Weekend Links: Parrots Are the Humans of the Bird World, Uncovering the Ocean’s History in Whale Earwax and More

Image of a colorful parrot

Welcome to Weekend Links, a collection of fascinating science stories from across the web, curated by your science-loving friends at the Mass General Research Institute.

The Genes That Make Parrots Into the Humans of the Bird World

JoAnna Klein writing for The New York Times

After comparing its genome with those of dozens of other birds, the researchers’ findings suggest that evolution may have made parrots something like the humans of the avian world. In some ways, the long-lived feathered friends are as genetically different from other birds as humans are from other primates.

The History of the Oceans Is Locked in Whale Earwax

Ed Yong writing for The Atlantic

Whale earwax forms like yours does: A gland secretes oily gunk into the ear canal, which hardens and accumulates into a solid, tapering plug. In the largest whales, like blues, a plug can grow up to 10 inches long, and looks like a cross between a goat’s horn and the world’s nastiest candle.

The Ten Best Science Books of 2018

Jay Bennett writing for Smithsonian

Whether you want to look inward at the science of human heredity, or outward to Pluto and beyond, the best science books of the year will teach you something that humanity itself is only just starting to learn.

Spoiler Alert! The Psychology Of Surprise Endings

Shankar Vedantam, Tara Boyle and Laura Kwerel writing for NPR

Writers and filmmakers hoping to hoodwink their fans with plot twists have long known what cognitive scientists know: All of us have blind spots in the way we assess the world. We get distracted. We forget how we know things. We see patterns that aren’t there.

Why Willpower is Overrated

Brian Resnick writing for Vox

People with a lot of self-control — people who, when they happen upon a delicious food they don’t think they should eat, seemingly grin and bear the temptation until it passes — have it easy. But why? 

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