You've probably heard about the wonders of a Hydrogen economy, but how can we make it better for the environment. Synthesizing Ammonia helped feed the planet, but at a huge environmental cost. How can we produce Ammonia without harming the environment? Production of ammonia (and fertilizer) has a huge carbon footprint. How can we clean it up? Hydrogen fuel cells could help decarbonize our economy, but how do we produce it cleanly? Electrolysis can separate hydrogen from water, but how can we do it more efficiently?
Can a galaxy really die? What would that even look like? We know that stars can erupt into supernova, form black holes or fade away but what happens to old galaxies? What happens to a galaxy when it looses all it's fuel for growing new stars? Which galaxies are the most active and pulsing with light? Active galaxies often shine vibrantly from their core, but what causes periodic bursts of energy. NASA Goddarrd researchers have discovered the 'Old Faithful' of Galaxies.
- Annagrazia Puglisi, Emanuele Daddi, Marcella Brusa, Frederic Bournaud, Jeremy Fensch, Daizhong Liu, Ivan Delvecchio, Antonello Calabrò, Chiara Circosta, Francesco Valentino, Michele Perna, Shuowen Jin, Andrea Enia, Chiara Mancini, Giulia Rodighiero. A titanic interstellar medium ejection from a massive starburst galaxy at redshift 1.4. Nature Astronomy, 2021; DOI: 10.1038/s41550-020-01268-x
- ASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. (2021, January 12). An 'old faithful' active galaxy: Black hole rips away at star. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 15, 2021 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/01/210112125154.htm
You've probably heard of CRISPR, but what does it mean for the world of professional sports? How could gene-doping be detected by sports administrators? Could you tell if someone had used CRISPR to 'dope' their performance? WADA considers gene editing a form of doping, but how can you detect it? What happens when you mix sweat, gym equipment and cleaning products? When you exercise you release a 3-5 times the amount of chemicals than a sedentary person. What happens to the mix of sweat, amino acids and cleaning products in the air of a gym?
- Alina Paßreiter, Andreas Thomas, Nicolas Grogna, Philippe Delahaut, Mario Thevis. First Steps toward Uncovering Gene Doping with CRISPR/Cas by Identifying SpCas9 in Plasma via HPLC–HRMS/MS. Analytical Chemistry, 2020; 92 (24): 16322 DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.0c04445
- Zachary Finewax, Demetrios Pagonis, Megan S. Claflin, Anne V. Handschy, Wyatt L. Brown, Olivia Jenks, Benjamin A. Nault, Douglas A. Day, Brian M. Lerner, Jose L. Jimenez, Paul J. Ziemann, Joost A. Gouw. Quantification and source characterization of volatile organic compounds from exercising and application of chlorine‐based cleaning products in a university athletic center. Indoor Air, 2020; DOI: 10.1111/ina.12781
Waiting for glue to cure can take a long time, but can magnets speed it up? We use epoxy to glue together so much of the modern world, but it takes a lot of energy to cure it. Is there a way to make epoxy glues more 'energy efficient' with magnets? Magnetically activate glues can literally stick your shoes together. Gears are one of the most fundamental mechanical elements, can we get chemicals to form gears themselves. A 1mm thick sheet with some chemicals and you can get gears to form themselves. Small gear trains and mechanical motion can power soft and flexible machines.
- Richa Chaudhary, Varun Chaudhary, Raju V. Ramanujan, Terry W.J. Steele. Magnetocuring of temperature failsafe epoxy adhesives. Applied Materials Today, 2020; 21: 100824 DOI: 10.1016/j.apmt.2020.100824
- Abhrajit Laskar, Oleg E. Shklyaev, Anna C. Balazs. Self-Morphing, Chemically Driven Gears and Machines. Matter, 2020 DOI: 10.1016/j.matt.2020.11.014
How do our eyes process the continually barrage of photos so efficiently? What happens in our eyes that enables us to respond so quickly to stimulus like light or signs of danger? Why do zebra-fish swim towards the light so quickly? How does your brain process and map a room? Does the way your brain processes a space change when you're searching for something rather than exploring?
- Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y
- Yvonne Kölsch, Joshua Hahn, Anna Sappington, Manuel Stemmer, António M. Fernandes, Thomas O. Helmbrecht, Shriya Lele, Salwan Butrus, Eva Laurell, Irene Arnold-Ammer, Karthik Shekhar, Joshua R. Sanes, Herwig Baier. Molecular classification of zebrafish retinal ganglion cells links genes to cell types to behavior. Neuron, 2020; DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2020.12.003
Just how old are continental plates? When did plates sliding around and over each other really take off? What can rocks in the Canadian tundra tell us about the ages of the continents? The formation of continents led to a transformation of our planet and it's atmosphere - so when did it start? How can Australia have so many volcanoes on it's east coast despite being so far from the Pacific ring of fire? What causes Australia's mysterious volcanoes? Volcanoes in Alaska may be linked together in one super volcano. The Aleutian islands many volcanoes may be more linked than we thought.
- Sarah M. Aarons, Jesse R. Reimink, Nicolas D. Greber, Andy W. Heard, Zhe Zhang, Nicolas Dauphas. Titanium isotopes constrain a magmatic transition at the Hadean-Archean boundary in the Acasta Gneiss Complex. Science Advances, 2020; 6 (50): eabc9959 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc9959
- American Geophysical Union. (2020, December 3). Cluster of Alaskan islands could be single, interconnected giant volcano. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201203094531.htm
What is the space around the sun like? Cold? Hot? Dusty? How does the space around the Sun change over time? Does the Sun suck up dust in the solar system, or blow it out? What can we learn about stellar weather in our neighbouring stars. Red Dwarfs are one of the most common stars in our Galaxy, but also produce lots of flares. Are rocky planets in Red Dwarf's habitable zone safe from stellar weather?
- Andrew Zic, Tara Murphy, Christene Lynch, George Heald, Emil Lenc, David L. Kaplan, Iver H. Cairns, David Coward, Bruce Gendre, Helen Johnston, Meredith MacGregor, Danny C. Price, Michael S. Wheatland. A Flare-type IV Burst Event from Proxima Centauri and Implications for Space Weather. The Astrophysical Journal, 2020; 905 (1): 23 DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/abca90
- University of Colorado at Boulder. (2020, December 10). A look at the sun's dusty environment. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 10, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201210112131.htm
Life underneath the sea floor at the deepest parts of the ocean. How can life survive in deep sea with no light and at incredible temperatures? Have you ever thought about life beneath the beneath the sea? How can life survive in soil hotter than boiling water? If a tree feels out of place, it's microbes on leaves tend to blend in with the crowd. What happens to the microbes on the iconic maple leaves as the trees go further north? Feel like a fish out of water, or a maple amongst conifers? Maybe its time to blend in. How can we use plant based compounds to help keep plants safe from bacterial infection?
- Verena B. Heuer, Fumio Inagaki, Yuki Morono, Yusuke Kubo, Arthur J. Spivack, Bernhard Viehweger, Tina Treude, Felix Beulig, Florence Schubotz, Satoshi Tonai, Stephen A. Bowden, Margaret Cramm, Susann Henkel, Takehiro Hirose, Kira Homola, Tatsuhiko Hoshino, Akira Ijiri, Hiroyuki Imachi, Nana Kamiya, Masanori Kaneko, Lorenzo Lagostina, Hayley Manners, Harry-Luke McClelland, Kyle Metcalfe, Natsumi Okutsu, Donald Pan, Maija J. Raudsepp, Justine Sauvage, Man?Yin Tsang, David T. Wang, Emily Whitaker, Yuzuru Yamamoto, Kiho Yang, Lena Maeda, Rishi R. Adhikari, Clemens Glombitza, Yohei Hamada, Jens Kallmeyer, Jenny Wendt, Lars Wörmer, Yasuhiro Yamada, Masataka Kinoshita, Kai Uwe Hinrichs. Temperature limits to deep subseafloor life in the Nankai Trough subduction zone. Science, 2020 DOI: 10.1126/science.abd7934
- Geneviève Lajoie, Steven W. Kembel. Host neighborhood shapes bacterial community assembly and specialization on tree species across a latitudinal gradient. Ecological Monographs, 2020; DOI: 10.1002/ecm.1443
- Hong-Wu Liu, Qing-Tian Ji, Gang-Gang Ren, Fang Wang, Fen Su, Pei-Yi Wang, Xiang Zhou, Zhi-Bing Wu, Zhong Li, Song Yang. Antibacterial Functions and Proposed Modes of Action of Novel 1,2,3,4-Tetrahydro-β-carboline Derivatives that Possess an Attractive 1,3-Diaminopropan-2-ol Pattern against Rice Bacterial Blight, Kiwifruit Bacterial Canker, and Citrus Bacterial Canker. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2020; 68 (45): 12558 DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.0c02528
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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/
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