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486Episodes
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.

May 2, 2022

Episode 481 - Finding hidden life in our oceans with RNA and DNA

Using sequencing techniques we can find all kinds of hidden life in our oceans. RNA viruses are ancient, but their old genes can help us spot them in great numbers in our oceans. There are huge amounts of 'life' in our oceans that we don't know about. No matter if you think viruses are 'alive' or not, there are way more than we imagined in our oceans. RNA viruses are easier to spot in our oceans if you look for the right ancient gene. Using gene sequencing we can find fish that are hidden in our reefs. Visually spotting fish is helpful but can overlook sneak fish. Using environemtnal sequencing techniques way more diverse range of fish can be found.

  1. Ahmed A. Zayed, James M. Wainaina, Guillermo Dominguez-Huerta, Eric Pelletier, Jiarong Guo, Mohamed Mohssen, Funing Tian, Akbar Adjie Pratama, Benjamin Bolduc, Olivier Zablocki, Dylan Cronin, Lindsey Solden, Erwan Delage, Adriana Alberti, Jean-Marc Aury, Quentin Carradec, Corinne da Silva, Karine Labadie, Julie Poulain, Hans-Joachim Ruscheweyh, Guillem Salazar, Elan Shatoff, Ralf Bundschuh, Kurt Fredrick, Laura S. Kubatko, Samuel Chaffron, Alexander I. Culley, Shinichi Sunagawa, Jens H. Kuhn, Patrick Wincker, Matthew B. Sullivan, Silvia G. Acinas, Marcel Babin, Peer Bork, Emmanuel Boss, Chris Bowler, Guy Cochrane, Colomban de Vargas, Gabriel Gorsky, Lionel Guidi, Nigel Grimsley, Pascal Hingamp, Daniele Iudicone, Olivier Jaillon, Stefanie Kandels, Lee Karp-Boss, Eric Karsenti, Fabrice Not, Hiroyuki Ogata, Nicole Poulton, Stéphane Pesant, Christian Sardet, Sabrinia Speich, Lars Stemmann, Matthew B. Sullivan, Shinichi Sungawa, Patrick Wincker. Cryptic and abundant marine viruses at the evolutionary origins of Earth’s RNA viromeScience, 2022; 376 (6589): 156 DOI: 10.1126/science.abm5847
  2. Laetitia Mathon, Virginie Marques, David Mouillot, Camille Albouy, Marco Andrello, Florian Baletaud, Giomar H. Borrero-Pérez, Tony Dejean, Graham J. Edgar, Jonathan Grondin, Pierre-Edouard Guerin, Régis Hocdé, Jean-Baptiste Juhel, Kadarusman, Eva Maire, Gael Mariani, Matthew McLean, Andrea Polanco F., Laurent Pouyaud, Rick D. Stuart-Smith, Hagi Yulia Sugeha, Alice Valentini, Laurent Vigliola, Indra B. Vimono, Loïc Pellissier, Stéphanie Manel. Cross-ocean patterns and processes in fish biodiversity on coral reefs through the lens of eDNA metabarcodingProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2022; 289 (1973) DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2022.0162
April 25, 2022

Episode 480 - Bacteria turning methane into electricity, and corrupting corn

How can bacteria turn methane directly into electricity? Why waste time producing bio gas to burn when bacteria could produce electricity directly.  When bacteria take over corn, before they wreck the join they order in delivered food. Bacteria enjoy a huge feast when taking over maize, then they get to work wrecking the joint. Bacteria ends up in spots its not meant to be and redirects food away from plant cells. Redirected takeout food keeps bacteria alive as they settle into their corn host in preparation for taking over. When moving into a new house it helps to get food delivered at first, which is exactly what bacteria does.

