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I’ve got your missing links right here (12 March 2011)


My ScienceWriters Tip Jar initiative, technologically primitive though it is, is doing quite nicely. Donations are into triple figures. See here and here for more.

I’ve started a Tumblr blog, against my better judgment (I’ll probably choose between this and the Posterous one at some point). The material there will also be included in these link-fests.

Top twelve picks

“Genetic exceptionalism is the default, the state of ignorance. How do you combat ignorance? By providing knowledge. By giving people information and showing them what it means for their lives. By, say, appealing to people’s inherent curiosity about themselves, and then handing them a document that shows — that cannot help but show — that genes aren’t destiny.This is precisely the information that bad regulation would keep out of the hands of consumers.“ Mary Carmichael makes a fantastic case for why people have a right to know their own genetic information, rather than having that right regulated via doctors. Genomes Unzipped lays out the reasons why that would be a very bad idea. “How dare the government question your right to know the basic genetic building blocks of who you are?” asks Razib Khan.

Lots of people covered the story about lost DNA and penis spines and the blogosphere excelled itself by going beyond the obvious “Hurr-hurr” angle. John Hawks talks about the real “junk” DNA, Scicurious asks what penis spines actually are, and in by far the best piece on the topic, Eric Michael Johnson looks at the literature and critiques the paper.

Sigh. Life, meteorite, aliens, extraordinary claims, skeptical, yadda yadda. This is my only response to the story. I will point you to more considered takes from Phil Plait, David Dobbs and Charlie Petit (and again)

Are there evidence-based ways of increasing your intelligence? Andrew Kuszewski thinks so – read her tour de force on Scientific American

A human skull and mastodon leftovers have been found deep in Yucatan sea cave

A Discover exclusive, achieved through fact-checking (yay!) – “Most Earth-like” exoplanet isn’t actually habitable.

“If you’ve just been bitten by a venomous snake and your flesh is starting to rot and you can’t breathe, you may not be in the mood to hear how beautiful snake venom can be. But from a safe distance, it really is a marvel to behold.” Carl Zimmer on snake venom and why it can save lives.

“I’m 53. Why am I still learning things the hard way?” A gut-wrenching story of broken friendship, instigated by a slack paper submission. By Adam Marcus.

Giant Ant Hill Excavated: “The structure covers 50 square metres and goes 8 metres into the Earth.”

“This means that a person living in a metropolis of one million should generate, on average, about 15 percent more patents, and make 15 percent more money, than a person living in a city of five hundred thousand. (They should also have 15 percent more restaurants in their neighborhood and create 15 percent more trademarks.)” Jonah Lehrer on cities.

Science, Upstream: a fantastic student blogging project hosted by PLoS

Adam Wishart shows how it’s done – he provides references and lengthy back-up material for his documentary on premature babies. Salute!


Did T-rex hunt or scavenge?” The debate is ancient and fossilised by now, but Brian Switek digs it up for a thorough examination.

Does a deep voice trigger infidelity jitters? Good critical reporting by Dan Vergano

There’s a new review on Wolfe-Simon’s arsenic life paper, which sticks its fingers in its ears, goes “La la la la la” and pretends the online debate didn’t happen. By Doctor Zen. Meanwhile, Wolfe-Simon wouldn’t answer her critics online, but she will talk to TED

The megamouth shark has to suck it up.

I haven’t really processed the earthquake and tsunami of yesterday so here are some assorted links: a good NYT piece on why Japan’s strict building codes saved lives; an amazing visualisation of the spread of the waves; and a ridiculous, distasteful piece from the Daily Mail (yes, I know, but this is surprising even for them). Bora’s also got a good collection of links.

What’s worse than bedbugs? Desperate overuse of pesticides, leading to poisoning/fires/explosions

A great Nature video about detailed brain mapping

Great microbiome reporting by Nicola Jones: “Are antibiotics making our kids fat?” and “Imagine a world where ‘eat sh*t’ isn’t an insult, but way to save your life.”

