Category: Links

I've got your missing links right here (30 September 2012)

By Ed Yong | September 30, 2012 12:00 pm

Shorter list today – I’ve been travelling.

Top picks

Feel Ben Goldacre’s ire in every syllable of this extract from his new book: Bad Pharma

WOW! Watch from INSIDE a mussel’s shell, as a starfish shoves its stomach in and starts digesting

This chart details how to establish a permanent human presence in space. And it. Is. Amazing.

Amazing post by John Hutchinson on how thick rhino skin is, what a skinned rhino looks like & a big heart full of love for rhinos

What fresh sorcery is this? Hg(SCN)2 plus fire = bizarre root tendril monster thing.

WOW! Curiosity finds evidence of an ancient Martian riverbed!

“If every person on Earth aimed a laser pointer at the Moon at the same time, would it change color?”

Excellent article on the 17th century discovery of sperm and eggs by Matthew Cobb.

Two great pieces on the pseudoscience of food: Keith Kloor on how anti-GMO activists are polluting science communication with tactics commonly used by anti-vaccination people; and

Google Sea View. Incredible.

Mothers: your children are on your mind. No, literally, bits of them are inside your brain. By Emily Willingham.

In which Megan Garber chats to Randall Munroe of XKCD. I have a case of awesomeness poisoning

This headline will NEVER be beaten: “Buddhist “Iron Man” Found by Nazis Is from Space”



Woman has new ear grown on her arm and attached to her head. Warning: graphic. Also: amazing.

How to carve a drop of water with a knife

Bot passes as human in a first-person shooter Turing test

Hummingbirds are just as efficient when flying backwards or hovering forward.

GM trials slash dengue mosquito numbers

Picture the Predator’s face…but on fish genitals

Cancer rates set to drop 17 per cent by 2030. Also gives absolute rates. Excellent. “Stupid times require stupid solutions, says Romney”

Drugs Live: The Ecstasy Trial” aired on Channel 4 earlier this week. It sounds absolutely awful.

Common sundew snatches prey up with super-fast catapult.

Psychology (and probably all of science) needs more replications,” says new President Elect of SPSP

Experimental setup: listen to laughter while a scientist burns your hands with a laser

Trees come from the air, explains Feynman

French doctors stand trial over cancer radiation scandal

More power to rangers: What can be done to stop record level of elephant poaching?

Russian chemist provides independent scientific testimony, jailed for her troubles

Great Ilana Yurkiewicz post on the RCT that shows gender bias in science is real, and why it matters

PLOS kicks of a riot when it announces that it will retract papers whose major conclusions are not supported.

Remember the horrendous Science It’s a Girl Thing video? Here’s a contest to make a better one.

Lawd, this cancer story irritates me: MD Anderson’s unqualified hype, CNN’s “Breaking news”, the piss-poor sci-comm.

So exactly why can’t we open the windows of an airplane? AV Flox talks to Michael Habib who lays it all out beautifully

Asiatic cheetahs snatch livestock. Amazing 2nd photo.

Korean eunuchs lived longer. <looks down, looks up, shakes head, reaches for beer>

In Prehistoric Britain Cannibalism Was Practical and Ritualistic. (Now, just impractical and slapdash).



A hummingbird skeleton  next to an elephant bird femur

Well HELLO, you handsome devil

Why weapons forged from fallen stars will give you cancer

The Stone Balancers of Flagstaff

Easy mistake to make.

Heh. The Onion issues a correction

What kind of dinosaur is Godzilla?



Writers and their pet punctuation marks

Drones. Crap.

Driverless Cars Would Reshape Automobiles *and* the Transit System

Editor says blogs aren’t journalism, but then retires. More of this please.

Guardian plans a new pyramid scheme training scheme for journalists, to fill the jobs that don’t exist.

Jonah Lehrer speaks up about the accusations against him… and is STILL lying.

