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Category: Science

A fun take on the latest science news with enough data to sink your teeth into. Lagrange Point goes beyond the glossy summary and gets in depth with the research from across the world.

August 19, 2019

Episode 340 - Insects revolutionizing agriculture

Insects are often thought of as the enemy of farmers, but they can help improve farming. From helpful worm pheromones, to farming crickets and hungry termites. Worms can help boost the resilience of crops like wheat, corn and maize to common threats. Worm pheromones help plants fight back against bacteria, viral and fungal invaders. If insects are the super food of the future, how do you successfully farm them on a large scale? What nutrient rich feed do insect farms need to give their herds? If you are growing crickets and locusts do they need different food? What food is best for termites and how can they be used to help better manage forest?


  1. Daniel F. Klessig, Murli Manohar, Shine Baby, Aline Koch, Wiseborn B. Danquah, Emily Luna, Hee‐Jin Park, Judith M. Kolkman, B. Gillian Turgeon, Rebecca Nelson, Jan E. Leach, Valerie M. Williamson, Karl‐Heinz Kogel, Aardra Kachroo, Frank C. Schroeder. Nematode ascaroside enhances resistance in a broad spectrum of plant–pathogen systems. Journal of Phytopathology, 2019; 167 (5): 265 DOI: 10.1111/jph.12795
  2. P. Straub, C.M. Tanga, I. Osuga, W. Windisch, S. Subramanian. Experimental feeding studies with crickets and locusts on the use of feed mixtures composed of storable feed materials commonly used in livestock production. Animal Feed Science and Technology, 2019; 255: 114215 DOI: 10.1016/j.anifeedsci.2019.114215
  3. Martin F. Jurgensen, Chris A. Miller, Carl T. Trettin, Deborah S. Page-Dumroese. Bedding of Wetland Soil: Effects of Bed Height and Termite Activity on Wood Decomposition. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 2019; 0 (0): 0 DOI: 10.2136/sssaj2018.12.0492
August 12, 2019

Episode 339 - Australian Science - life on gold, in the oceans and in deadly gas

To celebrate National Science Week in Australia we are turning our attention to Australian research on the global scale. This week it means tales from microbiology. Stories of how life can survive or sometimes thrive in strange situations. Whether it be Fungi that eat gold, or bacteria chewing deadly gas, microbiology is always full of surprises. How do the tiniest parts of the food-web of our oceans hunt for food in the swirling of stagnant currents of the ocean? How do bacteria turn deadly gas into a food source? Is the secret to tuberculosis's resistance its ability to survive off deadly gas? How do bacteria turn carbon monoxide and hydrogen into something palatable?


  1. Cordero, P. R., Bayly, K., Leung, P. M., Huang, C., Islam, Z. F., Schittenhelm, R. B., . . . Greening, C. (2019). Atmospheric carbon monoxide oxidation is a widespread mechanism supporting microbial survival. The ISME Journal. doi:10.1038/s41396-019-0479-8
  2. Islam, Z. F., Cordero, P. R., Feng, J., Chen, Y., Bay, S. K., Jirapanjawat, T., . . . Greening, C. (2018). Two Chloroflexi classes independently evolved the ability to persist on atmospheric hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The ISME Journal. doi:10.1101/457697
  3. Lehmann, E. (n.d.). Gold-coated fungi are the new gold diggers. Retrieved from https://www.csiro.au/en/News/News-releases/2019/Gold-coated-fungi-are-the-new-gold-diggers
  4. Bohu, T., Anand, R., Noble, R., Lintern, M., Kaksonen, A. H., Mei, Y., . . . Verrall, M. (2019). Evidence for fungi and gold redox interaction under Earth surface conditions. Nature Communications, 10(1). doi:10.1038/s41467-019-10006-5
  5. Holland, D., & University of Melbourne. (2019, August 05). The superheroes of nutrient detection living in our oceans. Retrieved from https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/the-superheroes-of-nutrient-detection-living-in-our-oceans#
  6. Brumley, D. R., Carrara, F., Hein, A. M., Yawata, Y., Levin, S. A., & Stocker, R. (2019). Bacteria push the limits of chemotactic precision to navigate dynamic chemical gradients. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(22), 10792-10797. doi:10.1073/pnas.1816621116
August 5, 2019

