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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.

November 11, 2019

Episode 352 - Figuring out where sound comes from and perceiving pitch

This week we look at the way our brains process sound, music, pitch and rhythm. How does our brain figure out where a sound is coming from? Do our eyes and ears process distance and location in a similar way? How does our brain discern differences in stimuli? What can we learn about pitch and rhythm from studying a remote Bolivian tribe? Is there a biological limit to our perception of sounds? Is our ability to perceive rhythm, chords and pitch cultural or biological?


  1. Antje Ihlefeld, Nima Alamatsaz, Robert M Shapley. Population rate-coding predicts correctly that human sound localization depends on sound intensityeLife, 2019; 8 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.47027
  2. Nori Jacoby, Eduardo A. Undurraga, Malinda J. McPherson, Joaquín Valdés, Tomás Ossandón, Josh H. McDermott. Universal and Non-universal Features of Musical Pitch Perception Revealed by SingingCurrent Biology, 2019; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.08.020
November 4, 2019

Episode 351 - A new dwarf planet and what makes an exoplanet habitable

What makes a dwarf planet not a planet? What are the rules governing the word planet? Just how many dwarf planets are out there in our solar system? How can we use telescopes and modelling to add or subtract a dwarf planet from that list? We've talked about Goldilocks zone exoplanets, but what about their ability to withstand space weather? What role does a star's magnetic field play in protecting a planet from damaging radiation? Does space weather need to be added to the exoplanet Goldilocks zone?


  1. P. Vernazza, L. Jorda, P. Ševeček, M. Brož, M. Viikinkoski, J. Hanuš, B. Carry, A. Drouard, M. Ferrais, M. Marsset, F. Marchis, M. Birlan, E. Podlewska-Gaca, E. Jehin, P. Bartczak, G. Dudzinski, J. Berthier, J. Castillo-Rogez, F. Cipriani, F. Colas, F. DeMeo, C. Dumas, J. Durech, R. Fetick, T. Fusco, J. Grice, M. Kaasalainen, A. Kryszczynska, P. Lamy, H. Le Coroller, A. Marciniak, T. Michalowski, P. Michel, N. Rambaux, T. Santana-Ros, P. Tanga, F. Vachier, A. Vigan, O. Witasse, B. Yang, M. Gillon, Z. Benkhaldoun, R. Szakats, R. Hirsch, R. Duffard, A. Chapman, J. L. Maestre. A basin-free spherical shape as an outcome of a giant impact on asteroid Hygiea. Nature Astronomy, 2019; DOI: 10.1038/s41550-019-0915-8
  2. Alison O. Farrish, David Alexander, Mei Maruo, Marc DeRosa, Frank Toffoletto, Anthony M. Sciola. Characterizing the Magnetic Environment of Exoplanet Stellar Systems. The Astrophysical Journal, 2019; 885 (1): 51 DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/ab4652
October 28, 2019

Episode 350 - Developing, tracking, recycling new materials

Smart phones, computers, televisions and even children's toys are part of what makes our modern world so exciting. But these often rely on plastics and rare earth metals which are hard to recycle. Are there efficient ways to capture all those rare earth metals? How are rare earth metals in old phones recycled today, and can we make it better? Knowing which bin to put plastic in is difficult, so what if there was a more universal way to recycle plastics? How does turning plastic into a gas with the help of steam help create a circular plastic economy? How can some steam power help crack plastics back into their most basic forms? Is it possible to recycle plastics without to build whole new plastic refineries? Regulation is often playing catch up to making materials safe. Are the latest generation of 'safe' fire retardants any safer than those that came before? 



Robert F. Higgins, Thibault Cheisson, Bren E. Cole, Brian C. Manor, Patrick J. Carroll, Eric J Schelter. Magnetic Field Directed Rare-Earth Separations. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 2019; DOI: 10.1002/anie.201911606

Arlene Blum, Mamta Behl, Linda S. Birnbaum, Miriam L. Diamond, Allison Phillips, Veena Singla, Nisha S. Sipes, Heather M. Stapleton, Marta Venier. Organophosphate Ester Flame Retardants: Are They a Regrettable Substitution for Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers? Environmental Science & Technology Letters, 2019; DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.9b00582

Henrik Thunman, Teresa Berdugo Vilches, Martin Seemann, Jelena Maric, Isabel Cañete Vela, Sébastien Pissot, Huong N.T. Nguyen. Circular use of plastics-transformation of existing petrochemical clusters into thermochemical recycling plants with 100% plastics recovery. Sustainable Materials and Technologies, 2019; 22: e00124 DOI: 10.1016/j.susmat.2019.e00124