Extraordinary (if slightly bizarre) post about meeting a troll.

HA! Four words that should never appear in the same page 1 story: Cancer, Cure, Gina and Kolata

Five feminists hate-read Naomi Wolf’s book. Hilarious.

11yrs ago, I was at university. Meanwhile, this man was imprisoned at Guantanamo. Never charged, never convicted, now dead

Robin Ince on comedians, rape jokes, where’s the line? is there a line?

Fund newspapers w/ a broadband levy? Sure. Or you could make a product people actually want to buy..




I've got your missing links right here (22 September 2012)

By Ed Yong | September 22, 2012 12:00 pm

Top picks

XKCD’s legendary world.

Study shows male & female scientists rate males higher than women with identical CVs. Sean Carroll discusses.

You MUST read Carl Zimmer’s saga of Richard Lenski and one of the coolest evolutionary experiments around

Lots of panicked headlines this week about GM-corn that supposedly led to tumours in lab rodents. The study’s incredibly weak – here’s an incisive analysis by SciCurious and another good one by Deborah Mackenzie at New Scientist. And here’s the real headline: reporters were prevented from even seeking outside opinions about the paper. Not only weak science but an absurd use of the embargo system

149,597,870,700 metres – the new, official, fixed distance between the Earth and the Sun.

The Best Sci Writing Online 2012 is now out! Poetry! Journalism! Long-form features! Critical analysis! Go buy it.

Really excellent post on Naomi Wolf’s Vagina from Maia Szalavitz. She just nails the issues with the science.

A mysterious kidney disease is killing young farm hands continents apart. Is there a connection?

Great Carmen Drahl feature on the trouble with forensics – “witchcraft that passes for science”

Archaeologists discover prehistoric drawings are animations. Wow!

Here’s another failed replication of one of John Bargh’s priming studies (regular readers will remember him from this) and another burst of bizarre behaviour – a strange omerta about his data.

Beautiful undersea “crop circles” turn out to be the work of a puffer fish

Lovely post by Megan Garber: The emoticon was born after a physics thought experiment.

Misleading talk of ‘three-parent babies’ helps no one – good piece in the Guardian about the controversy over mitochondrial disease. And solid reporting from Ian Sample.

Love this NeuroSkeptic post, in which he reminds us that the ultimate brain-scanning technology is… the brain

Fantastic Carl Zimmer post on the XMRV story as a case study for how hard it is to get rid of false positive results. With excellent comment thread. This one in particular.

This is incredible. Simple trick gets people to reverse their moral attitudes

The IgNobel prizes were announced! Here’s the full list. Some thoughts:  The dead salmon experiment is actually an important bit of neuroscience as far as urging caution about a technique. The Eiffel Tower experiment… I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve highlighted it to be as an example of the problems in psychology that I write about. And also: delighted to see Frans de Waal win an IgNobel. Lovely guy.

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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?”

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I've got your missing links right here (08 September 2012)

By Ed Yong | September 8, 2012 12:00 pm

ENCODE reactions

The ENCODE project has definitely dominated the news this week. I’ve had various reactions to my mega-post from “one of your best” to “you blew it”. I do want to note, as in this set of tweets, that getting in all the nuances and caveats, capturing both the enthusiasm and scepticism about the project, and making it all make sense for both a general and scientific audience, to a deadline, was not easy. It was more like the opposite of easy.

I’ve mulled over the post in the ensuing days. I knew not to use the “long dismissed as junk” trope. I mentioned that the types of elements that were identified were not a surprise, and ENCODE’s value was as a comprehensive catalogue. I tried to point out where the 80% figure came from, the uncertainty around it, and what “functional” meant. One of the hardest things about a story like this is that even if you have a mental list of points and caveats to tick off, and even if you think you get them in the piece, you never know if readers will pick up on them, or what message they’ll end up taking away. Are those points visible, or just there?

