National Geographic

I’ve Got Your Missing Links Right Here (07 December 2013)

Top picks

Heart-warming story about countering sexism in schools (and honouring the awesome Marie Curie). Well done, Jamie Gallagher.

Ferris Jabr on the tricky business of defining life.

Die, Selfish Gene, Die” – David Dobbs’ beautifully written but controversial take on the selfish gene metaphor. Reactions have been fierce. PZ Myers liked it and expanded on some of the ideas, Jerry Coyne loathed it and deconstructed it in two postsLarry Moran agreed with Coyne’s criticism but has his own gripes with the metaphor, Dawkins defends himself, and Dobbs defends himself (twice). All of this, I think, is enlightening and well worth reading.

Do crocodiles and alligators use tools? Do they use sticks as lures to attract waterbirds? Darren Naish examines the evidence.

Gut bacteria reverse some autism-like symptoms in mice. Careful coverage of an interesting study, by Jessica Wright. And some post-publication peer review on the paper.

Brain-scanning study suggests that “men and women are wired differently” and while authors make dubious claims and papers report it uncritically, Tom Stafford brings a good critique, as does Matthew Thomas. Neuroskeptic also pulls up some possible flaws. Cordelia Fine comments about this in the context of other ‘gendered brain’ studies. And Christian Jarrett concludes: “In conclusion: Wow, those are some pretty wiring diagrams! Shame about how they interpreted them.”

The psychology behind our inordinate fondness for lists, by Maria Konnikova.

“At first, the manure was just harmlessly foaming. Only later on did things get lethal.” Wonderful story by Sarah Zhang on exploding pig farms, or “The Pig Bang”.

The Apollo 11 crew’s customs forms are amazing. They declared “MOON ROCK, MOON DUST, and SAMPLES”. Via Megan Garber.

Turtle Moms Choose Their Babies’ Genders by Where They Build Their Nests. By Liz Preston

WHAT? Saturn has a continent-sized hexagonal hurricane w/ 200 mph winds over its North Pole.

 

News/science/writing

Hopes of HIV cure in ‘Boston patients’ dashed, as virus rebounds months after therapy ended.

Chernobyl’s “elephant’s foot” is still lethal. Good piece on the disaster by Kyle Hill.

Bradley Voytek on whether consumer brain stimulation devices are likely to be effective

Leaping Land Fish Has Perfect Camouflage, Is Not a Hoax

How to deal with mental health in countries where therapists are scarce: train ordinary people to be counselors?

“It’s really nice to be worrying about 175 cases of measles.”

Dyslexia linked to breakdown in communication between two brain regions

Some song sparrows habitually bluff about how hard they are

Peer reviewers urged to speak their minds. Very interesting simulation study of herding effects in peer review.

The animals got herpes two by two, hurrah, hurrah

Pro-Tip: Look up “Streisand Effect” before threatening to sue Retraction Watch

Cool animation from Rose Eveleth about the dastardly mosquito

Scientists have a hard time agreeing on how to measure an animal’s personality.

“Recent rise in retractions is most plausibly the effect of growing sci integrity rather than growing misconduct.”

Why did some non-avian dinosaur have beaks? All the better to eat with

Museums hunt for relics from genomics’ early days

Merriam-Webster’s word of the year: “science“. That’s lovely. It also makes me think they don’t get the point of WOTY

Here’s Tal Yarkoni with some big caveats on the Dunning-Kruger effect

We ain’t top predators. In food webs, we’re on a par with pigs and anchovies.

The invisible consequences of mistaking plastic for dinner (and a story of making lemonade from scientific lemons)

Just in time for Christmas, MRSA found in UK turkeys.

Why birds can sleep on branches without falling off. But wait! The common explanation may be wrong!

Stone-tipped javelins preceded (the earliest fossils we recognise as) modern humans by 80,000 years

The Mental Glitch That Makes Us Throw Good Money After Bad

Do Giraffes Float?

Gigantic scholarly barney among toxicologists over those pesky endocrine disruptors

Why octopuses really suck

Mice inherits father’s memories, because epigenetics? Virginia Hughes continues her reporting on this fascinating but controversial study.

The Shocking Sex Secrets of Insects – great piece by Marlene Zuk.

An 83-year-old discusses the practical implications of radical life extension. Do we really want to live longer?

Florence Williams, Kathleen Raven and Christie Aschwanden discuss what they’d like to see happening to address gender issues in sci-comm.

 

Heh/wow/huh

The Best, Most Stunning, Jaw-Dropping Space Station Time-Lapses of All Time, Ever.

Biting Onion satire: Deformed freak baby born without a penis.

Awesome head-on footage of a shark snapping at some fish. The money shot’s at 1:30

Watch WWII unfold in 7 minutes.

David Attenborough Playing With Dinosaurs Might Just Make Your Christmas

Best sign edit ever.

Rather wonderfully/terrifyingly, snapdragon seedpods look like skulls

The Grand Canyon, breathtakingly wreathed in mist

A Slideshow Of Different Animals Who Are Not Friends And Have Never Met

Headlines from a Mathematically Literate World

Batmobile golf cart

Amazon says it will trial delivery by drones. Waterstones responds.

Spectacular insect drawings by Alex Konahin

A wonderful visualisation of deep time

 

Journalism/internet/society

Another Problem for Amazon’s Delivery Drones? Angry Birds

Most Female Journalists Have Been Threatened, Assaulted, or Harassed at Work. Here’s Why We Don’t Talk About It

“’Too good to check’ used to be a warning to newspaper editors not to jump on BS stories. Now it’s a business model.”

How I Cured My Impostor Syndrome

Big Data comes to the Marvel Universe

Journalists’ amazing response to a money-grabbing owner.

There are 3 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. Ceed
    December 7, 2013

    Concerning the Dobbs’ piece linked above.
    Ed Yong: Twitter: 3 Dec “@david_dobbs’ deconstruction of the selfish gene metaphor is truly an exemplary piece of sci writing”. Above: 7 Dec “David Dobbs’ beautifully written …”.
    Yes, the Dobbs piece was nicely written – beginning with a personal touch, in which the author gave the reader a life-slice depicting his sudden insight in order to hook them into his intellectual journey.
    Nice work (with nice glossy Ed Young style pictures). But is it an exemplary piece of *science* writing?
    Mr. Young, I know you have done this before, but I for one would appreciate it if you (in a future post) could re-visited the issue of what makes good sci writing – (I know it seems a little Onanistic, and a part of me would rather simply read reports of “new” findings, etc – but I think it is an important issue, one that you would do justice) maybe using the Dobbs’ piece and reaction to it as a seed.

  2. SP
    December 9, 2013

    Ed — That Dobbs piece is only well written if you focus on the language abstracted from its content. The content is misunderstood and garbled (by the writer) and as a result the piece is likely to promote scientific misunderstanding rather then understanding. Your own work is always of a much higher quality. I think you risk your reputation by appearing to praise Dobbs.

    SP

    [Yes, well, I'm not going to backtrack on liking something because others have pointed out flaws in it. I recognise that there are flaws in the piece, and I think Dobbs does to. I've also linked to, and recommended, a few strong critiques of the story. I thank you for the praise, and if anyone wants to judge me on my likes and dislikes rather than my own work, that's their prerogative. - Ed]

  3. Tim Leonard
    December 10, 2013

    The link with text “men and women are wired differently” is broken.

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