Episode 338 - Exoplanets boiling and stretching, Goldilocks and Supernova

Boiling planets being stretched and squished. Tiny white dwarf stars going supernova. Goldilocks planets potentially with liquid water. Exoplanet hunting is now a lot easier with missions like TESS and veterans like Hubble. We look at some special cases, and how searching for 1 planet can uncover loads more. Sometimes planets are lurking in old observatory data, we just need to know where to look. Too hot, too cold, GJ357 potentially has a planet that's just right with liquid water. What causes a White Dwarf to go supernova? It needs more than itself to kickstart it into a Type 1a nova...so where does the extra boost come from? Devouring another planet? Or another star?

  1. L. Kaltenegger, J. Madden, Z. Lin, S. Rugheimer, A. Segura, R. Luque, E. Palle, N. Espinoza. The Habitability of GJ 357 d Possible Climates and Observability. Astrophysical Journal Letters, 2019; (accepted) [link]
  2. R. Luque, E. Pallé, D. Kossakowski, S. Dreizler, J. Kemmer, N. Espinoza. Planetary system around the nearby M dwarf GJ 357 including a transiting, hot, Earth-sized planet optimal for atmospheric characterization. Astronomy & Astrophysics, 2019; DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201935801
  3. David K. Sing, Panayotis Lavvas, Gilda E. Ballester, Alain Lecavelier des Etangs, Mark S. Marley, Nikolay Nikolov, Lotfi Ben-Jaffel, Vincent Bourrier, Lars A. Buchhave, Drake L. Deming, David Ehrenreich, Thomas Mikal-Evans, Tiffany Kataria, Nikole K. Lewis, Mercedes López-Morales, Antonio García Muñoz, Gregory W. Henry, Jorge Sanz-Forcada, Jessica J. Spake, Hannah R. Wakeford. The Hubble Space Telescope PanCET Program: Exospheric Mg ii and Fe ii in the Near-ultraviolet Transmission Spectrum of WASP-121b Using Jitter Decorrelation. The Astronomical Journal, 2019; 158 (2): 91 DOI: 10.3847/1538-3881/ab2986
  4. P J Vallely, M Fausnaugh, S W Jha, M A Tucker, Y Eweis, B J Shappee, C S Kochanek, K Z Stanek, Ping Chen, Subo Dong, J L Prieto, T Sukhbold, Todd A Thompson, J Brimacombe, M D Stritzinger, T W-S Holoien, D A H Buckley, M Gromadzki, Subhash Bose. ASASSN-18tb: a most unusual Type Ia supernova observed by TESS and SALT. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2019; 487 (2): 2372 DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stz1445
July 29, 2019

Lagrange Point Episode 337 - Stopping deforestation, saving species and conservation

As the climate changes different species are at risk. Some will thrive and others will struggle, so how do we target conservation efforts to better protect at risk species? Deforestation is a big issue in developing countries, but is there a win-win for the population and the planet? When sea levels rise, we think about flooding and erosion, but not what will happen to the forests and birds who live in them. Trees in the city live fast and die young, which means we need a whole new set of forest management techniques.


  1. Paul J. Taillie, Christopher E. Moorman, Lindsey S. Smart, Krishna Pacifici. Bird community shifts associated with saltwater exposure in coastal forests at the leading edge of rising sea levelPLOS ONE, 2019; 14 (5): e0216540 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0216540
  2. C. David L. Orme, Sarah Mayor, Luiz dos Anjos, Pedro F. Develey, Jack H. Hatfield, José Carlos Morante-Filho, Jason M. Tylianakis, Alexandre Uezu, Cristina Banks-Leite. Distance to range edge determines sensitivity to deforestationNature Ecology & Evolution, 2019; DOI: 10.1038/s41559-019-0889-z
  3. Ian A. Smith, Victoria K. Dearborn, Lucy R. Hutyra. Live fast, die young: Accelerated growth, mortality, and turnover in street treesPLOS ONE, 2019; 14 (5): e0215846 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0215846
  4. Johan A. Oldekop, Katharine R. E. Sims, Birendra K. Karna, Mark J. Whittingham, Arun Agrawal. Reductions in deforestation and poverty from decentralized forest management in NepalNature Sustainability, 2019; DOI: 10.1038/s41893-019-0277-3
July 22, 2019

