I've got your missing links right here (12 February 2011)

By Ed Yong | February 12, 2011 12:55 pm

Top twelve picks

An amazing post by Greg Downey on “uncontacted tribes” and the perils of using technical terms that sound like everyday ones.

Does grief proceed through five stages? Is it better to let it all out? Here’s a stonking debunking of myths about grief, including the surprising origins of the “stages of grief” model, by Ruth Davis Konigsberg

Army ant week on Myrmecos has been a joy. In particular, he may have outdone himself with this top photo. And I loved this: “Capturing a well-composed, properly exposed image is challenging. And then 300 ants simultaneously decide to kill you.”

An autistic man who communicates using the visual language of photos, by Steve Silberman.

Carl Zimmer explains the amazing feats of fleas’ ‘feet, plus another good take from NPR. This story is brilliant for the video and St Tiggywinkles Hospital.

Behold Bora Zivkovic’s incredible opus on clock genes

The average human eats 100 trillion genes a day, by Emily Anthes

“He recently produced a series of light paintings – dubbed “Light Skeletons” – in the snow, with light as his paintbrush and, well, the night as his canvas.” By Jennifer Ouellette

In which @jtotheizzoe wonderfully relates differences between reprogrammed stem cells and embryonic ones to The Wire

You’ve always wondered how long a severed head stays conscious for, haven’t you? By Vaughan Bell

Robert Krulwich on carnivorous furniture. Yes, you read that correctly.

One of the most important skills a science communicator can have: knowing when to say “I don’t know”. By Emily Finke


Required reading for skeptics: “I am desperate, scared, guilt-ridden and sometimes ill-informed. I am vulnerable, not stupid.”

What do we know about the woman trying to derail federal funding for embryonic stem cells? A great feature by Meredith Wadman

The real Dr House: Medical detectives find their first new disease

An evolutionary can of worms. Compare this Nature story by Amy Maxmen with this press release of the same paper

When a new “noninferior” antibiotic is big news, we’re in a whole lot of trouble. By Maryn McKenna

Two cases of people using bites from venomous snakes to get high

“Think twice before mixing Triassic milk with your cornflakes.” Top stuff from Lucas Brouwers on the origin of milk

How did dinosaurs have sex?” asks Brian Switek. A filthier person would make a “saur-us” joke…

Can parasitic worms be used to treat autism? The Scientist has a feature, but PalMD isn’t pleased.

Mark Henderson won a Medical Journalists’ Award for this feature on cancer in Eureka. It’s really very good and you should read it.

There was a new paper on sexual discrimination against women in science this week. I was hoping for some good critical analysis, and Alice Bell provided it, as did Gwyneth Dickey Zakaib (with some great comments) and Raima Larter.

Could the Pakistan floods have been predicted? Well, they sort of were. Excellent stuff by Anne Jefferson

“Neither discovery would’ve happened w/o intense collaboration between animal experts & human experts.” Virginia Hughes on collaborations between doctors and vets.

An artist grafts a camera attachment to back of his head for an art project. His immune system, clearly a philistine, rejects it

Vaughan Bell on the nature of female groaning during sex. Dear men, that’s the sound of your egos bursting.

David Attenborough narrates wonderful footage of a Madagascan spider that lives in snail shells suspended from bushes

It took me six months to mount the squirrel.” No this is about taxidermy, you filthy deviants. Great piece by Amber Williams

Graphic time-lapse video captures Jumbo sex

At least 30 UK neuroscience units to be lobotomised under cuts proposed by BBSRC

Why opals aren’t like armadillos, and why they might be useful for swimsuits. By Viv Raper on SciCurious’s blog

“Let’s say good-bye to the straw-feminist… [and] her antithesis, the value-free mouthpiece of scientific facts,” says Cordelia Fine.

“Well sir, your genetic test reveals a lower than average risk of diabetes. However, incest.”

Brian Christian won the “Most Human Human” Award for the person most easily identified as a person in a Turing test

Dodos weren’t fat. The painting adds ten pounds. By Brian Switek.

Keep calm and carry on: the data. People don’t actually panic that much in a crisis.

Peer reviewers apparently get worse with experience. New postdocs make the best peer reviewers

People need language to fully understand numbers

There’s an endangered species waiting list & the walrus is on it. It’s semi-threatened. Endangered-ish.

Ben Goldacre asks why politicians find it so hard to make evidence-based decisions

Cold birds grow better memories to deal with winter, by Ferris Jabr

Native plants evolve to fight off invading species, by Mary Beth Griggs

Objectifying gaze triggers conflicting outcomes for women (and an old related piece from me)

Which two undergrad schools produce most of the students getting PhD’s in the USA? Clue: they’re both in China.

The study that dispelled the idea that homosexuality was a mental illness

An awesome fossil snake with legs

Crested gibbons sing in different dialects

As of this week, we can see the entire sun. Amazingly, it’s STILL a massive ball of fire from the back.

PLoS blogs have nabbed Hillary Rosner. Go read her intro post where she talks about how she grew to love science, having once hated it.

Moving mosses and sailing stones, by Jennifer Frazer

Sleight-of-hand master: “the ideal audience is Nobel Prize winners…’I am smart so I can’t be fooled.'”

An excellent introduction to epigenetics


The Malcolm Gladwell Book Generator

The most informative piece of technical communication you will ever see.

