I've got your missing links right here (5 May 2012)

By Ed Yong | May 5, 2012 12:00 pm

Top picks

“He is, for all intents and purposes except for his own, genetic material that comes in the handy form of semen.” Alexis Madrigal’s wonderful opus about Big Dairy, featuring a cow called Badger-Bluff Fanny Freddie

“We suggest that Astro Fighter & Dark Warrior epilepsy be classified under “electronic space war video game epilepsy

“There are two forces doing work on The Hulk when treated as a point particle (which he is not).” A wonderful post on the physics of the Hulk’s jump, by Rhett Allain. Bonus: he also determines how big C-3PO’s battery would need to be

Adam Rogers profiles Joss Whedon, cult hero and director of the Avengers. Joss is sparkling as usual, but this is a masterclass in profile writing. Featuring an extended Q&A with Whedon

Remember when Facebook was about poking people? Now: organ donation!

This might be the most awe-inspiring Wikipedia page of them all: a timeline of the far future

Advantage: Lehrer. Jonah Lehrer takes apart Steven Poole’s unfair review of his new book: Imagine

The nine stages of Story, as told by some plants. This, by Paige Williams, is just wonderful.

Why do we have something rather than nothing? A primer by Sean Carroll.

Great profile in the NYT of Elizabeth Spelke, a psychologist who studies baby brains.

11 year old takes her anti-fracking video to Brussels. And her mum steps in to defend her from the Guardian’s comment trolls. Go mum!

Ok wow… meet the fungus that castrates that other fungus that zombifies those ants. By Mo Costandi.

This is so cool!: Researchers activate genes in mice by radio control

“The stories of the elements are the story of our own lives.” Amazing project where pro filmmakers create films showing how each element affects people. This needs your support.

A most unusual sunset. It would be a spoiler to say why. Just read the post.

Octopus eats gull. With photos. Go Team Mollusc!

Want to know about commerical spaceflight? Wired has you covered with this extensive package

In which bits of you leaked into your mum and stayed there. Robert Krulwich, wonderful as ever.

Atul Gawande writes about 200 years of surgery! A perfect blend of writer and topic.

An astonishing, gruesome series about the federal dept that kills invasive animals. But, wait..

Is the brain ‘us’? A debate between Eagleman and Tallis



Here is how we know Gardasil has not killed 100 people. Matthew Herper on why the VAERS should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Broken gene reveals unusual link between hearing and touch

APA announces new changes to drafts of the DSM-5, the new standard reference guide for psychiatrists

Does evolution have a narrative problem? I think exactly the opposite! It’s rich with stories (& without any deus ex machina)

House mice sing melodies out of the range of human hearing, and the crooning is impacting research

How will we build an artificial human brain? Well, badly.

Polar Bears Can Swim Long Distances. Really long distances.

Author retracts weight loss surgery paper after admitting most, if not all, subjects were made up. Easier to lose weight if you don’t actually exist. Unless you’re conceptually obese.

“It’s hard not to ask if this debate amounts to little more than academic rubber-necking”- on the latest round of resveratrol resverations.

Sharks with friggin’ laser beams attached to their fins. Yes, but WHY?

Get your name written in glowing bacteria, and help support cool evolutionary research

Nature published a very public peer review in 1992. Here’s its fascinating story

Were dinosaurs dwindling before they went extinct? Not all of them

Blonde hair evolved twice in humans. In Melanesia, it’s caused by distinct mutation to TYRP1, different from European alleles

A very brief guide to modern neuroscience by Vaughan Bell

The saga of Grist’s autism/corn syrup debable. Kudos to Emily Willingham for debunking it & Scott Rosenberg’s solid mea culpa

The science of laughter – Sophie Scott’s TED talk

The hand is where the mind meets the world.” – Carl Zimmer on hands and evolution in National Geographic

Scientists at work: “Much of my footage consists of team members walking or staring intently at the ground”

Poisonous & Venomous – what’s the difference?

Bomb-sniffing dogs retrained to detect invasive Florida pythons. Quote of the week: “Many of the EcoDogs were found temperamentally unsuitable for indoor explosives work.”.

Evolutionary biologist’s posthumous publication restores peppered moth to iconic status as textbook example of evolution

Ink Wants to Form Neurons, and an Artful Scientist Obliges

Dinosaur tracks? No, ray flaps.

You are not “your brain“. Scare quotes used deliberately.

Snakes have necks. (A paper, and a pretty dense one).

Planet Earth Live: the “most ambitious wildlife series ever undertaken”. To air simultaneously in 140 countries. So why oh why did you get Richard bloody Hammond?

5 reasons plant DNA is weird

Gary Stix has it right: neuroscience has some of the worst MSM coverage & the smartest sci-blogging out there.

10 scientists who spent time behind bars. It’s fascinating to see Feynman and Kevorkian on the same list!

Leonardo: The First Great Science Ebook. Carl Zimmer shocks us all with a positive science e-book review.

NIH responds to criticism over handling of controversial H5N1 flu papers

Fracking affects microbes too, and we might not like how.

From the Dept of Unintended Conseqeunces – how we lost track of drug-resistant gonorrhoea

6,000 bats used to live in this cave in Canada. But thanks to white-nose fungus, none remain.

Brain injury from a mugging turns man into “mathematical genius”

What is it about technology that turns op/ed writers into morons? First, a horrendous Telegraph column about the made-up concept of “electrosmog” – it would’ve been great if it had ended at the first comma. Second, a lamentable NYT op/ed suggesting a link between nature docs & “nature deficit disorder” – a link that is as real as… well, nature deficit disorder.

“Sloppy, self-indulgent, and scientifically unsophisticated” – I think Seth Mnookin doesn’t like EO Wilson’s book

“The dinosaur’s skull looks as if someone went at it with a hammer.” Yes. The someone is another dinosaur, and the hammer is a skull.

