I've got your missing links right here (20 October 2012)

By Ed Yong | October 20, 2012 12:00 pm

Top picks

Beautifully written piece by Ross Andersen on bristlecone pines, whose millennia-old bodies are living almanacs of past climates.

We discovered a rocky Earth-sized world in Alpha Centauri, the star system next door. From that planet, we’d see Earth as a sixth dot in Cassiopeia. Before bursting into flames. Here’s Lee Billings’ great piece on the discovery and why it matters, and his superb feature giving all the background to the project. Nadia Drake also has a great piece on the planet.

An amazing National Geographic investigation on the ivory trade, by Bryan Christy. 1) Religion is heavily responsible. 2) A conservation group really screwed up.

Big, Smart, Green: A Vision for Modern Farming. A great write-up of an intriguing approach

A scorching and spot-on criticism of the failed opportunities in Felix Baumgartner’s not-space jump stunt, by Amy Shira Teitel. And here’s Will Oremus with an even less impressed take. And Leo Hickman answers some key questions

Wonderful, rambling read from Bora Zivkovic on spiders: from Charlotte’s Web to hallucinogens.

The downsides of winning a Nobel prize. Nice piece by Ian Sample.

‘Against animal natures: An anthropologist’s view” on animals as individuals. By Barbara King.

Will Storr investigates the mysterious deaths of young men in Central America from a strange kidney disease.

Fantastic piece: “On Men Who Think Street Harassment Would Be Awesome”

An excellent piece on the badger culls, by Geoff Brumfiel.

The amazing winners of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photography Competition show that a stag can shoot down cars with laser antlers, and that penguins propel themselves with farts. More winners here.

Gonzo geoengineer gets media hype. Craig McClain calms it right down.

“I’ll be your visionary; you do the things I come up with.” The Onion’s TED talks parodies are. Just. So. Good.

Great piece on how to write evocatively from field reporting. Also: “I had an orangutan eat my tapes once, and I was really glad I had my notes then.” Journos, take note. And take notes.

What goes on in the mind of a troll? Great piece by Becca Rosen, on the Violentacrez affair. And Lili Loofbourow has an excellent piece on Reddit and “free speech”

Take the time to read all of Virginia Hughes’ reporting on autism from the Society for Neuroscience meeting. 15 pieces in FIVE DAYS?!

It’s been raining under my eyes. Conservationists rescue a baby elephant from a well

Microscopic Beast Caught Hitchhiking on Mayfly with prehensile antennae. Amazing fossil!

 

News/writing/science

Why do elephants have hair? To keep cool.

“Traumatic memories can be manipulated in sleeping mice to reduce their fearful responses during waking hours.”

Nearly 15% of African presidents are scientists/engineers. “The road to democracy is being bridged by technocracy.”

Condition makes man’s scalp look like surface of brain

Habitat loss may be to blame for an apparent spate of violent attacks by chimpanzees on human in DRC

Blood from young mice can reverse some effects of ageing. But here’s a big media-training tip, scientists. Do not say stuff like in the last 2 paras here; you are inviting trouble

Moon-forming impact theory rescued. Theia lives! (Or not, as the case may be).

When it comes to microbes, pillowcases are statistically indistinguishable from toilet seats

Asshat professor complains that there aren’t enough hot women at a science conference. His godawful blog might explain some of this perspective.

Three Domains, One Zoom. New PLOS phylogeny explorer

Foot-long harvestman discovered in cave. It preys upon rulers

How do people draw opposite conclusions about climate change from the same temperature data? This GIF explains

Apparently montane cloud forests are like Disney forests, where everything is great and trees catch you when you fall

Skipping breakfast primes brain to seek high-calorie food. Solution: eat constantly. Amirite?

Cost to Prevent All Future Extinctions: $11/Person?

Person signs up for brain donation programme. They die. Now what? These people

Amateur astronomers find a planet in a four-star system

Aw, lookit da widdle baby scorpions

Craig Venter wants to put a sequencer on Mars. “Perhaps the real fear is that an army of genetically engineered Craig Venters would come back to take over the planet.” Oh, you joke.

Research about a singing fish. By Dr Bass.

Science for Girls, or as we like to call it, “Science”. Tania Bronwe on her on-again, off-again love affair w/ science

Robot wheelchair climbs steps and elevates over obstacles! AWESOME.

