I've got your missing links right here (14th August 2010)

By Ed Yong | August 14, 2010 11:50 am


Can autism be diagnosed with a brain scan? The lead author tells the Guardian that the test will be 90% accurate. No, says Carl Heneghan later in the Guardian – the actual chances that someone with a positive result would have autism is 4.5%, or around 1 in 22. The authors reply in the comments, and Heneghan replies back. Meanwhile, Dorothy Bishop discusses why it’s actually very difficult to set up a screening test.

Resistance to resistance is futile. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria carrying a gene called NDM-1 can shrug off all but two of our antibiotics, leading some scientists to warn about the end of the antibiotic era. Maryn McKenna has the best analysis at Superbug, while Sarah Boseley reports in the Guardian.

Harvard psychologist Marc Hauser is taking a year’s leave, amid talk of possible scientific misconduct. David Dobbs has the best overview of the events with tons of great links to other pieces. Nature, however, nailed the headline: Harvard morality researcher investigated for scientific misconduct

Orangutans use mime to make themselves understood,” writes Ian Sample in the Guardian. 80 Beats sums up the story with some of the messages you can expect.

This is incredible. Photosynthetic algae have been found inside the cells of a “solar salamander”. Anna Petherick has the news at Nature.

Just… what? Virology Journal retracts a paper “speculating that a woman described in the Bible as being “cured by our Lord Jesus Christ” had flu”. Ivan Oransky’s post on the subject is pure gold, from the line “The authors of the original source material — Mark, Matthew and Luke — could not be reached” to the gripe from the paper’s author saying that he’s appalled that “so many comments were made outside the scope of the journal” rather than in letters to the editors. Heaven forfend.

More after the jump…

Russians are more likely to brood than Americans but less likely to get depressed as result. Jonah Lehrer explains why. Hint: it’s not because they’re secretly happy at inflicting the world’s most depressing literature on everyone else…

Knock out an anti-cancer gene in mice; gain the ability to regenerate limbs. Tina Hesman Saey reports in Wired.

I can’t believe the journalist didn’t pick this up: “Researchers report that a spinal fluid test can be 100 percent accurate in identifying patients with significant memory loss who are on their way to developing Alzheimer’s disease.” Paul Raeburn calls the NYT out on the Knight Science Journalism Tracker.

The Splintered Mind has a great post on Cotard delusion, an endlessly fascinating condition where people believe that they are dead.

The H1N1 pandemic is officially over as the WHO downgrades from Phase 6. Surely everyone will be happy, right? Right?

“Hanging is a frighteningly efficient way of ending a life, as executioners can attest and suicides cannot, but surprisingly, we’re still not sure how it causes death,” says Vaughan Bell.

Bristol scientists are developing software to fingerprint (finprint, surely) every great white shark in the world.

In Zoologger, Michael Marshall discusses the world’s most fecund vertebrate. No, it’s not Kerry Katona.

“As warming intensifies, scientists warn, the oxygen content of oceans across the planet could be more and more diminished, with serious consequences for the future of fish and other sea life.” Carl Zimmer talks about the doom that awaits as the oceans run out of oxygen.

Impala, tsessebe, zebra and wildebeest all respond to the alarm calls of baboons, says Matt Soniak

A thoughtful post by PalMD on a healthier attitude towards medical mistakes has spurred some equally thoughtful comments

The latest search for genetic variants that underlie personality differences has come up empty. The Neurocritic dissects the study while the ever-erudite Jonah Lehrer discusses the results in the context of Hamlet.

Guantanamo Bay: torture camp and, er, ecological research centre? A really nice photo-feature from Discover explains the biological allure of the site.

“Ruff” means “Hands off my bone” while “Ruff” means “Get away from me”. Jason Goldman blogs about the meaning of dog growls.

Is the mind like a spreadsheet or a search engine? Melody Dye answers over at Child’s Play.

Stepping away from your computer? Why not help to find a pulsar? These folks did.

Hey, good news! Gray wolves aren’t endangered any moroh never mind.

The top 10 lost amphibians, featured in the Guardian. They’re probably extinct. Or behind the sofa.


“Warning: This article is basically just a press release, copied and pasted.” These journalism warning labels by Tom Scott are incredible.

Life speeded up: the BBC has put together a collection of timelapse videos from its natural history collection.

A diver gets mugged by an octopus, who steals its camera. He gives chase and then takes the octopus for a ride on the end of his speargun. All of it gets captured on video.

The Fastest Claw in the West is probably my favourite David Attenborough documentary of all time. I remember tuning in expecting to watch something about cheetahs. I got something far better – mantis shrimps. The whole thing is now on YouTube.

