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462Episodes
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 29, 2021

Episode 459 - Bees that eat meat, and Ants with a social stomach

Bees seem friendly and sweet, but what about a bee that eats meat? What has to happen to allow a bee to consume meat instead of pollen. What does honey produced by meat eating bees taste like? How do meat eating bees bite into their food? How different is the stomach of a meat eating bee from it's vegetarian cousins?Forget photos of food on social networks, ants have a whole social stomach for exchanging proteins. Ants carry and exchange all sorts of fluids to help parts of the colony at the right time. Ants second stomach does not contain food but is used to help process fluids for the colony.

  1. Laura L. Figueroa, Jessica J. Maccaro, Erin Krichilsky, Douglas Yanega, Quinn S. McFrederick. Why Did the Bee Eat the Chicken? Symbiont Gain, Loss, and Retention in the Vulture Bee MicrobiomemBio, 2021; DOI: 10.1128/mBio.02317-21
  2. Sanja M Hakala, Marie-Pierre Meurville, Michael Stumpe, Adria C LeBoeuf. Biomarkers in a socially exchanged fluid reflect colony maturity, behavior and distributed metabolismeLife, 2021; 10 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.74005
November 22, 2021

Episode 458 - Molecular methods to fight fungi and bacteria

There's a public health crisis looming beyond the pandemic. Researchers across the world are working to stop the next public health disaster - the rise of antibiotic resistance. We rely on antibiotics to treat various disease but their effectiveness wanes as bacteria builds its resistance. How do we keep track of the changes in bacteria's resistance to antibiotics? What do bird droppings in Cambridge tell us about antibiotic resistance? Developing new antibiotics is tricky, what part of bacteria do you target? Is it better to have a simple molecule or a complex one when tackling bacteria? Bursting the bacteria cell is one way to defeat but its even better to break their building blocks. Fungal infections are growing more resistant to treatment. How can we devleop new categories of anti-fungal treatments?
References

  1. Joana G. C. Rodrigues, Harisree P. Nair, Christopher O'Kane, Caray A. Walker. Prevalence of multidrug resistance in Pseudomonas spp. isolated from wild bird feces in an urban aquatic environmentEcology and Evolution, 2021; 11 (20): 14303 DOI: 10.1002/ece3.8146
  2. Elisabeth Reithuber, Torbjörn Wixe, Kevin C. Ludwig, Anna Müller, Hanna Uvell, Fabian Grein, Anders E. G. Lindgren, Sandra Muschiol, Priyanka Nannapaneni, Anna Eriksson, Tanja Schneider, Staffan Normark, Birgitta Henriques-Normark, Fredrik Almqvist, Peter Mellroth. THCz: Small molecules with antimicrobial activity that block cell wall lipid intermediatesProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2021; 118 (47): e2108244118 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2108244118
  3. Christian DeJarnette, Chris J. Meyer, Alexander R. Jenner, Arielle Butts, Tracy Peters, Martin N. Cheramie, Gregory A. Phelps, Nicole A. Vita, Victoria C. Loudon-Hossler, Richard E. Lee, Glen E. Palmer. Identification of Inhibitors of Fungal Fatty Acid BiosynthesisACS Infectious Diseases, 2021; DOI: 10.1021/acsinfecdis.1c00404
November 15, 2021

Episode 457 - Not so Empty Space near Earth

Space  is big and vast, but whilst not densely packed like in Sci Fi, there's still so much going on around Earth's orbit. Mapping out the local neighborhood around Earth's orbit is tricky but important work. We think we have an idea about most Near Earth Asteroids but occasionally they can sneak up on is. A chip off the old block of the Moon has become one of our newest near Earth Objects. How we clean up space junk without touching it or grabbing it with a rocket? Can magnets help us handle delicate space junk? A satellite spiraling out of control is not an easy object to tame and de-orbit.

  1. Benjamin N. L. Sharkey, Vishnu Reddy, Renu Malhotra, Audrey Thirouin, Olga Kuhn, Albert Conrad, Barry Rothberg, Juan A. Sanchez, David Thompson, Christian Veillet. Lunar-like silicate material forms the Earth quasi-satellite (469219) 2016 HO3 KamoʻoalewaCommunications Earth & Environment, 2021; 2 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s43247-021-00303-7
  2. Lan N. Pham, Griffin F. Tabor, Ashkan Pourkand, Jacob L. B. Aman, Tucker Hermans, Jake J. Abbott. Dexterous magnetic manipulation of conductive non-magnetic objectsNature, 2021; 598 (7881): 439 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03966-6
November 8, 2021

Episode 456 - Responding rapidly to bad smells

How does our brain filter and process all those smells? Our brain has a lot of dedicated space for smells, but knowing which is which is tricky. How does our brain respond so quickly to bad smells? We will move out of the way of a bad smell fast. In under half a second you brain can detect and move away from a bad smell. Why are our brains hard wired to detect and react to the smell of caramel? Furaneol gives off a caramel like smell and is found in fruits and even bread. Why does our brain dedicate space to it? What is better at waking you up - a good smell or a bad smell? How do brains process smells even whens sleeping?

  1. Behzad Iravani, Martin Schaefer, Donald A. Wilson, Artin Arshamian, Johan N. Lundström. The human olfactory bulb processes odor valence representation and cues motor avoidance behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2021; 118 (42): e2101209118 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2101209118
  2. Franziska Haag, Sandra Hoffmann, Dietmar Krautwurst. Key Food Furanones Furaneol and Sotolone Specifically Activate Distinct Odorant Receptors. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2021; 69 (37): 10999 DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.1c03314
  3. Alice S. French, Quentin Geissmann, Esteban J. Beckwith, Giorgio F. Gilestro. Sensory processing during sleep in Drosophila melanogaster. Nature, 2021; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03954-w
November 1, 2021

Episode 455 - Growing rocket fuel on Mars and greener jet fuel on earth

Growing rocket fuel on the surface of Mars, and greener jet fuel here on earth. The problem with space travel is you have to take everything with you. Including fuel. Is there a way to grow your own fuel to make the load lighter on a rocket? A round trip to Mars needs billions of dollars of fuel. Is there a way we can reduce cost and energy by producing rocket fuel on the surface of Mars? How can you grow rocket fuel on mars using microbes? Would the same rocket fuel you use on Earth make sense to use on Mars? How can we clean up the aviation industry's carbon emissions? Are there alternative jet fuels that don't come at the expense of growing food? Bio-fuels are often produced at the expense of food, but are there alternatives that are win win? 
References:

  1. Nicholas S. Kruyer, Matthew J. Realff, Wenting Sun, Caroline L. Genzale, Pamela Peralta-Yahya. Designing the bioproduction of Martian rocket propellant via a biotechnology-enabled in situ resource utilization strategyNature Communications, 2021; 12 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-26393-7
  2. Asiful Alam, Md Farhad Hossain Masum, Puneet Dwivedi. Break-even price and carbon emissions of carinata-based sustainable aviation fuel production in the Southeastern United StatesGCB Bioenergy, 2021 DOI: 10.1111/.1gcbb2888