I've got your missing links right here (2nd October 2010)

By Ed Yong | October 2, 2010 12:00 pm


I’m tellin y’all it’s sabotage! Brendan Maher discusses the fascinating case of Vipul Bhrigu, a postdoc who “destroyed the experiments of a colleague in order to get ahead. It took a hidden camera to expose a surreptitious and malicious side of science.”

Prompted by my post on masturbating squirrels, Daniel Engber at Slate republished an entire feature on animal masturbation.

“Surprisingly, the pattern of homicides resembled an exchange of gifts.” A fascinating Vaughan Bell piece on the social side of murder.

“So cheer up and take it from us that even if we kicked you in the pants it was between friends.” An amusing series of exchanges between DNA pioneers Crick, Watson, Wilkins and Franklin.

“I feel that we are all mad.” A disturbing look at water politics in the Nile valley and the conflicts between the upstream countries that control the water and the downstream countries that need it.

Jonah Lehrer, aged, 10, spells out his wisdom about how to practice 50 percent less but still get the same benefits.

“About 350 million years ago, evolution took one small step for fish, and a giant leap for every terrestrial animal since. According to a new study, it was all made possible by plants.”

It’s okay. Contrary to popular assertions, the UN has not yet selected an alien ambassador. The post is obviously still open.

Most Earth-like planet yet spotted in a habitable zone. Already has a Starbucks on it. Probably. Phil Plait discusses the story.

Hey, good news! We won’t have to saw off the top of your skull! cough*we’llgothroughtheeyeinstead*cough*

I really like the concept of this New Scientist piece celebrating the vast improbability of human existence – the 10 cosmic accidents that allowed us to happen. Soaring stuff.

Look into my eyes. “No longer a mere vaudeville routine, hypnosis is being used in labs to cast light on the innermost workings of the brain”

“Imagine being violated by masses of dynamic and powerful net-like pseudopodia and torn to pieces from the inside.” If you ever find yourself really small, do not f**k with forams.

Carl Zimmer discusses the monkey in the mirror – a potentially important new paper on monkey self-recognition.

More after the jump…

A mat of bacteria “as big as Greece” has been found off the coast of Chile

Eye injuries, cyborgs, and how to win a battle with leaflets – Steve Silberman on the fascinating life of Cordwainer Smith

Bottlenose and Guyana dolphins, two distantly related species…make unique sounds, but when they gather, they change the way they communicate, and begin using an intermediate language.”

Promising to tell the truth, rather than discussing its morality, makes 8- to 16-year-olds more honest.

Death by thousand cuts continues. Britain faces brain drain as cuts force top scientists to leave country.

“Frank Oppenheimer: physicist, bomb-builder, balloon-launcher, political activist, cowboy(ish), teacher and museum-maker. A fascinating chap. Even if he did kill kittens.” Alice Bell on the father of the atomic bomb and the San Francisco Exploratorium.

“Neuroscientists claim we are closer to being able to estimate brain maturity using brain scans, which might prompt lawyers to offer a defence of immaturity based on an accused individual’s own brain scan.” Hmm… A somewhat sensational lede gives way to a more interesting debate about the use of brain scans in court to make claims about child responsibility and maturity.

It’s not exactly brain surg… oh wait. This interactive website lets you pretend you’re a neurosurgeon.

“The worm is removed… with forceps, but not until a 10% cocaine solution has been dripped onto the infected eye.” Wince-inducing stuff from Weinersmith, a cool new ecology/parasitology blog I found last week.

“It looks dead, it plays dead, it pretty much is dead until the next day.” Gaia Vince on the oscar, a cool Amazonian fish with a penchant for playing dead

Top dinosaur hunters are worst at naming. The more fossil species you describe, the less likely the names are to stick.

Therileria, a cattle parasite, captures its hosts cell division machinery so it ends up in both daughter cells.

Out of mind, out of sight: a great Independent piece about blindsight, and a blind man who can ‘see’ obstacles

Two Harvard scientists speak up for Marc Hauser. Interesting, but seems to be a bit of a character statement rather than an actual assessment of events.

The European eelpout – a fish that suckles its young

“After a ten-year hiatus, the chimpanzees of the Alamogordo Primate Facility in New Mexico are being called back to duty”, a move that has “brought to a head a simmering debate about the use of chimpanzees for medical research.”

The excellent PalMD on the health advice that women get. Also check out the women’s health series over at Scientopia.

The baiji dolphin – recently extinct and already in danger of being forgotten

“If low serotonin levels aren’t responsible for depression, what is?” asks SciCurious in the Guardian.

“It’s like Jay-Z turning up in the BMJ.” Why they don’t write science like they used to, by Hayley Birch.

Giraffe necks – are they for food or for sex?

The panda: surprisingly good at life

An excellent post by Hannah Waters on the evolution of eukaryotes


This is amazing. Just a few army ants, dropped into the nest of some harvester ants, causes them to. Freak. Out.

