Category: Links

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!

Read More


I’ve got your missing links right here (8 December 2012)

By Ed Yong | December 8, 2012 11:00 am

Top picks

Perfect match of writer and topic: Carl Zimmer on the science of zombifying parasites, following a new special issue on the topic (also summarised by Kathryn Knight).

Hilarious, depressing take by Vaughan Bell on the finalised DSM-V – the new manual for psychiatry. Meanwhile, ex-chairman Allen Frances unleashes a scorching response

Amy Shira Teitel is fast becoming a go-to person for space news. Here’s her take on NASA’s Mars plans and on Mercury—the closest planet to the sun, and loaded with ice!

David Quammen meets the President. No not that one. The world’s 2nd biggest tree. Gorgeous

“The editors decided to make a historically accurate, real scorpion bomb.” By Adrienne Mayor

What happens when a man has an extra Y chromosome? Not that much—XYY people say more about our beliefs about men.

A bizarre koala viral outbreak gives us valuable lessons about our own evolution. Excellent stuff from Carl Zimmer.

Hilarious. A study of the brain regions most likely to get you published.

“I’m all for replicating, and reporting null results, but what about the bees?” Great piece from a very promising new-ish neuroscience blog – The Magnet is Always On.

Our black marble – check out our impact on the night

Wired’s best scientific Figures of 2012, chosen by Brandon Keim. Lovely idea. Beautiful images.

Cells are often drawn as dots floating inside a circle. These paintings capture the reality

It’s great that neurobollocks is being discussed but there’s also this straw man of “abandoning neuroscience” (used in the NYT piece linked from this post. Meanwhile, SciCurious discusses why neuroscience won’t get a Newton, and doesn’t need one.

Jonathan Eisen lists more scientific lapses from the NYT’s immortal jellyfish story. See also: Paul Raeburn’s critique that I linked to last week, and a comment from one of the original authors on the paper that started everything. To me, this story epitomises a lot of problems in science writing: a generalist writer seduced by one man’s spiel, science suffering as a result, and (in some of the reactions on Twitter) people *still* calling it a “good story” because it’s nicely written. Just… no.

John Hutchinson did a Reddit AMA about dinosaurs, frozen body parts, and his awesome dissection research. Worth a read

Okay, “dive a coral reef with a UV light” just shot to the top of my list of things to do before you die.

Gary Marcus piece on Noam Chomsky’s infuriating contributions to linguistics

This is lovely. Darwin’s Tangled Bank in Verse, by Michael Eisen

Read More


I’ve got your missing links right here (1 December 2012)

By Ed Yong | December 1, 2012 12:00 pm

Top picks

This slow-motion video of a cheetah running is the most incredible thing I’ve seen all…. Well, it’s incredible. Note how freakishly steady the head is! And focus on one foot – watch how much distance the animal covers between the foot lifting off and coming down again! And do NOT miss the end, where you see how it looks in real-time.

The closest planet to the sun has loads of ice! Amazing news about Mercury!

Human Evolution [Is Going Through] an Exciting New Phase – excellent piece by Brandon Keim

Stunningly good read about a man’s journey from earache to brain tumour to coma, and the ensuing end-of-life court battle.

The Lying Disease: Why do some people fake cancer online? An incredible piece on “Munchausen’s by Internet”.

Every single sentence in Time’s description of the Higgs boson is wrong.

The man whose brain ignores one half of his world

Top photo: the one on the right is a sponge; the one on the left is a frogfish. Just astounding

Great interview at TheAtlantic with Uri Simonsohn “the data vigilante” who has exposed fraud in psychology

This is how Pompeii died, and it’s not quite how most people think. Great piece by Dana Hunter.

Beautiful photo series of the sublime slime mould Dictyostelium, by Alex Wild

How do porcupines mate? The standard punchline is correct, but doesn’t even begin to cover it

Bugs! Antarctica! Lake! Life abounds in really very extreme conditions.

Two years with cancer – XKCD

A Tale of Two Scales: Big Rhinos and Giant Rhinos; a lovely evocative post from John Hutchinson

Experiments that run longer than the life of the researcher! (With Richard Lenski, who is still alive and still awesome)



Jack Gilbert will take ALL of your sh*t. Just send it to him in the post. Interesting project to crowdsource 10k gut microbiomes from around the US

Every wondered what the time is in Antarctica? It’s more complicated than you might think

Crocodile head scales result from cracking

An RCT of (false)-balanced reporting on the autism-vaccine story on beliefs about vaccines

Is everything we eat associated with cancer – study uses cookbooks to review the gigantic mess that is nutritional epidemiology.

Fantastic critique of the NYT’s oversold “immortal jellyfish” story, by Paul Raeburn.

This is not a Rubik’s cube

Solid response from SciCurious to bizarre, ill-advised idea of getting a PhD to BECOME a science writer

The Integrative Palaeontologist – what promises to be a great new blog about dinosaurs

Journal retracts fraudster’s papers, then publishes NEW paper from same guy that cites retracted papers & hides

Lovely bit of unfolding natural history: a tale of whelks and unfortunate clams

Italian team take picture of DNA with electron microscope

Siamese fighting fish gulp air to keep on fighting

Can we predict what proportion of scientific studies will replicate? One project’s gonna try

Ignore the lamentable Susan Greenfield & watch Daphne Bavelier on video games improving cognition

NASA backpedals on misreported claim about Mars findings.