  1. Heleen T. Ouboter, Tom Berben, Stefanie Berger, Mike S. M. Jetten, Tom Sleutels, Annemiek Ter Heijne, Cornelia U. Welte. Methane-Dependent Extracellular Electron Transfer at the Bioanode by the Anaerobic Archaeal Methanotroph “Candidatus Methanoperedens”. Frontiers in Microbiology, 2022; 13 DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2022.820989
  2. Irene Gentzel, Laura Giese, Gayani Ekanayake, Kelly Mikhail, Wanying Zhao, Jean-Christophe Cocuron, Ana Paula Alonso, David Mackey. Dynamic nutrient acquisition from a hydrated apoplast supports biotrophic proliferation of a bacterial pathogen of maize. Cell Host & Microbe, 2022; 30 (4): 502 DOI: 10.1016/j.chom.2022.03.017
April 11, 2022

Episode 478 - Special properties of water from molecular to drinking water to deep into the earth

Water has some pretty amazing properties. We dive into some of the strange things water does from the molecular level all the way to planet scale water flows. We all know H2O but studying the way water molecules move around each other is very difficult to isolate. H2O molecules had to be taken to 0.4 Kelvin and shot with a powerful laser to shed light on the way they shake. The way H2O interacts between molecules by moving, rotating and shaking can help explain some of the weird properties. H2O has weird properties like being at its highest density at 4 degrees. Turning salt water into fresh water often involves a lot of electricity, but a new method using Ionic salts may get by with barely any heat. How can water make its way down towards the core of the earth? Water masqueraded inside minerals to migrate deep down beneath the surface of the earth.

  1. Martina Havenith-Newen, Raffael Schwan, Chen Qu, Devendra Mani, Nitish Pal, Gerhard Schwaab, Lex van der Meer, Britta Redlich, Claude LeForestier, Joel Bowman. Observation of the low frequency spectrum of water dimer as a sensitive test of the water dimer potential and dipole moment surfaces. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 2019; DOI: 10.1002/anie.201906048
  2. Hyungmook Kang, David E. Suich, James F. Davies, Aaron D. Wilson, Jeffrey J. Urban, Robert Kostecki. Molecular insight into the lower critical solution temperature transition of aqueous alkyl phosphonium benzene sulfonates. Communications Chemistry, 2019; 2 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s42004-019-0151-2
  3. Jun Tsuchiya, Koichiro Umemoto. First‐Principles Determination of the Dissociation Phase Boundary of Phase H MgSiO 4 H 2. Geophysical Research Letters, 2019; DOI: 10.1029/2019GL083472
April 4, 2022

Episode 477 - Plants reacting and defending themselves

How can plants defend themselves from attack? Animals scatter when they hear an alarm cry or a predator, but how do plants defend themselves? Plants react to danger around them by detecting chemical signals. Plants emit warning through volatile chemicals and others detect these signals to raise their own defences. How do plants detect light and know where to head without eyes? How do the shape of proteins that bend a plant towards like change when exposed to different light?

  1. Haruki Onosato, Genya Fujimoto, Tomota Higami, Takuya Sakamoto, Ayaka Yamada, Takamasa Suzuki, Rika Ozawa, Sachihiro Matsunaga, Motoaki Seki, Minoru Ueda, Kaori Sako, Ivan Galis, Gen-ichiro Arimura. Sustained defense response via volatile signaling and its epigenetic transcriptional regulationPlant Physiology, 2022; DOI: 10.1093/plphys/kiac077
  2. Li, H., Burgie, E.S., Gannam, Z.T.K. et al. Plant phytochrome B is an asymmetric dimer with unique signalling potentialNature, 2022 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-04529-z
March 14, 2022

Episode 474 - Fossils changing the Planet and the planet changing Fossils

How can fossils change the planet and the planet change fossils? Forming fossils require specific set of circumstances. How can geological changes make the right conditions for fossils to be preserved? What happened 183 million years ago that made it possible to preserve even soft and delicate fossils? Preserving bones is comparatively easy compared to soft tissue and creatures like squid. So what has to happen to preserve these as fossils? How did fossils change the composition of rocks deep in the mantle? When life first emerged on our planet what change did it cause in the type of rocks found deep beneath the surface? life on the surface has changed the rocks we have deep in the earth.

