National Geographic

I’ve Got Your Missing Links Right Here (15 March 2014)

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Top picks

I’m delighted to welcome one of my favourite science writers—Nadia Drake—to Phenomena as our new space blogger. She’s amazing, and it’s an honour to have her here. Her new blog, No Place Like Home, opens with a post about the search for alien life featuring the legendary Frank Drake (or, as Nadia calls him, “Dad”), and another on rogue planets—homeless worlds that “have neither sunrises nor sunsets.”

Will Storr on Morgellons disease, the mysterious itching disorder that may not even exist.

“Who should name the craters on Mars, you or astronomers?” asks Adam Mann, who named one “Spidershark”

Is repetition the key to music? A *fascinating* Aeon piece by Elizabeth Margulis, and don’t miss that first illusion. It’s incredible.

SUPERB. Dorothy Bishop on the entrenched resistance to consider genetic factors in child language/reading

Blood speaks. An excellent story about ugly menstrual taboos, by Rose George.

Really good and fair response to David Dobbs’ controversial selfish gene essay, by Karen James.

Every one of these worms is more beautiful than any butterfly.

Matthew Herper commissioned a linguistic analysis that says Dorian Nakamoto is not the founder of Bitcoin.

“If you really want to bring home the bacon, you won’t listen to Ham.” On evolution-powered entrepreneurs. By Daniel O’Connell.

Augmented reality system converts images into “soundscapes” & turns blind people into Daredevil.

Quotation becomes a way not to add depth to your thinking, but to avoid thinking in the first place.” – Maria Konnikova.

Reaching My Autistic Son Through Disney. Great piece by Ron Suskind.

Wonderful! Neuroskeptic knits together the opening lines of psychology papers into the worlds’ most banal essay about humanity.

How a “90% accurate” Alzheimer’s test can be wrong 92% of the time. Essential reading. (More on Language Log)

Aviation doesn’t kill enough people any longer to make it worth installing.” Peter Aldhous on technology that could have tracked the missing Malaysian Airlines flight.

Whole-genome sequencing faces several technical hurdles before it can be routinely used in the clinic. By me.

This is not Marie Curie. A must-read example, from Joe Hanson, showing why viral image sites are a pox on science communication.

If you’re a linguistic prescriptivist, read this. Also you’re an awful person.

Did sponges terraform Earth? Carl Zimmer discusses.

“When a 1-tonne dino bone breaks a scientist’s leg in the field, few people are better equipped to deal with it.” Amazing piece by Erik Vance on the man who heals field scientists. (Paywall)

“There’s nothing older you can touch,” says a guy to Emily Graslie while holding up a slab of congealed AWESOME

DEMO—the Movie. A brilliant film about the use of demos in science education. Every science teacher should watch it. By Alom Shaha and Jonathan Sanderson.

 

Science/news/writing

“These tiny insects live inside wasp butts. And that’s not even the worst of it.” – Gwen Pearson.

What Can Crows and Ravens Teach People About Resisting Temptation? Jason Goldman on fine form.

A new call for the now-infamous acid-bath stem cell study to be retracted comes from one of the co-authors. And the affair spawned a four-hour (!!!) press conference.

A survey of public attitudes to science in the UK. Widespread trust, but concerns about risks vs. benefits.

“When boar young, semen sweet. When boar old, semen bitter. We taste.”

Pangolins are now the most traded wild animal, smuggling at “shocking” levels

This is the best weather forecast ever.

Daaaawwwww, who’s da cutest widdle tyrannosaur? Is it you? Is it you?

Transitional fossils. of Giant. Aquatic. Sloths.

I vaccinate because I’m all too aware of the nasty diseases that still don’t have an effective vaccine” – Tara Smith on why she vaccinates her kids.

There’s a 3rd type of light-sensitive eye cell besides rods and cones, and it may affect the way we think.

Frogpocalypse fungus found in the last fungus-free refuge: Madagascar. “That’s it. The worst news imaginable.”

How whales came to see the ocean in sound.

Biologists prep their steeds for the world’s 1st slime mould race

Interesting speculative piece by Ross Andersen: what happens to life sentences if lives get much longer?

Say hello to Jonathan, St Helena’s 182-year-old giant tortoise

Mice Will Approach Another Mouse in Pain, But Only When He’s Top Mouse

Life is hard to define. Yep, agreed. No specific threshold. With you there. Nothing is alive. Er, nooo…. An interesting piece on the spectrum nature of life, by Ferris Jabr, but with a conclusion that doesn’t make sense.