Report on Diederik Stapel – psychology fraudster – blames the absence of a critical scientific culture at academic institutions. Meanwhile, Stapel is so sorry and ashamed that he’s writing a book about it

Does the world seem steadier if you’re a chicken?

New species of skinny, bug-eyed snake discovered in Ecuador

Fear Factor: Spider silk reduces plant damage

Amazon deforestation drops to record low

10,000 Hrs of Practice Won’t Make You An Expert: 10 Facts That Really Aren’t Facts

Barrel roll! A blue whale’s size doesn’t stop it performing underwater acrobatics to attack prey

Some… “scientists” claimed to have sequenced Bigfoot DNA. Next: chupacabra FMRI!

SciCurious is starting a guest-post series, for scientists who want to try their hand at science writing

On the need for robot ethics: “Your driverless car is about to hit a bus; should it veer off a bridge?”

Scientists say they can track early human movements over 7,000 years ago by analysing molecules in ancient poo.

SpaceX founder unveils plan to send 80,000 people to Mars. Which reminds me of this.

New fossil reveals hangingfly that might have hid among Jurassic ginkgo trees

Brain’s ‘reading centres’ are culturally universal

Should scientists, particularly climate scientists, be bolder in public? By Alice Bell

Stressing out really does make severe depression worse

Wonderful, compassionate article by Vaughan Bell on the many varied ways people grieve

Can a scientific fraudster be rehabilitated? Why would we even bother?

From Charles Darwin’s pigeons to moon rock, London’s Natural History Museum celebrates its most prized items.

Great NYT interactive on the extent to which rising seas will submerge U.S. cities

Living cells enclosed in nanopyramids, interacting with others in neighbouring pyramids

Ten Amazon cities doubled in population in last 10yrs, swallowing the rainforest

No, smallpox virus has NOT been detected in 300-year-old Siberian mummy… just gene fragments

Faked research is endemic in China.” Shi-Min Fang [exposed] 1000+ cases of science fraud

“This “scientist as monk” meme is hurtful and deserves to die a flaming death.”

The new coronavirus that emerged in Mideast before the hajj & then seemed to disappear has now sickened an entire family



Jaw meet floor: Gorgeous images from National Geographic Photo Contest. Some days, I feel like this sealion

The first law of thermodynamics is…

One for the editors. Note: irony.

The Philosopher Shaming Tumblr is great. Twitter will give me CONSTANT opportunities to use this one.

NOM Chomsky

The Nile from space

‘I Am A Brand,’ Pathetic Man Says

170-foot trampoline installed in Russian forest. Some bears are gonna be pretty confused…

“With Apple’s new “Letters”, we can write words like “cease” and “desist”.”

Work hard, kids: After his Nobel win, Niels Bohr was given a perpetual beer supply, piped into his house

Incredible Time-Lapse Video Shows Stars and Clouds Over Volcanic Island

Brilliant blue tree tarantula w/ yellow banding



Massive congratulations to Suzi Gage and David Colquhoun for winning the first UK Science Blog Prize.

The big news in journalism this week is the publication of the Leveson report. Here’s a take from Emily Bell arguing why it’s already irrelevant, and another good take from the Economist. And the Daily Mash: “The thing where everyone gets their news has promised to find out what a ‘Leveson’ is.”

Syria cut itself off from the internet, killed cell service-not good.

Pentagon: autonomous robots won’t be allowed to kill you, but they can spy on you and hack you. YAYSES!

Onion’s ‘sexy’ North Korea story fools Chinese media

1st answer is AMAZING: If every US state declared war against each other, which would win?

Amazing economics article from XKCD

How a fake press release on a Google acquisition fooled the media

Astonishing, depressing photo of an ant-like queue of people on the side of Everest. And the perspective of Ralf Dujmovits, who took the photo.

A new blog on science journalism from for great young journalists, in advance of next year’s conference in Helsinki

Well played, humanity. Buying coffee for the next person in line – Pay-it-forward in action!

How Google put work into Spanner—the story of the world’s largest database

“What is needed is the bravery to construct a horrible journalistic sentence which is nonetheless precise”

When everyone is a publisher, everyone can be sued – the Economist on Twitter

Macy’s parade: ‘Shredded police papers in confetti.’ Shredded *horizontally*?!?

Why does Superman wear red underwear over his costume? Actually interesting

These professors who cracked an ancient 250-year-old code and found a secret society




I've got your missing links right here (24 November 2012)

By Ed Yong | November 24, 2012 12:00 pm

Top picks

One woman’s craving for sleep led to the discovery of a mystery sleep-inducing chemical. This is an amazing piece. Virginia Hughes is science writing royalty.

