November 30, 2020
Random numbers are incredibly important for our digital economy, so how do we generate them? What is the best way to make a random number: roll a dice, lava lamp, guess, DNA? What connects lava lamps, e-commerce and synthetic DNA? How can we better generate random numbers using synthesized DNA. How do your mouse movements reveal about your decision making process. Do mouse movements help us identify risk takers or keen deliberators. Whether you know it or not, your mouse moving may be part of your decision making process.
- Linda C. Meiser, Julian Koch, Philipp L. Antkowiak, Wendelin J. Stark, Reinhard Heckel, Robert N. Grass. DNA synthesis for true random number generation. Nature Communications, 2020; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-19757-y
- Paul E. Stillman, Ian Krajbich, and Melissa J. Ferguson. Using dynamic monitoring of choices to predict and understand risk preferences. PNAS, 2020 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2010056117
November 23, 2020
Lifting mountains out of the ground with...rain? How do mountain ranges form is a surprisingly difficult question to answer. Complex equations with lots of inputs are tricky to model and solve, but can help us understand the way mountains form. Rain, cosmic particles, sand and the Himalayas can help us understand how mountains form. It's hard to picture, but mountains actually float on the molten rock of the mantle. Make them lighter and they'll rise. Do rapid climate swings change mountains, or do mountains change the climate? The answer is tricky.
- Brandon, M. (2005, July 01). How Erosion Builds Mountains. Retrieved November 22, 2020, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-erosion-builds-mountains-2005-07/
- B. A. Adams, K. X. Whipple, A. M. Forte, A. M. Heimsath and K. V. Hodges. Climate controls on erosion in tectonically active landscapes. Science Advances, 2020 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz3166
November 16, 2020
Studying supernova and air quality with the help of trees. Supernova are some of the most devastating events in the universe, but what is their connection to trees? By studying tree rings we can help piece together the final days of stars. Supernova can cause large spikes in radiation that can be detected in tree rings. Trees do a lot for us but they can also help us track air quality simply and cheaply. Magnets and pine needles can helps us understand air quality. Air quality monitoring can be a matter of running a magnet over some leaves.
- G. Robert Brakenridge. Solar system exposure to supernova γ radiation. International Journal of Astrobiology, 2020; 1 DOI: 10.1017/S1473550420000348
- Grant Rea‐Downing, Brendon J. Quirk, Courtney L. Wagner, Peter C. Lippert. Evergreen needle magnetization as a proxy for particulate matter pollution in urban environments. GeoHealth, 2020; DOI: 10.1029/2020GH000286
November 9, 2020
Ants, acid and yeast that can grow their own acid. Ants use formic acid to keep their colony safe inside and out. By ingesting formic acid, Ants are able to ward off dangerous pathogens. Passing food with your mouth isn't very socially distant, but ants eat acid to make it safe. How can yeast be used to 'grow' materials needed to make perfume and dyes? Succinic acid is a useful chemical precursor, but its possible to grow yeast that are able yo produce on scale as a by product. Finding just the right genes with CRISPR and super computers can turn yeast into a chemical production powerhouse.
- Simon Tragust, Claudia Herrmann, Jane Häfner, Ronja Braasch, Christina Tilgen, Maria Hoock, Margarita Artemis Milidakis, Roy Gross, Heike Feldhaar. Formicine ants swallow their highly acidic poison for gut microbial selection and control. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.60287
- Patrick F. Suthers, Hoang V. Dinh, Zia Fatma, Yihui Shen, Siu Hung Joshua Chan, Joshua D. Rabinowitz, Huimin Zhao, Costas D. Maranas. Genome-scale metabolic reconstruction of the non-model yeast Issatchenkia orientalis SD108 and its application to organic acids production. Metabolic Engineering Communications, 2020; 11: e00148 DOI: 10.1016/j.mec.2020.e00148
November 2, 2020
How can we take pollutants easily out of our water, factories and environment? PFAS contamination is difficult to clear up, but a new method could attract, trap and destroy it with electrodes. PFAS can be found in many things, but taking it out of an area has often been very difficult. Using a tunenable electrode, in 3 hours you could extract and destroy PFAS in contaminated water. A combined clay and glass filter could neatly trap and extract CO2 from a gassy mixture. industrial processes often produce CO2 amongst other gases, but how can you quickly only separate out that CO2, reuse it and prevent it from being emitted? Lead in drinking water is a serious issue,but understanding the amount of exposure is difficult. A new method for analysing lead in drinking water tips acid onto 'filled' filters.