Anyway, I eventually decided that what was in the post was reasonable, but it needed more. I still think it’s important to get across what the ENCODE researchers think about their work, it is an exciting project, and it’s a lot more than junk-or-no-junk. But given the widespread commentary – critical, sceptical and thoughtful – it needed an update. You’ll find that update in the main post itself, time- and date-stamped, and an explanation about why I decided to edit rather than post a follow-up.

I’ve also been collecting links to other commentary, specifically about the science of the project. They’re there in the post itself, but repeated here to draw attention to them. The list in the post will continue to be updated. This list will not.

And finally: I love this tweet from Oliver Morton: “Genomes are like genome metaphors: messy, slowly accreted, self contradictory, more complex than anyone would think reasonable”.

Top picks

Cave fish dare to originate in Gondwana, evolve & speciate, confounding young earth creationists. By Kimberly Gerson.

Strapped for funding, medical researchers pitch to the crowd. By Virginia Hughes. With crowd-funded med research like this, I wonder how much donors understand about possibility of failure in science?

Video of massive explosion on the Sun

Do birds hold “funerals”? A paper said so. The media said so. Barbara King explains.

Recently, I committed on Twitter to stop using words like “crazy”, “insane”, “deranged” — or other terms to do with a person’s mental health – in a perjorative way. I think it exacerbates stigma against mental illness by associating such conditions with behaviour that’s variously incorrect, irrational, ridiculous, or just plain hard-to-understand. This post, by David Steele, on the language of mental illness stigma, perfectly explains why I’m doing this.

Totally briliant Alexis Madrigal story on how Google is building the world’s best maps with its Ground-Truth project

Meanwhile, Becca Rosen considers what it is about an elephant’s tusks that makes them so valuable?

Naomi Wolf has a new book out – Vagina. The feminism has been eviscerated by Mumsnet, Suzanne Moore, Laurie Penny and Ariel Levy. The bad science has been corrected by Neuroskeptic (including an epic last line).

Apparently you can die from drinking a bucket of DEET. Drinking, you say? Well maybe. By Deborah Blum.

Dancing woolly aphids will probably stab you. By Bec Crew

The piece on the future of Discover’s blogs is really our collective paean to Amos Zeeberg, our awesome departing overlord. And rightly so. He’s been fantastic.

Kerri Smith profiles Xing Xu, China’s premier dinosaur hunter

How to make an octopus – a wonderful tale of dissection and model-making.

Maryn McKenna on that new tick-borne “Heartland” disease, the latest in a rapidly appearing line of new diseases

Paralysed people with broken spines get feeling back in stem cell world first

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I've got your missing links right here (01 September 2012)

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

Top picks

Deaf man hears music for the first time. It’s Mozart’s Lachrimosa. He cries. Then he asks Reddit for recommendations and goes on a music binge. An AMAZING piece by Rebecca Rosen. I won’t spoil the ending but read it.

God this is beautiful. Megan Garber on the end of the humble hero and what we lost when Neil Armstrong died.

Op/eds are the Wild West of the media, where facts die in gun battles. But Emily Willingham has a sheriff’s badge. Here she is demolishing an NYT op/ed on autism and whipworms.

This, by Maryn McKenna, is the single best thing you’ll read about that apparent “NIH superbug”, which I also covered.

Why Humans Give Birth to Helpless Babies – a fascinating new idea from Holly Dunsworth, who explains on her own blog how the results might apply to one’s own pregnancy. “Evolution is everything about you, but it is not all about you.” I love this degree of engagement with public reaction about one’s work.

Fascinating take on older-dads paper by Seth Mnookin – the big implication isn’t for autism but for the evolutionary fate of our increasingly mutant species. Also, Virginia Hughes has some word salve for panicked dads.

Amazing story! “A doctor is baffled: Why did a giant man walk into the ER holding a tiny woman by her feet?

Hurricanes -> more baby dolphins. Why? By Jason Goldman.