October 21, 2019

Episode 349 - Domesticating fungus for our food

Humans have been using micro-organisms like fungus and bacteria to help improve our food for millennia. Can we tame new wild species of fungus to help create new types of our favourite foods like cheese? Penicillin is mostly known for antibiotics but it also helps give Camembert its particular taste. What causes cheese to rapidly tame wild strains of fungus? We are not the only ones who use microbes to help our food. Ants help stop disease from destroying plants by spreading their own antibiotics. Ant base antibiotics help stop plant pathogens. Sometimes bacteria don't fight against each other but rather team up and work together. Survival of kindest rules for bacteria, which helps different strains work together to survive.


  1. Bodinaku, I., Shaffer, J., Connors, A. B., Steenwyk, J. L., Biango-Daniels, M. N., Kastman, E. K., … Wolfe, B. E. (2019). Rapid Phenotypic and Metabolomic Domestication of Wild Penicillium Molds on Cheese. MBio, 10(5). doi: 10.1128/mbio.02445-19
  2. Joachim Offenberg, Christian Damgaard. Ants suppressing plant pathogens: a review. Oikos, 2019; DOI: 10.1111/oik.06744
  3. Wenzheng Liu, Samuel Jacquiod, Asker Brejnrod, Jakob Russel, Mette Burmølle, Søren J. Sørensen. Deciphering links between bacterial interactions and spatial organization in multispecies biofilms. The ISME Journal, 2019; DOI: 10.1038/s41396-019-0494-9
October 14, 2019

Episode 348 - More efficient Lithium-Ion batteries and Organic Batteries

We launch from the Nobel Prize for Chemistry 2019 into current battery research and development. Creating the ubiquitous Lithium Ion battery took decades of collaborative research across the globe. How are scientists working together today to make the new generation of batteries? Can we improve LI batteries with new electrolyte mixes? How can we use Silicon instead of graphite in our batteries to give them a boost? Is it possible to make an organic recyclable battery? How can we use proteins and peptides to make organic batteries? Can we make batteries without damaging the environment?


  1. Nobel Foundation. (2019, October 9). Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2019: Lithium-ion batteries. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 11, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/10/191009082508.htm
  2. Binghong Han, Chen Liao, Fulya Dogan, Stephen E. Trask, Saul H. Lapidus, John T. Vaughey, Baris Key. Using Mixed Salt Electrolytes to Stabilize Silicon Anodes for Lithium-Ion Batteries via in Situ Formation of Li–M–Si Ternaries (M = Mg, Zn, Al, Ca)ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2019; 11 (33): 29780 DOI: 10.1021/acsami.9b07270
  3. American Chemical Society. (2019, August 26). Producing protein batteries for safer, environmentally friendly power storage. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 12, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190826092322.htm5
October 7, 2019

Episode 347 - Capturing carbon with better farms and forests

Capturing carbon is important for helping offset CO2 emissions and tackling climate changes. Farming has an important role to play in improving CO2 sequestration with the use of cover crops and compost. Forests are important carbon sinks too, but they are at risk releasing a lot of the trapped carbon if care is not taken to stop invasive species. Plus fertilisers have helped feed the planet but can leech out nitrogen into the environment, so how do we better manage and improve the nitrogen cycle.

  1. Nicole E. Tautges, Jessica L. Chiartas, Amélie C. M. Gaudin, Anthony T. O'Geen, Israel Herrera, Kate M. Scow. Deep soil inventories reveal that impacts of cover crops and compost on soil carbon sequestration differ in surface and subsurface soilsGlobal Change Biology, 2019; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14762
  2. Songlin Fei, Randall S. Morin, Christopher M. Oswalt, Andrew M. Liebhold. Biomass losses resulting from insect and disease invasions in US forestsProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2019; 201820601 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1820601116
  3. Benjamin Z. Houlton, Maya Almaraz, Viney Aneja, Amy T. Austin, Edith Bai, Kenneth G. Cassman, Jana E. Compton, Eric A. Davidson, Jan Willem Erisman, James N. Galloway, Baojing Gu, Guolin Yao, Luiz A. Martinelli, Kate Scow, William H. Schlesinger, Thomas P. Tomich, Chao Wang, Xin Zhang. A World of Cobenefits: Solving the Global Nitrogen ChallengeEarth's Future, 2019; DOI: 10.1029/2019EF001222
September 30, 2019

Episode 346 - Can washing machines help stop microplastics in oceans and make hospitals safer

Washing machines can save a lot of time and help clean up mess, but they can also harm our health and environment. Which washing process is better for the environment - full an fast or empty and delicate? How do washing machines help fill our oceans with microplastics? What can be done to help stop washing machines contributing to the microplastics in our waterways? Which washing setting is best for your health? Cold and clean or warm and soapy? How did a normal washing machine cause havoc in a hospital? How can you multi-drug resistant pathogens spread through a washing machine? 