“The succession of images reveals a gradual disappearance of the rat’s body, accompanied by an overall expansion of the snake’s intestine, shrinking of the gallbladder and a 25 percent increase in heart volume.” New imaging tech shows a python digesting a rat.

“You get the sense that this kind of thing happens more often than not” A set of high-speed videos of flying insects includes a hilarious one of bumping bees

The Museum of Scientifically Accurate Brain Fabric Art. I love the disclaimer: “While our artists make every effort to insure accuracy, we cannot accept responsibility for the consequences of using fabric brain art as a guide for functional magnetic resonance imaging, trans-cranial magnetic stimulation, neurosurgery, or single-neuron recording.“

Ever wonder who “Daily Mail Reporter” is? Now you can follow her/him on Twitter

Parents, you know what to do.

When a lift falls, your fat ass will finally come into play.

Science nerds vie for the right to live in a human zoo (“museum”) for a month

Excellent XKCD cartoon featuring Stephen Hawking

Vegas hotel sunburn death ray shocker.


This week’s must-read piece: This is a news website article about a scientific finding, by Martin Robbins. I can’t quote a specific bit. It’s just excellent throughout, as are the meta-comments.

Wired editor David Rowan gave a great speech on how to save science journalism, which chimes with many fo the ideas that I’ve raised in the past. He also gave me a nice name-check.

Congrats to Sheril Kirshenbaum for the early praise of her upcoming book, The Science of Kissing.

Bora Zivkovic on why we love (and need) Mythbusters

“The scientific establishment is apparently retracting unsubstantiated papers all the time. That’s a story!” The Knight Science Journalism Tracker praises Ivan Oransky’s Retraction Watch, and rightly so.

“The pitch is this: We’ll sell you a blog, and your content will live alongside that of Forbes’ journalists and bloggers.” This is Forbes’ master plan. This is why Pepsigate was, and still is, important.

The interesting interview on the science of narrative is relevant to the debate about whether journalists should take sides. “Every word you select is an act of prejudice.”

Here’s a superb example of the “I just write this shit down” school of journalism.

Malcolm Gladwell is dubious about the value of Twitter and Facebook for social activism. Alexis Madrigal responds, and collects responses from others who are unconvinced by Gladwell’s New Yorker piece.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Links, Uncategorized

Comments (5)

  1. Quill2006
  2. Gaythia

    ““So cheer up and take it from us that even if we kicked you in the pants it was between friends.” An amusing series of exchanges between DNA pioneers Crick, Watson, Wilkins and Franklin.” ???

    We are not “amused”:

    “The letters also help to illuminate the significant role played by Franklin in the discovery, and the discord between her and the rest of the group. The ground-breaking paper, published in 1953, held only vague references to her contributions (which included the crystallography and x-ray from which Watson and Crick’s double helix idea arose).

    Just before Dr Franklin was to leave King’s College, Dr Wilkins wrote to the Cambridge scientists that “the smoke of witchcraft will soon be getting out of our eyes”. Explaining the situation to BBC News, Nature’s commissioning editor Sara Abdullah said it added to “the canon of awful things said about [Dr Franklin]. I think ’sexist’ is what we are groping around for.” [BBC News]”

    “awful” and “sexist” are much more apt descriptions.

  3. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Damn you! 😀 Too many links, too little time.

    “I really like the concept of this New Scientist piece celebrating the vast improbability of human existence – the 10 cosmic accidents that allowed us to happen. Soaring stuff.”

    Um, most of those are of the type “I’m really a vastly improbable individual”. From Earth’s perspective, it was an accumulating series of choice in pathways. From a general observer’s perspective, nothing extraordinary happened.

    There remains two factors that biologists seem to attribute to rare contingency, multicellularity and brain growth.

    But both are suspect IMHO.

    The recent findings of deep phylogeny endomembrane analogue endowed eubacteria clades that have endocytosis and yeast analogue enclosed nucleus/budding mechanisms (Planctomycetes, esp. G. obscuriglobus), descendants from a putative eukaryote ancestor (likely ancestors, considering recent multi-gene phylogenies like the “mega-matrix”), encourage us to look for more examples of endosymbiosis.

    And they certainly have the same separated transcription-translation system that allow eukaryotes to grow cells that “stretch for well over a metre”.

    Similarly the whole primate tree started to grow larger brains a couple of million years back.

    In sum the claim that human analogues are extraordinary is a claim that may need extraordinary evidence instead of simple “contingency made it so”.

  4. My favourite science content articles are the pair from BBC news – the communicating dolphins and the suckling fish.

    My favourite opinion piece is the one about Mythbusters.

    [Edit: Phil Plait’s commentary on the new planet is also a favourite in the science content category, but I didn’t count it as I’d already read it.]

  5. Great list of links, particularly liked the xkcd =)


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