I've got your missing links right here (11th December 2010)

By Ed Yong | December 11, 2010 12:00 pm

Top ten picks

You’ll need a New Yorker subscription for the full article, but honestly, Jonah Lehrer’s piece – The Truth Wears Off – is worth it. It is deeply fascinating and deeply troubling. In discussing the fact that many scientific results wither away when replicated, Lehrer writes, “The decline effect is troubling because it reminds us how difficult it is to prove anything.” It makes me want to include a photo of Jonah next to all my pieces saying “Oh REALLY?” Meanwhile, Discover has a related piece on the “streetlight effect”.

“The Antikythera Mechanism is the oldest known scientific computer, built in Greece at around 100 BCE. Lost for 2000 years, it was recovered from a shipwreck in 1901. But not until a century later was its purpose understood: an astronomical clock that determines the positions of celestial bodies with extraordinary precision. In 2010, we built a fully-functional replica out of Lego.” Massive congratulations to John Pavlus, Adam Rutherford and Andy Carol for their astounding work. Read the “making of” post at John’s site.

The mice with two dads: Mickey and Jerry have produced baby mice with no mothers.

This is absolutely incredible. You can work out the entire genome of an unborn foetus using a blood sample from mum.

Brandon Keim has done a wonderful job with this community-funded investigation into white nose syndrome – the mysterious disease killing off American bats.

“They say, rather ingenuously, that if you have Alzheimer’s it’s the best form of Alzheimer’s to have. This is a moot point.” Terry Pratchett on his disease.

Chinese scientists dress up as pandas. As Neil Withers said on Twitter, maybe all pandas are scientists in suits. Picture 3 is especially wonderful. “The researchers wear panda costumes to ensure that the cub’s environment is devoid of human influence.” You mean, except for the plastic boxes and the human in a massive, stinky panda suit?

“All this work certainly builds a strong circumstantial case that the Oriental hornets have indeed evolved an organic solar collector—perhaps not photosynthetic in the usual sense, but something similar.” The solar-powered hornets are back in the news and John Rennie has a measured take on the paper.

What happens when an alligator bites an electric eel? The same thing that happens to everything else (nods at X-Men film).

The first MRI scan of a baby during birth reveals that babies look like the aliens from Mars Attacks.

More after the jump…

News/writing/stuff

“A female messenger could attract a more diverse crowd, including other women. The point of punditry is often to persuade people that science is worthwhile and, more to the point, deserves funding… Women should stand shoulder to shoulder with their male colleagues to make this happen.” Jenny Rohn has a great Nature piece on why female researchers should speak out in the media.

Hobbits shared their islands with giant storks.

Cancer villages” in Turkey could help to stave off a public health disaster in North Dakota.

I need a hero. “The goal of the project is simple: to put decades of experimental research to use in… churning out good guys with the same efficiency that gangs and terrorist groups produce bad guys.”

Mountain gorilla numbers “soar” by 26%. For perspective, there are now 480 rather than 380. My office floor has more people than that.

Mary Carmichael profiles Harvard geneticist George Church. As with all her stuff on personal genomics, it’s joyous.

Have a listen to Adam Rutherford’s radio documentary on epigenetics (will only work for Brits, I think).

Carl Zimmer alerts to a free series of online lectures where you can learn about astrobiology. A great, great resource.

Kirghiz tribesmen of central Asia use golden eagles to hunt and kill wolves. What? You don’t?

As species disappear, infectious diseases rise in humans and throughout the animal kingdom, so extinctions directly affect our health and chances for survival as a species.” Oh dear.

While I aspire to both, Obesity Panacea tells me that sitting too much is not the same as exercising too little

“Maybe there’s a gene for the belief that genes can explain everything. If so, I’m missing it.“ Casey Schwartz goes over the lamentable coverage of the “slut gene

3D without the headaches, thanks to “The I”. Frank Swain reports.

A fascinating look at weird, arcane world of dinosaur-naming (and why it hasn’t caught up with the web)

Scorpions glow in the dark to detect moonlight? Well it’s one idea, anyway.

“The starfish have effectively done a lot of the hard work for us” Non-stick starfish could inspire new anti-inflammation medicines

Did asteroids deliver bling to Earth? “It could have just have easily not have happened, and then you wouldn’t be wearing a gold ring after your wedding”

The world’s most expensive book sold for 10 million dollars, and it’s a natural history classic – JJ Audobon’s Birds of America. I’ve always loved the wonderful contorted poses for the long-necked species.

Neuroscience – it will not help you design the right kitchen. But can it help me pick between 235 virtually identical shades of creamy white paint?

No evidence of time before Big Bang. (I’m crap at physics and I can’t even remember what I did last Tuesday, so just imagine how painful this is for me…)

It’s not looking good for coral reefs.

This is why your iPod battery wears out: charging makes nanowires dance and deform (on video, no less)

Then and Now: repeat photography captures changing landscapes

Flying on a laser. I love this because the practical applications are unknown. It’s just “neat”.

Everest is littered with dead, exposed bodies. Warning, there are lots of graphic photos.

Huh/wow/heh

Here’s a list of different things by length, across several orders of magnitude. I love Wikipedia so much.