  1. American Society for Microbiology. (2019, September 27). Your energy-efficient washing machine could be harboring pathogens: Lower temperatures used in 'energy saver' washing machines may not be killing all pathogens. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 29, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/09/190927135202.htm
  2. Max R. Kelly, Neil J. Lant, Martyn Kurr, J. Grant Burgess. Importance of Water-Volume on the Release of Microplastic Fibers from LaundryEnvironmental Science & Technology, 2019; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.9b03022
September 23, 2019

Episode 345 - Overactive immune brain cells and brain cells failing to eat themselves

Is it possible to stop Alzheimer's in it's tracks? How does the formation of plaques on your brain cells lead to Alzheimer's. Does the your brain immune cells fighting back against plaques lead to Alzheimers? Amino acids in the brain tying themselves into knots, can lead to super strong sealed zippers forming which dry out proteins, damage neurons and eventually can lead to diseases like Alzheimer's. An enzyme missing a repair or two over 60 years can lead to build up of kinked amino acids chains which can lead to neuron-degenerative diseases. What causes a cell to eat itself? Well its actually a pretty healthy thing to do. If a brain cell doesn't eat itself at the right time, well it can lead to a whole bunch of diseases.

  1. Rebeccah A. Warmack, David R. Boyer, Chih-Te Zee, Logan S. Richards, Michael R. Sawaya, Duilio Cascio, Tamir Gonen, David S. Eisenberg, Steven G. Clarke. Structure of amyloid-β (20-34) with Alzheimer’s-associated isomerization at Asp23 reveals a distinct protofilament interfaceNature Communications, 2019; 10 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-11183-z
  2. Elizabeth Spangenberg, Paul L. Severson, Lindsay A. Hohsfield, Joshua Crapser, Jiazhong Zhang, Elizabeth A. Burton, Ying Zhang, Wayne Spevak, Jack Lin, Nicole Y. Phan, Gaston Habets, Andrey Rymar, Garson Tsang, Jason Walters, Marika Nespi, Parmveer Singh, Stephanie Broome, Prabha Ibrahim, Chao Zhang, Gideon Bollag, Brian L. West, Kim N. Green. Sustained microglial depletion with CSF1R inhibitor impairs parenchymal plaque development in an Alzheimer’s disease modelNature Communications, 2019; 10 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-11674-z
  3. Yi Yang, Thea L. Willis, Robert W. Button, Conor J. Strang, Yuhua Fu, Xue Wen, Portia R. C. Grayson, Tracey Evans, Rebecca J. Sipthorpe, Sheridan L. Roberts, Bing Hu, Jianke Zhang, Boxun Lu, Shouqing Luo. Cytoplasmic DAXX drives SQSTM1/p62 phase condensation to activate Nrf2-mediated stress responseNature Communications, 2019; 10 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-11671-2
September 16, 2019

Episode 344 - Colliding galaxies, stellar foundires and the emptiness of space

We look at galactic events, where galaxies collide, stars form and emptiness of space. Space is so unfathomably huge, but its still possible for galaxies to collide. The Milky Way was formed through one of this violent collisions over 10 billion years ago. Space seems empty but there are sections of space that are emptier than others, the great Local Void around the Local group. Stars forming in galaxies rely on gas clouds, but what does it take to form a star? What do you need to really make a good nursery for stars?

  1. R. Brent Tully, Daniel Pomarède, Romain Graziani, Hélène M. Courtois, Yehuda Hoffman, Edward J. Shaya. Cosmicflows-3: Cosmography of the Local VoidThe Astrophysical Journal, 2019; 880 (1): 24 DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/ab2597
  2. Kazufumi Torii, Shinji Fujita, Atsushi Nishimura, Kazuki Tokuda, Mikito Kohno, Kengo Tachihara, Shu-ichiro Inutsuka, Mitsuhiro Matsuo, Mika Kuriki, Yuya Tsuda, Tetsuhiro Minamidani, Tomofumi Umemoto, Nario Kuno, Yusuke Miyamoto. FOREST Unbiased Galactic plane Imaging survey with the Nobeyama 45 m telescope (FUGIN). V. Dense gas mass fraction of molecular gas in the Galactic planePublications of the Astronomical Society of Japan, 2019; DOI: 10.1093/pasj/psz033
  3. Carme Gallart, Edouard J. Bernard, Chris B. Brook, Tomás Ruiz-Lara, Santi Cassisi, Vanessa Hill, Matteo Monelli. Uncovering the birth of the Milky Way through accurate stellar ages with GaiaNature Astronomy, 2019; DOI: 10.1038/s41550-019-0829-5
September 9, 2019

