I've got your missing links right here (28 May 2011)

By Ed Yong | May 28, 2011 12:00 pm

Top thirteen picks

“It may seem nonsense to think of the (probably sceptical) intelligence with which you interpret these words as something on a par with plate tectonics or photosynthesis. But dam by dam, mine by mine, farm by farm and city by city it is remaking the Earth before your eyes.” A beautiful piece of writing on the impact of humans on the planet, probably by Ollie Morton.

A beautiful piece about two twins, joined at the head, who might share a mind. By Susan Dominus

An awesome idea from David Dobbs – The Best American and British Rejected Magazine Stories. His response to Robert Krulwich’s amazing speech, and what veteran journalists can get out of the new ecosystem.

How Not to Be an Asshole: A Guide For Men by Chris Clarke. An excellent, must-read post.

The virus releases an enzyme that literally makes the animal dissolve.” Carl Zimmer on zombie viruses & biotech

Matt Wedel talks about the world’s longest cells in the nervous systems of sauropods. A great example of blogging your own research.

Why life is like Lego, and why it matters for the search for aliens, by Lucas Brouwers

Yes, there’s still a global extinction crisis, despite what a recent Nature paper (and the subsequent coverage) might suggest.  Meanwhile, in the NYT, one of the peer reviewers of the disputed paper identifies himself

A very cool post on sleep habits around the world, by Jessa Gamble.

“For one individual, this breakthrough was… more than 27 years old.” Curing paralysis – again. An amazing story by R. Douglas Fields.

Addictive, hilarious, illuminating blog from @Rachelvspublic, a woman who works a debt collection line for a mortgage lender

In the war against spam, scientists buy lots and lots of Viagra.

How ads implant false memories. A fascinating and worrying piece by Jonah Lehrer.


“Perhaps after 34 years it’s time for us to confess that we invented cello scrotum.” On pigeons, guitar nipples, migraines, Picasso and an idea retraction. Too Hard for Science? E. O. Wilson–A Vertical Map of Life on Earth

Science published #arseniclife responses (and response to the responses)

I’d always wondered… Rose Eveleth looks at why people sometimes think their mobile phones are ringing when they’re not.

Ben Goldacre on the ‘angst-inducing context that surrounds every piece of academic research you read’

I missed this detail but the “data” in the infamous Kanazawa post on black women was based on n=3. Meanwhile, Khadijah Britton looks at his claims (with a wonderful lede), and Scott Kaufman dismantles Kanazawa with data.

Pilot whales: social creatures in dangerous straits

Among 369 systematic reviews of traditional Chinese medicine, not a single one disclosed funding info, 29% had statistical errors, and 46% were published in journals with an impact factor of zero.

How To Set Someone On Fire – the Neuroskeptic looks at whether you can set fire to petrol by dropping a match on it.

A mouth that looked like a camera-shutter-of-doom.” Brian Switek on anomalocariids, which got bigger and lived later than anyone thought.

Hailing bacteria. I love this topic; here’s an old post from me on snow-making bacteria

Electrons are near-perfect spheres. “If an electron was size of solar system, it’d be out from perfectly round by less than the width of a human hair.” And terrifying…

Even tiny bits of exercise are associated with increased fitness. Like furious typing, right?

Erika Check Hayden reflects on the unpleasant taste of hype by reflecting on two very different Science papers – arseniclife and the RNA/DNA differences one.

The genetics of IQ and the politics of IQ testing, by Stephanie Zvan.

The brain: like a Twitter network but “more clustered, less efficient”. Cool live hashtagging experiment

Scicurious retracts her post on mobile phones and dying bees. If only everyone could admit their mistakes with this level of grace.

Nature cares not for cute – Giant water bug photographed devouring baby turtle

Same genes may be involved in domestication of dogs & pigs – and bonobos! (Paywall)

“You immediately grasp that something is fishy with this fish.” Brandon Keim interviews Hans Fricke about coelocanths

A tiny tiny English dinosaur

“BOOM chicka wow wow.” Alligators flirt by way of infrasonic booms.

Obama recognises that nerds are the future, tells UK govt.

Anti-abortion group drafted in as sexual health adviser to government. Oh dear.

Tracking whale sharks with astronomical algorithms, by Brandon Keim

On artists, liars and “Chronic confabulation” by Ian Leslie, whose new book about liars has just come out

New Bacteria Lives on Caffeine

Good idea, important cause: WordsMatter praises good media reporting on mental health issues & challenge the bad.