How did a Nazi become a member of the French resistance and a legendary anthropologist? Amazing story by Vaughan Bell.

An astonishing Andrew Solomon New Yorker piece on women who conceive as a result of rape

Georgia Aquarium avoids words “global warming“ in exhibits.“When they hear certain terms guests shut down.” A big challenge for zoos and aquariums.

Chilling reports on the spread of swine fever through Russia and a mysterious new ‘Heartland Virus’ in Missouri

For every human there are 10M trillion microbes on the ocean floor & this is 92% less than we thought

The Denisovan genome has been sequenced to really high quality. The fact that we can do this from a single bone (to a better extent than we did for Neanderthals, with hundreds of fossils), is astounding. Katherine Harmon gives you the low-down at Scientific American. And John Hawks has a typically fascinating take. “How did Asians end up lacking any evidence of Denisovan ancestry, when the peoples of Sahul have 6%? It’s nutty!”

Earlier this week, I regretfully mansplained Brave on Twitter. Here is a VERY good review of the film that completely changed my views of it.

The Neuroscience of Twenty-Somethings. Infinitely better than most “Neuroscience of… ” articles.

Debunking the evolutionary “basis” of the Palaeo Diet. (Although note that the comments here are a classic example of why jargon confuses people (despite attempt to clarify it; needed to explicitly contrast the evolutionary and lay definitions of “fitness”)

How does life survive on a glacier? By colonising “glacier mice” (which are balls of moss). By Matt Kaplan.

Oh &£$%. Arctic sea ice under 4 million sq km for first time, after breaking 2007 record. Monbiot has a good emotional piece on West’s inaction. And here’s strong stuff that puts current Arctic sea ice melt into context against similar (or not so similar) historical melts

THE HEAVENS BLEED! THE GODS ARE ANGRY Amy Shira Teitel on why the night sky is turning red

This is fascinating. Does Psalms 137 describe the symptoms of a stroke?

Inception helmet creates alternative reality – Mo Costandi on the fascinating work of Keisuke Suzuki

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I've got your missing links right here (Neil Armstrong edition)

By Ed Yong | August 26, 2012 6:19 am

Photo by Buzz Aldrin

Neil Armstrong took his final small step, and the world mourns the loss of that rarest of creatures: the humble hero. That a man can walk on the Moon and stay down-to-Earth reassures me greatly about humanity.

Here’s a special edition of “missing links” to commemorate Neil Armstrong’s death, because I’m rather emotional about it, I don’t want to wait till next Saturday, and there is some incredible stuff out there. This list is completely free of any cheap masturbatory attempts to use his death to talk about space exploration. There will be plenty of time for that. Today, I’d like to celebrate history.


The best Armstrong obituary, bar none, can be found at the Economist.

A beautiful statement from Armstrong’s family. “For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”

The Onion’s moon landing “front page” always captured the scale of the achievement best.

In 2010, Radiolab’s Robert Krulwich got a wonderful email from Neil Armstrong. Epitomises who he was. Humble, giving, heroic.

“”We copy you on the ground. You’ve got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again.” That was the moment a hundred million people around the world also started breathing again.” The great Tim Radford beautifully explains what it was like to witness the Moon landings and what it meant for the world.

“Even though we were farther away from earth than two humans had ever been, we were not alone.” Buzz Aldrin’s statement on Armstrong’s death.

Here’s the full transcript of the lunar landing communications. I love its mundanity. Just some guys, calling out readings.

The most wonderful picture of Armstrong, grinning wildly as he returns to Earth.

Armstrong’s last interview, delivered to a small Australian audience. I especially love the last line on conspiracy theorists: “It was never a concern… I know that somebody is going to go fly back up there & pick up that camera I left.”

Armstrong outlived the man who wrote his Observer obituary. By 7 years.

Here’s a statement that Nixon would’ve read in ’69 if Apollo 11’s astronauts had died or been unable to return. It’s fittingly poignant today

There are just a handful of pics of Neil Armstrong actually on the moon and all but one show his butt.