- Kwiyong Kim, Paola Baldaguez Medina, Johannes Elbert, Emmanuel Kayiwa, Roland D. Cusick, Yujie Men, Xiao Su. Molecular Tuning of Redox‐Copolymers for Selective Electrochemical Remediation. Advanced Functional Materials, 2020; 2004635 DOI: 10.1002/adfm.202004635
- Basic Information on PFAS. (2018, December 06). Retrieved October 31, 2020, from https://www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-pfas
- Martin Rieß, Renée Siegel, Jürgen Senker, Josef Breu. Diammonium-Pillared MOPS with Dynamic CO2 Selectivity. Cell Reports Physical Science, 2020; 100210 DOI: 10.1016/j.xcrp.2020.100210
- Weiyi Pan, Elizabeth R. Johnson, Daniel E. Giammar. Accumulation on and extraction of lead from point-of-use filters for evaluating lead exposure from drinking water. Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology, 2020; 6 (10): 2734 DOI: 10.1039/d0ew00496k
October 26, 2020
We dive in to the debate around feathers on dinosaurs and pterosaurs. When did the first feathers develop? How did they form and what was their connection to modern birds? What can we learn by studying the feathers of modern birds and dinosaurs? Did Pterosaurs have feathers? Why would pterosaurs feathers upend our understanding of feathered dinosaurs? What colour where archaeopteryx feathers? How different were the feathers of archaeopteryx from modern birds?
- Ryan M. Carney, Helmut Tischlinger, Matthew D. Shawkey. Evidence corroborates identity of isolated fossil feather as a wing covert of Archaeopteryx. Scientific Reports, 2020; 10 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-65336-y
- Thomas G. Kaye, Michael Pittman, Gerald Mayr, Daniela Schwarz, Xing Xu. Detection of lost calamus challenges identity of isolated Archaeopteryx feather. Scientific Reports, 2019; 9 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-37343-7
- David M. Unwin, David M. Martill. No protofeathers on pterosaurs. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41559-020-01308-9
- Zixiao Yang, Baoyu Jiang, Maria E. McNamara, Stuart L. Kearns, Michael Pittman, Thomas G. Kaye, Patrick J. Orr, Xing Xu, Michael J. Benton. Pterosaur integumentary structures with complex feather-like branching. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2018; 3 (1): 24 DOI: 10.1038/s41559-018-0728-7
October 19, 2020
Dodging collisions faster than a speeding bullet. We look at cleaning up space debris. Explosions and collisions of spaceships is great in sci-fi but bad news for us on Earth. Space is rapidly filling with satellites. What happens to them at the end of their life? Collisions in space (or near misses) are becoming more and more common. How can we clean up space and keep the skies safe for important satellites.
