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

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.


Cell-Phone Data Could Help Clip Malaria Spread

“…crazy that we need to make it more explicit.” Psych dept renamed to reflect scientific nature

Curiosity’s found an odd Martian rock. “The rock, named after… rover engineer, Jake Matijevic, who died shortly after Curiosity’s landing…”

“If there’s a conspiracy to hide the bad health effects of formaldehyde… it’s an incredibly inept one” – Deborah Blum on Nick Kristof’s latest chemphobic column. See also: Puff the Mutant Dragon’s post. OMG! Nick Kristof is emitting formaldehyde right this minute!

No, antivaxxers, it’s not bad enough to put people’s lives at risk. You should totally mock atypical children too.

How an anti-feminist screed got published in a major physics journal

Zimbardo uses Greenfield’s Scientific Method: Publish conclusions as fact so you get funding to test hypotheses. Christ

A UK pharma PR group has responded to Ben Goldacre’s new book claiming that the problems he identified are “historical”. Right….

Fraud, failure, and FUBAR in science – lessons and links about the scientific method and its discontents.

A diamond planet. But does it have diamond geysers?

In science, “whistleblowers usually suffer more than the crooks on whom they blow the whistle”.

Personal genetic testing – horoscopes for the 1%

Dangerous trial of neural stem cells in children goes smoothly. No controls though.  “…isn’t the flashiest thing”

“You do have an abnormally high% Neanderthal component. I wonder if that’s connected to…your mother.” James Fallows gets emails.

Giant eye found. It turns out that it’s a swordfish eye. Did you know that swordfish can heat their eyes to 10-15 degrees Celsius over ambient water temperatures, so they can see better when hunting?

Japan newspaper claims that Harvard has initiated a trial using reprogrammed stem cells. Harvard says: No. Nature News has a really good write-up and Paul Knoepfler’s blog has been tracking the story.

That terrible study on GM-maize and cancer gets worse with every report. If reporters sent it out for comment, they’d have been sued for the FULL COST?!

Nice work form Paul Knoepfler: basic information on stem cells in layman terms, in 21 languages.

Genoeconomics” paper links country’s poverty to citizens’ genetic make-up – controversy erupts

Profile of seal flu researcher Simon Anthony

Emily Willingham on ADHD, fish and mercury exposure during pregnancy

Shinya Yamanaka uses his Nobel pulpit to call out unproven stem cell ‘cure-alls’

Aric Sigman talking further bollocks about children, TV and video games. PeteEtchells dismantles his cherry-picking

Genome project for world of art” run by people with no bloody idea what a genome is

Earthquake-in-a-lab” simulator presumably opened door for horrendous “Did ground move for you?” lines

US professors more likely to deny/ignore requests for meetings from prospective students who were women & not white

A smart strategy for online age: Bradley Voytek is crowdsourcing a letter of recommendation

Chris Chambers has a proposal for a new kind of research article at Cortex & changing the culture of scientific publishing from within.

Can humans digest bone? Scientists ate whole shrews w/o chewing to find out.

Wasp neurons that seem to defy physics are hints of a clockwork brain

The NYT profiles police “jumper squads” – not platoons of knitwear, but officers who talk ppl down from suicide jumps

Good piece by Mark Henderson on abortion and evidence

One very disappointed scientist, who’s clearly had a rough time of it, leaves academia.

Roman Mosaics Help Scientist Track Endangered Fish

What should be done about the crown-of-thorns starfish that’s literally eating away the Great Barrier Reef?

The scariest animal that will never hurt you – great post on whip scorpions

“Biology isn’t invading chemistry — biology is turning into chemistry.” Derek Lowe on Nobel complainers.

Got acne? Maybe lather your face with viruses?

Why is it so hard to give up hoping that facts speak for themselves?. Marie-Claire Shanahan vs the deficit model

Accentuate the negative? Jim Caryl on the importance of publishing negative results.

“The cell is sort of a burrito.” The most complex synthetic biology circuit yet

Diederik Stapel faces criminal inquiry for misuse of funds.

Texas cancer institute’s entire peer review council just resigned, many reviewers followed….

Cancer institute tackles sloppy data. “Neither funders nor scientists get excited about replicating studies, he says, but not doing so is wasteful at best.”

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – papers get more citations if they were initially rejected. But effect is really small.

Newly discovered spider with MASSIVE fangs, and angry look in its eyes. Probably an ant mimic.



What happens when you turn down the pitch on a baby crying? KILL IT WITH FIRE

I’ve also emailed “Final.doc” to editors. They must’ve cracked up

Utterly brilliant job title description. And accurate…

THE LUGGAGE! A robot suitcase that follows you around.

Great pics of wild dogs interacting with jackals

The Onion is going to start parodying TED talks. Just like TED has done for years…

Crab’s just walking along, minding its own business, and then – BAM! Death by Cthulhu.

Terrible terrible chart from Boston Metro

Wikipedia’s list of unusual deaths and list of unexplained sounds

The world’s fastest Rubik’s Cube solver, made from LEGOs. And an explanation of how it works

Stunning animated GIF of a nebula, shaking its head at you in disapproval.


