I've got your missing links right here (17 September 2011)

By Ed Yong | September 17, 2011 12:00 pm

Top picks

Italian seismologists are being accused of manslaughter for not predicting the L’Aquila quake. Great feature by Stephen S Hall

The dark side of the placebo effect: Alexis Madrigal looks at instances when belief can kill

Wonderful Robert Krulwich post about “extreme tidying up

Victor may have cerebral palsy, but cerebral palsy does not have Victor.” Wow. Bravo Jen Gunter, bravo.

If We Only Had Wings: delightful piece about the allure of personal flight from jet packs to hang gliders, by Nancy Shute.

Get laser-pointer 2) Get serval 3) Find crowded place 4) Hilarity

What People Don’t Get About My Job: From A(rmy Soldier) to Z(ookeeper)

A slow, creeping, invisible pressure” – Guardian piece on radiation anxiety after Fukushima by Jonathan Watts

Cadbury’s creme eggs – how do you eat yours? Vacuum chamber? Blow torch?

Why are strange lights sometimes seen ahead of earthquakes? Great audio reporting by Rose Eveleth

” Like Nostradamus, the predictions of Nautilus are only really successful in hindsight.” Analysis by Martin Robbins about the software that apparently predicted where Osama bin Laden was.

Genius. From Slate: Is it rude to rename your wi-fi network to send message to loud neighbors?

Inside Nature’s Giants dissected a leatherback turtle. This link might not work for people outside the UK and Ireland, but my word, this was an amazing episode. Favourite bit: Mark says “This is really really strange.” Yes Mark. You have your hand inside a leatherback’s oesophagus. That is a little strange.

Five iconic science images, and why they’re wrong. Great post by Frank Swain.

David Dobbs unpicks the impulsive, maddening teenage brain in his standard beautiful prose, with a guest appearance from his son: Taylor Dobbs, boy-racer.

How did T.rex sit down? Now you know, as part of NPR’s celebration of the tyrant lizard king.

The Krebs cycle. If there were one moment when kids all over the country lose interest in life sciences, it’s right here,” says Robert Krulwich. Elsewhere, this is how to teach the Krebs cycle!

Our Solar System, drawn to scale. Scroll right. Slowly.

Brainy molluscs evolved nervous systems not 1, not 2… but 4 times. Ferris Jabr reports.

“Please excuse my not mailing this but I don’t know your new address.” Richard Feynman’s love letter to his dead wife. Grab your tissues.


I don’t buy this business about escaped birds teaching wild ones to speak English. Help allay/confirm my skepticism

The special trick that helps identify dodgy stats

Parenting is not just for the ladies: on testosterone, fatherhood & why lower hormones are good for you.

Voracious hermaphrodite giant African snails infected with non-fatal meningitis invade Miami. Must be Thursday. I could never get the hang of Thursdays.

On my post on dinosaur feathers trapped in amber, someone asked if they’d yield DNA. Answer: unlikely, and we won’t check

Do video games improve our mental abilities? We can’t say because most of the evidence is rubbish, says Daniel Simons (he of Invisible Gorilla fame) See also: Mo Costandi’s take on Nature News

“[They] did just about everything one could do wrong with a paper.” Bear infanticide paper retracted

Accidental sea turtles deaths drop by 90%, attributed to improvements in fishing equipment

US can’t track 5,900 lbs of weapons-grade uranium/plutonium. Come on US, it’s probably under the sofa

Jorge Cham, creator of PhD comics has turned his comic strip into a movie.

Contagion! Maryn McKenna does a Q&A with the film’s scientific expert, along with fact-checks!

Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man Recreated On Arctic Ice

Can a bird poop crack a windshield? Final line cracked me up.

Why the eye is not like a camera, and why it matters to people building bionic eyes

Washington announces new school: Henrietta Lacks Health & Bioscience High School. Excellent!

Kanazawa apologises. Evidence wins.

A Prosthetic Limb That Lets Amputees Ride Bikes.

Save antimony! Risk list of endangered chemical elements

More Americans think the world is warming (60% the world is warming & our fault; 22% say it’s warming & not our fault)

Bankers: an anthropological study. Wunchology, perhaps.

Rhino Advocate Proposes Poisoning Horns to Protect Them from Poachers

How Whole Foods primes your brain to empty your wallet

The future of cognitive neuroscience: a thoughtful look forward (and back) by Jon Simons

Dozy hamsters reverse ageing. Kurzweil’s probably eating one right now.

“Does a toe make a good thumb?” “I think it does. It’s all working.” Doctors replace severed thumb w/ big toe

Mega crocodile vs. giant snake? More like mega crocodile adjacent to giant snake

Being knowledgeable beats being merely accurate? I don’t think your study means what you think it means

“Magnetic Resonance Imaging has been used to study the baking of a cookie.” Finally, science does something useful

SuperOrganism with ‘Social Intelligence’ is Devouring the Titanic

A history of WWF, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth turns out to have been largely churnalised from various websites. See this. Rubbish.

Facts don’t persuade climate skeptics, so maybe making them feel better about themselves will

Heinous Guatamalan experiments were really, really heinous

Zoo Death Stirs Debate About Keeping Dolphins in Captivity

Crows can wait for a better reward, just as well as monkeys

Idiot costs lives

Paternalism and expertism – how doctors deal with knowing stuff

Death by slow starvation. “Robots don’t want to kill all humans…they just want to take all their jobs”

In which Virginia Hughes debunks “ancient alien theory“, the History Channel and her mum.