Wonderful front page of Neil’s hometown newspaper after return from the Moon

Here’s what happens when a big event happens at the end of August on a Saturday night. NBC says that astronaut Neil Young died. Telegraph: 1st US woman in space. Dutch paper: 1st man on Earth. Clearly, there was a lot about Armstrong we didn’t know.

Neil Gaiman pays tribute to Neil Armstrong, and we learn that there was once a major Neil convention

‘The earth is quite beautiful from space.’ Neil Armstrong to Patrick Moore in a classic 1970 interview

Some quotes:

  • “Neil Armstrong was a hero not just of his time, but of all time. Thank you, Neil, for showing us the power of one small step.” – Barack Obama
  • “Apollo 11, July 1969. No other act of human exploration ever laid a plaque saying “We Come In Peace For All Mankind” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • “The stars are not wanted now: put out every one. Pack up the moon & dismantle the sun….” – Astrojenny, quoting Auden.

And finally… Here’s Buzz Aldrin hitting a moon landing nut in the face. I like to picture that somewhere, out there, thousands of people are mouthing off about Armstrong’s death. And somewhere, else, driving towards them, knuckles white and countenance grim, is Buzz.



I've got your missing links right here (25 August 2012)

By Ed Yong | August 25, 2012 12:00 pm

Top picks

US politician Todd Akin, who sits on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, thinks that women have magical wilfully-deployed vagina venom that can stop them being pregnant if they’re raped. This horror, and the ensuing discussion, threw up a lot of excellent, but hard-going, material that’s well worth your time. Do read it: This is a very important issue. Trigger warnings, obviously.

The news that fathers pass on more genetic mutations to their children as they age was widely reported, but a tough story. The problem is that there are 3 separate issues here that almost everyone mushed together, but needed to be parsed out. 1) What’s the risk of passing mutations to child? 2) What’s the risk that those mutations would lead to conditions like autism? 3) What’s the connection to the incidence of said conditions? Absolute numbers and comparisons to other sources of genetic variation would be helpful. Otherwise, you get panicked middle-aged men worrying that they’ve shot their partners up with autism sperm. Or something. Ewen Callaway’s coverage at Nature was good, and Virginia Hughes totally nailed it: we have no clue how much autism this explains. The BBC, meanwhile, flubbed it with the headline “Older dads linked to rise in mental illness”, which was then changed to the less offensive but no less dodgy “Older dads linked to rise in genetic disorders”

The Brainmaker: profile of Yoshiki Sasai, a tissue engineer who has grown parts of an eye and a brain in a dish

Squid camouflage cells pulsate to the tune of Cypress Hill. Insane! In the membrane!

This is such a great image, well-narrated: picture the energy of the world as a giant waterfall, says Ollie Morton.

Bacterium on a diatom on an amphipod! Amazing.

Curiosity’s dirty little secret: How a Russian nuke factory supplied the fuel for the rover. By Geoff Brumfiel.

A drug used to kill fungi can slow the growth of tumors. Carl Zimmer on how we can use evolution to hunt for drugs

Three Ways of Looking at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Me: Don’t lie to ppl for “engagement.”

Did you know some butterflies can see with their butts? More examples of bizarre animal sight

George Church creates a 70-million-strong print run of his new book… in DNA. Because he’s George Church and he can.

Massive congrats to Seth Mnookin, who won an NASW Science in Society Journalism award for his book on the autism-vaccination scare: The Panic Virus. Read it, if you haven’t already. Some superb journalism, right there.

Peer review is a cinch when your peer reviewers are you under sockpuppet accounts!! Possibly the craziest Retraction Watch story yet!

Hi-res video footage shows proteins shuttling in and out of a single neuron.Curiosity leaves behind its makers’ signature with every roll of its wheels. Which is just fab.

