I've got your missing links right here (26 November 2011)

By Ed Yong | November 26, 2011 12:00 pm

Top picks

An amazing three-part feature from Daniel Engber on why the focus on mice and rats in lab research is a problem. Also: naked mole rats

Deborah Blum explains what pepper spray is and why it categorically isn’t just a “food product”. Meanwhile, Rebecca Rosen has a great piece on the regrets of pepper spray’s inventor and other people who created weapons

A killer icicle – a “brincle” – reaches down and kills life on the Antarctic ocean floor. Incredible stuff.

A must-read piece on the strange, tangled history of chronic fatigue syndrome research, by David Tuller at the Virology blog.

By day, he was a corporate sales exec; by night, he led a paramilitary vigilante squad that targeted Ponzi operators

An excellent takedown from Neurobonkers of a scaremongering newspaper health story about a fake health scare.

In response the latest set of hacked climate emails, Damian Carrington argues that the failure to catch climate email hacker is the real scandal, while Leo Hickman is looking for clues. Meanwhile, a detailed response from Phil Jones regarding specific quotes from the emails.

That land-walking octopus explained by Katharine Harmon (who has clearly been paid to cover up the imminent invasion)

Ann Finkbeiner’s science metaphors series is just wonderful. Here’s the latest on degeneracy

Superb Lucas Brouwers post on the origins of a frog-killing fungus

We are all connected: a beautiful short video from the WWF showing the humans and other animals juxtaposed in split-screen, shot for shot.

In which Jennifer Ouellette finds significance (and beauty) in insignificance

Awesome. Rebecca Skloot talks with David Dobbs about structure, storytelling and more in the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Great Steve Silberman piece on Susan Kare, the iconic icon-designer who gave computing a human face

A great Carl Zimmer piece about whether teaching is a uniquely human behaviour

David Dobbs: “I call on science writers everywhere, writing about behavioral genetics: Do Better.”

Great Sally Adee post on the neuroscience of The Knowledge: the brutal test that London cabbies must endure

“You won’t find those fecal pellets in Happy Feet Two” – Thomas Hayden on diving for krill

How a baby turtle reaches the sea. Lovely Al Dove piece, featuring Robo-turtle and Blake

“Dear Professor, I think my husband may be a Neanderthal” Great Ian Sample story on Svante Paabo’s mailbag

How the Arab Spring is affecting ancient Egypt and the archaeologists who study it, by Jo Marchant

Kat Arney dissects the nonsense of ‘antineoplastons’ while the people behind it threaten a blogger’s family.


How the ‘one at a time’ effect changes our interpretation of facts and can ultimately fool us

Lynn Margulis is dead, as are all her mitochondria. Dawkins on Margulis: “She was right about one big thing… but she more than used that credit up being wrong, in a big way, about almost everything else. ”

One minute you’re a hyena whisperer, next you’re hyena food, by Bec Crew.

Fetal mouse sends stem cells to repair mum’s heart if she has a heart attack.

US lab bred chimps despite ban

Scientists to top Spirit and Opportunity with Curiosity

Transplanted human neurons, derived from embryonic stem cells, can integrate with a network of mouse neurons in culture and the mouse brain.”

In which we learn that an animal carrying an entire other animal inside it moves more slowly

You had me at “flesh-eating disease

Alien skull? Or evidence of ancient cultural practices? Spoiler: it’s the latter.

“Microlives” – a way of measuring risk from David Spiegelhalter

Use-By” Dates: a Myth that Needs Busting

Kickass women scientists explain why evolution should be taught in schools

If mutations in one gene can cause wide range of brain problems, does it make any sense to ask what genes are for?

Check out Kelly Slivka’s series of podcast explainers of basic science concepts like DNA or cells: “Say what?”

Worms used as biocontrol agents inside insect cadavers.

False confessions
can bias ‘objective’ forensic evidence

Augmented reality contact lenses (w/ a resolution of one pixel, but hey)

The Genomes Unzipped crew expand on their comments about my post on the OXTN gene.

