I’ve Got Your Missing Links Right Here (15 August 2015)

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Hi, I wrote a book! This Monday, I submitted the complete draft of my book I Contain Multitudes, about the fascinating partnerships between animals and microbes. It’ll be out next year. But it definitely exists!


Top picks

Speaking of books, I knew that REPUBLIC OR DEATH! by my friend Alex Marshall would be fascinating but it totally exceeded my expectations. Giving it my highest possible recommendation. Go read it.

Don’t Hate the Phone Call, Hate the Phone. A wonderful piece on our changing use of phones, and how the design of mobiles constrains our relationship with them. By Ian Bogost

On Benjamin Libet’s famous free will experiment and criticisms of it. By Vaughan Bell.

“It’s very entertaining to be Pope.” Very much enjoyed the “Pope Francis has a Cold” feature in Nat Geo. By Robert Draper.

Two perfect sentences: “Joy as mathematicians discover a new type of pentagon that can cover the plane leaving no gaps and with no overlaps. It becomes only the 15th type of pentagon known that can do this, and the first discovered in 30 years.”

Helen Macdonald meets a woman who saves swifts, and muses about the futile importance of rescuing wildlife

“It’s a Möbius strip: Stories are life, life is stories.” On the narratives we write for ourselves, by Julie Beck.

This stream of tweets (and the paper it links to) is one of the smartest things I’ve read on science communication and the role of storytelling in persuasion. By Liz Neeley.


Fatal great white shark attacks on sea otters have tripled over the past 25 years

Arturo Casadevall reflects on the simple steps it took to achieve gender equality among the speakers of a science conference.

Making alligators inhale helium–for SCIENCE.

The frozen sperm of a dead ferret may have saved his entire species

And that’s when the attack comes, not from the front, but the *side*. From the hippos you didn’t even know were there

This is fascinating. Could anaesthesia satisfy the need for sleep?

Social priming: time for a definitive test

Evolving robots. We are doomed.

No one ever really evaluated if blood transfusions work. So why did we have so many for so long?

On Story Collider, George Church sets a forest on fire.

“While other male octopuses mate from a distance to avoid being cannibalized, these mate entangled beak-to-beak”

Rare leopard seal videos show thieving, caching, bullying.

Videos of neural activity in fruit-fly larva’s brain “almost at the resolution of single neurons”

That Silence of the Lambs moth makes a pretty adorable squeaking noise

Interesting piece on bringing randomized controlled trials to the world of global development policy

“The Informed Parent: a sci-based resource for your child’s first 4 yrs” by Emily Willingham and Tara Haelle.

U.S. Courts dismiss two scientists’ attempts to prevent journals from retracting their papers

Are Zoos Failing Amphibians?

Africa has gone one year without a case of polio. Can the continent sustain the effort all the way to eradication?

The Obscure Neuroscience Problem That’s Plaguing VR

Positive result rate for clinical trials dropped from 57% to 8% after requiring registration of studies

Diarrhoea kills 700,000 infants each year. A quiet medical revolution is trying to update how the disease is treated

This bridge was too beautiful and now it is off limits thanks to Instagram.

Now you can donate your brain farts, malapropisms, and misheard words to science

Finding a clandestine grave is more difficult than you may think. That’s why we use all the science we can

Meet the people with animal-like abilities sensing a world we cannot experience

Shrinking ice caps mapped: Ho…….ly….. craaaaaapppp!!!!

The Internet of Elephant Seals – Why animals make the best oceanographic instruments

People who disagree with you are not “anti-science

“We do not know, and probably never will, what these carvings signified to the people who created them. But the emotion that they convey is beyond dispute”

On glow worms: “tiny motes of cold fire mapping a sparse star field over the ground”.



Well my life suddenly became a lot easier. A Science Writing Generator

Generative Illustrations of the Human Form

18 “Game Of Thrones” Moments Improved By “Monty Python And The Holy Grail” Quotes



“I spent a month replying to all of my PR emails with ‘I love you.'”

The existential satisfaction of things fitting perfectly into other things

Twitter — the epitome of shallowness and distraction — has already solved the curation problem. It has created a paradigm of human curation: dynamic and recursive. This is its genius.”

Can Wikipedia’s dwindling ranks of volunteer editors protect its articles from PR and vested interests?