Attack of the mutant pupfish: a spectacularly written feature by Hillary Rosner on a bold approach to conservation—hybridising species to save them

Excellent longread on a 50-year quest to find cases of “laughing death” (kuru), which led to the discovery of prions

Animal vision evolved 700 million years ago. This is a *beautifully* written post by Lucas Brouwers. Highly recommend

Where is your mind?” Tom Stafford on the fine line between cultural & neural networks

Don’t miss Charles Seife’s investigation into how drug company money is influencing scientists.

Nature takes a hard look at its own sexism & commits to do better. Massive kudos to them for this

If you’re 27 or younger, you’ve never experienced a month when the global temperature was colder than the 20thC average

Yet more evidence of Retraction Watch’s continuing effect on scientific integrity. Congrats to Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus

Check out Gaia Vince’s radio series on the anthropocene.

NatGeo GIFs: it’s like wonder on a loop.

Feather by feather, scientists reconstruct primitive wing of Archaeopterx, a prehistoric bird. By Carolyn Johnson

The story of the portable beetle, with handles that termites can hold, as told by Matthew Cobb the style of Kipling. And then, a follow-up story on a handled wasp!

Hunt for life under Antarctic ice heats up. This is a marvellous quote: “This is the very pinnacle of the science I’ve been doing since the turn of the millennium. Now guess if I’m excited.”

Mankind isn’t a gender-neutral term. Let’s use humanity instead, argues Annaleen Newitz. Lovely piece on etymology

Vaccines: because it’s great when babies don’t sh*t themselves to death. A hard-hitting chart.

Mind-blowing Jennifer Frazer post: Zombified bacteria are a thing.

Troubled bonobo facility reinstates controversial researcher, Sue Savage-Rumbaugh. Great coverage from Kate Wong.



Coming soon: Africa, a new 6-part Attenborough series.

British physicist jailed for smuggling 2kg of cocaine into Argentina, says he was duped by bikini model

It’s the final stretch for Ethan Perlstein’s attempt to crowdfund his research on meth addiction. And here’s more cool crowd-funded science, on beetles that dupe super-organisms

DNA has been around for billions of yrs — but that doesn’t mean scientists can’t make it better.

Where did it go? Scientists ‘undiscover’ Pacific island

Bats adjust squeaks to focus sonar

DROPBATS! Ancient tree-wombat behaved like a koala

Counting white animals against a white backdrop from a helicopter, over 100,000s of sq.kms, is actually pretty tricky”

It is frankly amazing that the guy behind the “Things I Learned as a Field Biologist” blog is even alive.

Self-filling water bottle that condenses water from the air, modelled on namib desert beetle

Here’s a campaign to stop animal rights groups who are targeting firms that transport animals for medical research

Carin Bondar launches a new web series on animal sex

‘Lonesome George has relatives’

Bora Zivkovic on expertise. I love the point about the difference between a good writer and a seductive writer.

Oliver Morton on the Martian organic molecules scientists have already found and studied

In case you need to sort gorilla sperm from human sperm… Jennifer Ouellette on telling one sperm from another

Physicist Paul Davies is back with his ideas about cancer. Except they’re hogwash. See these rebuttals from Genotripe (“…article offers no new insight & crucially, no actual evidence.”) and PZ Myers.

Google engineer turns vacuum cleaner into dirt-cheap book scanner

Nutrition recession: Families struggle to eat healthily amid rising food bills and shrinking budgets

Gamers prove equal to surgeons in operating robotic surgery tools. But they keep dragon-punching my spleen.

Excellent post by Melanie Tannenbaum on the psychology of the Petraeus affair – much better than the usual tripe in this vein.

Why being able to hold your booze might not be a good thing, but could lead to targeted interventions

Man CT scans and 3D prints own skull, makes art of forensic facial reconstruction

To horn or to sneak? It’s all about balls. Tom Houslay on beetle sex lives.

Winter to be cold, say Met Office to press, with tremendous weariness

The science of the moustache

Gorillas & humans last shared a common ancestor 10m yrs ago— how do we know that? Nice explainer

“It is quite usual that an amputated penis is tossed out of an open window, where it may be captured by a duck.”

The cost of basic lab equipment is absurd. Can 3D-printing help?

First randomised controlled trial to show spinal cord regeneration in dogs

Nice campaign from Parkinson’s UK – fund research by sponsoring a C. elegans worm for £5/mth

Great website on the incredible Burgess Shale by the Royal Ontario Museum

JNK Nature paper has 3 corrections and counting… Very rich comment thread

BBC makes absurd decision to axe the great popular science radio show, Naked Scientists

On this story on apes and midlife crises, virtually *every* outside comment I’ve seen about this ape-midlife-crisis story has been skeptical & critical

Breast Checking mitt loses fight to prove credibility

‘Super-Jupiter’ Dwarfs Solar System’s Largest Planet. Jupitest?

How birds are used to monitor pollution. They’re like canaries in the coa… wait.

Science isn’t necessarily hard, nor scientists necessarily clever, and both tropes are unhelpful.

Which Bond villain schemes might actually have made economic sense?

Fascinating paper: how the Mian of Papua New Guinea use rivers to represent space & time how education is changing it

This is a thing? DESTROY ALL TICKS. Evidence mounting that tick bites cause unusual allergy to meat

Relocating rattlesnakes as conservation tool for homeowners?