- Crane, L. (n.d.). Two old spacecraft just avoided catastrophically colliding in orbit. Retrieved October 17, 2020, from https://www.newscientist.com/article/2257525-two-old-spacecraft-just-avoided-catastrophically-colliding-in-orbit/
- Davenport, C. (2020, October 16). A rocket booster and a dead satellite avoided a collision Thursday, illustrating the 'ticking time bomb' of space debris. Retrieved October 17, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/10/15/space-collision-might-happen-thursday/
- Marks, P. (2017, April 18). Satellite swarms could increase space junk risk by 50 per cent. Retrieved October 17, 2020, from https://www.newscientist.com/article/2128024-satellite-swarms-could-increase-space-junk-risk-by-50-per-cent/
- Wall, M. (2019, April 24). Meet OSCaR: Tiny Cubesat Would Clean Up Space Junk. Retrieved October 17, 2020, from https://www.space.com/space-junk-cleanup-cubesat-oscar.html
- Wall, M. (2020, June 23). Foam 'spider webs' from tiny satellites could help clean up space junk. Retrieved October 17, 2020, from https://www.space.com/space-junk-cleanup-foam-satellite-technology.html
- Wells, T. (2019, April 24). Rensselaer team developing tool to battle space debris. Retrieved October 17, 2020, from https://phys.org/news/2019-04-rensselaer-team-tool-space-debris.html
October 12, 2020
The Nobel Prize's legacy on gender and diversity is poor, but are they turning it around? We celebrate the winners of the Nobel Prize, but look critically at the challenges of the system. How do you recognize the collaboration of 100s or 1000s of people with a single award? Is science advanced through singular genius or the collaboration of many? How can CRISPR help us create a more sustainable planet? Growing trees that are easier to process but still able to thrive is possible with CRISPR. How can making trees with less lignin help make a greener planet?
- Advanced information. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Media AB 2020. Sat. 10 Oct 2020. <https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/chemistry/2020/advanced-information
- Barbara De Meester, Barbara Madariaga Calderón, Lisanne de Vries, Jacob Pollier, Geert Goeminne, Jan Van Doorsselaere, Mingjie Chen, John Ralph, Ruben Vanholme, Wout Boerjan. Tailoring poplar lignin without yield penalty by combining a null and haploinsufficient CINNAMOYL-CoA REDUCTASE2 allele. Nature Communications, 2020; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-18822-w
October 5, 2020
Breaking up fatbergs, and breaking down plastic with smarter materials. Sewers are a dangerous place, with fat bergs and sulphuric acid, but can they be cleaned up? Portland Cement has helped build the modern world, but does it also cause problems in our sewers? how can we stop our sewers from corroding with better materials? Breaking down plastic takes a long time, but through in a super team of enzymes and it could be done in days. A super team of enzymes helps break down plastic and could lead to a circular economy.
- Brandon C. Knott, Erika Erickson, Mark D. Allen, Japheth E. Gado, Rosie Graham, Fiona L. Kearns, Isabel Pardo, Ece Topuzlu, Jared J. Anderson, Harry P. Austin, Graham Dominick, Christopher W. Johnson, Nicholas A. Rorrer, Caralyn J. Szostkiewicz, Valérie Copié, Christina M. Payne, H. Lee Woodcock, Bryon S. Donohoe, Gregg T. Beckham, John E. McGeehan. Characterization and engineering of a two-enzyme system for plastics depolymerization. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2020; 202006753 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2006753117
- Rajeev Roychand, Jie Li, Saman De Silva, Mohammad Saberian, David Law, Biplob Kumar Pramanik. Development of zero cement composite for the protection of concrete sewage pipes from corrosion and fatbergs. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 2021; 164: 105166 DOI: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2020.105166
September 28, 2020
We find out more about two more Ig Nobel prizes, for Accoustics and Entomology. Spiders aren't insects, but they're pretty similar. So why do so many entomologists fear spiders? Lots of legs, moves suddenly, weird shape, are fine for entomologists but add 2 extra legs and it's right out. Extra legs are a deal breaker for entomologists with a fear of spiders. Helium, Alligators in a tank, and resonant frequencies won this group a Ig Nobel prize. You've heard of beard song, but what about Alligator on helium song? Alligators and Birds can help us understand the songs of Dinosaurs.
- “A Chinese Alligator in Heliox: Formant Frequencies in a Crocodilian,” Stephan A. Reber, Takeshi Nishimura, Judith Janisch, Mark Robertson, and W. Tecumseh Fitch, Journal of Experimental Biology, vol. 218, 2015, pp. 2442-2447.
- “Arachnophobic Entomologists: When Two More Legs Makes a Big Difference,” Richard S. Vetter, American Entomologist, vol. 59, no. 3, 2013, pp. 168-175.
