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I’ve Got Your Missing Links Right Here (14 March 2015)

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Top picks

One of the very best writers, Kathryn Schulz, reviews my favourite book of last year, Helen Macdonald’s H IS FOR HAWK. This is just multi-layered bliss. And Macdonald’s nature column at the NYT Magazine gets off to a flying start: “We have all been reminded that a day can be cut in two by three seconds of a hunting peregrine“.

Is Most of Our DNA Garbage? Carl Zimmer covers a fascinating but controversial topic, cuts himself, and merges with an onion.

RIP Lisa Adams, an incredible woman who showed the world what cancer is really like, and how to live with it in grace, dignity, and courage. “Find a bit of beauty in the world today. Share it. If you can’t find it, create it. Some days this may be hard to do. Persevere.”

“To actually understand who the Pigeon King was… it may help to put common sense aside.” Quirky. Animals. Brilliant told. This is a quintessential Jon Mooallem piece.

“To be a coral scientist is to buy front-row tickets to a tragedy.” Veronique Greenwood on a possible blink of hope.

“There is no book more human than Good Omens.” Jess Zimmerman pays tribute to Terry Pratchett, gone too soon.

Much to love in Alom Shaha’s latest piece on school science practicals, whether they matter, and why the “science community” might like to actually ask some teachers about them.

Women go for prenatal genetic test, find out they have cancer. Big story, broken by Virginia Hughes

How New Zealand ended up at the forefront of the legal psychoactive drug business, thanks to a rock musician-cum-drug lord with a social mission. By Maia Szalavitz.

If you wrapped a cylinder around the Eiffel Tower, the air in the tube would outweigh the iron in the tower. Aatish Bhatia compares the tower to a bone.

Rose Eveleth offers a reality check on the hype around 3D printed hands

“One scientist compared the feeling to walking down a street in California and seeing a giraffe.” Carl Zimmer on a whale on the wrong side of the world.

Apple’s new ResearchKit: ‘Ethics quagmire’ or medical research aid? By Arielle Duhaime-Ross; a great look at what ethics in medical research actually involves.

We can find buried oceans under the surface of one of Jupiter’s moons, by studying its auroras. Wonderful piece by Nadia Drake.

The origin of the anus—a story about the extraordinary evolution of our most embarrassing organ, after our brains and mouths. By Matt Walker.

 

News/science/writing

5 Languages That Could Change the Way You See the World

485 million year old fossil was a giant… er… [stares at screen, squints, tilts head]

“If the bonobos disappeared, [18] plants would also likely go extinct.”

Marine census lists 228,445 known species, deletes 190,400 duplicates

“Controlling what grows in our yards is like playing God. By favoring productive species, we can create life”

John Horgan rightly lambasts the NYT for a “feel-good gene” op/ed that’s basically a “sensationalized press release”

Being stabbed with a mucus dagger is not even the worst part of snail sex

“One of the few good news stories in primatology”: the lesula monkey.

“It’s not pigments that change chameleons’ color; it’s [their] sparkling skin.”

Today I learned that some scorpions can spray venom from their stings.

I really wish people would stop wasting time with cancer-sniffing dogs. The principle has been proved. Move on the actual sensors. Also: 88% accuracy is rubbish for a low-prevalence disease. See here.

Update on antibiotic resistance: we’re still screwed. By Julia Belluz.

“This is the first example of memory manipulation during sleep.”

Fresh claims of multiple horizontally transferred genes in animal genomes. For real this time, or 2001 all over again?

Scientists Call For Moratorium On Human “Gene Editing” Experiments

Cheetahs are teaching robots how to run at MIT

“Not giving boys the HPV vaccine is institutional homophobia”

“We have Stone Age emotions. We have medieval institutions…And we have god-like technology.” -EO Wilson

What’s in My Gut? The quantified self meets the microbiome

How to stop sexual harassment and assault of field scientists

“Researchers nearly double size of worker ants

You are not a tetrachromat and this graphic is bullsh*t

Here’s a virtual prehistoric whale biting down on the skull of a prehistoric baby dolphin.

The Ghost of Ivory Bills

In which Christina Agapakis interviews me and others on poo, and the transplantation thereof.

The smiling marsupial, a favorite selfie subject for tourists, is facing serious threats

You Got the Touch; You Got the Power

Complex societies evolved without belief in all-powerful deity

Bacteria pipe food to each other with tiny tubes

Robo-rescuers battle it out in $2m disaster challenge

Why are elephants and other animals so wrinkly?

A peacock’s tail makes noises too are low for humans to hear, but attract other peacocks.

Ancient Wheat DNA Find Shifts Early UK Farming Theories

On World Wildlife Day, a video on the illicit trade in great apes, narrated by great ape Richard Wrangham

For Dwarf Planet Ceres, 4.6 Billion Years of Anonymity End This Week

“The research adds to a fierce debate over whether climate change influences human conflict.”

An ode to termites, by Natalie Angier.

The origins of different groups of HIV

“In other words, the desire to grab something to eat becomes the desire to grab anything at all.” “The recent experiments began more or less by accident. “We went to an insect fair recently…”

Can gene therapy succeed when vaccines fail? Estonia learns how to back up a nation’s worth of data, to protect against Russian attack: http://econ.st/1KCjAfo

“Sexing up the human pheromone story: How a corporation started a scientific myth”

After handshakes, we sniff people’s scent on our hands. More cool work by Noam Sobel

Solitary worker ants live only 1/10th as long compared to those in small groups.

“It’s not a tomato garden” Meet the Microbes that Live in Our Vaginas

Meet Dudley, the most nightmare-inducing site marker in the deep sea

 

Heh/wow/huh

Clickhole has published a noir choose-your-own-adventure game and it’s amazing.

“Is your bionic arm better than Iron Man’s?”

These Scientific Names Were Chosen Purely To Insult Certain People

Humanity has clearly dropped the ball on our naming duties

Print your own Haeckel posters, key chains, clocks, bags, pillows, mousepads, hip flasks (!!)

Amazing! Prosthetic Allows Dog To Sting With Deadly Poison For First Time

 

Internet/journalism/society

RIP Terry Pratchett

Silence: an experiment

No-one knows what caused the crooked forest of Gryfino in Poland

A day in the life of Amanda Gefter, whose routine is eerily similar to mine.

Do you remember the first time you were flabbergasted by the real world?

 

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