I've got your missing links right here (2 June 2012)

By Ed Yong | June 2, 2012 12:00 pm

Top picks

I’ve been short-listed for two categories in the Association of British Science Writers awards: feature, and communication of science in a non-science context. Dead chuffed. Also the latter category is in memory of Stephen White, who taught the 2-day course that convinced me I wanted to be a science writer. It’s an honour.

Animal Planet airs documentary about mermaids, misleads viewers, annoys Craig McClain and Brian Switek . This crap makes me thankful for science TV in the UK, which IMO is incredibly strong

“For the Yupno people in Papua New Guinea, rather than marching ever onward, time wends its way uphill.”

It’s sad to see a scientist like Zimbardo, and a format like TED, collide into such ridiculousness. Carl Zimmer absolutely destroys a talk and e-book of the same.

After everything almost died, the Earth took 10 million years to recover.

This is a masterful post: a conversation between an evolutionary psychologist and a biologist, by Jeremy Yoder

David Attenborough would sound great even if he live-narrated a tortoise shagging a shoe. Which he does

“He… slides both arm & probe deep into the rectum of a 500-kg rhino… The rhino lets out a doleful moan.” Must-read piece by Henry Nicholls on some last-ditch attempts to save the Sumatran rhino.

Six science writers talk about the questions that drive their books. In particular, read David Dobbs’ bit. He identified arguably the biggest challenge of science writer (“I tend to write about sci that’s pushing edge of evidence”) and includes some fab questions: “So just how full of sh*tare they — like, completely?”

Amazing! Long-lost evobiologist Margie Profet surfaces after a story about her in Psychology Today!

How a case of forgetting turned David Dobbs on to science. A great story.

Attempts to predict earthquakes may do more harm than good

Pete Etchells puts a stupid “equation for a perfect sandwich” press story to the test… with hilarious results!

Great reporting by NPR on the story that tuna carry radioactive particles: Nuclear Tuna Is Hot News, But Not Because It’s Going To Make You Sick

Birds Have Juvenile Dinosaur Skulls. (Dinosaurs displeased, would like them back)

I’ve always wondered! Alexis Madrigal explains the mechanics and meaning of that ol’ dial-up modem sound

Forget the Queen. Here’s are some blue-blooded individuals that save lives: horseshoe crabs

The psychology of the toilet


Lovely: on science, religion and the liberating embrace of uncertainty

A look at the various nutters who have tried to claim ownership over the Moon and/or planets

For 3rd year running, a mysterious mass die-off among Kazakhstan’s saiga antelope. Bacteria? Pesticides? SPACESHIPS??

Dissolved iron may have been key to RNA-based life.” Williams’ quotes are wonderful here.

Chimps nest in trees to escape the humidity

Virginia Hughes wonders if neuroscience is undergoing a female revolution

Forget the hype: how close are we to a ‘forgetting pill?’

A 2nd-grader asks Neil Tyson whether 2 black holes can collide and swallow one another

“What did we get for this 40 years war” on cancer, asks Otis Brawley.

Seven Scientists Win Kavli Prizes; four are women. Excellent.

We can rebuild her. We have the technology. Robotic rehab helps paralyzed rats walk again

Trapped in the Ivory tower. Jeanne Gabarino looks at what scientists can do (and can’t do) to engage the public.

Is ADHD overdiagnosed? New paper says no, but as Neuroskeptic points out, it’s a bit dodgy

“The worms form slime tubes to help adhere to each other during copulation which may take as long as an hour”

“‘GMO’ is ‘OMG’ backwards.” Heh. Martin Robbins on the Rothamsted protests.

The largest volcanoes on our planet may take as little as a few hundred years to form and erupt

Craig Venter dreams of artificial life like some mystical shaman of synthetic biology

The undetected epidemic of Chagas – the new HIV?

Museum of Endangered Sounds preserves obsolete tech noises by

Flowers use Velcro cells to keep bees from blowing away

RoboZoo: Wired’s Menagerie of Robot Animals

Jennifer Ouellette explains the science of why she hates raw tomatoes and you might not.

“As scientific puzzles go, the origin of dogs may not be as important as the origin of the universe.” Really not the best lede, but the story’s good.

Top 10 new species of 2012, featuring the Mephisto worm and a blue tarantula

Published in the Journal of OMG SQUEEE: Dormice use their whiskers to navigate trees

This Nature piece on Rothamsted provides clues as to why the “anti-science” label is just misleading.

Troubling: armed extremists actually attacking nuclear and nanotechnology workers.

Olympicene: a molecule that looks like the Olympic rings.

Support for climate science doesn’t increase with scientific literacy, surprising no one who has been paying attention

Absolutely horrendous. Leuser the orang utan shot 62 times by villagers seeking “entertainment”

Inventors killed by their own inventions

Too predictably, Nobel laureate-turned-homeopathy-woo-pusher Luc Montagnier joins the anti-vax crowd. How the mighty fall.

Conservation triage – zoos allocate resources to species that might be saved, but give up on others

10 surprising things that bacteria like to eat (although, eyeroll at #9)

India is facing a female infanticide crisis

The problems with brain scans and misinterpretations thereof, by Vaughan Bell.