“The Solar System consists of the Sun, Jupiter, and assorted rubble.”

Stop using the phrase “living fossil“. Kthxbai. By Brian Switek.

Scientists give helium to gibbons for kicks SCIENCE. Can we just give helium to all animals? And make a TV series? Life on Helium, narrated by David Attenborough? Who will be on helium?

Does Self-Awareness Require a Complex Brain? By Ferris Jabr

Emma Marris on how to annoy E. O. Wilson. Great piece on two contrasting views on conservation.

The BMJ argues that pharma’s innovation crisis is a fiction. Derek Lowe piledrives that argument into the mat

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I've got our missing links right here (18 August 2012)

By Ed Yong | August 18, 2012 12:00 pm

Top picks

Post of the month! Summer Ash blogs her heart surgery, with pics of her own heart on the operating table

Yes our ancestors did have sex with Neanderthals, and no, that new paper doesn’t prove otherwise. John Hawks has the best account of the story. Ewen Callaway

NASA just patched a piece of software on another planet.

Dolphins adopt a torpedo. Beautiful.

Have there been modern-day virgin births? A great historical tale, from the pre-genomic era.

Wait, whale sharks can ungrow?! Awesome. And I learned that even before the bit about lasers

World’s oceans score 60 out of 100 on new health index. Not terrible; could do much better, by Virginia Gewin.

The Maya didn’t believe the world would end in 2012. That’s those other folks.

“Our Rover is safe” – a video about Curiosity’s landing by the people who built it

Maggie Koerth-Baker is a new columnist for the NYT magazine. This is good news for everyone, and I love it when excellent writers end up in the right places.

“I think people who sell fake cancer cures are murderers,” says Xeni Jardin. Correctly, too.

Flamingos: they’re pink, they stand on one leg, and they have erectile tissue in their mouths. Wait, what?

Parasites suck toxins from sharks!

Some cool developments in the field of vision-restoring retinal prostheses. Could drastically improve the tech

Author Fights For His Book On The Internet After Slacking Student Pleads For Quick Summary

“No humanmade robot is designed with the loose skin of a labrador. But why not?” The physics of wet dogs, and other wet shaking animals.

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I've got your missing links right here (11 August 2012)

By Ed Yong | August 11, 2012 12:00 pm

Top picks

This week: we parked a science lab with a nuclear heart on a Martian crater, and I talked to friends on the other side of the world about it using my hand-held computer. It was amazing. Here’s a round-up of Mars Curiosity coverage, chosen to highlight different aspects of the cool main story.

A new level of disturbing: Maggie Koerth-Baker on what Christian fundamentalists have against set theory. And a great comment thread. No, really. On the internet, and everything.

Spot-on piece from Skepchick about the skeptic community’s knee-jerk response to anecdotes. “Much of skeptic community values quantitative data over qualitative data regardless of the research question being asked.”

Can people fake mental illness or do they give themselves away? Intriguing Slate explainer.

A wonderful story about a child who says he’s both “a boy & a girl”, and society’s changing view of gender norms, by Ruth Padawer

A Belgian woman creates a hidden-camera documentary about the sexual harassment she gets on the street. It’s vitally important that we keep speaking out about this.

Becky Heggett on the long history of mapping Mars

This piece by Tim Harford, on the futility of explaining events like the London riots, is a must-read

Story of the year! A random coffee shop encounter turns into a lesson on serendipity – and computer history. No spoilers; just read it.

Annaleen Newitz talks about the perils of anthropomorphizing animal sex behaviour

The epic tale of Mat’s unfortunate hacking, and why your security could probably do with being a bit tighter

David Dobbs on the No 1 challenge for a science writer: portraying complexity & uncertainty, and avoiding tidy fables

The Largest Ever 3D Map of the Universe, by Megan Garber

What’s it like to cut open the last of a species? Henry Nicholls finds out as he presides over the autopsy of Lonesome George

A 3D-printed exoskeleton gives a little girl use of her arms. The future is now.

