I've got your missing links right here (24 December 2011)

By Ed Yong | December 24, 2011 12:00 pm

Top picks

Nature and Science have been asked to withhold data on lab-made strains of flu by US govt. Carl Zimmer analyses the risks.

The last paragraph in this piece on radioactive spider-webs by Sally Adee is my favourite end to a piece. Ever

There are endless Best Of lists this year, but do have a look at The Browser’s choice of 48 top articles. They have exceedingly good taste.

Zeno’s Advent Calendar.

Do read Maryn McKenna’s wonderful piece on sepsis (and a woman who overcame it).

A fantastic animated history of fossil fuels – 300 years in 5 mins

The price of superstition: how traditional Chinese medicine is a threat to wildlife

How much does the internet weigh? Robert Krulwich is wonderful. Don’t miss: “Look what weightlessness can do”

Some of my favourite science writers – Ann Finkbeiner, Deborah Blum and Jennifer Ouellette – came together for a series on the science of mysteries. Don’t miss it.

War reporter discovers that he has Huntington’s: I will die the most horrible death

Social Networks Matter: Friends Increase the Size of Your Brain, by Eric Michael Johnson

Cloning vs. conservation: viable strategy, flawed fantasy, or Swiftian modest proposal? Great piece by John Rennie

How big is Saturn? This staggering picture will give you an idea

Jonah Lehrer speaks of a “fundamental mismatch between how the world works & how we think about the world”. And Elie Dolgin replies at Nature Medicine.

That’s the answer to light pollution: a dictatorship. Satellite images captures Kim Jong Il’s legacy.

Bizarre Kelvin-Helmholtz Waves Appear Over Alabama

World’s oldest rocks could weigh a man down. Great story. Worth it for the one para that sums 4.5bn yrs of history



The only thing that birds have to fear is fear itself, by SciCurious

Mysterious “nodding syndrome” spreading through Uganda

Insect cuticle inspires new material

What were most interesting neuroscience papers of 2011? Some good answers at Quora.

10 facts about portable electronics on airplanes (Fact 11: cabin crew don’t understand e-ink).

Oldest known “animal” fossils may have been living in the wrong kingdom

How a mental disorder opened up an invisible world of colour and pattern

Can a pic of your mum diagnose depression?

How falling snow in the deep ocean creates a quilt of life

What’s the greatest invention? A good choice from Roger Highfield.

Female Elephants Teach Inexperienced Mating Game

Nature’s 10: ten people who mattered in science this year

Nice piece on catching condors in the field

Diamond Weevil’s Rainbow Bling Really Is Diamond

“Dunno what your company does but you sent me a pic of a Steve Jobs statue, so I’m running it!”

Egypt’s Endangered Sharks: Arab Spring had unintended consequence for conservation

Should nature documentaries pay for the conservation of the animals they profit from?” An argument against a Nature comment piece that suggested as much.

Brain-eating amoeba isn’t an amoeba, but does eat brains. And can be transferred via neti pots.

Retraction by reason of insanity? A look at a 60-year-old entomology paper

Why it’s such a great idea to let non-scientists into the lab: they see it as a death-trap.

Science finally retracts XMRV/CFS paper, but without authors’ consent

Asterisk the robot spider walks, rolls, cartwheels, climbs, terrifies

Bioengineers create living ‘neon signs’ from bacteria

On Freakonomics: “unquestioning trust in friends and a desire to be counterintuitive appear to have undermined their work”

Why neuromarketing isn’t a science

Bad week for Science. It broke own embargo, faced censorship allegations & mangled CFS-XMRV retraction.

How Europe caught syphilis from the New World

Loving Smithsonian’s new “Evotourism” package – places to travel to to learn more about evolution.

Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism” is Steve Silberman’s book of the year, and he beautifully explains why

The Scientist’s top science scandals of 2011

Journalists now leaderless

Check out Nature’s best features of 2011.

Gay men in better health after states legalise gay marriage

10 Common Faults in Human Thought

The best advice on creativity what I have ever read

Congratulations! It’s a massive ball of flaming gases! You must be proud!

Who invented the Petri dish? Unsurprisingly, it was actually Mr Petri.



There have been lots of these, but this iteration of fact-checking Santa is very good.

Robot carves vast “drawing” you can only see from the sky

A sound map of London’s rivers

National Geographic’s photo contest includes this wonderful shot of two teenage beluga whales engaged in a spitting-contest

List of humorous units of measurement

I knew Christopher Hitchens better than you

Beautiful arthropod macro photography by Thomas Shahan

Science babywear. Love ’em

The Internet Justice League is awesome.

I turned 30 last week, and Alice Bell made me a cake shaped like a scary animal mouth

The modern holy shroud. I’m going to bet that this didn’t happened to Jesus



How Amazon built the world’s 42nd fastest supercomputer, which doesn’t exist

Solutions journalism is stories “about people doing remarkable things that are hidden from view.”

The war is over, but the US still holds a biometric database of 3 million Iraqis

When and how should I use anonymous sources? More great advice from The Open Notebook

Tweets by mail? This guy replicated Twitter via the postal system

It’s time to punish terrible viral marketing

São Paulo, Brasil’s largest city, 5 years after banning outdoor ads

Good thinking from Jeff Jarvis on how paywalls can better value readers

Journalism’s killer app is credibility. A thousand times this. Also, I laughed heartily at “Just to make Gene Weingarten angry, brands brands brands brands brands”

Putting the social web to civic use – Facebook tries to find a system for flagging suicidal behavior

A fantastic 2-part interview with Carl Zimmer: “What I try to do in all my writing is to help readers become better scientists themselves”

“Remember to turn your cocks back” and other epic news media errors of 2011

Genius. New app punishes writers who procrastinate! This is brilliant, especially kamikaze mode

Here’s what a story looks like when you can see our sources



Comments (3)

  1. I guess this is going to make me a jerk, but I read the story about the reporter with Huntington’s disease, and I just RAGED at the end of it.

    This guy goes on about how it is the worst thing ever, and I don’t agree with him. But how selfish do can you be to have a kid when you know you have this condition? It’s like have a kid, flip a coin, and it’s either healthy, or going to die of the condition you just spent 8 paragraphs lamenting about.

    I’m very, very relieved to hear that his daughter doesn’t have the condition, but I just couldn’t get past the fact that he was willing to do that to a child. But at some point in time you have to make the conscious choice to say “I’m going to have a kid, and I just might kill it in the most horrific way that I can think of.”

    I don’t know. I just….It really bothered me.

  2. MattK

    Yotebeth, I see your point. But, food for thought: consider that the life expectance of a child, born in a 1st world country, of someone carrying the Hunnington’s gene probably has a higher life expectancy at birth than most infants for most of human history. Make of that what you will.

  3. Daniel J. Andrews

    Hm, what to make of that argument, MattK? How about, I can kill someone at age 50 because they’ve already lived longer than most people in human history? Or I can allow someone to be born who will die horribly because they’ll get to live longer than most people in history?

    Yotebeth is right. Having a child when you know the odds are they’re going to die a horrible death is very very selfish. Yes, many families in human history had lots of children, knowing some or most would die, but in those cases the children were the insurance to look after the parents when they were old.

    You want a child that bad, adopt. But perhaps in his defence he didn’t know or didn’t know the details, and if he could go back in time, he’d not have children. Hm, if that was me, I think I’d be doing some dangerous work myself…die by explosion or gunfire rather than a long terminal disease.


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