A teacher’s perspective on the study on neuromyths held by teachers

Skeleton might be Richard III; DNA results delayed from December to January. So… winter of discontent?



Picture taken at London’s Natural History Museum. “We are evolving.” Charles approves.

XKCD on heatmaps

In which Dean Burnett single-handedly fixes the British economy

“They have pictures on the boxes that mean science.” Humans buying any sh*t with ‘immune system’ written on it

Beautiful Chinese leopard wins wildlife camera-trap photo prize

“Using your brains to think of an idea? That’s the old model.” The Onion on social media “gurus

WTFs from textbooks.

Excited frog is excited.

Robot spider seeks missing legs

Spiders from Mars! (made of dry ice)

“Irrational hatred of fruit” and other hidden motivations of video game characters

Second cutest book ever! ZooBorns has new book of dangerously adorable baby animals.

Gaze in wonder at Professor Walter Lewins’ best chalk lines.

No fair, I wanna ride a capybara.

Mechanical Arthropods and Insects Made from Watch Parts and Light Bulbs

Oh HAI, baby mantis!

Public shaming.



On dead pigeon’s leg, an unbreakable code

Writer/journalist and scientist are among kids’ dream jobs, proving again that kids are morons 😉

Della Thomas has an interesting post and survey on self-promotion via Twitter. Here’s my simple guide

Are Japan’s ninjas heading for extinction? Or are they just hiding?

The John McAfee story is unbelizeable

The next generation of touchscreen tech or the emperor’s cumbersome new clothes?

Freelancers, find a home for your science story, by reading what editors want

What does war sound like now?

How many times should the government rebuild at-risk areas? The “retreat” quote is chilling.

Here are 10 golden rules of Twitter

A Q&A about MATTER, the new long-form science publishing initiative

Portraits of politicians made from collages of bits of pornography.

Lord McAlpine plans to Sue 10k Twitter Users

Dystopic, awful read on a possible future for Twitter

This is a shocking example of men who hate strong women. Also: terribly written. Skip to the letter at end


I've got your missing links right here (17 November 2012)

By Ed Yong | November 17, 2012 12:00 pm

Top picks

“Why do some people want to amputate a perfectly healthy limb? And why would any doctor help them?” Anil Ananthaswamy’s story launches Matter, a new magazine for long-form science journalism. If you care about deep, high-quality science writing, please support them. It’s only 99c.

The life and death of Knut the polar bear, & what it says about zoos

Transcendant Alexis Madrigal explains why Obama’s Narwhal skewered Romney’s Orca

You must read “Your Daughter Died” by Deborah Blum, about the unresolved poisonings of young women in Thailand

How one man tapped into the Web to crowd-source a “cure” (sort of) for his cancer

Excellent post from self-described “science groupie” Tania Browne on why non-scientists play a vital role in talking about science

Heh. “Single Molecule Causes Complex Behavior” – a handy template for journalists, by Alan Dove.

Possibly the best Oatmeal cartoon ever about creating content online and working from home.

Terrific Bora Zivkovic post on Nate Silver, what he does, why it matters that he’s a blogger, & the rise of expertise

Fantastic takedown of the “we’re-getting-stupider” fragile intellect story from earlier this week, by Bob O’Hara and GrrlScientist

Amazing. XKCD describes “Up Goer Five

The pseudoscience of chronic Lyme disease, by Cassie Willyard. And from the NYT: “Relapsing” Lyme disease is actually due to new infections

It’s surprisingly hard to change medical terms that are named after Nazi doctors. By Ilana Yurkiewicz

How Joshua Foer learned a language in 22 hours

The science of swords, with Charles Choi. Also, definitely don’t mess with Charles Choi. Or if you do, try shooting him from afar

Read More


I've got your missing links right here (10 November 2012)

By Ed Yong | November 10, 2012 12:00 pm

Top picks

13.7 billion years ago, the universe was born. 12 billion years ago, a star exploded. Now, we’ve seen its light.

Guy pees on pregnancy test stick, gets ”yes”; means he has cancer. Note that Maggie Koerth-Baker is a god of explanatory writing

How a guy saved puffins by faking a puffin society – a wonderful story by Michelle Nijhuis

“I faced a choice: Deliver early or risk a stillbirth?” Brave, personal, important piece by Eugenie Reich

Fascinating Nature piece on what an autism diagnosis looks like in countries w/ different cultural norms to the West

Fascinating. What did the 7 scientists quoted in Jonah Lehrer’s infamous decline-effect piece think of it? By Virginia Hughes.

“It’s like the Arctic but without the view.” Check out the Army’s Arctic Simulation Laboratory

Great Katherine Harmon feature on the parasites that infect the parasites that zombify ants.

“I invented taxonomy!” “No, *I* invented taxonomy!” Apparently, Linnaeus often hallucinated a double of himself. By Robert Krulwich.

How staff at NY’s aquarium saved their animals… from water.

“As we looked at belly buttons we saw a terrible, yawning, richness of life.” Great piece by Rob Dunn. And we still don’t know why Carl Zimmer had Japanese soil bacteria in his bellybutton

“Some of the smaller labs are done.” Devastating piece about how NYU labs are coping in the Sandy aftermath, by Emily Singer.

