I've got your missing links right here (15 September 2012)

By Ed Yong | September 15, 2012 12:00 pm

 Top picks

Er, d’oh? Curiosity could be carrying Earth bacteria, and won’t be allowed near any water it finds

These images of SINGLE MOLECULES totally blow my mind

“ONE day soon, mankind will achieve the most amazing feat of all time, and you won’t even notice… We’ll soon have “gone 11.2 billion miles from home using computers not very different to a ZX Spectrum.”

An amazing piece on prion diseases by Maggie Koerth-Baker, that doubles as an op/ed on live-tweeting conferences.

In which Jonathan Eisen learns of an almost-all-male conference and pens an EPIC and hilarious response, which gets results!

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you let your children read this blog post by Dean Burnett. It will rewire their brains. “THREAT OR MENACE?” asks the Guardian.

Will 3D printing be the next copyright battleground? Excellent Economist piece.

This post has tapeworms, brains, and graphic surgery pictures. You have been warned. Or recommended, depending on your inclination.

A volcano on one of Saturn’s moons is shooting geysers of water into space. With pics!

Deaf Mexican police officers tasked w/ monitoring security cameras; not recruiting disabled ppl, but “super-able”. Great Vaughan Bell piece.

Tiger tiger burning bright, avoiding humans in the night. Very cool study, covered by Bora Zivkovic.

This is a really sensible way of looking at whether electronics on flights are dangerous. Kudos to Dan Simons and Chris Chabris

Wow. Fruit salad trees are real. Ferris Jabr on how to make trees that bear lots of different kinds of fruit

Here’s a pic of a MASSIVE solar flare that the Sun chucked out last month, w/ the Earth for scale comparison

“A Sept 11th Catastrophe You’ve Probably Never Heard About” – Kristen Iversen on our “narrowly averted nuclear meltdown”

Alexis Madrigal’s opus on what mobile communication will be like in 2022

There’s been an earthquake. You’re trapped in rubble. And then, a cyborg cockroach scuttles towards you.

Wonderful: Are spiders afraid of conkers? A rather hilarious and charming experiment with kids and nuts

These stem cells go up to 11: Human embryonic stem cells restore gerbil hearing. Also, this is the “1st proof that stem cells can reconnect inner ear to brain.” An ear-brain connection would be really useful for some people I know.

The American Diabetes Association approved a script saying 75% of funds raised would go to research. 15% did. Other charities are also to blame.

Michael Lewis’ Vanity Fair piece on Obama is journalism porn. It’s amazing scene after amazing scene.

Everyone needs a friend like Jupiter, to take asteroids in the face for them. Look, you can actually SEE IT.  HAPPEN

Jesus H Christ in a viper basket! Virgin birth among wild viper litters. By Brian Switek

Wonderful/terrifying Quora: “What aspects of daily life in 2012 would be unbelievable to somebody in 2000?”

 

News/science/writing

The Royal Society named humanity’s top 20 food innovations from the dawn of time to now.

Brain implant improves thinking in monkeys

Traces of memory in a dish

Childhood neglect wrecks the insulation of the developing brain

Emily Willingham unpicks yet another bad NYT op/ed on autism & epigenetics

Desperate times call for an awesome batcave: US conservationists hope bunker can halt deadly fungus

A breathtakingly ambitious randomised trial of an aid project in DR Congo

Alok Jha on the false positives, fraud and misconduct that are threatening scientific research. Meanwhile, Chris Chambers calls for more replication to root out scientific fraud

“If you are at high school now, there will be plenty to do when you graduate.” – Ewan Birney in Science’s chat on ENCODE

The Gamify Your PhD project announces its winners. I’m not convinced this is “engaging people with science”. I think it’s engaging people with games, which have tenuous links to science.

Naomi McAuliffe dissects some bad science about disgust, sex, and mayonnaise. Wait, not mayonnaise.

Has a new paper added a fourth domain to life? Probably not. Jonathan Eisen dissects it, and engages with the author in the comments.

New from PLOS Bearssh*tinwoods: newspapers sometimes report on studies that are later overturned

When you get murdered, rest assured that beetles might scavenge upon your rotting corpse before blowflies.

“Jonah Lehrer says yes. Science says… maybe.” Zing! The Ill Effects of Urban Living

An excellent read on science, femininity & fashion by Holly Bik.

The lesula, a new species of monkey, was recently identified in Africa. And recently lost to Andy Murray in the US Open.

Why has the Yangtze river turned red? Other than the apocalypse, obviously.

New Cochrane review of chiropractic for back pain deals devastating blow – no more effective than “inert intervention”

Yeah, this study? They basically fluffed some rats with spider venom.