Spare a minute for this short NatGeo piece on gannets – it’s a beautiful, taut piece of nature writing.

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I've got your missing links right here (4 August 2012)

By Ed Yong | August 4, 2012 12:00 pm

Top picks

Fascinating profile of a transgender scientist on his experience and the science gap

Great piece on tough topic: Is Childhood Pertussis Vaccine Less Effective Than We Thought, by Maryn Mckenna

Deborah Blum’s on fire in this great post on a student death in a UCLA lab

Cool! In the Peruvian Amazon, there are folks who shrug off rabies. (They get bitten a lot by vampires though)

Evgeny Morozov’s hilarious, scathing, completely spot-on review of two TED books and the entire TED monolith is so wonderfully caustic, I needed to lie down afterwards. Sample: “TED is no longer [about] ideas “worth spreading.” [It is] an insatiable kingpin of international meme laundering.”

Cancer stem cells have been tracked. This is nothing less than watching tumours being born. I wonder what the cancer stem cell skeptics will think.

The sad downfall of Jonah Lehrer deepens, beginning with the revelation that he fabricated Bob Dylan quotes for his new book, leading to his resignation from the New Yorker, the pulling of his book, and more. I’ve promoted much of Jonah’s work on this blog, but this clearly violates the “don’t make stuff up” and the “make your thesis fit the evidence, not the other way round” rules of science writing. Amid the burst of shallow, reactionary, almost-gleeful pieces (summed up here), there were also gems. This piece by Bradley Voytek on “the deception ratchet”, this interview with Michael Moynihan who started things off, Alexis Madrigal’s short, punchy meta-take on the ideas culture (“When everyone makes media, everything is a news peg.”), Mark Liberman’s take on fabrication in the media, and Daniel Bor’s neuroscientist perspective on what this means for pop science writing, are all worth reading. That last piece is notable for relating how Jonah covered up an error by shunting the blame to his editor, before wilfully re-making that error. It’s awful to see someone being publicly pilloried, but that marks a point where my sympathy starts evaporating.

Science of history? “Cliodynamics” claims cyclical patterns in world history but some doubt whether it’s good science. Good Nature feature exploring the debate.

Virginia Hughes on how most coverage on the brain’s critical period is wrong, and missed its own critical period.

A new type of flu leapt from birds to seals. Carl Zimmer covers it with typical excellence. This guy, however, is really worried.

It’s 1879, and psychology is just about to be born.” – great historical post by Maria Konnikova

The secrets behind national anthems. This is a fascinating topic – the author, Alex Marshall, is an old friend.

India’s power cuts affected 10% of all humans on Earth.  And here’s everything you need to know on the energy side of the story in 7 paragraphs by David Biello.

This is really useful: how to talk to people in wheelchairs

Ah, the good old days, when kids’ chemistry kits contained cyanide and uranium dust.

HA! What the ending of Dark Knight Rises would’ve really been like, given actual physics. Spoilers, obviously. And let’s all welcome Geoff Brumfiel to the world of blogging.

Wow. Net-casting spider hunt filmed in wild

The fallacy that brain-based explanations of behavior mean less responsibility. Good neuroscience piece in the NYT.

An ant that protects herself with butt foam. Yeah, hur-hur, but also those photos are amazing.

Why do men collect dinosaur eggs? “1. collecting is a dude thing 2. the dude thing must be sexual 3. DINOSAUR EGGS 4. ? 5. …PROFIT.”

Why climate change does not spark moral outrage & how it could, by David Roberts

Nice round-up on the race to get rid of HIV completely

Superb piece on journalism’s failure to expose its own flaws. “Those who get it wrong spend a few days in the spanking machine and then it is back to business as usual…. Journalists assign a nobility to the profession that obscures the flaws within it…. The public isn’t buying.”

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Not Exactly Rocket Science

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