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498Episodes
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.

December 27, 2021

Episode 463 - Unlocking former junk DNA in Rice to feed the planet

How was rice turned from a wild grass into a staple crop for over 3 billion people? What secrets are lurking in the 'junk' DNA of rice that can explain it's transformation? What parts of the rice genome have been long overlooked? Can non protein coding parts of a genome help define important traits for plants and animals? Proteins aren't everything; unlocking the secrets of the rice genome.  How can we boost rice yields and rice bran oil content?

  1. X. M. Zheng, J. Chen, H. B. Pang, S. Liu, Q. Gao, J. R. Wang, W. H. Qiao, H. Wang, J. Liu, K. M. Olsen, and Q. W. Yang. Genome-wide analyses reveal the role of noncoding variation in complex traits during rice domestication. Science Advances, 2019 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax3619
  2. Ze‐Hua Guo, Richard P. Haslam, Louise V Michaelson, Edward C. Yeung, Shiu‐Cheung Lung, Johnathan A. Napier, Mee‐Len Chye. The overexpression of rice ACYL ‐ CoA ‐ BINDING PROTEIN 2 increases grain size and bran oil content in transgenic rice. The Plant Journal, 2019; 100 (6): 1132 DOI: 10.1111/tpj.14503
December 20, 2021

Episode 462 - Fish helping make smart materials and renewable tech

What can fish scales teach us about the next generation of smart materials. Why is 'scale armor' often found in video games and on fish so strong? What is special about fish scales that can help us make a new generation of smart materials for clothing and structures? What do 35 million year old fish trapped in mud have to do with wind turbines and batteries? Renewable tech relies on Rare earth metals, so where do we find them? Studying fossilized fish can help us find more sources of rare earth metals to build more renewable tech.

  1. Haocheng Quan, Wen Yang, Marine Lapeyriere, Eric Schaible, Robert O. Ritchie, Marc A. Meyers. Structure and Mechanical Adaptability of a Modern Elasmoid Fish Scale from the Common CarpMatter, 2020; DOI: 10.1016/j.matt.2020.05.011
  2. Junichiro Ohta, Kazutaka Yasukawa, Tatsuo Nozaki, Yutaro Takaya, Kazuhide Mimura, Koichiro Fujinaga, Kentaro Nakamura, Yoichi Usui, Jun-Ichi Kimura, Qing Chang, Yasuhiro Kato. Fish proliferation and rare-earth deposition by topographically induced upwelling at the late Eocene cooling eventScientific Reports, 2020; 10 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-66835-8
December 13, 2021

Episode 461 - What trees can help save a city

Planting trees can help save the planet, but which trees should you plant? How do you decide what trees to plant and where to help the environment and people? Trees can help reduce pollution in the air and ground, so where are they most effective in a city? Planting urban trees can have significant public health benefits, but what trees are most effective to plant? Just what exactly is grass? How can detailed modeling and genetic testing help solve the riddle of grass classification? Are grass leaves and sheathes one thing, or is it stem and leaf like a tree?

  1. A. E. Richardson, J. Cheng, R. Johnston, R. Kennaway, B. R. Conlon, A. B. Rebocho, H. Kong, M. J. Scanlon, S. Hake, E. Coen. Evolution of the grass leaf by primordium extension and petiole-lamina remodelingScience, 2021; 374 (6573): 1377 DOI: 10.1126/science.abf9407
  2. Loren P. Hopkins, Deborah J. January‐Bevers, Erin K. Caton, Laura A. Campos. A simple tree planting framework to improve climate, air pollution, health, and urban heat in vulnerable locations using non‐traditional partnersPLANTS, PEOPLE, PLANET, 2021; DOI: 10.1002/ppp3.10245
December 6, 2021

Episode 460 - What shape is the heliosphere

Just what is the heliosphere and how doe sit work? What shape is the heliosphere (spoiler alert, probably not a sphere). At the very edge of our solar system lies the boundary between our neighborhood and interstellar space. Do outside forces from interstellar space jumble up the heliosphere? Sandwiched between Space and the Earth, the Ionsphere buzzes and hums with a pulsing generator. Winds from earth can bend and shape plasma in our ionsphere to make a generator. Moving a conducting object through a magnetic field can generate electricty, and its happening right now 100km above our heads.

  1. M. Opher, J. F. Drake, G. Zank, E. Powell, W. Shelley, M. Kornbleuth, V. Florinski, V. Izmodenov, J. Giacalone, S. Fuselier, K. Dialynas, A. Loeb, J. Richardson. A Turbulent Heliosheath Driven by the Rayleigh–Taylor InstabilityThe Astrophysical Journal, 2021; 922 (2): 181 DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/ac2d2e
  2. Thomas J. Immel, Brian J. Harding, Roderick A. Heelis, Astrid Maute, Jeffrey M. Forbes, Scott L. England, Stephen B. Mende, Christoph R. Englert, Russell A. Stoneback, Kenneth Marr, John M. Harlander, Jonathan J. Makela. Regulation of ionospheric plasma velocities by thermospheric windsNature Geoscience, 2021; DOI: 10.1038/s41561-021-00848-4