Athene Donald on celebrating the historical + continuing contributions of women in science

Modern-day alchemy: getting one element to behave like another so we don’t run out

Predator X is finally named, and it’s a little funkei. Also Hurum exaggerated. I AM SHOCKED.

Lovely video on the BBC website in honour of Ada Lovelace Day.

Why are humans so afraid? Featuring giant, carnivorous kangaroos

GM mouse created to detect landmines. Except they don’t know how it will practically do that.

TEDx pulls down a notoriously wacky pseudoscience talk.

Seed shrimp thought extinct has been living in cave for 40 mil. years

Self-proclaimed stem cell pioneer admits lies but maintains pathbreaking procedure. This story just gets more and more bizarre

UM NO NOM: UN warns of looming food crisis in 2013

“The research builds on a long series of marshmallow-related studies that began at Stanford in the late 1960s”

Boy with genetic marker for cystic fibrosis – but not the disease – ordered to change schools. Ridiculous.

The night sky is part of our nature and the astronomical imaging is a form of nature photography.”

“No one knows exactly what [%] of medicines are fake, ill-made, stolen or diverted. But bad pharma is a global problem”

More wrong-headed unscientific decisions by Italian courts, the latest in a long-running series of dodgy legal applications of weak science – this time, mobile phones and cancer.

Scorchio! Roasting Triassic heat exterminated tropical life

The reprogrammed stem cells that made Nobel news last wk reveal a bizarre trait of Parkinson’s cells

“Gary Farlow can make art out of arteries.” Amazing glass medical models

The Urine Wheel – a 16thC tool for diagnosing diseases based on the “color, smell, and taste of the patient’s urine”

Heh/wow/huh

Critter in a coffee cup. These are great. Also: how to really freak out your friends.

Stoat jumps for joy, or is dropped from great height?

You like time-lapse videos of the night sky, right? Course you do.

Every part of this insect looks like it contains another terrifying/adorable insect

Wonderful time-lapse film of Space Shuttle Endeavour’s final journey. Love the road signs!

“There is no telling where I may apply, if you turn me down.”

This is the most useful list in the world

Heh. Mitt Romney’s tax plan.

This seemingly small explosion on the sun is 100,000 miles tall

XKCD on lightning strikes (Don’t stare directly into the bolt)

Until 1996, no Democrat incumbent w/o combat experience had beaten someone whose first name was worth more in Scrabble. XKCD on silly election claims.

Oh dear, Jasmin H, aged 14, I have some interesting things to tell you about ducks

Ah, the Onion. “Obama Excited To Participate In First Debate”

This is what happens when the cladists win. (No explanation for the spider though)

Oh, just a Space Shuttle, going for a donut

Not a good thing to include on proof copies of books.

A science blog called “Lies From the Pit of Hell.”

“The Sound of Cylons

Internet/journalism/society

Possibly a huge conflict of interest re: Nobel Literature prize

Sergei Udaltsov, Russian Dissident, Live Tweets His Detention

Google’s Ngram Viewer just got an upgrade. Here’s @bgzimmer on what’s new

“What is the difference between a columnist and a blogger?” My take: only one of them STILL gets sh*t from curmudgeonly journalists.

This is a pretty gorgeous (and RAM-sucking) way of presenting a feature.

Newsweek ends its print run, goes entirely digital. Maybe that “Heaven is real” cover was a desperate plea? And the Telegraph screws up the story.

Twitter blocks neo-Nazi account in Germany. And only Germany. Becca Rosen discusses implications.

The Assange extradition conspiracy explained. Chilling when you lay it all out…

Man quadruples productivity by hiring a woman to slap him every time he checks Facebook.

“Bum beef” not what I thought. List of prison slang.

Excellent point-by-point dissection of an op/ed about “pro-life lefties”, and another good comment piece on the topic by Naomi McAuliffe

Wow, the Internet really is a series of tubes. Painted in Google colours. A look inside Google’s data centres

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Uncategorized

Comments (10)

  1. Isabel

    ” 1) Religion is heavily responsible.”

    You might want to rethink this statement.

  2. Thanks for the link :) Though the article is humorous, we are also trying to draw attention to the very serious human rights issues we feel are being affected in the Assange case.

    http://www.wikiwatch.org.uk/assange-and-human-rights/

  3. Ed, I’m so grateful for this list every week – checking in with it has become one of my most warmly anticipated weekend rituals. Thank you!

    This week I’m especially eager to read the Barbara King article, but the link is dead, alas.