Episode 336 - Life frozen in time inside extreme ice

Ice can be refreshing and cooling, but it can also be used to preserve life. Sometimes for strangely long periods of time. So just how do you make extreme forms of ice? From 'warm ice that doesn't ruin your frozen food, to controlled ice that helps planes fly. Sometimes you can even use a diamond to make some super controlled ice. Ice can harbour life even in some extreme conditions like the frozen and UV radiated Andes. Buried in Alaska is a bacterial community frozen in time. For 50,000 years bacteria have been thriving beneath layers of frozen tundra. 




  1. Yong-Jae Kim, Yun-Hee Lee, Sooheyong Lee, Hiroki Nada, Geun Woo Lee. Shock growth of ice crystal near equilibrium melting pressure under dynamic compression. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2019; 116 (18): 8679 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1818122116
  2. Lara Vimercati, Adam J. Solon, Alexandra Krinsky, Pablo Arán, Dorota L. Porazinska, John L. Darcy, Cristina Dorador, Steven K. Schmidt. Nieves penitentes are a new habitat for snow algae in one of the most extreme high-elevation environments on Earth. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, 2019; 51 (1): 190 DOI: 10.1080/15230430.2019.1618115
  3. University of Washington. (2019, July 12). Super salty, subzero Arctic water provides peek at possible life on other planets. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 13, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190712105707.htm


July 14, 2019

Episode 335 - Oceans, ocean size algae, deserts and fresh water in strange places

Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink or nutrient for that matter. The Ocean can sometimes be a inhospitable place with barely any nutrients to survive off. Other times it can be home to large ocean spanning algae blooms. The oceans from the Pacific to the Atlantic can hold lots of secrets (even fresh water) beneath the surface. This week we look at 3 different papers which outline strange parts of the ocean, from large algae blooms to hidden aquifers.


  1. Greta Reintjes, Halina E. Tegetmeyer, Miriam Bürgisser, Sandi Orlić, Ivo Tews, Mikhail Zubkov, Daniela Voß, Oliver Zielinski, Christian Quast, Frank Oliver Glöckner, Rudolf Amann, Timothy G. Ferdelman, Bernhard M. Fuchs. On-Site Analysis of Bacterial Communities of the Ultraoligotrophic South Pacific Gyre. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2019; 85 (14) DOI: 10.1128/AEM.00184-19
  2. Mengqiu Wang, Chuanmin Hu, Brian B. Barnes, Gary Mitchum, Brian Lapointe, Joseph P. Montoya. The great Atlantic Sargassum belt. Science, 2019; 365 (6448): 83 DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw7912
  3. Chloe Gustafson, Kerry Key, Rob L. Evans. Aquifer systems extending far offshore on the U.S. Atlantic margin. Scientific Reports, 2019; 9 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-44611-7
July 7, 2019

Lagrange Point Episode 334 - Hidden in empty space

  • Space seems so incredibly vast and empty, but there is a lot hidden inside that seemingly empty void. From fungal spores to charged bucky balls. Radiation in space seeps everywhere and makes long term space travel dangerous for humans, but fungal spores cope just fine. Radiation can also cause beautiful light shows like the aurora but can make light tough for astronauts. How can we use social media to track the beautiful aurora light shows? How do we clean a space ship or space station?