September 21, 2020
We celebrate the Ignobel Prizes once again, and this year we take a deep dive into the Physics prize for 2020. Faraday waves (standing waves in liquids or liquid filled objects) look pretty, but can anything filled with like have one? What about a worm? Can you make Faraday waves and resonant frequencies in Worms? What happens when a laser, a worm, and a speaker go into a lab? The result is an Ignobel Prize.
- Maksymov, I.S., Pototsky, A. Excitation of Faraday-like body waves in vibrated living earthworms. Sci Rep 10, 8564 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-65295-4
- 2020 Ceremony. (2020, September 18). Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.improbable.com/ig-about/the-30th-first-annual-ig-nobel-prize-ceremony/
September 14, 2020
Is that food safe to eat? How can you tell if food has gone bad beyond just reading a date? Ever been confused by best before or use by? A new type of label could make it a mater of colors. Color based labels could help detect if your food has gone bad or is contaminated by bacteria. How can we study the microbes that live inside our intestines? The gut microbiome is incredibly fascinating but difficult to study without damaging it. A tiny pill that takes snapshots of micro organisms inside your stomach as it passes through.
- Doyoon Kim, Yunteng Cao, Dhanushkodi Mariappan, Michael S. Bono Jr., A. John Hart, Benedetto Marelli. A Microneedle Technology for Sampling and Sensing Bacteria in the Food Supply Chain. Advanced Functional Materials, 2020 DOI: 10.1002/adfm.202005370
- Lu Chen, Lina Gruzinskyte, Steffen Lynge Jørgensen, Anja Boisen, Sarvesh Kumar Srivastava. An Ingestible Self-Polymerizing System for Targeted Sampling of Gut Microbiota and Biomarkers. ACS Nano, 2020; DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.0c05426
September 7, 2020
Plants are incredibly important for a healthy planet and a well fed population. How can we improve our plants by learning from some unusual ones? You normally picture a plant with lots of leaves, but some only grow one lonely leaf. Deep in limestone caves of South East Asia grows a plant with only ever one giant leaf. How can a plant survive with just one leaf and why does it continue to grow in size? What can we learn by studying the root systems of different plants? Can breeding plants to have more flexible roots lead to more resilient crops?
- Ayaka Kinoshita, Hiroyuki Koga, Hirokazu Tsukaya. Expression Profiles of ANGUSTIFOLIA3 and SHOOT MERISTEMLESS, Key Genes for Meristematic Activity in a One-Leaf Plant Monophyllaea glabra, Revealed by Whole-Mount In Situ Hybridization. Frontiers in Plant Science, 2020; 11 DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2020.01160
- James D. Burridge, Harini Rangarajan, Jonathan P. Lynch. Comparative phenomics of annual grain legume root architecture. Crop Science, 2020; DOI: 10.1002/csc2.20241
August 31, 2020
Telescopes can help us travel back in time to the early universe. We can watch galaxies form, the universe have a makeover and giant black holes appear. Using different telescopes we can learn about the cosmic dawn and the cosmic noon. The early universe was hazy and hard for light to travel far. What gave the early universe a makeover to allow starlight to travel? What fed the super hungry super massive black-holes of the early universe? Where did the early black holes find enough food to make them swell to massive sizes? What can we learn from the cosmic noon when most of the stars in the universe were formed?
- NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. (2020, January 6). Astronomers spot distant galaxy group driving ancient cosmic makeover. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 11, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200106141610.htm
- Emanuele Paolo Farina, Fabrizio Arrigoni-Battaia, Tiago Costa, Fabian Walter, Joseph F. Hennawi, Alyssa B. Drake, Roberto Decarli, Thales A. Gutcke, Chiara Mazzucchelli, Marcel Neeleman, Iskren Georgiev, Anna-Christina Eilers, Frederick B. Davies, Eduardo Bañados, Xiaohui Fan, Masafusa Onoue, Jan-Torge Schindler, Bram P. Venemans, Feige Wang, Jinyi Yang, Sebastian Rabien, Lorenzo Busoni. The REQUIEM Survey. I. A Search for Extended Lyα Nebular Emission Around 31 z > 5.7 Quasars. The Astrophysical Journal, 2019; 887 (2): 196 DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/ab5847
- T. Mauch et al. The 1.28 GHz MeerKAT DEEP2 Image. The Astrophysical Journal, 2019 [link]
August 24, 2020
Life in the ocean is more than just fish, whales and squid, it goes down to a microbial level. We can learn a lot about the health of a whole reef system by studying microbial life in the water. Just one teaspoon of the ocean contains thousands of unique microbes. The ocean currents carry and mix ocean microbes. What makes a healthy reef? Well take a look at the microbes. How can nutrient and soil runoff damage a reef?