Behold, Obama’s nerd army who simulated the election, again and again.

This guy climbed 103 stories with a bionic leg that he controlled with his mind.

A case of a patented treatment and negative findings gone AWOL. By Neurobonkers

Neil deGrasse Tyson found Krypton, Superman’s home planet.

Read More


I've got your missing links right here (3 November 2012)

By Ed Yong | November 3, 2012 12:00 pm

Top picks

Astronomers read all the light ever from all the stars ever. Amazing Megan Garber piece. Also: “blazars” are a thing.

How global warming helped transform Sandy from a hurricane into a Frankenstorm, by Chris Mims. And from Becca Rosen: will Sandy change how we talk about climate change?

What happens when you leave a box of tablet computers in an illiterate village w/o instructions? This.

If you can’t beat ’em, subvert ’em: countering misinformation on the viral web. Superb Alexis Madrigal piece on countering misinformation on the web.

13 horrific ways for an insect to die, by Alex Wild. Happy Halloween.

For people wondering why Italy’s courts have such an awful scientific record, Nature News has an analysis

Self-healing concrete feature bacteria that are activated by water

Virtual autopsy – Maryn McKenna on the increasingly common practice of scanning the dead

“Putting windows into animals is an important development.” For cancer research…

Breast screening: the verdict. It saves lives, but causes harm. What next? Good summary of *massively* complicated issue by Henry Scowcroft. And here’s my awesome ex-boss talking about the pros and cons. An NEJM op/ed argues that cancer screening campaigns need to get past uninformative persuasion.

The Curiosity Rover’s Ultimate Self-Portrait. So wonderful.

Luke Jostins has a new paper out on genetic variants associated with irritable bowel syndrome, but takes an unusually honest look at the clinical value of genetic prediction

A popular theory about autism could actually be due to heads moving in a scanner.

A terrifying description of a nasty encounter with Lariam, the antimalarial drug that causes hallucinations and psychosis.

Here’s something to lift your heart: a profile of David Attenborough

The best piece yet analysing the Jonah Lehrer affair and what it means for science writing. Recommended for any wannabe writers. And Carl Zimmer has a tremendous response about the “big old mess” that is science writing .

World’s fastest number game wows spectators and scientists. I love the final pic

Whedon endorses Romney, and he wants you to know why. Also parkour.

Electric transformers are not giant robots. But they do sometimes explode. Maggie Koerth-Baker explains how they work and why they splode.

We can now sequence the genomes of single cells, and that changes a lot. Brian Owens on the single life for genomics.

NYU loses years of scientific research and thousands of mice to Hurricane Sandy. Ignore the line about no lives lost; the story is tragic. And Dan Engber has the best analysis for this event and what it means for other labs.

The ultimate writing challenge: explaining science to kids. Read Matt Shipman’s efforts. Well worth it.

David Funder discusses retaliation against scientists who run contradictory replication attempts. Important piece from a man in an important position.

What do autistic people want from scientific research? Guess what? Cure isn’t on list. Great piece by Emily Willingham; journalists take note.



New dino named after Sauron. Also, the skull in the image is hilarious

Imported fungus is bringing ash die back

Neuroskeptic asks why a leading psychologist, deleted some controversial posts, and whether blogs are “transient and ephemeral”.

How do we fix the problems of scientific fraud?

Neurocritic savages a press release on Democratic v. Republican brains

David Biello explains why Sandy could have been much worse.

NY aquarium “closed indefinitely” due to Sandy flooding; animals may be distributed around the country

Every bird in a tree. With a beautiful diagram

Last week, a talking whale. Now an elephant that says “Hello” in Korean. Coming up, a rapping badger

Japan’s media have played a large part in exacerbating the effects of a stem cell fraud

Last life on Earth will be extreme microbes that perish in 2.8 billion years. Habitability has an expiration date

Cool 4D math shapes from 3D printer. The fourth dimension is confusion.

Fishermen discover Halloween lobster dressed as Two-Face – perfect half-and-half colouration

Redhead pigment boosts skin-cancer risk – even without UV rays, it’s possible that the pigment itself can increase the risk of cancer.

Some people already readily anthropomorphize animals, but with Ratvatar, it’s even easier

Are we cooperative or competitive? Ask an anarchist Russian prince.

Even a superstorm is no excuse for journalists not to check Twitter trolling

Where’s the world’s largest wetland? Hint: it’s covered by ice

That story about ferns named after Lady Gaga turns out to be rather sweet

Broca’s area – a so-called language centre – has two functionally distinct networks & only one does language

Beautiful flying fish fossil

Email to me: “As a direct result of your recent journalism, we put together a website for replications in our own area.” That’s nice.

New wiretap conversation about L’Aquila earthquake adds to controversy

Hurricanes can enter the geologic record. On paleotempestology

Collateral damage: What effect do retractions have on scientific funding?

It’s only October and we’re almost out of hurricane names

How big was Sandy? Check WSJ’s mind-blowing satellite photo comparison w/split screen slider:

British Antarctic Survey saved as merger plan dropped

Old but superb post from Mark Changizi. “Evolution ain’t obvious! Evolution is perhaps the craziest true theory ever!”

