I’ve got your missing links right here (19 March 2011)

By Ed Yong | March 19, 2011 12:00 pm

Top ten picks

For obvious reasons, this week’s picks will take a slightly different format. First up is a list of my favourite coverage of the Japanese crisis, followed by five other top picks.



In pictures and video

Political and social ramifications


The coverage

The Psychology of Bloggers vs. Journalists: Jay Rosen invites you to lie down on his couch and discusses the origin of lazy thinking on both sides of this tired, tired debate.

Possibly my favourite thing of the year – Craig Venter got a cease and desist letter from the Joyce estate after including a line from one of Joyce’s poems in the genome of his synthetic organism. He also messed up a Feynman quote. Maybe version 2.0 can have a retraction and correction in it?

Does XMRV cause chronic fatigue syndrome? Ewen Callaway covers the debate and more interestingly, the story about the woman who is the biggest defender of the XMRV idea.

Jonathan Eisen finds something… weird. Is it a fourth domain of life or just some freaky viruses? Or both? New Scientist has an easy take, and Carl Zimmer has a masterful piece that provides some context and includes a guest appearance from me and my “Yong-o-matic Horizontal Gene Transfer Injector”. But surely for the most thorough (but hardest) version, you should go to the man himself.

I was going to do an April Fools’ post on the Journal of Cosmology but I can’t outdo their actual staff. NASA’s Chief Scientist is a Grand Inquisitors, journalists are on their payroll, there’s a big cover-up, none of the critics of Hoover’s paper (on bacteria’ fossils in meteorites) are “legitimate scientists”, and so on. Meanwhile, Chandra Wickramasinghe speaks about his sacking by Cardiff University


A Brief History of Awesome by Alice Bell, who also muses on the value of science fairs

Maryn McKenna uses St Patrick’s Day as an excuse for a story about history and disease.

Jonah Lehrer gets tough on talent, tough on the causes of talent.

Check out Rose Eveleth’s new blog Sounds Like Science – every post accompanied by cool recording. Nice idea. HT @BoraZ

The lionfish is delicious and needs to die.

MESSENGER becomes the first craft to orbit Mercury. Every article I read about this feels like it’s shouting the probe’s name at me.

Your brain is a rain forest – an interesting piece on neurodiversity

A wearable PET scanner? Rats wake up for behavioural research.

The microbiome never ceases to amaze – friendly bacteria fight the flu. Another reason not to give antibiotics to the virally sick?

“I do not want to resort to hyperbole, but it feels like a whole generation of would-be scientists is being snubbed” Nathan Ley on what it’s like to apply for a studentship in the UK just as the government’s austerity measures start to bite

Human and other primates have similar aging patterns

The power of lonely – what we do better without other people around. Other than using the toilet.

When did Europeans first harness fire? Later than thought, apparently. And how does Richard Wrangham react to an idea that contradicts his hypothesis that cooking helped drive human intelligence? Rather charmingly, it turns out.

“Oh, that internet. It has not a single citation and it is positively full of blackguards and scoundrels.” I’m paraphrasing. Read the actual response from McDermott & Rosen on the charge of ignoring the post-publication peer review of arsenic life.

I like to think of myself as an “Apatosaurus denialist.” Brian Switek eulogises Brontosaurus

Both science and spirituality came from space.” “We have to conclude that the second law has in fact been violated here”. Applied Mathematical Letters has all the best retracted papers.

Heather Pringle on Google People Finder and not being evil

International Space Station operations will continue until 2020

Should smallpox virus be destroyed?

Jeremy Yoder thoroughly and calmly takes apart the claim that homophobia is adaptive.

Bats and whales, from parasites of snails. Where did animals comes from? Carl Zimmer reports.

“The purpose of keeping these retraction notices slim is not to produce too much detail” http://bit.ly/gOBAyY HT @ivanoransky


Ants in my scanner: 5 year time-lapse of an ant colony changing in a scanner, by Catherine de Lange

Whirling jaws of death – I’ll never look at rotifers in the same way again

I refuse to believe that we cannot find gainful employment for a good swordmaker.

“This page is meant to explain some of the basic steps of Norse wooden shipbuilding, and should not be regarded as a complete how-to guide.”

Moviebarcodes: films deconstructed by scene colour palettes

‘Planet Earth’ PA Still Trying To Get Release Forms From Every Bird In Serengeti

DARPA to train soldiers, sorry “warfighters”, to “achieve positive outcomes during the difficult social encounters“.

In a scientific first, two researchers managed to… OH KITTENS!

Maths leads to better head

Heh. This cracked me up.

My schedule, courtesy of XKCD

Mapping the legitimacy of fictional doctors: Venkman, Brown, Doom, Strangelove etc


Do specialist journalists need to know anything about their subject? Do you need a science degree to write about science? Ben Goldacre discusses.

I usually hate “X is dead” stories but when X is SEO, I will queue to twist the knife

Some reactions to churnalism.com including some frankly absurd defensiveness

Watch the Science Online 2011 session heard round science blogosphere – perils of blogging as a woman under a real name

The Economist on why the atomic unit of journalism is probably going to move away from “the article

This is a public service announcement. Stop Linking To “Top 100 Blogs”. And more reasons here.

Nerds, we need to have a talk

Journalists, this is how you handle a Twitter screw-up

The US military is paying companies to invent internet trolls. I love how the tone of the article makes it sound like this is a new nefarious scheme and not something that happens all the time anyway


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