I've got your missing links right here (15 October 2011)

By Ed Yong | October 15, 2011 12:00 pm

Top picks

An incredible story about how Steinman developed unique treatment for his cancer and united a disparate field.

Massive congrats to Penny Sarchet and Tess Shellard for winning the first ever Wellcome/Guardian Science Writing Prize. Expect great things. And a write-up of the award ceremony. Here’s Tess’s piece.

“Science isn’t either settled or not settled. This is a false and misleading dichotomy.” From RealClimate

“Not all fields are unknown in ways where non-professionals readily step up to make contributions” – Alex Wild on entomology

A paralysed man high-fives his girlfriend using robotic arm controlled by thought alone

Too Good to Be True: Sea Mammals, Plastic Pollution, and a Modern Chimera – great account of a quest to track down a dodgy statistic

Cancer is a still a bad metaphor

Virginia Hughes takes a skeptical look at some of the “mind-reading” brain-scanner stories.

Alice Bell with a lovely piece on science communication as public advocacy for natural objects. Who speaks for the trees?

Australians have a hard time imagining the future will be different than the present.” The Economist on why this is a bad thing in the light of climate change.

This is wonderful. What happens after a whale dies, animated with paper cutouts and lovely music.

The Giant, Prehistoric Squid That Ate Common Sense. Brian Switek dissects the claims about a Triassic kraken. Meanwhile, Kevin Zelnio encourages Brian not to “go out there on the internet and ruin it for the rest of us with your *facts*”

Methane seeps as shark nurseries? Are young sharks running on fossil fuels?

Kimberley Gerson on what not to do if a bear (or shark or any other wild animal) eats her

An incredible WSJ investigation of surgeons who make and sell their own spinal implants

Michael Eisen on the “myth of the scientific martyr” and why Daniel Shechtman is not Felisa Wolfe-Simon.

Amy Harmon tells David Dobbs the story behind her terrific New York Times story on an autistic man entering adulthood

Fountain of life at the bottom of the Dead Sea. Wonderful story by Jennifer Frazer.

“I never exactly heard the thunder; I felt it” A parachutist is sucked into a cumulonimbus anvil cloud.

Haters don’t always gotta hate. Ben Franklin knew that. How to turn the hater to fan

An amazing letter from self-declared psychopath (in the clinical sense) to Jon Ronson.

A magical post by Mo Costandi on whether magicians can teach neuroscientists a few tricks?

The greatest abstract ever. It could be used for virtually any newspaper story where the headline is a question


Carl Zimmer heralds Megavirus, the world’s largest virus. Soon it will duel Giant Octopus.

Meerkats recognise each other’s voices. And they really *really* hate the Russian one. ”

A mysterious radiation source in Tokyo, and it’s not Fukushima

Nice visualization on the huge changes in Arctic ice

A stunningly intact dinosaur fossil found in Germany, with dinofuzz and skin.

It’s now clear that every geoblogger has their eye on a secret volcano lair. Here are Dana Hunter’s and Erik Klemetti’s picks.

The smell of bumpy nipples guides babies to milk

How to clean an oil-slicked penguin

The first three paragraphs in this story about the naked mole rat genome are wonderful. But generally, I find they’ve-sequenced-the-genome-of-X stories to be insanely boring. They always take this form: Here’s an animal. Here’s what it does that’s cool. Its genes might explain how it does that. Something about practical applications. And so on.

Chimpanzees Should Not Be Used in TV or Movies

Kate Fox argues that the effects of alcohol on behaviour are determined by cultural norms, not by actions of ethanol. Interesting thesis, but hang on a minute, do you think there might be a conflict of interest?

Bee was, now is. A solitary bee, thought extinct in the UK for 65 years, has turned up in Sussex:

Interesting post about the myths of RCTs in a public policy context.

Careful clinical interview is still the best Alzheimer’s predictor, not expensive biomarker tests

“Before time alchemized its wings, the creature was mostly yellow-green”

“It’s like getting continuous tweets from the cells rather than an occasional postcard.” An ePetri Dish

The more feminine you look, the more children you want? No. Kate Clancy and SciCurious tag-team a paper.

Tali Sharot talks about why most of us are overly optimistic

Great Beeb piece on the people who are donating their brains to science.

Researchers aim to build dust library

The weird sex life of orchids, by Michael Pollan. Nominative determinism FTW.

Forensic DNA could make criminal justice less fair if the “disproportionately target poor and dark-skinned wrongdoers

How do you autopsy a whale? With four ton meathooks, whaling knives and bone saws

Feel free to panic: superbug antibiotic resistance factor NDM-1 is in 100 million Indians. A “public health catastrophe.”

“There’s a long American tradition of mixing economic populism with cephalopods.” And pictures to prove it

Breathing life into an extinct ethnicity

There are only 430 whooping cranes left in the wild. Most have been raised and reintroduced. Seven were shot last year.

Six Myths About Sex And Gender, Busted with Science.

A living stromatolite has been found in Ireland ”

Will asking a question get your paper cited more often? Well? Will it?

Do a little dance, make a little love, drive down heritable genetic variation.” Tom Houslay on the dance of the peacock spider.

The Drive To Be Different: A hipster’s lament

Giant armour-clad amoebas the size of a mouse. Yes.