Toronto’s glass skyscrapers kill 1-9m birds per year. Bird lovers are taking buildings to court

Amy Shira Teitel reacts to Felix Baumgartner’s NASA-bashing antics.

Targeted cancer drugs are not living up to expectations. What now?

Vaughan Bell fact-checks the Telegraph’s maternal-neglect brain story

Expecting a deluge? Sir David Attenborough picks 10 animals he would take on his ark


The Internet explained

Freelancer bingo! HAHAHAHAHA. Haha. A-heh. He. Mm. …… <cries>

A solar system GIF. Oooooo!

The Onion’s 3rd TED talk parody is so so so good.

Dramatic hedgehog rescue

Tie retraction syndrome

Editor’s note: Barack Obama is president of the United States.” Thanks editor!

Fans of bad movies, I give you: Sharknado

Into the uncanny valley, we have fallen. Yoda without the green.

A Tiny Hermit Crab Close-up


Animal Halloween cartoons, via Robert Krulwich. These are adorable.

Onion: Nation Suddenly Realizes This Just Going To Be A Thing That Happens From Now On

Best fact-check ever. Oh, you were in the *front seat* shooting guns and drinking!

Why did no one tell me about the disco polar bear?

The 2012 winners of the Nikon “Small World” photomicrography contest are gorgeous

Ha! There’s a paper on arXiv that explains Call of Cthulhu with general relativity

Mind-Blowing Photorealistic Pencil Drawing

Dad and Baby Daughter Alien Power Loader Costume

HA! What would happen if we eventually cloned a dinosaur?


“He’ll be like Sisyphus…” The most indebted man in the world owes $6.3 billion

Bell’s palsy is not a great thing to happen to a TV reporter,” says TV reporter who won’t let that stop him

How to tweet responsibly during a breaking news event. Good guidelines in general

Nate Silver faces hilarious attacks from idiotic pundits who don’t understand statistics. Mark Coddington rightly argues that “when journalistic objectivity is confronted w/ scientific objectivity, its circuits [fry]” And Silver makes a playful bet that leads to po-faced commentary from the NYT.

A storify of a session on the dark arts of narrative.

Maryn Mckenna has compiled a list of women on Twitter worth your attention

Here is the first book ever ordered through Amazon

The Open Notebook provides some invaluable tips about preparing in advance of reporting trips

ScienceSeeker’s big upgrade looks great & solves the big problem of science blogs being hard to search

Annalee Newitz reviews “Angel Killers,” a new ebook by Deborah Blum about a child-killer


I've got your missing links right here (27 October 2012)

By Ed Yong | October 27, 2012 12:00 pm

Top picks

Five Italian scientists were sentenced to 6 years in prison for failing to properly communicate the risk of an earthquake that devastated the town of l’Aquila. Here are several pieces about the ill-judged decision:

“People will… hypothesise invincible, transsexual, border-hopping serial killers just to keep the story coherent…” Vaughan Bell on the subjectivity of forensic science.

The genetics of stupidity are more interesting than those of intelligence, says David Dobbs.

Why do children hide by covering their eyes? The answer is really complicated, and very cool. By Christian Jarrett.

Really enjoyed Alice Roberts’ Prehistoric Autopsy – a great documentary about prehistoric hominids. Brits can watch on iPlayer. Everyone else can use an anonymiser.

On prosthetics: “If your leg isn’t comfortable, who gives a crap how expensive or amazing your foot is?”

Big, Smart, Green: A Vision for Modern Farming. Brandon Keim covers a fascinating approach in his typically excellent fashion.

You don’t buy e-books from Amazon; you rent them under an unlimited, but easily revoked, licence

Another yawning dogs study, but Alexis Madrigal finds little to yawn about. He muses instead on science’s zig-zags

Scientist tries her hand at journalism for a few weeks, and finds that it’s really hard. Love this.

“Tracing the backstory can be just as intriguing as reporting the news.” Top post on the baby-DNA-in-mum’s-brain story

Really huge planets could apparently survive being swallowed by a star. “It’s still good! It’s still good!”

Did T.rex eat Triceratops by *pulling off its freakin’ head*?? Bonus: an illustrated step-by-step guide!

Ski slopes vs. craggy mountains – good balanced piece by Dan Fagin on the controversial behaviour of hormone disruptors

Saudi Arabia fires top virus-hunter after he finds virus – that new coronavirus that had everyone worried a while back. Great reporting from Debora Mackenzie

I like this a lot: it’s an ad guy talking to other ad guys, but totally applicable to science communication.

Really good take on the discovery of those feathered ostrich-dinosaurs that I wrote about. Veronique Greenwood goes into the details about how they were actually found.

Big parts of Wikipedia are basically completed & that’s something of a problem for the encyclopedia, says Rebecca Rosen

If you’ve ever wondered what doing research feels like…

Good piece from Bora Zivkovic about a recent fossil-fest conference, and what palaeontologists actually talk about

Rewrite the textbooks! Penis worm develops anus-first.