Bizarre case of a group that published the same article twice within 4 months… in same journal

Petition: Require free access over Internet to science journal articles from taxpayer-funded research



The Credible Hulk

The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions – an almanac of Victorian pranks

What if every tornado in the past 50 years left a neon blue scratch on the surface of the US?

Wonderful photos of London reflected in puddles

Genius. The Manhattan street grid as a global coordinate system.

MicroCT scan of an alligator embryo. Adorable. Sort of.

1920s paper said that Stegosaurus was a glider

Green tree python lures prey with its tail.



Frank Swain lays into the science of Prometheus with a hilarious review. Spoilers, obviously.

The tweet that begins (or not, as it turned out) the zombie apocalypse

It should worry British science journalists that this is how our international peers view us

This will be used for pranks, spam: Thunderclap unleashes tweet-storms for protests

Meet ‘Flame’, The Massive Spy Malware Infiltrating Iranian Computers

19yr-old secretly lived on AOL’s campus for months (subsisting only on free dialup CDs and discarded business models)

Slightly funny but frequently off-the-mark satire on science journalism

A lovely piece in praise of the humble paper clip – a design classic.


If any of the links are missing or broken, feel free to make a note in the comments, but please also have a go at finding them yourself.  


Comments (12)

  1. Congrats on being short-listed. Well-deserved!

  2. Phil

    Thanks for always finding interesting links; they make lunchtimes at work fly by,
    You deserve the shortlist for the clarity of your writing.

    The “London reflected in puddles” link goes to the signup page; I believe the link you wanted was http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/gavin-hammond-puddles (Pinar’s, Alice’s and Eugene’s blogs are regular reads for me).

  3. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    First, congratulations!

    Second, I am really excited by this RNA world result, so thanks for the tip on the Nature blog article!

    The reason is because it coincides with the recent phylogeny of Braakman and Smith on evolution of metabolism, which according to them shows sign of divergence precisely after the creation of the oxygen atmosphere.* The pre-LUCA would have been fitted with a curiously robust, redundant and over evolutionary time stable metabolic network that were fixed by “imprecise or unreliable enzyme function … or unreliable regulation”.

    They point out that this would leave open the possibility of chemical evolution at early stages, but it could as well be used to signal a disappearing RNA world. (Smith is working specifically on chemical evolution, IIRC.) [“The Emergence and Early Evolution of Biological Carbon-Fixation”, Braakman and Smith, PLoS Comp Biol, 2012.]

    That Benner sees precisely the implication that the change from RNA to protein catalysis can be tied to the time of oxygenation is promising. More specifically, it would be the point where an eventual mixture of catalysts would latest see the RNA mostly replaced. It is an excellent bottleneck constraint explaining why RNA world life disappeared in toto.**

    * This raises the question if not cyanobacteria were responsible for the atmospheric change, what was? A blog article at the time pointed to a paper where a presumed global glaciation at the time lead to the first UV-driven release of massive amounts of oxygen.

    The initial pulses of the poisonous substance would have tipped the balance and eventually lead up to a diversity of oxygenating photosynthesizers. In effect reversing the usual oxygenating photosynthesis – oxygen – glaciation supposed order of events.

    ** Except possibly surviving as some parasitically simplified RNA viruses akin to what people believed happened to the putative DNA Megavirus ancestor.

  4. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    This Nature piece on Rothamsted provides clues as to why the “anti-science” label is just misleading.

    I don’t get that. Cherry-picking science (rejects agricultural science, putatively accepts climate science) is still anti-science as in not accepting it.

    What the piece showed is that some of the GMO supporters are as anti-science as the GMO haters. This is to be expected.

  5. AK

    Um, maybe change the Lisa Simpson joke to something a little less creepy and tasteless? WTF?

    [Oy. Fine. It was, incidentally, an old joke about the Olympics logo. http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/artblog/2007/jun/05/howlisasimpsontooktheolym – E]

  6. The tornado tracks picture can be better viewed here: http://visual.ly/tornado-tracks

  7. Charles Sullivan

    I know you’ve got a man-crush on Robert Krulwich, but when you listen to Radio Lab you must also like Jad Abumrad. Jad plays a good foil for RK, and they make a great team, in my humble opinion.

  8. Winterwind

    Congratulations, Mr Wong. You really deserve your short-listing. I love reading your writing. Your passion for science is inspiring.

  9. Congrats to you, Ed!

    Can anyone tell me why the tornadoes seem to follow a pronounced forward slash kind of pattern? I would have guessed (in my admitted ignorance regarding tornado physics) that it would be much more random.

  10. I’m still completely agog to have anything I’ve written called “masterful,” but I am very glad you liked the evo-psych “dialogue,” Ed. And many congrats on the ABSW nominations!

  11. Winterwind


    I just realised that I typed Ed’s last name as “Wong,” not “Yong.” Now I’m so embarrassed I don’t know where to put my face.

    Well, congrats, regardless of misspelt surnames…

  12. DennyMo

    Jenny Morber Says:
    Can anyone tell me why the tornadoes seem to follow a pronounced forward slash kind of pattern? I would have guessed (in my admitted ignorance regarding tornado physics) that it would be much more random.

    I assume you’re referring to “west to east” paths? Weather in the US generally follows the jet stream, which generally flows east-to-west. The thunderstorm cells that birth tornadoes generally get carried along the jet stream. This is just a generalization, events like hurricanes can drive tornadoes in unusual directions. Generally. :)


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