    1. L. Orr, S. C. Chapman, J. W. Gjerloev. Directed network of substorms using SuperMAG ground‐based magnetometer data. Geophysical Research Letters, 2019; DOI: 10.1029/2019GL082824
    2. American Geophysical Union. (2019, June 27). Space station mold survives high doses of ionizing radiation: New research presented at the 2019 Astrobiology Science Conference in Bellevue, Wa.. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 7, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190627121252.htm
    3. M. A. Cordiner, H. Linnartz, N. L. J. Cox, J. Cami, F. Najarro, C. R. Proffitt, R. Lallement, P. Ehrenfreund, B. H. Foing, T. R. Gull, P. J. Sarre, S. B. Charnley. Confirming Interstellar C60 Using the Hubble Space Telescope. The Astrophysical Journal, 2019; 875 (2): L28 DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/ab14e5


June 30, 2019

Episode 333 - Saving which bees and where

Saving the bees has gotten widespread understanding, but it is more nuanced than a simple sound bite. Which bees are in danger and where? How many bee species are out there and are under threat? Can domesticated bees spread disease to wild populations? How do wild flowers help feed bees but also spread disease? Can different types of crop cycles help both wild and domesticated bees thrive? We know of colony collapse disorder and pesticides, but what other threats are out there to bee populations? Does the urban sprawl play a role in destabilising the gender balance of the bee populations? Why do bee populations drop off as you approach the city?


  1. Samantha A. Alger, P. Alexander Burnham, Humberto F. Boncristiani, Alison K. Brody. RNA virus spillover from managed honeybees (Apis mellifera) to wild bumblebees (Bombus spp.). PLOS ONE, 2019; 14 (6): e0217822 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0217822
  2. Dimitry Wintermantel, Jean-François Odoux, Joël Chadœuf, Vincent Bretagnolle. Organic farming positively affects honeybee colonies in a flower-poor period in agricultural landscapes. Journal of Applied Ecology, 2019; DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.13447
  3. Gordon Fitch, Paul Glaum, Maria-Carolina Simao, Chatura Vaidya, Jill Matthijs, Benjamin Iuliano, Ivette Perfecto. Changes in adult sex ratio in wild bee communities are linked to urbanization. Scientific Reports, 2019; 9 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-39601-8
June 24, 2019

Episode 332 - Affordable, smart and helpful prosthetics

Getting a prosthetic limb to feel natural and comfortable without spending a fortune is incredibly difficult. Plus the human body (and prosthetics) change over time. So how can you make a prosthetic better match it's user? We look at three stories of adaptive prosthetics and finding ways to make use of new technology to help improve lives. From building an elaborate treadmill contraption to hearing through your fingers.


When you stumble your brain goes into overdrive to keep you standing, but what exactly does it do? 


Affordable and comfortably fitting prosthetic limbs are especially important for children who grow out of them quickly. How can we make them more responsive?


Hearing words clearly in a noisy environment is especially hard on those with hearing aids. But can your fingers help out?


Vanderbilt University researchers built an elaborate treadmill to trip people, with the goal of helping advance prosthetic research. 


Using 3D scanning, printing and embedded sensors, researchers are making prosthetic better matched to their users.


People often say look with your eyes not your fingers, but can you use your fingers to hear as well?


Embedding sensors into 3D printed prosthetics can help adapt the design to better suit the actual wear and tear from the body. 


Using an elaborate tripping contraption on a treadmill, Vanderbilt university researchers hope to stop prosthetic leg users falling over. 


  1. Yuxin Tong, Ezgi Kucukdeger, Justin Halper, Ellen Cesewski, Elena Karakozoff, Alexander P. Haring, David McIlvain, Manjot Singh, Nikita Khandelwal, Alex Meholic, Sahil Laheri, Akshay Sharma, Blake N. Johnson. Low-cost sensor-integrated 3D-printed personalized prosthetic hands for children with amniotic band syndrome: A case study in sensing pressure distribution on an anatomical human-machine interface (AHMI) using 3D-printed conformal electrode arrays. PLOS ONE, 2019; 14 (3): e0214120 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0214120
  2. Shane T. King, Maura E. Eveld, Andrés Martínez, Karl E. Zelik, Michael Goldfarb. A novel system for introducing precisely-controlled, unanticipated gait perturbations for the study of stumble recovery. Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, 2019; 16 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s12984-019-0527-7
  3. Katarzyna Cieśla, Tomasz Wolak, Artur Lorens, Benedetta Heimler, Henryk Skarżyński, Amir Amedi. Immediate improvement of speech-in-noise perception through multisensory stimulation via an auditory to tactile sensory substitution. Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, 2019; 37 (2): 155 DOI: 10.3233/RNN-190898
June 17, 2019

Episode 331 - Making modern technology less energy intensive

Our modern world relies on energy, and some of it produce a lot of carbon dioxide. How can we make everything from air travel to wearable tech be less carbon intensive? Is there a way to make jet fuel or power ships that is carbon neutral? Just how much energy do crypto currency burn up? What is the impact of all this Bitcoin speculation on the health of the planet? From Fitbits to smart watches and Pokemon Go, wearable tech is a big trend, but how can we make these devices power themselves. There is a lot of excess energy when we walk and move, so can we use this to power our technology?


