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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 30, 2020

Episode 407 - Random generating DNA and random mouse movements

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.

  1. Linda C. Meiser, Julian Koch, Philipp L. Antkowiak, Wendelin J. Stark, Reinhard Heckel, Robert N. Grass. DNA synthesis for true random number generationNature Communications, 2020; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-19757-y
  2. Paul E. Stillman, Ian Krajbich, and Melissa J. Ferguson. Using dynamic monitoring of choices to predict and understand risk preferencesPNAS, 2020 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2010056117
November 23, 2020

Episode 406 - Lifting mountains out of the ground…with rain

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.

  1. 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/
  2. 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

Episode 405 - Studying Supernova, pollution and air quality with trees

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.


  1. G. Robert Brakenridge. Solar system exposure to supernova γ radiationInternational Journal of Astrobiology, 2020; 1 DOI: 10.1017/S1473550420000348
  2. Grant Rea‐Downing, Brendon J. Quirk, Courtney L. Wagner, Peter C. Lippert. Evergreen needle magnetization as a proxy for particulate matter pollution in urban environmentsGeoHealth, 2020; DOI: 10.1029/2020GH000286
November 9, 2020

Episode 404 - Ants , Acid, and Yeast that grow acid

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.

  1. 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
  2. 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

Episode 403 - Taking pollutants out of our water, factories and environment

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.

  1. 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
  2. Basic Information on PFAS. (2018, December 06). Retrieved October 31, 2020, from https://www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-pfas
  3. 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
  4. 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