  1. Sinjini Sinha, A. D. Muscente, James D. Schiffbauer, Matt Williams, Günter Schweigert, Rowan C. Martindale. Global controls on phosphatization of fossils during the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic EventScientific Reports, 2021; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-03482-7
  2. Alcott, L.J., Mills, B.J.W., Bekker, A. et al. Earth’s Great Oxidation Event facilitated by the rise of sedimentary phosphorus recyclingNat. Geosci., 2022 DOI: 10.1038/s41561-022-00906-5
March 7, 2022

Episode 473 - Super materials from Molluscs and Scallops

Making super materials by learning the secrets of molluscs and scallops. How are scallops are able to survive the super-cool water in Antarctica. What makes Antarctic scallop shells able to simply brush aside ice? How do you shed a skin of ice from a scallop? What connects scallops with making airplanes more efficient? How do mussels manage to stick so well to things? Is it possible to replicate the stickiness of a mussel? Mussels make themselves near impossible to remove, so can you make them even stickier?

  1. William S. Y. Wong, Lukas Hauer, Paul A. Cziko, Konrad Meister. Cryofouling avoidance in the Antarctic scallop Adamussium colbecki. Communications Biology, 2022; 5 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s42003-022-03023-6
  2. Or Berger, Claudia Battistella, Yusu Chen, Julia Oktawiec, Zofia E. Siwicka, Danielle Tullman-Ercek, Muzhou Wang, Nathan C. Gianneschi. Mussel Adhesive-Inspired Proteomimetic Polymer. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2022; DOI: 10.1021/jacs.1c10936
January 10, 2022

Episode 465 - Hedgehogs to mouthwash - Strange tales of the war against bacteria

From Hedgehogs to mouthwash, we check in on the arms race against bacteria. MRSA super-bugs are a super problem for humans, but some pre-date the modern era. MRSA super-bugs have been around since the Industrial revolution, at least on hedgehogs. The skin of hedgehogs is a battlefield between Fungus and Bacteria, and whoever wins, we loose. We often focus on Humans vs Bacteria, but it's actually a triple threat with Fungus. The fight Fungus vs Bacteria can lead to the development of antibiotic resistance. The mouth is the gate in the castle like defenses of the human immune system, so what defends it from bacteria attackers? If you have periodontal disease, it can make it easier for other viruses to get into your body. Keeping your mouth free of bacteria plaque can keep your defense against other infections high.

  1. Jesper Larsen, Claire L. Raisen, Xiaoliang Ba, Nicholas J. Sadgrove, Guillermo F. Padilla-González, Monique S. J. Simmonds, Igor Loncaric, Heidrun Kerschner, Petra Apfalter, Rainer Hartl, Ariane Deplano, Stien Vandendriessche, Barbora Černá Bolfíková, Pavel Hulva, Maiken C. Arendrup, Rasmus K. Hare, Céline Barnadas, Marc Stegger, Raphael N. Sieber, Robert L. Skov, Andreas Petersen, Øystein Angen, Sophie L. Rasmussen, Carmen Espinosa-Gongora, Frank M. Aarestrup, Laura J. Lindholm, Suvi M. Nykäsenoja, Frederic Laurent, Karsten Becker, Birgit Walther, Corinna Kehrenberg, Christiane Cuny, Franziska Layer, Guido Werner, Wolfgang Witte, Ivonne Stamm, Paolo Moroni, Hannah J. Jørgensen, Hermínia de Lencastre, Emilia Cercenado, Fernando García-Garrote, Stefan Börjesson, Sara Hæggman, Vincent Perreten, Christopher J. Teale, Andrew S. Waller, Bruno Pichon, Martin D. Curran, Matthew J. Ellington, John J. Welch, Sharon J. Peacock, David J. Seilly, Fiona J. E. Morgan, Julian Parkhill, Nazreen F. Hadjirin, Jodi A. Lindsay, Matthew T. G. Holden, Giles F. Edwards, Geoffrey Foster, Gavin K. Paterson, Xavier Didelot, Mark A. Holmes, Ewan M. Harrison, Anders R. Larsen. Emergence of methicillin resistance predates the clinical use of antibioticsNature, 2022; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-04265-w
  2. Carlos J. Rodriguez-Hernandez, Kevin J. Sokoloski, Kendall S. Stocke, Himabindu Dukka, Shunying Jin, Melissa A. Metzler, Konstantin Zaitsev, Boris Shpak, Daonan Shen, Daniel P. Miller, Maxim N. Artyomov, Richard J. Lamont, Juhi Bagaitkar. Microbiome-mediated incapacitation of interferon lambda production in the oral mucosaProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2021; 118 (51): e2105170118 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2105170118
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
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 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
October 11, 2021