Remember that hilarious paper on writer’s block? It has been replicated.

Ageing Kazakhstan President asks scientists to find fountain of youth. You can practically hear him yelling, “What’s taking so long?!”

Two penguins re-enact Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. And ducklings get blown off their feet by the wind

Wow. Look at the Sun’s massive “prominence”. It’s a million kilometres across. I have flare envy.

The Daily Mash: Assange to escape from police at the top of some stairs

RCT = Randomised Crocodile Touching

XKCD’s complete map of optimal tic-tac-toe moves

Jeremy Hunt gets renamed on live radio. You might also enjoy this list of top 13 howlers.

“Cortical response to electrical stimulation in human rectum”. No wonder they only recruited 17 volunteers.

This blog goes into a scary level of detail on the legal implications of living in a world of superheroes and supervillains

Blogging/internet/journalism

Say hi to Jenny Rohn, Richard Grant, Henry Gee, Cath Ennis, Dr Aust, Erika Cule, Stephen Curry, Frank Norman and more at their new blogging network – Occam’s Typewriter.

Journalism gets a lot of criticism, but seldom with any data behind it. This, therefore, is good. Scientists rated the accuracy of news stories about cancer genetics. Overall, the scores were middling but press release claims were more likely to be accurate than those in news stories. The study also highlights the importance of external quotes.

I wrote 33,000 words in November. Also, my posts are three times longer than the average blogger. Science3.0 has some interesting data on blogger productiveness.

The most horrific newspaper correction of all time. I think I threw up a little bit.

Can you defame someone with a hyperlink?

So, Wikileaks. Umberto Eco has a wonderful piece on Wikileaks, positing that we’re in a bizarrely recursive Orwellian world where the state watches its citizens and the citizens watch the state. John Naughton has a great piece on why we need to live with the WikiLeakable world or shut down the net. Emily Bell has a great post on how Wikileaks has woken up journalism. And finally, the Atlantic: if you absolutely positively have to know what to think about Wikileaks, accept no substitutes.

The Guardian wrote that “just one British black Caribbean student was admitted to Oxford last year.” A case of discrimination? No, a salutary lesson in statistics. Seamus McCauley brings the true analysis at virtualeconomics.co.uk.

And finally… absolutely wonderful. Media mistakes and corrections of the year. Cooks Source, Climategate, plus many other hilarious examples.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Links

Comments (11)

  1. Robert

    Maybe I’m showing a little cluelessness here, but what exactly was the most horrific newspaper correction of all time? Nothing in that linked page seemed so bad to me…

  2. The concept of Simply Red having sex, let alone more sex than previously suggested

  3. Robert

    Hmm, I’m just not seeing it on that linked page. I’ll stop nit-picking what might be the most trivial link this week, though, and continue to enjoy the others. A great collection, as usual.

  4. “Latest research deflates the idea that the Universe cycles for eternity”
    Nietzsche will be pleased to know
    ***
    “Remember that hilarious paper on writer’s block? It has been replicated”
    I could become an authority on that subject
    ***
    “Kirghiz tribesmen of central Asia use golden eagles to hunt and kill wolves”
    Good article and AMAZING video! (Despite the fact that I do like wolves)
    ***
    “Mountain gorilla numbers “soar” by 26%
    Percentages alone mean nothing, my old Ecology professor used to say. (His actual word were rather different, and not only because he spoke in Italian…)
    “For perspective, there are now 480 rather than 380. My office floor has more people than that”
    Good point
    ***
    “What happens when an alligator bites an electric eel? The same thing that happens to everything else (nods at X-Men film)”
    Is the ell dead as well? It seems trapped in the alligator’s (but I bet it’s actually a caiman?) jaws, outside of the water…
    ***
    “Ageing Kazakhstan President asks scientists to find fountain of youth”
    I’m surprised it was not Berlusconi who said that. Probably the Kazakh stole his idea
    ***
    “Two penguins re-enact Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”.
    If Martin Freeman gets injured one of them would be a nice Bilbo. Oh wait…

  5. I mentioned the caiman point on Twitter, but Kevin Zelnio noted that caimans are part of the family Alligatoridae and the word is Spanish for alligator, so it doesn’t really matter that much.

  6. Robert

    Ah. There it is. Yes. Wow. : /

  7. DavidB

    I think the alligator (or caiman) is not dead, just stunned. Right at the end of the clip it starts moving its hind legs. Alligators are very tough.

  8. About Simply Red: Why does this story remind me of that line from some movie about taking the number of women a man says he has slept with and dividing it by three…(of course that number would still be disgustingly ridiculous in this case)

  9. zackoz

    About Simply Red (whoever that is): haven’t there been surveys with results something like the following?:

    – average number of women men claim to have slept with: 40

    – average number of men women claim to have slept with: 5.

    Slight logical problem there.

    I was going to comment on the writer’s block item too, but

  10. Daniel J. Andrews

    I remember reading about the Antikythera Mechanism when I was quite young, and they mystery gripped me. I had heard they solved the mystery a short while ago, but seeing it represented on the video (with Lego at that!) is brilliant.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Not Exactly Rocket Science

Dive into the awe-inspiring, beautiful and quirky world of science news with award-winning writer Ed Yong. No previous experience required.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »