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I’ve Got Your Missing Links Right Here (06 December 2014)

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Top picks

My Great-Great-Aunt Discovered Francium. And It Killed Her.” This piece by Veronique Greenwood, about the false romance of self-sacrificing scientists, is one of the best of the year—a wonderful piece of assured, considered writing that readers will savour and writers should deconstruct.

Forty years ago, Earth beamed its first postcard to the stars.” Such a great story by Nadia Drake. Don’t miss the ending.

Inside Yucca Mountain, incomprehensibly long time scales clash w/ human ones.” Beautiful piece on radiation by Sarah Zhang.

How addicts gained the power to reverse overdoses. Great piece by Carrie Arnold on naloxone

Your memory is fallible, even if you’re Neil de Grasse Tyson. Daniel Simons and Chris Chabris write about our memory problems in the NYT.

James Watson feels that his racism has left him an outcast, and has forced him to auction off his Nobel prize. Laura Helmuth and Adam Rutherford help me play my tiniest violin. I also endorse this series of tweets by Michael Hendricks on Watson, humanity, respect, and science heroes.

Terrifying story from Ian Sample: 100 big biosafety breaches at UK labs, including sending out live anthrax.

Science to the Rescue, Can Geoengineering Save the Earth? Erin Biba considers five possibilities.

Emily Graslie goes to Peru and smells the wood for the trees

A simple trick to improve your memory. Really interesting, by Tom Stafford.

“As the ongoing Ebola outbreak approaches the one-year mark, there are signs of hope”. Erika Check Hayden is in Sierra Leone, tracking the epidemic. Nature is publishing her diaries.

Amazing news! Buzzfeed hires the incomparable Virginia Hughes—one of our fellow Phenomena bloggers—to head a 5-person science/health reporting team.

A wonderful piece on fractals, by Aatish Bhatia, including this interactive page.

Ben Saunders lands on the TED stage, straight after coming home from Antarctica. Here’s his great talk.



These absurd insects grow disguises out of their heads.

Snot otter s’not otter.

In the Gulf of Thailand, these people go fishing for venomous sea snakes

“The ‘bat-nav’ system is “surprising — but also surprising in its beauty””

Does Stem Cell Research Have A Retraction Problem? Crows can be right or left-beaked, but that has more to do with their eyesight

The hype, caveats, promise and progress of cancer immunotherapy.

Chimpanzee ‘personhood‘ fails on appeal: chimps not “entitled to same legal status as humans”

Two new North American dinosaur species found…hidden in the storeroom of a Canadian museum.

The Next Wave of Super Sensors Could Be Inspired by Jagged Scales from Insect Wings

Hibernating squirrels can build muscle without exercising.

Ebola free-for-all could trigger bad science and wasted efforts

The Madagascan elephant bird – weird in life and in death

Infants in India are dying from bacterial infections resistant to everything.

World’s oldest engraving upends theory of Homo sapiens uniqueness

100 brains would be worth less than one solid, functional kidney. WHAT? Why did I bother stealing all those brains then?

Rival species recast significance of ‘first bird

“The Roridulaceae genus Roridula is a quirk of botanical carnivory…”

For the 1st time, humans have 3-D-printed an object to be used in space exploration in space itself.

Help battle antibiotic resistance – the Longitude Prize is open now!

From headline, was expected a row of trussed-up impalas. Sadly, it’s just trees

The scientist who analysed Richard III’s remains is called King. Excellent.

Taxidermists give immortality to tortoise Lonesome George

A rather large new species of stick insect has been found in Vietnam.

100 human brains are missing from a lab in Texas

The nerve-wracking job of photographing the final space shuttle launch

A salamander-census study imagined as a children’s picture book

Nature plumps for an open-ish access-ish model

If a meteorite falls on you, do you own it?

Polar bears use scent as a trail of bread crumbs

Wow, apparently some people get almost permanent landsickness after an experience at sea.

Whoa. Stem cell scientist who pioneered transplants of lab-grown tracheas comes under investigation.

It’s Big Cat Week at Nat Geo. You can celebrate at home by holding a normal-sized cat really close to your face

The first enzymes created that are not made of DNA, RNA or protein.

“Two unidentified gentlemen turned up to taste the meat-rain…” Bec Crew on the Kentucky Meat Shower mystery

A lay language science writing guide

“Bullet-proof armour and hydrogen sieve add to graphene’s promise



The Special Edition of the new Star Wars trailer

World Leaders Gather To Discuss How F*cking Amazing Running A Country Is

On Black Friday, people bought 30,000 boxes of actual bullsh*t for $6 each, despite very clear disclaimers.

Yeah, this is roughly how I answer the trolley problem too



Traffic light switch lets you play pong with person on the other side

“It is, as the flyleaf predicts, destined to become a classic of nature writing.” More praise for the astonishing H is for Hawk.

Trauma messes with memory. That does not mean people are lying. Vox covers a debacle involving Rolling Stone and a story about rape.

Avant garde painting missing for nine decades turns up as prop in the movie of Stuart Little.

If women built our cities, what would they look like?

Attention, writers: How not to use Twitter

You had me at “Victorian Anti-Masturbation Devices

This alarm clock app donates to charity every time you hit snooze

A Eulogy to Clip Art, in Clip Art.

Io9 published a terrible animal research ‘expose’ and its editor, Annalee Newitz, owns the mistake and apologises unconditionally for it. If only every science journalist had such integrity, we’d be in better shape.

This piece is ostensibly about the sociology of TED but is also a lament on the devaluation of specialists.




One thought on “I’ve Got Your Missing Links Right Here (06 December 2014)

  1. Ed, I’m a big fan of your writing and seldom comment but must take a shot at your top pick. The story on Francium is full of holes sciencewise. I’ll just point out one egregious instance of Marie Curie supposedly burning off Radon. Radon, being an inert gas, does not burn.

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