Ghost-writing websites facilitate academic fraud. “The main response was one of indignant futility.”

“It’s stupid to stick to dry lands, because not only dry lands will become dry. It’s a global issue.” Scientists enter desert debate.

On the behavioural complexities of a child’s nap. Maybe we should all nap in the afternoon.

Robots invent own language, but “lingodroids” sounds like something you put ointment on.

Lions vs hyenas – fossil evidence of a deep rivalry over 37,000 years old http://t.co/Xzed3LE

Young bats learn to hunt by eavesdropping on more experienced bats

Glow cat: fluorescent green felines could help study of HIV http://t.co/STnezUs

Was Moses high?



Less than 100g – “a blog dedicated to tiny & beautiful stuff”

Unbelievable CT scan of a cocaine mule.

“She called it Spike.” Adorable 5-year-old girl finds massive 160 million-year-old ammonite fossil.

Here’s the faculty profile for Conan T. Barbarian, sacked yesterday by Trinity College Dublin.

This story, from headline to final line, is incredible. Surely a fake?

Pandora on Earth! The living tree bridges in the Khasi Hills of India.

“He’s always happy to tell everyone that they’re wrong” A catalogue of trolls

World’s first blue rose to be available in the US, except it’s not even remotely blue. It’s purple, as any fool can see.

Wonderful headline from Nature sub-editors

Cool test of colour vision acuity. I got 12.

Five of Saturn’s moons in one surreal photo

Videos of people impersonating the sound of dial-up modems.

It’s official, playing Dungeons and Dragons does not make you a satanist.



“An unprecedented legal attack on journalists’ sources.” Met use Official Secrets Act to force Guardian to reveal sources in phone-hacking story

This is a lovely idea from Sense about Science: Ask For Evidence, a campaign backed by hordes of the great & good, encouraging people to fact-check things.

Around the world in 12 animals that crapped on my head.

This is probably the best thing I’ve read about Johann Hari – great at apologies, shame about the ethics. Elsewhere: Gimpy to journalists: You are all Johann Hari

11 interesting things about the umbrella.

FBI training: if you practice Islam, you by definition hate America. WTF?

Language Log challenges Ben Goldacre over the passive voice. “Perhaps hypoglycemia was to blame.” BURN!

Massive congratulations to Andy Revkin, Rebecca Skloot and Amy Harmon for winning National Academies Communication Awards (Andy’s second)!

The Million Basic Plots: “Every story that’s ever thrilled you is there in microscopic cross section”

The Daily Mail is basically like Quora except the answer to everything is “No. That’s stupid.”

Troll hunted

How to Beat Terrorism: Refuse to Be Terrorized




Comments (8)

  1. I’m filled with indignation after reading Stephen Hall’s piece. Not the piece in itself, which is indeed excellent and as neutral as a report can ever be – I’m angered by the facts themselves. The surgeon says that he feels “betrayed by science”, but he should feel betrayed by those who failed to ensure that the building was earthquake-proof. Perhaps he should blame also the decision-makers who didn’t make clear to the population of the risk, but then what should have they done? Evacuate the population for who knows how long? In that case, millions of Italians should immediately move… to where? Most likely there was a problem of communication with the public, but let’s not put the cart before the horse: the real problem was (is still, in much of Italy) the lack of proper anti-seismic constructions. Every year Japan is hit by stronger earthquakes than the one that hit L’Aquila, with little or no consequences. Why does Italy, which is a similarly advanced economy, find itself in so much trouble with seismic and hydrogeologic phenomena? Despite decades if not centuries of experience and a great public awareness. This should be the matter of concern

  2. Sniffnoy

    The risk list itself doesn’t seem to be linked from the article. It can be found here: http://www.bgs.ac.uk/downloads/start.cfm?id=2063

  3. Corinne

    The Percy Foster (Ramsey’s dwarf sex double thing) didn’t take too much googling to figure out that it is indeed, fake. He’s not on here http://www.iafd.com/ and there’s nothing else about him anywhere other than this story.

  4. Robert S-R

    I got a 103. (!) I am red-green colorblind, but I was having trouble all over the color map.

  5. Thanks for including me in the roundup, Ed. My friends have now started wagering on the next time I’ll get hit, and have started a pool based on the date. (If you want in, let me know 😉 Have a great weekend!

  6. Adela

    As a florist I would say that’s a mauve rose and there already are several breeds in that colour spectrum(one of which has a raspberry scent) that cost way less. When you get one that actually is the colour of delphinium then you can call it a blue rose and charge a bloody fortune for it.

  7. The color test is very cool, and I scored 4, which is pretty impressive, but upon noticing an irregularity, I took a screencap of the results page with the correct alignment of the colors to Photoshop, desaturated it, and observed that the colors are of different values . . . sometimes markedly so with colors of a noticeably lighter or darker value to either side of one color.

    Unless I am failing to understand the point of the test, color does not equal value, and truly testing the ability to see color accurately should be done with colors of the exact same value, as differing value subtly alters our perception of color. The four I missed were due to me bumping two tiles, confounded by the value of the neighboring chips, which were lighter than they should have been.

  8. Aled

    Love these collections of links. Information mind bombs. Perfect brain food for an amateur nerd. Thank you! (and thank you t’internet)


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