These attempts at labelling the human reproductive system are amazing.

If we sent floating colonies to the clouds of Venus, their shadows below would be ringed by rainbows

Robotic prosthesis turns an amputee drummer into a three-armed cyborg

Light pollution could affect regeneration of rainforests by disrupting seed dispersing bats

Sex stereotypes: men boast about, women underreport maths ability with direct influence on hiring strategy:

Humboldt squid larvae learning to swim in “treacle”

An antiviral targeted at HIV seems to work against HPV too, and may be usefully repurposed against cervical cancer

What it’s like to spend 15 minutes on a boat deck with a great white shark

Oh well done, Bill Nye. [slow clap]

“People pay money to look this casual. Just out on the ice in his black and white pyjamas.” On ribbon seals.

“We thank Baboon Teams 2009, 2010 and 2011 for putting up with AJC standing around and swearing at baboons a lot”

Spot on! Why Cosmos can’t save public support for science (and it’s a bit daft to expect it to)

A California lawmaker has proposed a ban on keeping killer whales in captivity for purposes of human entertainment.”

Europa is tiny compared to Earth, but has 2-3 times as much water.

How we promote women in science is as important as raising profiles.

The ocean dandelion–a colony of animals that cannot live apart.

XKCD’s Randall Munroe explains the explainers that he is turning into a book

Flight of the ibis. How a determined scientist taught a critically endangered bird to fly again.

How a rubber hand can help fight racial bias.

Why the cancer cases in Fukushima aren’t likely linked to the nuclear disaster

Parasites are much more important that they are given credit for

Post-publication peer review outperformed the most careful reviewing in one of the top journals, in the recent stem-cell paper controversy.

 

Heh/wow/huh

Common foods convincingly painted to look like other foods.

This Entire Animation Was Drawn Frame by Frame on a Gallery Wall

Marx, Nietzsche and Freud play Monopoly

Mr Frostnova could change his name again any time by completing the form correctly…”

 

Journalism/internet/writing

Congrats to Henry Nicholls, whose new book ‘The Galapagos: A Natural History’ is out this week!

Sexism and sexual harassment is not a ‘women’s issue’ – it is a matter of human rights”

“In a world without hope, one man narrated every movie trailer.” RIP Hal Douglas

Everything is fiction

The @Uberfacts Twitter account is often wrong.

Thanks to new journalism start-ups, white men will finally get a voice…

Jon Mooallem talks to Open Notebook about American Hippopotamus, his story about America’s flirtation w/ hippo farms.

4 science journalists on the evolution – or revolution – of science journalism

Practice Effect — 10,000 Hour Rule under fire

This is my new favourite comments policy

Why I never use slides when I talk (unless they’re all visuals), explained in one slide-deck…

Spritz, that new one-word-at-a-time reading thing that’s being hyped, almost certainly won’t work

TED now allows speakers to upload sources, citations & backing info for their talks. I will be doing this.

 

There are 5 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. David Bump
    March 15, 2014

    Quote: “Quotation becomes a way not to add depth to your thinking, but to avoid thinking in the first place.” – Maria Konnikova.
    /end quote
    Delicious unintentional self-referential irony, yes? Oops, did I just add another layer?

  2. Ryan
    March 15, 2014

    The post on the 90% accurate test being wrong 92% of the time just doesn’t add up. The author is taking the supposed 10% false negative rate, then subsequently assuming that the false positive rate is also 10%. How does he make this leap? Assuming that the false positive rate is different from the false negative (it probably is), then the author’s calculations could be off the mark significantly.

  3. marklade
    March 16, 2014

    This is amazing – a collection of best pictures ever of Earth more 20 best pictures ever of Earth
    Pictures: http://earthspacecircle.blogspot.com/p/best-pictures.html

  4. sp
    March 17, 2014

    Sorry, I still have a bee in my bonett about the David Dobbs piece. DD trys to construct an argument that evolution can’t be explained in purely genetic terms. He fails, and fails even to understand the facts and arguments he purports to deal with. There is no credible non-genetic theory of inheritance (epigenetics not withstanding). Natural selection therefore selects genetic information. (It makes sense to call the subjects of this selection genes, although other straw man definitions are advanced by some in relation to the article.) Natural selection will therefore favour “genes” that favour their own selection, even at the expense of the organism in which they are housed: that is “selfish genes”. To pretend otherwise is to sow confusion not advance scientific understanding or debate.

  5. zr
    March 22, 2014

    Nice selection

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