  1. ETH Zurich. (2019, June 13). Carbon-neutral fuel made from sunlight and air. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 15, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190613103146.htm
  2. Christian Stoll, Lena Klaaßen, Ulrich Gallersdörfer. The Carbon Footprint of BitcoinJoule, 2019; DOI: 10.1016/j.joule.2019.05.012
  3. Michael G. Stanford, John T. Li, Yieu Chyan, Zhe Wang, Winston Wang, James M. Tour. Laser-Induced Graphene Triboelectric NanogeneratorsACS Nano, 2019; DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.9b02596
June 10, 2019

Episode 330 - A cells journey, from birth to death

This week we dive into the complicated history of cells and try to figure out if you are still the same ship. How does a cell know what it wants to grow up to be? What helps it make the decision to be an optic nerve, a neuron or part of your jawbone? How old are all the cells in your body? Are they all the same age, and what does age even mean anyway? This week we dive into the complicated history of cells and try to figure out if you are still the same ship. 


  1. Rafael Arrojo e Drigo, Varda Lev-Ram, Swati Tyagi, Ranjan Ramachandra, Thomas Deerinck, Eric Bushong, Sebastien Phan, Victoria Orphan, Claude Lechene, Mark H. Ellisman, Martin W. Hetzer. Age Mosaicism across Multiple Scales in Adult Tissues. Cell Metabolism, 2019; DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2019.05.010
  2. Ruslan Soldatov, Marketa Kaucka, Maria Eleni Kastriti, Julian Petersen, Tatiana Chontorotzea, Lukas Englmaier, Natalia Akkuratova, Yunshi Yang, Martin Häring, Viacheslav Dyachuk, Christoph Bock, Matthias Farlik, Michael L. Piacentino, Franck Boismoreau, Markus M. Hilscher, Chika Yokota, Xiaoyan Qian, Mats Nilsson, Marianne E. Bronner, Laura Croci, Wen-Yu Hsiao, Jean-Francois Brunet, Gian Giacomo Consalez, Patrik Ernfors, Kaj Fried, Peter V. Kharchenko, Igor Adameyko. Spatiotemporal structure of cell fate decisions in murine neural crest. Science, 2019; 364 (6444): eaas9536 DOI: 10.1126/science.aas9536
June 3, 2019

Episode 329 - Mysteries from the formation of our solar systems

There are many things we don't understand from the formation of our solar system. Why did Jupiter end up with weird asymmetrical groupings of asteroids around it? Is there a region of dust free space around the sun? If there is why can't we find it? What caused the beautiful rings of dust millions of kms wide around Venus and Mercury? Where did that dust come from? All these questions and more as we unpack the hidden parts of our solar system.


  1. Petr Pokorný, Marc Kuchner. Co-orbital Asteroids as the Source of Venus's Zodiacal Dust Ring. The Astrophysical Journal, 2019; 873 (2): L16 DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/ab0827
  2. S. Pirani, A. Johansen, B. Bitsch, A.J. Mustill, D. Turrini. Consequences of planetary migration on the minor bodies of the early solar system. Astronomy & Astrophysics, 2019; DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201833713
May 27, 2019

Episode 328 - Mathematics and Nature, from Bees to Choruses of Frogs

Mathematics is not just something humans can perform. It's present across the universe and especially in nature. So can animals understand abstract mathematical concepts? Can we learn from the different complicated algorithms and mathematical models used by animals to improve the internet of things? What can social media help tell us about both human and animal tourists to nature reserves?