New monkey species already looks scared. It has every right to.

Carl Zimmer, via John Pavlus, captions every New Yorker cartoon for all time.

Vaughan Bell diagnoses Miley Cyrus’s ex with borderline personality disorder based on her song lyrics

Pollinators in action – great photography by Alex Wild.

The curious case of Wanky Balls.

The electric vaccine gun safeguards health, while allowing you to be macho. Unsurprisingly, the military likes it.

“Well, it’s not cancer. It’s a pea plant.”

This may be the worst pun I’ve ever written


At the National Association of Science Writers, Tabitha Powledge asks if the future of science publishing depends on the future of science blogging? She deftly sums up various recent developments in the science blogosphere and charmingly credits Discover’s bloggers as “the most universally praised group of science bloggers”

Bora Zivkovic has another epic overview of the emerging suite of science blogging networks

Do open blogging networks threaten brands? John Rennie explores the question in two excellent posts and makes great points about the value of selective recruitment and the problems that remain.

Colin Schultz covers a new study about how science bloggers diversify the news rather than create an echo-chamber, while David Dobbs expands on the theme by looking at the Marc Hauser case.

Apparently the BBC has a strategy for linking out to more external sites, and plans to do more of this by 2013. They’re just not getting it, but it’s nice to see them flirting with relevance.

Razor-sharp commentary from Alice Bell on the myth of scientific literacy, and why it’s meaningless to just call for more of it.

Four reasons why young journalists should blog – this is old news but worth repeating

“The social network of a reader is quickly becoming their personalized news wire; fact, 75% of news consumed online is through shared news from social networking sites or e-mail.” Vadim Lavrusik reports in Mashable.

“Just like reading a novel.” Vivienne Raper lets a “member of the public” loose on my blog and 4 others

Sean Carroll has a diva moment and storms off the set of a bunk “science” show: a warning to all those with starry-eyed visions of a TV career.

Delene Beeland discusses life as a freelancer

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Links, Uncategorized

Comments (12)

  1. Damn you. I now have 15+ new tabs open… (I’m going to have to tell my supervisor about you…)

  2. JonPad

    I’m going to crack open a beer, and read, read, read. Thanks!

  3. If you were a superhero, broken links would be your vulnerability. It’s the one gripe I have about your blog, that you don’t put enough effort into verifying links.

    The very first link goes to the orangutan story and not the autism story like it’s supposed to. The others I haven’t checked yet.

  4. I accept that broken links are frustrating. But I think you need to accept that every week, there will inevitably be broken links. Given infinite time, I would indeed “put enough effort into verifying links” as you suggest, but reality isn’t so kind. If you find broken links, tell me and I fix them. It’s quicker for me and at most a minor inconvenience to you.

  5. Thanks for the link love. I’m fond of that one.

  6. Daniel J. Andrews

    I liked the photosynthetic salamander link. I was fascinated by the PS slugs a while back, and always wondered just how our society would change if we humans could photosynthesize. Maybe we can genetically engineer that into ourselves at some point. It would solve world hunger perhaps, but do nothing for dealing with an increasing population on a resource limited world…unless of course being able to photosynthesize makes you sterile (wonder how many would consider that a bargain and opt to photosynthesize despite the sterility issue?). Idle thoughts.

  7. Re: your terrible pun, you may be pleased/displeased to know that there’s a famous quote from Australia’s racist past, a former Labor opposition leader who was against Asian immigration and who said “two Wongs don’t make a white” in 1947.

    (In other news, you always have some great links, cheers!)

  8. Regarding orangutans, “one animal indicated to researchers that it wanted a haircut“, but I’m puzzled about why an orangutan would want a haircut in the first place. In search of clues I googled for “orangutan haircut”, for which the 80beats article was the second result. The first was this.

  9. Another misplaced link: the first link in the paragraph beginning with “the latest search for genetic variants” actually goes to the Child’s Play article on metaphors for the mind, rather than to the Neurocritic article described in the text.

    (Regarding broken links, I’d be happier if I saw more evidence that other readers shared the burden of pointing them out.)

  10. Kat

    Thanks for the link :) Years of academic study and graft as a writer, and what do I make it big for? Wanky Balls. *sigh*

  11. Thanks for the link love, Ed. I’d always wondered where my blog figured in the great internet hierarchy. Now I know:

    Stuck between Miley Cyrus and Wanky Balls.

  12. Suzanne Oldenburger

    Daniel James Andrew,

    Youre reaction is great!! I am looking for you:)
    kiss from Holland


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