psychology paper.

Ecologists are testing more and more hypotheses, but their studies are explaining less of the world”

Gotterdammerung: Large Dams Just Aren’t Worth the Cost



This is the best possible sign in front of a volcano

The Ukraine Crisis Explained In GIFs And In-Depth Policy Papers From Esteemed Political Institutions

Slow-motion falling water balloons. Oh, well played, physics. Well played.

Oh dear, Batman

Science Headlines I Would Like to See More Of

Asian Human Rights Commission” and other things that can be sung to the theme of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Hitofude Ryuu: dragon paintings, finished with one, long, sinuous stroke



This London memorial commemorates people who died saving others.

Photos of Sri Lanka’s iconic stilt fisherman after the tsunami

The one word that shows up in women’s performance reviews, but never in men’s.

The Troll Slayer: A Cambridge classicist takes on her sexist detractors

There Still Isn’t One Good Way to Represent the Internet in Art

Maggie Koerth-Baker’s new newsletter—The Fellowship of Three Things—is brilliant. You should subscribe.

The worst part of the Ice Bucket Challenge is the people criticising it.