Why Angry Birds is so successful – a cognitive breakdown of the user experience, design and more.

Mike Taylor talks about Brontomerus, the “thunder thighs” dinosaur he discovered. This is a great insight into how scientists think

Bees were has-bee-ns long before arrival of Colony Collapse Disorder. By Alex Wild.

Why cigarette packs matter – an excellent tour of the evidence by Ben Goldacre

A brilliant post by Melody Dye on the diversification of modern language

10,000 shipping containers are lost at sea every year. What happens to them?

The physics of pruney fingers.

Do gut bacteria worsen malnourishment?

Ancient biological warfare, including Hannibal’s “snakes on a catapult” technique. By Cassandra Willyard

Imperial College in showdown with closed-access journals.

Robots that talk like cave-dwelling crickets: using silent puffs of air

“Have we passed the bottom of the uncanny valley?” No. The video makes me want to kill that thing with fire


This is incredible. How many metaphors can you squeeze into one lede? I like to think that this was the result of some sort of contest.

How does fire behave in zero gravity?

Brazilian wandering spider bite: severe pain + suffocation. Also raging hard-ons.

“Die, yuppie scum, die!” PZ Myers reviews David Brooks’ new book.

Onion: Scientists Baffled By Man’s Incredible Ability To Fuck Up Every Time

On genomics and quantum mechanics


This Power of Research game is bewildering, difficult to get into, overly complex & just a bit odd. So exactly like research


“The bugging of Little Bear was hardly the first time Duke had been the target of surveillance” An amazing story

NYT’s editor credits are a great idea, says Megan Garber on Nieman Lab, and I couldn’t agree more

“When referring to the offline world, we talk about “bad neighborhoods” and “angry mobs” and “obnoxious loudmouths.” But every conversation about bad online discussions seems to ascribe the failure to “the Internet” – Poynter on how to build a strong online community.

Should big PR firms that represent drug companies also run scientific societies’ media operations?” asks Ivan Oransky. I think I can guess his answer.

The Public Insight Network – an interesting project on journalistic sourcing

The ideology of journalism vs the ethics of blogs, by Paul Bradshaw

Why Angry Birds was a success

I like the “Full Disclosure: Statement of Bias” on her sidebar

Secret fears of the super-rich – yet more evidence that above a certain level, money doesn’t buy happiness.

5 thoughts on “I’ve got your missing links right here (12 March 2011)

  1. Please avoid using shortened URLs if you’re not tweeting. People can hide malicious URLs behind shortened URLs, so it’s not good to make computer users comfortable with clicking on links where the real URL is hidden.

    Also, let’s say 10 years down the road, it’s possible that some URL shortening services could disappear, which means a broken link.

    It’s better to link to the original URL for blog posts, since there is no character limit.

  2. I second what Re says. For not only security reasons, but when you post links e.g. with only the description “Indeed.”, I would normally use the mouse-over URL to inform somewhat as to what this is referring to. With the shortener it’s impossible to know. I have not and will not click that link. I could be missing out on something amazing but am holding on to my principles.

  3. Thirded. Having no principles, I clicked it anyways, but it still annoyed me. Are you shortening them to make it more convenient for people to tweet it, thereby making it just a little more likely to become viral? If so, congratulations on a clever plan, but it’s irritating.

  4. Why are there shortened URLs? Because it’s easier for me. I use Twitter to track the things I read over the week because I end up tweeting the interesting stuff. My Twitter stream gets sent to Delicious, which I can basically cut, paste and edit in chunks. So while it may seem like I’m doing extra work only to annoy you, in fact, using the shorteners is quicker. It saves me time in what is typically a fairly thankless task done late on Friday night. And since I’ve started using them, there have been fewer broken links.

  5. Fairy snuff! I’ve always wondered, and now I know the reason for it.
    I look forward to monday coffee over ‘missing links’, it’s an excellent start for my week. thanks for doing it!

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