- Maria G. Pachiadaki, Julia M. Brown, Joseph Brown, Oliver Bezuidt, Paul M. Berube, Steven J. Biller, Nicole J. Poulton, Michael D. Burkart, James J. La Clair, Sallie W. Chisholm, Ramunas Stepanauskas. Charting the Complexity of the Marine Microbiome through Single-Cell Genomics. Cell, 2019; 179 (7): 1623 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2019.11.017
- Laura Weber, Patricia González‐Díaz, Maickel Armenteros, Víctor M. Ferrer, Fernando Bretos, Erich Bartels, Alyson E. Santoro, Amy Apprill. Microbial signatures of protected and impacted Northern Caribbean reefs: changes from Cuba to the Florida Keys. Environmental Microbiology, 2019; DOI: 10.1111/1462-2920.14870
August 17, 2020
Your senses bombard your brain with an overload of information, so how does it process it all? How does y our brain decide what information to focus on? The brain can focus voluntarily or involuntarily on regions of an image to best process it. How does your brain decide which parts of an image to focus on? What part of your brain helps gatekeep the waves of sensory input before it gets processed? How can your brain help regulate and manage an overload of sensory inputs.
- Antonio Fernández, Marisa Carrasco. Extinguishing Exogenous Attention via Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. Current Biology, 2020; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.07.068
- Yinqing Li, Violeta G. Lopez-Huerta, Xian Adiconis, Kirsten Levandowski, Soonwook Choi, Sean K. Simmons, Mario A. Arias-Garcia, Baolin Guo, Annie Y. Yao, Timothy R. Blosser, Ralf D. Wimmer, Tomomi Aida, Alexander Atamian, Tina Naik, Xuyun Sun, Dasheng Bi, Diya Malhotra, Cynthia C. Hession, Reut Shema, Marcos Gomes, Taibo Li, Eunjin Hwang, Alexandra Krol, Monika Kowalczyk, João Peça, Gang Pan, Michael M. Halassa, Joshua Z. Levin, Zhanyan Fu, Guoping Feng. Distinct subnetworks of the thalamic reticular nucleus. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2504-5
August 10, 2020
The sun contains many mysteries, which are hard to unravel without special space probes. Why is the sun's corona so much hotter than the sun's surface? What helps form the biggest solar flares? When two arches of the sun's magnetic fields meet it can create some dangerous flares. Solar storms and solar flares can destroy satellites, power grids and spaceships. How can we better predict stellar weather and avoid disaster? Mapping out the Suns magnetic field can help us better predict stellar weather.
- European Space Agency. (2020, July 16). Solar Orbiter's first images reveal 'campfires' on the Sun: ESA/NASA mission returns first data, snaps closest pictures of the Sun. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 7, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200716120652.htm
- Kanya Kusano, Tomoya Iju, Yumi Bamba, Satoshi Inoue. A physics-based method that can predict imminent large solar flares. Science, 2020; 369 (6503): 587 DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz2511
August 3, 2020
From cool fabrics, to melting ice and recycling e-waste. How can a fabric let air through, but keep water out? Clothing that is breathable, water resistant and thermally efficient hits the sweet spot of a super fabric. Making clothes more efficient at cooling but also self cleaning can reduce our reliance on air conditioning. Using electricity and some polymers we can spin up some new cool clothing fabrics. Melting ice in your frozen over freezer can be made easier with biphillic materials. Materials that both hate and love water at the same time, can help melt ice and make heater exchangers more efficient. Recycling e-waste can be tricky, but what if we could use the by-products to make new, stronger coatings for steel? Turning e-waste into a steel boosting coating.