Top 10 New Species of 2010 include tyrant leech, fruit-eating monitor, and the spinner of the world’s largest spider-web

Smallpox will get to survive for a few more years at least

‘Lingodroid’ robots evolve own language to plot in secret, I mean, speak to each other

New Lancet study on sex-selective abortion in India shows that it’s highest among richest, most educated families

Lioness steals camera; makes her own film

“[We’ve] missed a huge fraction of the [fungi] kingdom (perhaps even approaching half).” Wait, HALF? By Jennifer Frazer, on a study that I highlighted last week.

Journey to the Centre of the Earth – too hard for science? by @cqchoi http://is.gd/tIB0Z3

Major initiative launches to develop apps to help autistic people communicate

Publication bias: male PIs are more likely to bury unwelcome study results than female PIs

Textbooks being rewritten. New Scientist on when scientists get it wrong.

Optogenetics – the science of controlling brains with light – explained in a video

A Toronto couple is keeping their baby’s sex a secret so the child won’t be constrained by gender roles

Ancient DNA retrieved from hairs in fossil sloth poop

A 135-year old scab creates a smallpox scare at a museum.

Pope talks to sky. Sky finally talks back.

Should we just let athletes use performance-enhancers? Why we’re dopes about doping


<whispers> “Dude. Stop. Waving. And. Turn. Slowly. To. Your. Left….” I love the cheery blue naked guy against whom all fossil animals are measured

World’s best Tetris player. No really. You can’t imagine how good he is.

Which way should you wipe?

Useful computer backup kit

“Literally Unbelievable” – How Facebookers interpret Onion articles

Gorgeous satellite view of erupting Grimsvotn

Just wonderful. There is nothing left to learn. List of problems solved by MacGyver

From now on, when commenters point out typos without saying anything else, I’ll simply reply with this

How bloggers can enhance the brands of established media institutions

“Deadly New Virus Found To Be ‘Real Squiggly’

These are not normal… Plush statistical distribution pillows!

Stanford scientists announce that evolution will occur on Thursday; human arms to become 4-6 inches shorter

Amazing high-speed video of bumbling and stumbling parasitic wasps.

Correlation win! Suicide rates associated with proportion of low notes in country’s national anthem

The Journal of Politeness Research.


Twitter is My Graduate School

Please come into journalism and take over

Chris Mims on how the rise of Apple is just like the rise of mammals

A good interview about science journalism, and the problems of having to hype stories, not to the public, but to editors.

Interesting debate, told by Storify – is education what journalists do?

“Being an expert in social media is like being an expert at taking the bread out of the fridge”

Unpaid intern wins £1025 from publisher for 5 wks work after taking case to tribunal

From site analytics to discovering an unreported homicide in one hour, via Twitter and Facebook.

Scientific Communication all-you-can-eat Linkfest

Behold Encyclo: @NiemanLab’s encyclopedia of the future of news. Great idea, well-executed

In an iPad vs paper match, iPad users finished articles quicker & retained more info when reading on paper

Slate versus the em-dash. Should writers use them sparingly?

“You have to love it.” For Some, Blogs Also Pay the Bills

Author finds Chinese edition of her novel has photo of stranger


Comments (6)

  1. Robert S-R

    Ahh… another hit of links. You’ve got me hooked, Ed. For shame.

    (Oh, er, and the Suicide Rates link committed suicide.)

  2. Glidingpig

    ‘Tyrant leech’ and ‘the spinner of the world’s largest spider-web’ are both dead links.

    Oh, I should so leave it at that…

    I do like your list you put up, always some interesting items in it.

  3. Chris M.

    The “zombie virus” link is futzed, tinkered a moment and it looks like it ought to be


  4. Ed, thank you for the linkage and the kind words.

  5. “These are not normal”
    Best statistical joke ever

  6. n≠3. there were definitely more than 3 raters in the add health surveys.

    what kanazawa said was: “The physical attractiveness of each Add Health respondent is measured three times by three different interviewers over seven years.”

    the “three times” refers to the first three waves in the add health survey.

    in the first wave, 12,105 adolescents were interviewed for 1-2 hours during a 9 month period.

    if all the interviews were 1.5 hours, interviewing 12,105 subjects would amount to over 2270 eight-hour days.

    there’s only ca. 21.6 working days per month on average x 9 months x 3 interviewers = 583 eight hour days. but you’d need 12 interviewers to cover 2270 eight-hour days.

    and that’s just in the first wave. wave ii saw 15,000 students interviewed; wave iii, 15,170.

    also, the fieldworkers used typically work only a 20-25 hour week, so there’s at least twice the number of interviewers required than i’ve guessed at here.

    in any case, n≠3.

    there is still, however, the problem of the race and gender and age of the interviewers. that would be essential to know (along with the number!).


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