DARPA want to ditch antibiotics in favour of siRNA-infused nanoparticles

Did you know less than 10% of the ocean is mapped out? These tiny ocean robots will change all that

How the fairy wasp deals with a body that’s smaller than some cells.

How some musicians can play despite amnesia or brain injury

Unique night-flowering orchid found

Blame your crooked teeth on early farmers

Anita Goraya’s take on a recent C-section furore

Will CT scans and MRIs kill the autopsy?

Judy Mikovits has been arrested?!?!

1st evolutionary analysis of black rats
shows they became the ultimate human pest 4 times over

A species of crustacean makes silk underwater

Wanna buy an invasive species? Now you can! THANKS internet!

Satellite Photos Show Ancient Saharan Fortresses of a Lost Empire

“Does a parasite have a better chance of survival if an Inuit or a Mayan spits on it?”

Did Jupiter punt a planet out of the Solar System? Is it “cruising dejectedly thru the interstellar wilderness”?

When volcanoes almost killed life

Monogamy helps geese reduce stress

Ah, when Brian Switek talks about whales that walked, all is good

Tell Obama to save the bats

“A somewhat bonkers plan” – artificial glacier for cooling Mongolia’s capital

What does it actually take to author an IPCC report?

On prions, and the plausibility of 24

Needless to say, the cookie-cutter shark will be on Nature Wants to Eat You soon. For now, read this

The hyperexcitable brains of people who associate numbers and letters with colours

How Kayt Sukel had an orgasm in an MRI scanner


A synthetic material that can balance on the head of a dandelion

Apparently, Christmas cards are a rubbish way to learn physics and it’s an affront that snowflakes aren’t more accurate. Hmm.

I am “Area Man

What Kind of Fish are You?

Where citations come from

Series of photos capture moment camera is destroyed by gun

Truly wonderful collection of pics of animals shaking themselves dry, via Robert Krulwich

Old but great: the world’s most generic news report

FAIL from university of life

Some cool C.elegans-based art

Snakes remain some of my favourite animals, as this stunning slideshow demonstrates

I think this is the best headline I’ve read in recent memory


Suzanne Moore’s 11-step guide to journalism is brilliant

The amazing history of the bendy straw – a lovely tale of ingenious problem-solving

If you read one post on the Womanspace debacle, read Janet Stemwedel’s excellent dissection. If you want others, check out Jacquelyn Gill’s collection of quotes

The world’s last 3 handwritten newspapers

Is health journalism evidence-based?




Comments (8)

  1. Thanks for the link Ed!

  2. Pete inNZ

    Kelly Slivka’s series of podcast explainers of basic science concepts-

    “A somewhat bonkers plan” – artificial glacier for cooling Mongolia’s capital

    I couldn’t get the snake slideshow link working
    Anyone else got fixes?

  3. Those, and others, should be fixed now. Cheers

  4. Justin Tungate

    Make sure to read BioTurboNick’s comments on Janet Stemwedel’s piece. His response is excellent.

  5. @Luisa – that snake slideshow is stunning!

  6. Daniel J. Andrews

    I knew that Nature Womanspace fiction piece was going to create a stir. At least the two males now had their wives leaving them, and searching for better versions of themselves, presumably versions that didn’t expect woman and men to embody certain stereotypes.

    That incidentally is a bit of stereotypical sexism that seems to have been overlooked (at least in the comments I’ve read but not in the actual article by Stemwedel)–men are useless when it comes to shopping and finding things, and just aren’t very bright in that regard.

    So is the point of the story, “yeah, the story stereotypes woman, but also stereotypes men, thus the sexisms cancel out so stop complaining.”? Or more succinctly, “Two wrongs make a right”. ? Or because it is humourous that makes it right and everyone needs to just lighten up? I’d be curious to see what the editors of Nature would say…in the last issue I read, they published two short correspondences both critical of the story in the previous issue.

  7. Daniel J. Andrews

    Edit to add: I see the point raised in the comments that playing off stereotypes is funny (e.g. the Stephen Colbert clip). I’m not sure it is advisable in situations where too many people don’t recognize a stereotype as a stereotype. But I don’t know. Where’s the line between humour and offensiveness?


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