  4. oztiger

    Hi Ed,

    the link for “TEDx pulls down a notoriously wacky pseudoscience talk” doesn’t work.

    BTW, there are some other nonsense TED talks. For example, the talk “What’s wrong with our food system” given by a child and his name is Birke Baehr. He attached GM crops without providing any valid scientific evidences, in order to promote organic farming.

  5. liv

    Hi Ed, Love your blog and the vast majority of articles you post, but I was disappointed to see your link and summation of Bryan Christy’s natgeo article. Sure, it sounds great, swashbuckling even. But he totally misunderstands (and misrepresents) the ETIS system, unintentionally or not. Also, and an element I imagine you may feel more strongly about, is that since the publication of this article, various sources have come out from the Philippines who were interviewed or connected to those interviewed claiming that Christy mis-represented himself in order to get information for his story. Im a conservationist, not a journalist, but I understand this kind of behaviousr seriously undermines Christy’s journalistic integrity. To me this article smacks of sensationalism. Currently Ivory and Rhino horn trade are hot topics globally; time just published an article, great articles were also written in esquire and vanity fair recently about it, and many others. With everyone talking and writing about it, I think Christy had to sensationalise to get noticed…..Cheers

  6. @Liv – thanks for the comment. If you have links to these sources, please do share them.

  7. The missing link pointed out by @oztiger at #4 is here.

    How I found it: (1) Cut-and-paste “TEDx pulls down a notoriously wacky pseudoscience talk.” into Google. (2) Notice first hit is to tweet by Carl Zimmer. (3) Click on it. (4) Click on link in tweet.

  8. labellaflora

    @#1 – Isabel,
    I’ve read the article. It’s devistatingly true. People are using religion to justify their greed and the extermination of elephants…all elephants. Please read the article.

  9. labellaflora

    @#5 – liv,

    I respectfully disagree. The fact elephants are still being slaughtered by the hundreds shows ETIS has not done their job. People need to pay attention and Christy’s article does that.

  10. liv

    Hello again,

    @Ed-A couple links below, first of particular relevance:

    http://businessmirror.com.ph/home/opinion/33530-did-natgeo-man-misrepresent-himself
    http://www.sunstar.com.ph/breaking-news/2012/09/25/palma-ivory-trade-church-respects-creation-244743

    @ labellaflora: I completely agree that people need to pay attention, and with the recent spate of articles and attention, increasingly people are.

    However, To state that “ETIS has not done its job” I think reflects a misunderstanding of what ETIS is. ETIS is the Elephant Trade Information System: it is an ivory trade monitoring tool operated on behalf of the CITES parties (that is, the countries/signatories to this convention) by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring NGO. Information on trade is collected and collated within the database to monitor trends in trade. This information is made available to the parties, including elephant range states in Africa and Asia, to assist their enforcement efforts. ETIS, like CITES and TRAFFIC, has no enforcement capacity, rather, their role is support range states in creating local capacity to protect their wildlife and enforce their legislation.

    So, to state that ETIS has not done its job is untrue. This trade continues because of overwhelming demand in China (in particular), a lack of enforcement capacity in range states and probably corruption. So, who do you point the finger at-the 30 something middle classes in East Asia, primarily driving demand, for whom its cool to own ivory trinkets? the rangers in East, Central and Southern Africa who fail, often through no fault of their own, to stop poaching? Air and seaport cargo staff who can check <5% of cargo passing their way? corrupt officials? the general public for not knowing and not doing enough?

    The fact is that all of the above are responsible, and all to blame. But pointing fingers is, well, pointless. This is a global, complex, multi-faceted problem which requires some money, innovation, varied approaches and, ultimately, will. Although we are trying, thsi battle is being lost, something which applies generally across the board for conservation and biodiversity, I fear.

    Getting back to the point at hand-the natgeo article- its great that this piece has brought attention to this issue. That is not in dispute. But many articles have been written in big, well renowned publications on ivory trade for the last year. The issue is whether the information presented therein is factually true and was ethically obtained. I maintain that, in its entirety, it is/was not. Furthermore, there is the question of whether this was willfully done to make it stand out from the rest (links below, if anyone is interested).

    http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2011/08/elephants-201108
    http://world.time.com/2012/10/15/blood-ivory-hong-kong-fights-a-losing-battle-against-smugglers/
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/04/world/africa/africas-elephants-are-being-slaughtered-in-poaching-frenzy.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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