  1. Scarlett R. Howard, Aurore Avarguès-Weber, Jair E. Garcia, Andrew D. Greentree, Adrian G. Dyer. Numerical cognition in honeybees enables addition and subtractionScience Advances, 2019; 5 (2): eaav0961 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav0961
  2. Ikkyu Aihara , Daichi Kominami , Yasuharu Hirano and Masayuki Murata. Mathematical modelling and application of frog choruses as an autonomous distributed communication systemRoyal Society Open Science, 2019 DOI: 10.1098/rsos.181117
  3. Anna Hausmann, Tuuli Toivonen, Christoph Fink, Vuokko Heikinheimo, Henrikki Tenkanen, Stuart H.M. Butchart, Thomas M. Brooks, Enrico Di Minin. Assessing global popularity and threats to Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas using social media dataScience of The Total Environment, 2019; DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.05.268
May 20, 2019

Episode 327 - Hippos and Algae, Lions and Porcupines, plus Narwhals.

What connects Hippos, Algae and keeping the rivers of Africa healthy? What causes Lions to square-off against Porcupines? What is keeping the Narwhal population healthy despite it's genetic diversity? We look at the strange interconnection between species and how small changes in one ecosystem can destabilise a whole species.

Hippos help keep the rivers and lakes of Africa healthy...through their poo.

Hippos are essential in pumping silicon from the savannah into the rivers and lakes of Africa.

Lions hunt lots of creatures, but what needs to happen for them to try attacking a Porcupine?

Porcupines vs Lion sounds like a March Mammal Madness battle, but what causes a Lion to go after such a tough prey?

The Narwhals population is rebounding but it its still at risk due to it's shallow gene pool.

Can a species survive with a shallow gene pool?


  1. Schoelynck, J., Subalusky, A.L., Struyf, E., Dutton, C.L., Unzué-Belmonte, D., Van de Vijver, B., Post, D.M., Rosi, E.J., Meire, P., Frings, P. Hippos (Hippopotamus amphibius): The animal silicon pumpScience Advances, 2019 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav0395
  2. Julian C. Kerbis Peterhans, Gastone G. Celesia, Thomas P. Gnoske. Lion-Porcupine Interactions in Africa, Including Impacts on Lion Predatory BehaviorJournal of East African Natural History, 2019; 108 (1): 1 DOI: 10.2982/028.108.0101
  3. Westbury, M.V. Narwhal genome reveals long-term low genetic diversity despite current large abundance sizeiScience, 2019 DOI: 10.1016/j.isci.2019.03.023
May 13, 2019

Episode 326 - Capturing, reusing, recycling and cleaning water.

Water is essential for life, but we need to take care of the complete water cycle. Treating waste water can help remove harmful pollutants from cosmetics and medication. Industrial processes and landfill can also make super salty water, that we need to clean before releasing. Without good water management then we can end up without water in times of drought, and in times of flood more water than we can handle. This week we find out about ways to better manage the most precious of resources, water.


  1. Qian Yang, Bridget R Scanlon. How much water can be captured from flood flows to store in depleted aquifers for mitigating floods and droughts? A case study from Texas, US. Environmental Research Letters, 2019; 14 (5): 054011 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ab148e
  2. Rui Zhao, Tingting Ma, Shuying Li, Yuyang Tian, Guangshan Zhu. Porous Aromatic Framework Modified Electrospun Fiber Membrane as a Highly Efficient and Reusable Adsorbent for Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products Removal. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2019; 11 (18): 16662 DOI: 10.1021/acsami.9b04326
  3. Chanhee Boo, Robert K. Winton, Kelly M. Conway, Ngai Yin Yip. Membrane-less and Non-evaporative Desalination of Hypersaline Brines by Temperature Swing Solvent Extraction. Environmental Science & Technology Letters, 2019; DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.9b00182
May 6, 2019

Episode 325 - Racing against time, from Box Jellyfish to Alzheimers

Medicine is often a race against time, to diagnose, to develop and to treat. This week we're looking at new research which speeds up the detection of Alzheimers in patients and provides a chance to test out potential treatments. We also find out how University of Sydney researchers may help deliver a quick antivenom to those stung by the deadly box jellyfish. Plus ways to turn leftover bits of junk in blood plasma, into useful diagnosis tools that may help save time and lives in treatment without wasting more time on tests.