Surprisingly beautiful: the half-erased blackboards of quantum physics labs

10 most horrible deaths in a DIY space project. “Complete rocket explosion” is only #10

Hilarious list of 5 reasons why “cleansing” your colon is nonsense. I liked “It’s rude to firehose your friends”

This Atlantic piece, about creating a personalised virus that targets leaders of state, connects a good summary of several current scientific trends, and some stirring science-fiction, with some huge logical gaps. It never justifies the “personalised virus” angle, which means that the lede becomes a red herring that subverts the rest of piece

CNN retracts a story on hormones and voters – should the story have been dropped in the first place? Meanwhile, Kate Clancy and SciCurious eviscerate the paper

When you’re almost extinct, your bounty goes up

How archer fish create super spit

How Scientific American’s Bec Crew was plagiarised by the Daily Mail’s Damien Gayle. What. A. Prat.

Harvard hospital apologizes for promoting “weak” data on aspartame, cancer. A win for responsible journalism, PR and more.

Neanderthal vs modern human: who would win?

I rather like this – straight NYT profile of a guy who likes nature.

Vic Charlton on the science of tobacco and “harm reduction

Big splashy medical results are probably too good to be true—new Ioannidis work

Why we can’t get along with our future selves. My future self’s burning through all my savings, that’s why.

A strong wave of new bloggers over at SciLogs. I’m particularly looking forward to Amy Shira Teitel, Nathalia Holt and Matt Shipman’s contributions.

21 words that could clear up the recent methods-reporting issues in psychology

Climate scientist Michael E Mann sues for defamation

How did 4-winged dinosaur Microraptor fly? Kate Wong covers a new study.

New evidence for dinosaur protein preservation, but the DNA claims really are just taking the piss, surely?

Nature sums up the recent furore on a rogue iron fertilization experiment

A celebration of biological blues

Badgers live to badge another day

Never Go Into the Sea, Part #38108 – the Bobbit worm

On oxytocin and The Walking Dead

Fossil scars capture dinosaur headbutts

Brain scans during sleep can decode visual content of dreams. Sort of. Not well.

The mysterious origins of the “8 glasses of water a day” rule. Which is nonsense.

Watch sea lice devour a pig from the inside-out

Fish use skin crystals to swim around law of physics

The Assoc of the British Pharma Industry to Ben Goldacre: “LALALALALALALALALAICAN’THEARYOU”

So, it turns out urine isn’t actually sterile.

Japanese Cabinet members chip in to buy Shinya Yamanka a new washing machine, following his Nobel win. (You’d have thought Yamanaka could just reprogram a dishwasher into a washing machine…)

The Ukrainian Navy teaches dolphins how to kill people, says an… anonymous source. Right. Are they also training journalists to jump the shark?



Here’s world-renowned geneticist Eric Lander dancing to Gangnam Style.

Most terrifying cause of death ever?

Amazing photos of small and microscopic things. I especially love the fruit fly eye.

Herpes cupcakes! Smoker’s lung cake! The world’s most revolting (anatomically correct) cakes

Why field biologists shouldn’t get their feet wet (literally)

An amusing trawl through Wikipedia



Bora Zivkovic on beats vs. obsessions, columns vs. blogs, generalists vs. specialists

Rebecca Watson sums up her experience of misogyny, harrassment and rape threats among the “skeptic” “community”

Really good presentation about Impostor Syndrome

Some good tips on pitching stories, from the Open Notebook

How a parody Twitter account resurrected a god-maker

So… how DID Google bring Street View to the Grand Canyon? With these guys

“What It Was Like to Be a Telephone Operator on the Night Orson Welles Broadcast ‘War of the Worlds”

Very sad to learn of the Radiolab “Yellow Rain” controversy. Here’s a cogent summary and viewpoint, and a response from RadioLab.

Pregnancy via rape: all part of god’s beautiful plan. Said–yes, you guessed it–a Republican Senate nominee

Be sure to check out Deborah Blum’s new e-book. It’s a true crime story, but be warned – some truly disturbing stuff here.

I rather love this post explaining why The Avengers was really Black Widow and Friends.

Oddly moved by hearing the laughter of 19th-century people who are definitely all dead

Matter is about to launch, with its 1st story in Nov 15.


I've got your missing links right here (13 October 2012)

By Ed Yong | October 13, 2012 12:00 pm

Top picks

Why the schizophrenic brain is a bit like Fawlty Towers, and Watergate. Masterful, fascinating post by Kevin Mitchell.

“My husband… suggested I declare my Neanderthal heritage as a potential COI when I write about Neanderthals.” Ann Gibbons on what Neanderthal genomics tells us about our evolution.

As an Einstein letter calling religion “childish” is being auctioned off on eBay, Becca Rosen explores his nuanced views on god and religion. Great piece

DNA has a 521-year half-life, which means that “every bond wld be destroyed after… 6.8 million yrs.” Whcih means that Jurassic Park is impossible. Hate physics so much…

One chemist faked results. Now 34,000 criminal cases may be in question. By Eugenie Reich.

Elizabeth was abducted, raped and thrown off a bridge. How did she bounce back? How does anybody? Virginia Hughes on the science of resilience.

