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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.

October 19, 2020

Episode 401 - Space Collisions and cleaning up debris

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.

  1. 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/
  2. 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/
  3. 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/
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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

Episode 400 - Nobel Prizes, Collaboration, and more sustainable trees

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?

  1. Advanced information. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Media AB 2020. Sat. 10 Oct 2020. <https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/chemistry/2020/advanced-information
  2. 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 alleleNature Communications, 2020; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-18822-w
October 5, 2020

Episode 399 - Avoiding Fatbergs and Breaking down Plastic

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.

  1. 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 depolymerizationProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2020; 202006753 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2006753117
  2. 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 fatbergsResources, Conservation and Recycling, 2021; 164: 105166 DOI: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2020.105166