  1. Man-Tat Lau, John Manion, Jamie B. Littleboy, Lisa Oyston, Thang M. Khuong, Qiao-Ping Wang, David T. Nguyen, Daniel Hesselson, Jamie E. Seymour, G. Gregory Neely. Molecular dissection of box jellyfish venom cytotoxicity highlights an effective venom antidote. Nature Communications, 2019; 10 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-09681-1
  2. Maria D Giraldez, Ryan M Spengler, Alton Etheridge, Annika J Goicochea, Missy Tuck, Sung Won Choi, David J Galas, Muneesh Tewari. Phospho-RNA-seq: a modified small RNA-seq method that reveals circulating mRNA and lncRNA fragments as potential biomarkers in human plasma. EMBO Journal, 2019 DOI: 10.15252/embj.2019101695
  3. Andreas Nabers, Henning Hafermann, Jens Wiltfang, Klaus Gerwert. Aβ and tau structure-based biomarkers for a blood- and CSF-based two-step recruitment strategy to identify patients with dementia due to Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring, 2019; 11: 257 DOI: 10.1016/j.dadm.2019.01.008

Medicine is often a race against time, to diagnose, to develop and to treat. This week it's stories of scientists and doctors racing against the clock.

New research which speeds up the detection of Alzheimer's in patients and provides a chance to test out potential treatments.

We find out how University of Sydney researchers may help deliver a quick antivenom to those stung by the deadly box jellyfish.

Plus ways to turn leftover bits of junk in blood plasma, into useful diagnosis tools that may help save time and lives in treatment without wasting more time on tests.

There are whole bundles of random RNA fragments in blood plasma, but these can be used to help diagnose specific issues.

The box jellyfish is just one of the many things in Australia that is trying to kill you, but now it's slightly less deadly thanks to University of Sydney researchers.

April 29, 2019

Episode 324 - Hunting for missing matter, gravitational waves and stellar deaths

Hunting for missing dark matter or gravitational waves involves incredibly precise measurements. Scientists are constantly developing new measurement techniques to try and find new sources of data and test theories. Whether it be staring at the space between Andromeda and the Milky Way to find primordial black holes, to looking in the remnants of a white dwarf using spectroscopy. Plus ways to make the newer generation of gravitational wave detectors more accurate by listening to quantum noise.


  1. Hiroko Niikura, Masahiro Takada, Naoki Yasuda, Robert H. Lupton, Takahiro Sumi, Surhud More, Toshiki Kurita, Sunao Sugiyama, Anupreeta More, Masamune Oguri, Masashi Chiba. Microlensing constraints on primordial black holes with Subaru/HSC Andromeda observations. Nature Astronomy, 2019; DOI: 10.1038/s41550-019-0723-1
  2. Christopher J. Manser, Boris T. Gänsicke, Siegfried Eggl, Mark Hollands, Paula Izquierdo, Detlev Koester, John D. Landstreet, Wladimir Lyra, Thomas R. Marsh, Farzana Meru, Alexander J. Mustill, Pablo Rodríguez-Gil, Odette Toloza, Dimitri Veras, David J. Wilson, Matthew R. Burleigh, Melvyn B. Davies, Jay Farihi, Nicola Gentile Fusillo, Domitilla De Martino, Steven G. Parsons, Andreas Quirrenbach, Roberto Raddi, Sabine Reffert, Melania Del Santo, Matthias R. Schreiber, Roberto Silvotti, Silvia Toonen,†, Eva Villaver, Mark Wyatt, Siyi Xu, Simon Portegies Zwart. A planetesimal orbiting within the debris disc around a white dwarf star. Science, 2019 DOI: 10.1126/science.aat5330
  3. Jonathan Cripe, Nancy Aggarwal, Robert Lanza, Adam Libson, Robinjeet Singh, Paula Heu, David Follman, Garrett D. Cole, Nergis Mavalvala, Thomas Corbitt. Measurement of quantum back action in the audio band at room temperature. Nature, 2019; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1051-4


April 22, 2019

Lagrange Point Episode 323 - Keeping your immune system in fighting shape

How can we keep our immune systems in fighting shape? What happens when our immune systems are responding well or are missing key genes? is there targeted gene therapies that can be used to help save lives of those most at risk from infection?  How does our body hunt down and stop Listeria in it's tracks? Plus undercooked wild game or pork can lead to parasitic infections, but how does the body fight back?