Miners used to wear flaming teapots on their heads

Signals of Natural Selection Found in Recent Human Evolution

Nature have a good round-up of the Take the Flour Back anti-GM protests. Ian Sample also has a good piece on the uneasy stand-off

Today I learned that Gila monsters are part of a group called Monstersauria.

The Heartland Institute’s new poster campaign: “Of course, not all global warming alarmists are tyrants and murderers…” Thanks for clearing that up, champs.

Koalas are cute but threatened. Although note two-headed levitating koala shadow-demon in 1st pic

A haunting, beautifully reported tale of a promising scientist gone missing.

“In disgust research, there is sh*t [and] bullsh*t. McGinn’s book belongs to the latter category.”  I love bad book reviews.



World’s female population listed in order of attractiveness

Killer whale porn.

XKCD on Ayn Rand

WHAT A SCOOP! A Sun journalist has discovered that captioned cat pictures are popular on the internet!

Lion tries to eat baby, foiled by glass. “That is almost… not cool” says onlooker.

Knitted brain cap. Awesome. Also good for fooling zombies.


Amazing. Japanese hipsters monitor Fukushima radiation levels

Stunning gravity-defying land art.

Murdoch no longer able to shoot blue lightning from fingertips. (The caption is wonderful)

This is an actual study that people did. “Crapping at the Opera in London before 1830″



Search engine removes top million hits

Google Now Translates as Much Text in a Day as Human Pros Can in a Year

Natural Habitat, a new feature from the Open Notebook peeking into where writers work.

How Twitter Nearly Ruined Obama’s Secret Trip to Afghanistan

Interesting. Does Pinterest have a future as a sci-comm tool?

Gatekeeper days of journalism…are over. And they weren’t as good as we remember them”

Charles Choi has an interesting new series looking at the stories he pitched, the ones he didn’t, and why.

Twitter is using people’s names in ads to promote companies – which is really dodgy ground for journalists.

David Dobbs: sometimes you just gotta use the pen. (You can’t stab someone with a keyboard.)

No, it’s not bloody well okay to baldly make sh*t up in order to get people interested in obscure science. A questionable opinion piece about space dinosaurs (see my comment)

Data obtained by Boston Globe show nursing homes heavily use antipsychotics to pacify residents

No, that’s not how this works. Treating blog parts of newspapers as opinionated Wild West, where facts go unchecked, demeans both blogs & papers

9 top tips for the journos of tomorrow. Waldram’s 2nd point is hardcore.

“Hyper-Intelligent Space Dinosaurs Drink Red Wine for Health: Science Reporting Is Broken




Comments (11)

  1. Brian

    Hey Ed, I love your huge list of interesting posts every Saturday.

    But some of these posts are not so interesting. Can we cut back on the tabloids? You post often on the irreproducibility of many papers. If these are irreproducible, let’s think about how irreproducible “World Female Population Listed By Attractiveness” or “Brain injury from a mugging turns man into “mathematical genius”” might be.

  2. Sometime I’d be interested in hearing more about your take on “nature deficit disorder” (or maybe you’ve already written about it elsewhere and I’ve missed it). When I read Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods my impression was that he was using the phrase as a metaphor for children’s increasing disconnect from the natural world, not suggesting it’s an actual disease.

  3. Old Geezer

    Or, Brian, Ed could post what interests him in *his* blog and we can just pick through the lists and find what interests us. Interesting concept in itself.

  4. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Brian, I find your non-original posting of your interests … not interesting. If you think you can do a better list, post it on your blog and let the public decide.

  5. Firstly, neuroscience has been *driven* by people who have accrued brain injuries and changed in some dramatic way as a result. Secondly, the Daily Mash is a PARODY SITE, and it’s a blisteringly obvious parody site to boot.

    In many years of doing this, precisely two people have chosen to whine about selections on the list. Most readers, and I am thankful to you for this, have figures out the really simply concept that Old Geezer has sadly had to point out. What to do? Probably nothing. Although… I might actually taking away comment privileges from people who can’t figure out that the Daily Mash is a parody site for themselves.

    @Rebecca – I’ve heard this before, from Louv and from people who’ve appropriated his “metaphor”. . If it’s a metaphor, it’s one that’s patently using the language of medicine and if the intent is to *not* suggest that it’s an actual disease, well, that’s rather staggeringly disingenuous. Google Aleks Krotoski and nature deficit disorder. My view is the same as hers.

  6. Pat

    That future timeline is a bit skimpy on the first few thousand years. Luckily xkcd has covered the first thousand:


    Thanks for the fascinating links. The idea that somebody might not understand that the Daily Mash is a satire is a little scary.

  7. Thanks for the reply – I looked up the piece you recommended. All good points. I work in environmental education and definitely think that hands-on, outdoor learning is important and beneficial, but I agree that the term “nature deficit disorder” could be dangerously misleading. I’m sometimes caught in the middle of this whole debate, because my graduate project is actually on how to promote environmental ed through social media, and I’ve run into open hostility from outdoor educators who think anything that involves kids looking at a computer screen must somehow be bad and damaging.

    Anyway, I’ll stop hijacking your comment thread now, thanks again. :)

  8. Louv actually *trademarked* the term Nature Deficit Disorder. It’s not just a “metaphor” for him.

  9. He TRADEMARKED it? Oh good grief. Thanks for setting me straight on that one.

  10. Flathead

    Ed, do you mean ‘Hard-Up Queen Forced To Sell Princess Anne’ might not be true? I’m gutted.

  11. @Rebecca – no worries! It’s a valuable discussion.

    @Flathead – I know. It just *sounded* so plausible.


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