Today’s fun fact: narwhal flesh has the same concentration of vitamin C as an orange. “Sir, you have scurvy; here’s a narwhal”

The ultimate purpose of evolution has been discovered

Feeding blacktip sharks from the air (and a rubbish heron). It really kicks off at 00:32

It’s a game about correlations

Wolverine? Or two Bat Men?

Microsoft applies make-up to Nokia’s corpse

A Valentine’s card for geeks and journalists

This kid is a senior in college biology and doesn’t understand why E.O. Wilson is speaking to him. He wants answers. He is a moron.

Wonderful: a Kickstarter campaign to replace racism with robots in “Huck Finn.”

In 1965, Ray Kurzweil appeared on a gameshow called I’ve Got A Secret


A taxonomy and analysis of claims about how the internet with save us, doom us all.

I missed this the first time round but Carl Zimmer’s thoughts on “not everyone agrees” is essential reading for science journalists

Riffing off John Rennie’s manifesto, Caleb Garling discusses how to fix truthiness in science journalism

AOL has bought the Huffington Post. United, they will push small CD-ROMs advertising woo through your front door… Capital has a good take on the deal, Slate’s piece starts off wonderfully, but this Reuters piece (in my opinion) misses the point. The reason why the HuffPo is so full of flashy widgets compared to the New York Times is that it doesn’t have any other content worth looking at.

A wonderful discussion on science writing by two peerless writers: Rebecca Skloot and EO Wilson

Sigh. Compare and contrast this article, and the paper it was based on. High heels? Sigh.

Gawker redesigned itself. People complained. Chris Mims says that Gawker’s redesign is the future of Gawker. Period.

Ivan Oransky: “It’s journalistic malpractice to not have full study in front of you when reporting.” Too bloody right!

Carl Zimmer tells the story behind his NYT microbiome story.

The Washington Post installs a Report-the-error button on every page. Scott Rosenberg commends them and offers advice


Comments (12)

  1. j0ns1m0ns

    According to a tweet from the BBSRC, the idea that 30 neuroscience units will close is incorrect, based on an error at their media briefing. Oops.

  2. Joe Hanson

    Thanks for the link, Ed! This week’s list is a fairly magnum opus in itself . . .

  3. Glidingpig

    “Vaughan Bell on the nature of female groaning during sex. Dear men, that’s the sound of your egos bursting.” is giving error 404.

    The galloping mosses is pure win.

  4. “Today’s fun fact: narwhal flesh has the same concentration of vitamin C as an orange”

    And polar bears’ liver is so rich in vitamic A that it’s poisonous to eat

  5. yogi-one

    Re: myths about grief

    “Stonking” ? Whoa, what a cool word!

  6. “An evolutionary can of worms. Compare this Nature story by Amy Maxmen with this press release of the same paper”

    And the dude who produced that idiotic press release brags about it on his LinkedIn profile: http://ca.linkedin.com/in/raillantclark

  7. (The urge to send him a nasty email has not been resisted).

  8. Thanks for the shoutout, Ed. This is a pretty impressive list of things to read; I’m honoured to be part of it.

  9. Firstly, thank you for the extraordinary visibility.

    While I understand that the press release is not of the same scientific standing as a Nature commissioned article, “naturally” the target audience of a press release is not the same. Thanks to my colleagues at the PostMedia network of newspapers, I am proud to have Canadians from coast-to-coast thinking about evolution. In this era of cut-and-paste journalism, it is indeed easy to forget that a press release is first and foremostly a tool for encouraging journalists (most of whom do not have a scientific background) to engage with researchers. As scientific coverage in the mainstream media declines, universities are reaching out to bridge the culture gap. I work extremely closely with researchers to write press releases that are attention grabbing, provoking, and scientifically accurate – there has never been a document issued from desk that has not been approved by the researcher involved. On that note, I would hope that any journalist who does not find sufficient information in a press release would request an interview.

    If you are interested, University College London and the University of Florida also issued press releases about these findings. You can find them here http://bit.ly/hW9ZzT and here http://bit.ly/fY6p7G .

    As far as I can tell, Université de Montréal’s press release is the only one to have received widespread pick up in the traditional media, but please do correct me if I am wrong. On a different note, I read with interest your article about PIO’s who ignore new media, and I would like to reassure you that you will never encounter that attitude at our institution.

    Thank you once again,

    William Raillant-Clark
    International Press Attaché – Attaché de presse international
    Foreign, English-speaking and scientific media – Médias étrangers, anglophones et scientifiques
    +1-514-343-7593 (09h00-17h00 heure locale) | Urgence: +1-514-566-3813
    linkedin.com/in/raillantclark | facebook.com/wraillantclark | @UMontreal_News

  10. Thank you for including my post within your top twelve! Being included with those posts made me do a happy little fangirl dance.

    In looking through the whole list, I’m rather alarmed at just how many of those I read this week. I’m not sure if I need to cut back on my blog reading, or proudly embrace it.

  11. I am usually not three days late for your linkfests. But better late than never. You always find at least a few good links I missed (yes, true!).

  12. Daniel J. Andrews

    I’m still working my way through the list–lots of really good reading–but the one that made my jaw drop was the biology student who wanted to know why E.O. Wilson was speaking to them.

    Also, happy to see a new Sir David Attenborough clip.


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