  1. E Mamcarz et al. Lentiviral gene therapy with low dose busulfan for infants with X-SCIDThe New England Journal of Medicine, April 17, 2019; DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1815408
  2. Kazuhito Sai, Cameron Parsons, John S. House, Sophia Kathariou, Jun Ninomiya-Tsuji. Necroptosis mediators RIPK3 and MLKL suppress intracellular Listeria replication independently of host cell killingThe Journal of Cell Biology, 2019; jcb.201810014 DOI: 10.1083/jcb.201810014
  3. Nicola Steel, Aduragbemi A. Faniyi, Sayema Rahman, Stefanie Swietlik, Beata I. Czajkowska, Bethany T. Chan, Alexander Hardgrave, Anthony Steel, Tim D. Sparwasser, Mushref B. Assas, Richard K. Grencis, Mark A. Travis, John J. Worthington. TGFβ-activation by dendritic cells drives Th17 induction and intestinal contractility and augments the expulsion of the parasite Trichinella spiralis in micePLOS Pathogens, 2019; 15 (4): e1007657 DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1007657
April 15, 2019

Episode 322 - Imaging strange objects in space (and on earth)

Taking images of strange objects in space is incredibly complicated and requires both large telescopes, and even larger teams of scientists to pour over the data. Techniques, codes and algorithms to sift through that data to find the unusual patterns is an incredibly difficult and challenging task. However with it we can capture some incredible things whether it be images of black holes, to asteroids literally spinning themselves apart, or even missing endangered species here on earth.


  1. Iowa State University. (2019, March 27). Data flows from NASA's TESS Mission, leads to discovery of Saturn-sized planet. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 13, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190327174701.htm
  2. NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. (2019, March 28). Hubble watches spun-up asteroid coming apart. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 13, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190328112601.htm
  3. British Ecological Society. (2019, April 9). Astro-ecology: Counting orangutans using star-spotting technology: A collaboration between astrophysicists, conservationists and ecologists aims to save rare and endangered animals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 13, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190409083245.htm


April 8, 2019

Lagrange Point Episode 321 - Bacterial search engine, blending in with hosts

Bacteria are all around us and inside our guts too. Yet despite this there is still so much we do not know about them. We keep discovering new types, new species and then they change the game by blending into hosts and having new side effects. We look at how microbial infections disguise themselves to blend in, how fungal infections deactivate alarm systems, and just how many unknown bacteria there are in your gut. We also find out about ways to tackle our lack of knowledge with bacterial search engines.

  1. Alexandre Almeida, Alex L. Mitchell, Miguel Boland, Samuel C. Forster, Gregory B. Gloor, Aleksandra Tarkowska, Trevor D. Lawley, Robert D. Finn. A new genomic blueprint of the human gut microbiotaNature, 2019; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-0965-1
  2. Iratxe Estibariz, Annemarie Overmann, Florent Ailloud, Juliane Krebes, Christine Josenhans, Sebastian Suerbaum. The core genome m5C methyltransferase JHP1050 (M.Hpy99III) plays an important role in orchestrating gene expression in Helicobacter pyloriNucleic Acids Research, 2019; DOI: 10.1093/nar/gky1307
  3. Koenig S et al. Gliotoxin from Aspergillus fumigatus Abrogates Leukotriene B4 Formation through Inhibition of Leukotriene A4 HydrolaseCell Chemical Biology, 2019 DOI: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2019.01.001
  4. Phelim Bradley, Henk C. den Bakker, Eduardo P. C. Rocha, Gil McVean, Zamin Iqbal. Ultrafast search of all deposited bacterial and viral genomic dataNature Biotechnology, 2019; 37 (2): 152 DOI: 10.1038/s41587-018-0010-1