A fossil brain, half a BILLION years old.

“There may be no essential or necessary genetic change [which is essential for our humanity].” argues Razib Khan.

I really like these clever ads from Vancouver’s Science World – piquing curiosity has always been the best way to get people interested.

“It should be possible to support those living with cancer without requiring them to… FIGHT LIKE HELL” – superb piece on why we deserve better than the Lance Armstrong brand of role models

Does New Data Suggest Voyager’s Solar System Exit? The fact that Voyager is still sending us data is completely blows my mind.

Two treads, one on Mars, one on the Moon

Interesting critique of a recent study showing crows have “causal reasoning”

Excellent Peter Aldhous explainer on differing polar ice trends: “The opposite ends of the Earth are v. diff places”

The best/saddest figure ever in a scientific journal.

“Possible good ppl in badly designed systems to perpetrate acts of great evil completely unthinkingly” – Ben Goldacre answers reader questions on big pharma’s bad behaviour.

Awesome piece of sci-communication. How much does a shadow weigh? (video)

Shameful. Why you can’t meet the Fukushima 50 who saved Japan from nuclear disaster.

Here’s how to steal the Space Shuttle, were you so inclined.

This is a great idea: the Brain Train podcast. Academics ask questions about something they’re ignorant but curious about, to other experts. Who then ask questions about something they’re ignorant but curious about….

The number of Nobel laureates is strongly correlated with national chocolate consumption. Hilarious NEJM paper – and a great Reuters piece that teases out the lessons from it. Note that it *explains* why correlation isn’t causation without using that goddamn phrase.

Read More


I've got your missing links right here (6 October 2012)

By Ed Yong | October 6, 2012 12:00 pm

Top picks

This is EASILY my new favourite blog. “Things I learned as a field biologist“. The combo of deadpan humour + parasites is very much working for me. “If you accidentally fall & stick your hand in hookworm-infested jaguar poo, don’t scratch your tick-bites.” “In your desperate, bamboo-hacking frenzy, please remember not to over-extend your backswing.”

This is what’s known as becoming part of the story. Scary infectious disease reporter Maryn McKenna gets a peanut butter-borne illness, and Brian Vastag gets West Nile virus.

Stumped by bed nets, mosquitoes turn midnight snack into breakfast. This is really worrying. Great coverage by Bora Zivkovic (love the 2nd picture caption)

“It’s strange to write a serious research proposal and have half of your bibliography be science fiction.” Ross Andersen on a cool project to find aliens.

Now here’s an excellent use of GIFs and infographics – conveying the awesomeness of the cheetah

A great history of spelling standardisation (standardization) by Maria Konnikova.

Drones are now spying on orangutans… for SCIENCE!

Fantastic lede + great story – the nerds behind the Obama campaign’s all-knowing hard drive.

Lucas Brouwers gives his gran a 23andme test to see how the risk predictions stack up in hindsight

Making new neurons by reprogramming another type of brain cell. A story by me in The Scientist. And more cellular hocus-pocus: stem cells –> eggs –> mice. Potentially very important.

Arsenclife bacterium “has evolved to extract phosphate under almost all circumstances.” The weak Wolfe-Simon responses continue, but here’s a great perspective from Carl Zimmer too: the arseniclife story has run its course but the bacterium is still interesting

Why Your Car Isn’t Electric, by Maggie Koerth-Baker. (Hint: it’s the society, stupid.)

Yet another study connecting GMOs and pesticides, reportedly terribly in the mainstream press. Keith Kloor reports. Also: The European Food Safety Authority publishes its assessment on the Seralini trial: “insufficient scientific quality” to be “valid”. And Kloor’s Slate piece that I linked to last week gets criticised.

Jack Gilbert makes microbes make sweet music. Presumably he has a really tiny baton. Hillary Rosner has the story.

Great story by John Platt: Dung from Critically Endangered Kakapo Parrots Could Save Endangered Plant

How will we cope with a planet covered with sprawling megacities? We still don’t know. By Tim de Chant.

Jennifer Ouellette guest-stars on my BBC column: Will we ever… travel faster than the speed of light? Spoiler: no, but as always, it’s the reasons that are interesting.

Lee Billings interviews Steve Silberman about his upcoming book on autism and neurodiversity, and then Steve Silberman interviews Lee Billings on the science of reaching the stars

2/3 of retractions are due to misconduct. Important analysis, covered by Ivan Oransky

The Hero Shrew has one of the weirdest skeletons. An 11st man can stand on it. Shrew-skating!

The Ant That Couldn’t Stand Up. By Alex Wild.

“The Internet Blowhard’s Favorite Phrase”: Correlation doesn’t imply causation. By Dan Engber. Piece meanders a lot but I agree with the basic sentiment. The phrase is apt in many cases but often used unintelligently.

Octopus breaks into baited canister while casually punching a shark with one arm

Utterly joyous. Submarine crew gets *really* excited when they ascend & see a bird at 150ft

Read More


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Not Exactly Rocket Science

Dive into the awe-inspiring, beautiful and quirky world of science news with award-winning writer Ed Yong. No previous experience required.

See More

Collapse bottom bar