Episode 343 - The circadian rhythm of plants, and fighting back against fungus

Growing enough food to feed the planet is a challenge that will only get harder as the climate changes. So how do farmers and scientists work together to make crops more sustainable, more resilient to disease, and use less herbicides? With genetic engineering, one of the worlds most important crops, rice, can be made even tougher. Using a two type bait gene, rice can be engineered to fight off fungus like rice blast. If you have to spray with herbicides, when should you do it? Well you need to pay attention to the circadian rhythm of the plants.

  1. Freya A Varden, Hiromasa Saitoh, Kae Yoshino, Marina Franceschetti, Sophien Kamoun, Ryohei Terauchi, Mark J. Banfield. Cross-reactivity of a rice NLR immune receptor to distinct effectors from the rice blast pathogen Magnaporthe oryzae provides partial disease resistanceJournal of Biological Chemistry, 2019; jbc.RA119.007730 DOI: 10.1074/jbc.RA119.007730
  2. Fiona E. Belbin, Gavin J. Hall, Amelia B. Jackson, Florence E. Schanschieff, George Archibald, Carl Formstone, Antony N. Dodd. Plant circadian rhythms regulate the effectiveness of a glyphosate-based herbicideNature Communications, 2019; 10 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-11709-5
September 2, 2019

Episode 342 - Better chemistry and physics in everyday objects

How can we use physics and chemistry to help improve our everyday objects? Melting ice is very important for airplanes and air-conditioners. How can you melt unwanted on objects ice more efficiently? Ice on an airplane wing can be dangerous, so how do we melt it more efficiently. Flame retardants are important to stop fire spreading, but how do we make them safer and environmentally friendly? Flame retardants often rely on petroleum which are not environmental friendly. How can we stop flame retardants leeching into the environment or into our households? How do you get white paint without relying on environmentally intensive additives. What can beetles and recycle plastic teach us about making whiter paint.


  1. S. Chavan, T. Foulkes, Y. Gurumukhi, K. Boyina, K. F. Rabbi, N. Miljkovic. Pulse interfacial defrosting. Applied Physics Letters, 2019; 115 (7): 071601 DOI: 10.1063/1.5113845
  2. Stephanie L. Burg, Adam Washington, David M. Coles, Antonino Bianco, Daragh McLoughlin, Oleksandr O. Mykhaylyk, Julie Villanova, Andrew J. C. Dennison, Christopher J. Hill, Pete Vukusic, Scott Doak, Simon J. Martin, Mark Hutchings, Steven R. Parnell, Cvetelin Vasilev, Nigel Clarke, Anthony J. Ryan, Will Furnass, Mike Croucher, Robert M. Dalgliesh, Sylvain Prevost, Rajeev Dattani, Andrew Parker, Richard A. L. Jones, J. Patrick A. Fairclough, Andrew J. Parnell. Liquid–liquid phase separation morphologies in ultra-white beetle scales and a synthetic equivalent. Communications Chemistry, 2019; 2 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s42004-019-0202-8
  3. American Chemical Society. (2019, August 26). Flame retardants -- from plants. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 31, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190826092330.htm
August 26, 2019

Episode 341 - Forming, Saving and preserving new memories

Your brain uses proteins synthesis and redundancy to help form and keep memories. Intricate biochemistry helps your neurons connect to each other to form new memories. Forming new memories is a sticky situation.  Keeping them stuck together over time in a long lasting memory relies on protein synthesis. Its important not just to have strong connections between neurons to form memories, you also need spares. By having redundancy and backups it means that you can still remember a key memory if one of those connections fails.


  1. Lenzie Ford et al. CPEB3 inhibits translation of mRNA targets by localizing them to P bodiesPNAS, 2019 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1815275116
  2. Walter G. Gonzalez, Hanwen Zhang, Anna Harutyunyan, Carlos Lois. Persistence of neuronal representations through time and damage in the hippocampusScience, 2019: Vol. 365, Issue 6455, pp. 821-825 DOI: 10.1126/science.aav9199
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