- Rumana Hossain, Veena Sahajwalla. Material Microsurgery: Selective Synthesis of Materials via High-Temperature Chemistry for Microrecycling of Electronic Waste. ACS Omega, 2020; 5 (28): 17062 DOI: 10.1021/acsomega.0c00485
- Xi Yu, Yang Li, Xianfeng Wang, Yang Si, Jianyong Yu, Bin Ding. Thermoconductive, Moisture-Permeable, and Superhydrophobic Nanofibrous Membranes with Interpenetrated Boron Nitride Network for Personal Cooling Fabrics. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2020; 12 (28): 32078 DOI: 10.1021/acsami.0c04486
- Yashraj Gurumukhi, Shreyas Chavan, Soumyadip Sett, Kalyan Boyina, Srivasupradha Ramesh, Peter Sokalski, Kirk Fortelka, Maury Lira, Deokgeun Park, Juo-Yun Chen, Shreyas Hegde, Nenad Miljkovic. Dynamic Defrosting on Superhydrophobic and Biphilic Surfaces. Matter, 2020; DOI: 10.1016/j.matt.2020.06.029
July 27, 2020
Treating chronic pain through tiny electrodes in your ear. Can 3 phase like stimulating of nerves in your eye help treat chronic pain? Mapping out the inside of the ear in incredibly fine detail can help treat chronic pain. Fine tuning tiny electrodes inside the ear can help relieve chronic pain. Using a printer, tattoo paper and polymers to make long lasting electrodes. Flexible, thin and long lasting electrodes can make it easier to study the brain and the heart. Studying the brain over the long term just got easier with tattoo paper based electrodes.
- Babak Dabiri, Stefan Kampusch, Stefan H. Geyer, Van Hoang Le, Wolfgang J. Weninger, Jozsef Constantin Széles, Eugenijus Kaniusas. High-Resolution Episcopic Imaging for Visualization of Dermal Arteries and Nerves of the Auricular Cymba Conchae in Humans. Frontiers in Neuroanatomy, 2020; 14 DOI: 10.3389/fnana.2020.00022
- Laura M. Ferrari, Usein Ismailov, Jean-Michel Badier, Francesco Greco, Esma Ismailova. Conducting polymer tattoo electrodes in clinical electro- and magneto-encephalography. npj Flexible Electronics, 2020; 4 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41528-020-0067-z
July 20, 2020
Making water safe to drink, from evaporation to treatment. How do you simply evaporate water to make it safe? A piece of aluminium and a laser can hold the key to providing cheap and safe drinking water to the world. Pharmaceutical waste can build up in waster water, so how can it be treated? How can two little electrodes deal with the problem of pharmaceutical waste in water? Changing the course of a river can have huge consequences. What can we learn by studying the changes caused by the Panama Canal?
- Subhash C. Singh, Mohamed ElKabbash, Zilong Li, Xiaohan Li, Bhabesh Regmi, Matthew Madsen, Sohail A. Jalil, Zhibing Zhan, Jihua Zhang, Chunlei Guo. Solar-trackable super-wicking black metal panel for photothermal water sanitation. Nature Sustainability, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41893-020-0566-x
- Yassine Ouarda, Clément Trellu, Geoffroy Lesage, Matthieu Rivallin, Patrick Drogui, Marc Cretin. Electro-oxidation of secondary effluents from various wastewater plants for the removal of acetaminophen and dissolved organic matter. Science of The Total Environment, 2020; 738: 140352 DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.140352
- Jorge Salgado, María I. Vélez, Catalina González-Arango, Neil L. Rose, Handong Yang, Carme Huguet, Juan S. Camacho, Aaron O'Dea. A century of limnological evolution and interactive threats in the Panama Canal: Long-term assessments from a shallow basin. Science of The Total Environment, 2020; 729: 138444 DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.138444