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“It is famous for fire, but you get there by water…” And so begins the best piece I’ve read this year—a masterpiece by Kathryn Schulz about wildfires, a tragedy, and our relationship with nature. Achingly beautiful writing. “Things buzz. A hawk rises up on its invisible elevator and gets off at the 200th floor.”
The speculum’s history is steeped in racism and misogyny, but its design is unbeatable. Amazing piece by Rose Eveleth
“We despise them – yet we imbue them with our hopes and dreams, our dearest memories, our deepest meanings. They unlock much more than our accounts.” An wonderful bit of writing by Ian Urbina about a most mundane group of things: passwords.
For the last year, starfish on the west coast of North America have been disintegrating. Now, we may finally know why. Elizabeth Lopatto explains in this great feature about a new virus.
“My sense of who my grandfather is can be transformed by a stranger writing on the Internet.” How Wikipedia taught Ben Lillie that his Grandpa Freddy was a leading physicist. A beautiful story.
What does personhood mean? All week, Virginia Hughes has been considering that question from different angles, with her usual flair. Here she is on conception, kids, dead bodies, pets, and our fascination with personhood.
“The problem is that the majority of life out there is pretty hideous.” Simon Watts makes the case for saving ugly animals.
“Viewed from the side… their stories [are] exposed as pure human fantasy.” A wonderful piece from Summer Ash on constellations.
“Nothing in our evolutionary history can have programmed Pinkney’s brain for a task so peculiar and demanding.” Geoff Watts on the remarkable brains of simultaneous interpretors
“Mammoths are a huge part of my life, but cloning them is wrong,” says Tori Herridge
“200,000 brave and/or insane people have supposedly signed up for a one-way mission to Mars.” Here’s the truth about Mars One and the people who signed up to it. By Elmo Keep
Emily Graslie documents her trip to Peru, in this, the 100th episode of the mighty Brain Scoop.
Can viruses be good for you? Carl Zimmer takes a look at a provocative new study
Randall Munroe of XKCD explains the physics of space and time dimensions. A modern Feynman.
Gecko-inspired adhesives allow this guy to climb walls
Galápagos research center may shut down
If we can save a species, are we obliged to try? Even parasites?
Termite queen clones herself by making eggs impervious to sperm
How Animals Hacked The Rainbow And Got Stumped On Blue
The poke-me-boy tree, the jellyfish tree, & the suicide palm are among the world’s rarest plants
“Later scans showed the rings moving through his brain.” AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGHHHHH
Strong supportive statements from American & Australian Astronomical Societies on the shirtstorm case and the abuse that followed it. Kudos to them both.
Willy Burgdorfer, who figured out that Lyme disease was connected to ticks, has died.
While saving endangered species, scientists are driving their parasites extinct.
How barley has made living at high altitudes possible.
Do motivational posters actually work? No, says Dean Burnett
“You, my fine unfeathered friend, have most of the genetic information required for making feathers, too.” By Carl Zimmer
Who needs a guard dog when you’ve got a sentinel dwarf mongoose?
“Yahoo answers tells me I shouldn’t put snails in the microwave, but this paper tells me otherwise:”
How to judge significance in scientific results.
Brain responds to languages we heard in infancy, even if we have no conscious memory of them
A Malaysian snail species becomes extinct because a cement company blows up the limestone it lives on
In a Lather Over Triclosan? Thumbs Down to Fear-Mongering Soap Operas!
“Bubble boy” disease cured with stem cells
World’s most complete Stegosaurus to be unveiled at London’s NHM. (I’m guessing its the pic on the left)
Buzzfeed does an impersonation of the Total Perspective Vortex
Pest species thrive as climate change throws parasitoid wasps out of sync w/ their hosts
Rare frog, (wrongly) presumed extinct for a century, found to do something no other frog known to do: nest in bamboo.
Breathtaking NASA animations show a year in carbon dioxide emissions
In the 1990s, India deployed 25,000 corspe-eating turtles into the Ganges, but they just got poached
How farming almost destroyed ancient human civilization. Great piece by Annalee Newitz
100% accurate hummingbird facts, compiled by me and Tim Carmody
Bed bugs probably won’t give you Chagas disease
Rare parasitic worm killed two kidney donor patients, inquest hears
Where the greatest conservation successes? The IUCN creates the green list to supplement the red list.
Should trade in wild salamanders be halted? Karen Lips on a new threat to amphibians
“No aliens in the huge Siberian crater, nope,” say glassy-eyed exploration team in oddly inflected voices.
You can teach yourself synaesthesia
To test if birds can count, show them magic tricks with mealworms
Electric shock study suggests we’d rather hurt ourselves than others
Cheese good. You like cheese? You read this
I like to think that all of these hit one guy with the world’s unluckiest holiday plans.
Housefly larvae scrub antibiotics from manure at factory farms
Hand transplant recovery sheds new light on the neuroscience of touch
Seals caught having sex with penguins. Pingu is forever ruined.
Unexpected results from a microbiome study of kissing
“The mention of the man who believed he had glass buttocks is also interesting”
The gasflame nudibranch. Well done, evolution. A+ effort.
Cellular ‘computers’ gain a hard drive. DNA-based memory can record multiple inputs from engineered gene circuits.
Great take on the shirtstorm debacle by Emily Willingham
Snakebite DNA could help ID proper anti-venom faster.
Incredible 47 million year old horse fossil: pregnant mare & foetus
Why we all fell in love with Rosetta’s Philae lander
Six ways animals use fake eyes
There are few animals better named than the sarcastic fringehead
Scam journal accepts paper titled “Get Me Off Your F**king Email List”
Eagle with a head-mounted camera offers a bird’s-eye view of London
The Onion on feminism
This Menacing Carnivorous Plant Timelapse Is A Horror Movie For Bugs
The Buzzfeed-Clickhole convergence is now complete
‘Arm’ removed from dictionary to make room for ‘vape’
Emission spectra of the elements
Headline of the decade
Leopard vs. Crocodile
Scientists receive $10m grant to melt stuff
Bible verses in which the word “Philistines” has been replaced by “haters”
Palaeontologists Determine Dinosaurs Were Killed By Someone They Trusted
The difference between journalists and scientists
“The group includes a journalist… who, police noted, was “always looking for a story”” THE FIEND!
Next year, one billion works will be licenced for free use online
Congratulations to the amazing Helen Macdonald for winning the Samuel Johnson Prize for her epic book H is for Hawk
Just when you think that neither the Daily Mail nor homeopaths could sink any lower…
“The word ‘archive’ – like the word ‘love’ or ‘family’ – conceals its true treasure beneath an unassuming simplicity”
A visit with a Russian woodpecker—not a bird but a sobering relic of a nuclear threat
RIP John Hoyland, New Scientist editor who coined “nominative determinism”
Why Uber’s privacy-violating antics matter
Great advice on pitching
A cartoon history of the vibrator. Dear god, some of those old designs.
“Well, because she’s—she’s awesome!” A profile of Scarlett, the woman who conquered StarCraft.
How WWII Made Rock Climbing Safer.
“If your pile of poo is smiling, it’s likely because you have an iPhone.” A long history of emoji.
On Facebook, extroverts tend to use emoticons like and <3; introverts prefer o_o and >.<