I’ve got your missing links right here (15 December 2012)

By Ed Yong | December 15, 2012 11:00 am

For new readers, this collection of “missing links” rounds up fascinating stuff I find around the internet, and appears every Saturday. It’s separated into Top Picks (the best stuff), Science/News/Writing (science writing), Heh/Wow/Huh (silliness, satire, photos, videos), and Journalism/Internet/Society (a miscellany of my other interests). If links are broken, let me know in the comments.

Top picks

“Restless genes” by David Dobbs, about the genetics and other factors behind the human urge to explore, is one of the best science stories of the year, let alone the week. It’s beautifully written without sacrificing nuance. I know David personally, and I know how much he agonises about capturing the complexity of the science that he covers. And when someone does that, and puts in the work, you get results like this.

Giant crabs are marching on Antarctica. Douglas Fox narrates their invasion.

“Dear Cancer, I beat you aged 8 & today I got my PhD in cancer research” – By Vicky Forster

Great gut-wrenching piece of writing about the difficult decisions faced by parents of a 23-week-old baby

A very cool experiment: scientists transform fish fins into sort-of-but-not-really hands. By Carl Zimmer.

Alexis Madrigal, Becca Rosen, and Megan Garber tell you about the year in technology. Essential.

You may have heard about mirror neurons. That’s because they’re the most ridiculously hyped concept in neuroscience. Here’s the reality, from Christian Jarrett.

Jeff Ingram repeatedly gets total amnesia, but his wife is his memory. Amazing story.

NASA’s going to punch the moon with robots

Impressive: conservationists have eradicated all rats from Rabada Island in the Galapagos. By Henry Nicholls.

The Bizarre, Beetle-Biased World of Social Insect Exploitation

A superb post by Dana Hunter on Mt St Helens’ legendary explosion. And there’s apparently a “volcanal explosivity index“…

Here’s everything you need to know about the new coronavirus from the Middle East, by Maryn McKenna, Helen Branswell, and Declan Butler (with a great interactive) .

Scientist gets stung by box jellyfish, recovers after days in pain, then finds a treatment. By Christie Wilcox.

This piece by Brian Switek, on a hypothesis that puts life on land 65myrs early, is a great example of critical reporting. Also note: it’s a Nature news story that takes down a Nature paper. Editorial independence FTW!

When is grieving a sickness? Controversy over psychiatry’s new rules for bereavement and depression, ably covered by Brandon Keim.

Carl Zimmer: an example to us all. Check out his Reddit AMA on parasites and more.

Which comes first as we age: ill health or declining bacterial communities in our guts? Virginia Hughes investigates.

Remarkable! A 120-Year-Old Mechanical Device that Perfectly Mimics the Song of a Bird.

Stem cell scientists are taking the piss: brain cells made from urine

Parasites in your skin is the new Jesus on toast – a case of photoshopping parasites into existence? By Neuroskeptic.

“It’s like watching a natural Manhattan breaking apart in front of your eyes.” – birth of an enormous iceberg!

Science/news/writing

Western chimps are very different to eastern ones… but just how different?

Is the ocean really getting more acidic? Hannah Waters on why we can’t expect beautiful & clean science when talking about large-scale changes in the ocean

What’s that? Oh nothing, just one of the oldest things we have ever seen

Report confirmed that neglected tropical diseases are neglected, tropical

From one slow loris species to four! (2 are reclassified subspecies; 1 is new). Also doesn’t the loris in the photo look delighted about the news?

“The patient’s arms were peculiar and stiff because the elbows were actually knees.” Awesome mutation story from Ricki Lewis.

Phil Plait has a good piece on the death of Sir Patrick Moore, including the good and bad.

‘Made-for-TV experiments’ can make really bad science

Honey bees trained to stick out their tongues for science

The reconstructed face of the hobbit (no, not that one, the actual one)

Traces of the world’s oldest cheese: 7,500 years old and it would have tasted like mozzarella!

In Sri Lanka, attempt to save elephants through relocation fails and sews more human-pachyderm conflict

Great piece by Judy Stone on a psychiatric clinical trial, a participant’s suicide – and questions.

“The global illegal trade in wildlife is worth £12bn a year and is threatening the stability of some governments”

Day #9483: Squid land shock-troops still underperforming. Consider exoskeleton.

Elsevier editorial system hacked, reviews faked, 11 retractions follow

“I’ve decided to come out of the scientific closet, and openly declare my support of non-translational, basic research”

Videogamers beat surgeons at using surgical robots

A new, photo of the extremely elusive New Guinea singing dog

Connectomics – the video game

We eradicated the virus, but people think lab stocks should be destroyed. No, not smallpox. The other one!

Big UK push to integrate whole-genome sequencing into the healthcare system

What should we name the next NASA rover after Curiosity? Vote for the last option

Today I learned that your brain has an “itch matrix“. Like the Autobot one, presumably, but more irritating

Crayons named after the chemicals that burn with a similarly coloured flame!

Yale scientists name Obamadon, a slender-jawed lizard after the President. (It’s apparently so boring that the artist had to put it in a corner (it’s the blue one) and add dinosaurs).

An excellent interview with super-blogger NeuroSkeptic, ‘the James Dean of science blogging’

Paige Williams’ 15 steps to writing are spot-on

BMC has a new project to unlock the value of medical case reports

Toronto Sun misspells “correction” in “correction” note

Tongue of a Lorikeet. Wow.

How could Florida’s giant python hunting contest–open to all–go awry? Kate Wong counts the ways

On why we get most of our knowledge by relying on experts: John Kubie on “epistemic closure” in his new blog.

Tyger tyger burning white. A compelling case against keeping white tigers in zoos.

What is and isn’t a scientific debate by Dave Hone.

More from Deborah Blum on the radioactivity in cigarette smoke

Fast-folding DNA origami

It would take around 65,000 model rocket engines to launch an actual rocket into space

 

Heh/wow/huh

‘The Hobbit’ To Feature 53-Minute-Long Scene Of Bilbo Baggins Trying To Figure Out What To Pack

I love this picture of a Chinese zoo escape drill so much.

20 amazing infographics of 2012. I was all ready to be cynical, but these *are* actually pretty good

Amazing! A spider that’s doing this face: o_O

“Q: what did batman say to robin before they got in the car? A: get in the car.” Bad kids’ jokes.

Bane’s “outtakes” from The Dark Knight Rises. Man likes his fibre.

A study on the effect of Batman on a man’s body image

 

Journalism/internet/society

Curtis Brainard interviews Carl Zimmer and me about the ever-changing ecosystem of science blogs, and Deborah Blum talks about our new collective at the Knight Science Journalism Tracker

The best (and worst) media errors and corrections of 2012

Trek along with Brian Vastag as he follows a man who follows dinosaur footprints. Great tips on writing profiles

An international guide to laughing on the internet

The winner of the Bulwer-Lytton Contest, where people write the worst opening sentence of a novel, has been announced. And it’s about FACEMITES!

The Pope has started tweeting. The only people whom he follows are his international team of clones

The Oatmeal responds to a Buzzfeed hit piece. Wow.

Please welcome Keith Kloor to Discover’s blogging collective

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