Awesomeness: How to boil water without bubbles

This Ewen Callaway piece on the genetics of tasting coriander features anti-coriander haikus and a recipe.

“If you only think of “junk DNA” as a problem, [you] are lacking a touch of poetry in your bleak soul.” – Josh Witten.

You cannot fall through a black hole. Pics or it didn’t not happen.

The saddest thing: there is a Rabbit Grimace Scale for measuring how much pain a bunny is feeling

Brendan Maher summed up this story well: “So we can drill more, so we can use more oil, so we can melt more ice, so we can drill more…”

“Tranquilizing a wild large carnivore is always stressful.” How to deal with suburban lions.

Thomas Jefferson, science enthusiast: The disappointing sequel to Abraham Lincoln, vampire hunter

GET IN! Science wins over creationism in S.Korean textbook battle. The Korean creationists are called the “Society for Textbook Revise”. I thought that’s what journalists are…

Three major seed producers are working on drought-resistant GM crops

THE SEA WILL KILL YOU Part 716: The most terrifying creature in the ocean is a flesh-eating bacterium

John Timmer explains how ENCODE’s press releases rewrote scientific history

The Higgs boson has survived peer-review. There are around 3,000 authors, of whom 21 are dead.

DNA chip based on autoimmune disease uses ENCODE data to uncover three new regions linked to primary biliary cirrhosis

Appeals court upholds exclusion of “no lie fMRI” in criminal conviction. Blow for pseudo-lie-“detection”

Stem cell scammers plead guilty, while scientist who helped them goes to trial.

On the trail of a weird and wonderful mammal, the Pyrenean desman

Eagle regains ability to preen & drink w/ 3D-printed prosthesis.

10-meter-iong fossil trackway records horseshoe crab’s death march made 150 million years ago.

Ananyo Bhattcharya launches a passionate volley of the limits of science as “the only way of knowing”, and Chris Chamber retailiates.

 

Heh/wow/huh

Jumping spider turns assassin bug into assassinated bug

Odd Things Happen When You Chop Up Cities And Stack Them Sideways

Mars Curiosity takes a self-portrait. (My parody.)

Control telescopes from your iPad? There’s an app for that

A million metastasising hermit crabs swarm a beach

Great monkey pics (that colobus!) from Alex Wild.

Winners of the 2012 British Wildlife Photography Award. Those GANNETS!

Mmmm… natural fractals as seen through Google Earth

Ask Mars Curiosity: “Relationship advice from a doomed machine on a… (probably) lifeless planet”

 

Internet/journalism/society

Dan Engber of Slate has won a National Academies Keck Award for his awesome three-part story on lab mice. I picked it as one of my top longreads from last year. If you haven’t read it already…

Scientists play a large role in bad medical reporting, but that’s NOT an excuse for bad journalism. We’re meant to root out the spin.

I like this. A bunch of very grumpy tech people bitch over the godawful tech jargon used at TechCrunch Despair

Three editors advise on a question freelancers stew over: How long can my draft REALLY be?

Amy Wallace updates her legendary Wired story on Amy Bishop, the University of Alabama professor who has just pleaded guilty yesterday for the murders of several colleagues

The Daily Mail’s fight to get online porn blocked is a bit rich coming from the people behind Mail Online

The Great Geek Sexism Debate

Amazing review of Naomi Wolf’s book by Zoe Heller – an intelligent evisceration

Oh god. The French version of “Internet for Dummies” is specifically aimed at women. And has a pink, flowery border

 

 

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Links

Comments (7)

  1. 1) Thank you for using “restore” instead of “cure” when talking about the gerbils, stem cells, and hearing.

    2) Isn’t “grumpy tech people” redundant? ;-)

  2. Bee

    Why do you link to this terrible black hole paper? As an example of peer review failure?

  3. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Everyone needs a friend like Jupiter, to take asteroids in the face for them.

    Actually, it is likely that outer gas giants are foes, not friends:

    ” “When George Wetherill did his work back in 1994, the computers available to him were much more limited than what we have today,” says Horner, who originally comes from the UK. “The lack of computing power meant that he had to make some fairly big approximations and simplifications. His was a ground-breaking study but at the same time it was one that was limited by what he had available.”

    Horner and and Jones decided to run the experiment again but this time with twenty-first century computing power, hooking up tens of computers in parallel at the Open University. Their simulations agreed that Jupiter is a factor in protecting Earth from long period comets, but how would it fare with the new populations of short period comets and near Earth asteroids? Described in a series of papers published in the International Journal of Astrobiology, the duo found their answer to be at odds with conventional theory.”