The Onion is launching an encyclopedia in a few weeks. Here’s the entry for “antelope

Ah, nature. Majestic. Poignant. Beautiful. Then there’s this caracara eating off a capybara’s butt.

“[You] look up to see your favorite woolly monkey silently masturbating. You held him in your hands mere months ago” Awww….

Field biologists squee too

HA! All science bloggers should get this t-shirt.

Dino-human commandos? Yeah, I think we can all be grateful that this version of Jurassic Park 4 never got made

If lamps and books were sentient lifeforms capable of swarming, they might look like this

“We usually go w/ wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy & gluttony. Honestly, science doesn’t crack the top 25”



Just where are those hits coming from? Alexis Madrigal on Dark Social (like the matter, not the Phoenix)

Science journalists talk about fact-checking practices. Good stuff here.

Americans are apparently being flooded by Britishisms. Bollocks they are.

Are you an actual person & not a pathetic lads’ mag caricature? The BBC wants to fix you

A must read for journalists: Step-by-step verification of social media content

On “outing” Redditors who post pix of women without their consent

41% of rheumatology conf abstracts are unpublished after 6 yrs, and more on conference-reporting pitfalls for journos

A blog about abandoned man-made creations.

BBC to launch brand new nature channel on YouTube later this year. I first read “mature channel”…

Man’s dies after roach-eating contest. But he won a python. That’s it internet. We’re done here. Pack it up.

This advice on how to get published works equally well for “How do I make a successful blog?” and other variants.

Newsweek publishes piece about drugged-up ex-coma patient who says that “Heaven is Real“. I’ve done a mock-up for their next issue. Meanwhile, a Newsweek journalist says fabrication is hard to catch in journalism. Erm…  And Colin Blakemore pens a funny response (Yeah, why does no one ever visit hell in these near-death experiences?)

“It might be easier to write creatively, and with due wonder, about fields outside our own.”

A long read on Spain’s one-eyed matador. Gripping.

Great interview with Macarthur grant recipient David FInkel at Nieman Labs

Superb investigation from Gawker’s Adrian Chen, unmasking Reddit’s Violentacrez, the biggest troll on the web


7 thoughts on “I’ve got your missing links right here (13 October 2012)

  1. “One chemist faked results. Now 34,000 criminal cases may be in question.”

    Like she did it all by her own motivation, and the cops did not lean on her to fulfill their quota – riiiiight.

    The entire war-on-drugs and prison-industrial-police-state-complex is rotten to core – but go ahead and vote people in who are “tough on crime”. Yeah, right.

  2. “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”

    I didn’t find it to be so great.

    Despite the dramatic events in the world that he both lived through (e.g. the Holocaust)

    He lived at the same time, but did not personally experience the Holocaust.

    The clearest of those here is Einstein’s critique of religion as “childish.”

    This is clearly a misinterpretation. The quote from Einstein refers to the legends in the Bible as “childish,” not religion in general.

    You can search on ‘Einstein’ and my name to find criticism of an essay Einstein published on the topic of science and religion, in which he made multiple mistakes in a single paragraph. I am still baffled that people look to Einstein for wisdom on this topic.

  3. Re: why does no-one visit hell in near death experiences.

    Apparently, someone did (least we were told so by someone who was there—or someone who knew someone who was there…… 😉

    Anyway, guy had a heart attack. Died. Paramedics brought him back. He gained consciousness long enough to say, “Don’t let me die! I’m in hell! I’m in hell!”. They lost him again, brought him back, told them to keep him alive as he kept going to hell. One paramedic said, Ask God for forgiveness, so the guy did, “died” again, and when he stabilized yet again, he could only remember being in heaven and couldn’t remember any of the trips to hell. So apparently hell is so bad you block it out of our mind and when you are in it, you’d rather have people cracking your rib cage for you than go back.

    And that was the story we were told way back when we were oh so young. Haven’t heard that story since which is unusual because these type of stories reach urban legend status over a large area. Wonder why that one didn’t spread…..??……

  4. #2. Reginald Selkirk Says:

    ” I am still baffled that people look to Einstein for wisdom on this topic.”

    Einstein’s “wisdom” is just as good as any other’s. After all we’re talking about opinions on the subject of mythical beings credited with all sorts of unexplainable magical powers and acts. It is a good assumption that Einstein gave a great deal of thought and consideration to the subject (as did many others of his contemporaries), just as he gave thought to other questions that had occupied mankind since prehistoric times, such as the true shape of physical reality.

    You also said: “He lived at the same time, but did not personally experience the Holocaust.”

    While it’s true that Einstein left Germany for the US in 1933, spending the Holocaust years in relative safety, it’s also true that he had many friends, associates, and relatives who lived and died in that nightmare. To say that he did not personally experience feelings of dread and helplessness knowing of the fate of others would be to ascribe to him the most callous of inhuman natures.

    And yet, so far as we know, he did not call upon or pray to a religious fantasy to save those hopeless ones. This may say more than anything else about how deeply he understood the true nature of reality.

  5. The only case I know of where someone claims to have visited Hell in a near death experience (albeit en route to Heaven) is that of Ian McCormack, which you can look up sometime if you dare.

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