Artificial muscles made with “yarns” of carbon nanotubes ”



Throwable Panoramic Ball Camera

I’ve never been more disappointed by a comma in a headline.

Oh, THAT’S what the faster-than-light neutrinos are about.

A study shows that sexism increases gender inequality. I know. Astonishing, right?

The prank potential of this is endless: a Japanese company produces realistic replicas of your face

Boston Globe tailors print edition to target 3 remaining subscribers

Bad Lip Reading

RGB wallpaper looks like a psychedelic mess, but reveals different patterns under R,G and B light

How to make a spider look silly

Shit That Siri Says

The Very Large Array is looking for a better name.

Death to word clouds

Gunshot wounds to the scrotum: a large single-institutional 20-year experience”



A crime blogger uses search analytics to ID murder victim cops would not name

Tuesday saw the publication of one of the stupidest science articles I’ve read in a while. It’s the latest entry in the ongoing debate about whether science journalists should check their copy with their sources (note: copy, not facts). It is such a blisteringly naive view of journalism, science, peer review and people. Seth Mnookin sums up the debate to date and then slaps the “exercise in idiocy“. Emily Willingham also has a great takedown.

Would you leave your Internet passwords in your will? Yes, along with a list of everyone I’ve always wanted to slap…

What the Wall Street Journal have done is the paper equivalent of sitting at your desk and hitting F5 on your blog.

Daily Mail to launch Page 2 corrections column. Would it not be simpler to devote the page to a list of correct facts?

This is what feminist bloggers have to put up with. We live in a world with people like this.

Upcoming Photoshop feature de-blurs shaky-cam photos

Three Quarks Daily is an amazing site that is asking for, and deserves, a small donation to keep going.

The Guardian opens up its newslist. A very interesting move.

How actual infographics are made. She makes it look so easy.

The uselessness of the idea that Twitter is dominated by 0.05% of users

Twitter is dying—and it’s all your fault. Yes, yours. No, not YOURS. You in the back. Yours.

“The key to social media interactions is that it leaves knowledge behind for others to find and reuse”


Comments (7)

  1. In regards to the feminist blogger rape threat issue: wouldn’t it be nice if a person was as accountable for what he or she said online as he or she is in public? And, one step further, if people could, for f*ck’s sake, treat other people the way they’d wish to be treated? That’s the world I dream about, but it’d sure be nice if I didn’t have to.

  2. ST

    Mmm…the link in the following links to your own blog:
    “Tuesday saw the publication of one of the stupidest science articles I’ve read in a while.” You might want to fix that ;-).
    In regards to that story: If you write a commentary or perspective you certainly should not consult the scientists who authored the work your are discussing. If on the other hand you are recapping their work to pass it on to the public getting the facts straight is very important. Although while copy/fact checking would be nice in those cases, it likely is completely impractical.

  3. @ST – Ha! Fixed. And you’re still conflating copy-checking and fact-checking. You say getting facts straight is important. True. No good journalist would disagree. Sending copy over to the source – which is what this entire debate has been about – is a piss-poor way of doing it.

  4. ST

    Ed, with all due respect, I am not. It rather seems that in this entire debate “you” lost track of what “you” are doing. Copy/fact checking at the end of the day is semantics – the point is that scientist don’t want journalist to get their story wrong when they try to tell it to a general audience. I agree copy checking is an impractical, or piss-poor way if you way, of doing that. But as I see it the issue doesn’t lie with you or most other science bloggers (hence the “you” above), who do get the science right, but other journalist who just try to break a story. In case you haven’t seen it 😉

  5. Eleanor

    Wait, what? No! I hardly touched the blue bird, someone else must have killed it!

    And look old boy, I didn’t get a doctorate to be treated like just anybody, I deserve unswerving respect from you journalist chappies. Did you not know that we scientists get certificates of Infallibility and Unfailing Moral Correctness with a PhD these days? It’s in there with the recruitment flyers from McDonalds.
    That Brain Deer will get his comeuppance one of these days, not giving that nice MD a change to correct all his copy

  6. ST

    Eleanor, I take it that post was direct at me. Fine. I was trying to say that one should try to see the issue from both sides (and this is just my take on this): scientists want to make sure their work is not misinterpreted when reported, journalist want the freedom to tell the story as they see it. Just examine how scientific studies are often perceived by the public today and your own apparent perception of scientists.

    Maybe I failed in making that point, but I certainly did not resort to the personal attacks that you resorted to. I did say nothing about Unfailing Correctness. I actually said that if a journalist writes a commentary, i.e. something critically examining a study etc., the scientist obviously should have no influence over what is being written. It rather seems that you and a couple of journalists are arguing that they are infallible and unfailing (your words).

  7. “Copy/fact checking at the end of the day is semantics”

    No, it is not. One involves asking about the accuracy of a fact or quote, usually without showing copy or quotes or asking for approval.

    The other involves providing actual copy, often with a tacit implication whether true or not that approval is involved. Even if it isn’t, the potential for such an accusation is there. That potential vanishes if copy is not presented.

    Back in the day when the world had actual fact-checkers doing the job separately from the writer, this line was much more clear. But it’s still a line, and crossing it means crossing an ethical barrier, something that should always be done with considerable caution.


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