    “The simulations showed that the number of asteroid impacts on Earth peaks when there is a planet in Jupiter’s orbit that has a mass one-fifth that of Jupiter’s mass, whereas just over half the peak rate of impacts occur when there is a planet with a mass equal to Jupiter. The impact rate falls off again at the lower extreme, when Jupiter’s mass becomes too low to be able to nudge any asteroids with its gravity.”

    “Jupiter’s role seems confused. It definitely sends asteroids and comets our way and, in any given year, more than 90 percent of all objects crossing Earth’s orbit are asteroids, so the protection Jupiter provides us from long period comets, or by eventually removing short period comets, is of lesser importance. Hence Jupiter is not the friend that it has been perceived to be.”

    My interest here is the astrobiology implications. Whether impacts are good or bad for abiogenesis or later habitability is one set of questions. But another question is that the atrocious “Rare Earth” hypothesis relies on combining specious factors (here: Jupiter lower impact rates, impacts are bad) in such a way that they have all been shown to be irrelevant or questionable or outright erroneous. This is one of the latter cases.

  4. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    @ Bee:

    Cosmology is a small part of my astrobiology interest, but it so happens that I need to understand arxiv and inflation (structure formation; anthropic theory) both.

    - As this paper is publicized in arxiv, the peer review that will happen after getting ‘license to publish’ is post-publication. It is not an obvious failure of peer review for an outsider.

    - I happen to be finishing up Bousso et al paper on how time will end early in an eternal inflation cosmology with a sensible (geometric cutoff based) measure, because Susskind et al work on anthropic theory has astrobiological implications.

    And I may easily misunderstand what they are describing. But they claim that there is a 50 % risk that the universe will end within ~ 3.7 billion years (clear astrobiological implications, IMO) and that it is similar to how these measures predict a thermalized observer, not an end of time, in these situations. This seems to be what Sheikh has independently suggested, perhaps not aware of Bousso et al work.

    The physics seems to be:

    a) There is no global view to be had because of relativity, and the two descriptions (outside and inside observer) are not in contradiction. On the contrary, trying for a global description would constitute “quantum xeroxing” in the sensible measures, which I take it is forbidden. (The “no cloning” theorem perhaps?)

    b) Thermalization comes from spacetime being an incomplete emergent phenomena (p17), so future physics may come to a better description (but see a)).

    [I'll give the paper where the actual refs are, because I haven't finished it: "Eternal inflation predicts that time will end", Bousso et al, arxiv 2010.]

    I assume the paper may be seen terrible outside of this physics view, but even detractors like Tom Banks recently wrote on Cosmic Variance that the mass of publications on the landscape of string theory is on eternal inflation and thus in some measure [sic!] also on its measures.

    Coincidentally Bousso et al claims eternal inflation is a straightforward prediction of general relativity motivated by our observations (longlived field theory vacuum with positive vacuum energy: de Sitter vacuum; dark energy and a “conspicuous” lack of evidence for a it not being a cosmological constant). So how this is over all “terrible” instead of a good catch by Yong I don’t see – these things are not exactly rocket science.

  5. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Oops, my mistake of haste, the Sheikh paper is to be/is already published in Adv. Studies Theor. Phys according to the arxiv descriptions.

    So it is pre-published peer reviewed, and they missed IMHO that it lacked some references to previous art. Then you can start to home in on how this could be a larger (“terrible”) failure instead of, perhaps, a variant of an already established and well motivated hypothesis. That would mean some reference to criticism that Yong (and now I) have missed.

    The rest of my comment still stands, I believe.

  6. Bayesian Bouffant, FCD

    Wow. Fruit salad trees are real. Ferris Jabr on how to make trees that bear lots of different kinds of fruit

    U haz ben pwned. Why you should have recognized that this article is bogus:

    Most of the trees on the Ridge [a mountain range in Florida ...]

    Then you could go peruse the “List of Florida’s highest points” on Wikipedia to find that teh highest elevation in that state is 345 ft. above sea level.

  7. Bee

    Torbjörn: “lacked some references to previous art” is somewhat of an understatement. They seem to have missed 3 decades worth of publications. The infalling observer sees a finite temperature in a finite time. He doesn’t notice anything out of the ordinary when crossing the horizon (which would violate the equivalence principle). Since the black hole evaporates the time that passes at I^+ is of course not infinite. The claim in the paper is wrong for reasons obvious to everybody who knows anything about the topic. It should never have gotten published. And I would appreciate if such misinformation wasn’t spread by bloggers.

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