Episode 452 - Eureka Prizes 21 - Fighting back against viruses

We celebrate the winners of the Eureka Prizes in 2021. The top prizes in Aussie Science shows that it's possible for major science awards to not be male dominated.  Are humans just the collateral damage of the war between cholera and protozoa? How does getting eaten actually make cholera stronger? We celebrate the achievements of Australian scientists helping make rotavirus vaccines more accessible for all. Producing vaccines cheaply and locally, that are easy to roll out can save half a million lives each year. Whilst vaccines for rotavirus exist already they are complex and costly. Aussie researchers are helping make it simpler and widely available.

References:

  1. Gustavo Espinoza-Vergara, Parisa Noorian, Cecilia A. Silva-Valenzuela, Benjamin B. A. Raymond, Christopher Allen, M. Mozammel Hoque, Shuyang Sun, Michael S. Johnson, Mathieu Pernice, Staffan Kjelleberg, Steven P. Djordjevic, Maurizio Labbate, Andrew Camilli, Diane McDougald. Vibrio cholerae residing in food vacuoles expelled by protozoa are more infectious in vivoNature Microbiology, 2019; DOI: 10.1038/s41564-019-0563-x
  2. Bines, J., At Thobari, J., Satria, C., Handley, A., Watts, E., & Cowley, D. et al. (2018). Human Neonatal Rotavirus Vaccine (RV3-BB) to Target Rotavirus from Birth. New England Journal Of Medicine378(8), 719-730. doi: 10.1056/nejmoa1706804
  3. Mannix, L. (2021). Eureka science prizes go to childhood vaccine and microplastics hotspot hunt. Retrieved 9 October 2021, from https://www.smh.com.au/national/childhood-vaccine-microplastics-hotspot-hunt-take-top-science-gongs-20211007-p58xyi.html
  4. Protozoans and pathogens make for an infectious mix. (2021). Retrieved 9 October 2021, from https://www.uts.edu.au/news/health-science/protozoans-and-pathogens-make-infectious-mix
  5. Tu, J. (2021). Meet the women transforming science in Australia: Eureka Prize finalists. Retrieved 9 October 2021, from https://womensagenda.com.au/latest/meet-the-women-transforming-science-in-australia-eureka-prize-finalists/
October 11, 2021

Episode 452 - Eureka Prizes 21 - Fighting back against viruses

We celebrate the winners of the Eureka Prizes in 2021. The top prizes in Aussie Science shows that it's possible for major science awards to not be male dominated.  Are humans just the collateral damage of the war between cholera and protozoa? How does getting eaten actually make cholera stronger? We celebrate the achievements of Australian scientists helping make rotavirus vaccines more accessible for all. Producing vaccines cheaply and locally, that are easy to roll out can save half a million lives each year. Whilst vaccines for rotavirus exist already they are complex and costly. Aussie researchers are helping make it simpler and widely available.

References:

  1. Gustavo Espinoza-Vergara, Parisa Noorian, Cecilia A. Silva-Valenzuela, Benjamin B. A. Raymond, Christopher Allen, M. Mozammel Hoque, Shuyang Sun, Michael S. Johnson, Mathieu Pernice, Staffan Kjelleberg, Steven P. Djordjevic, Maurizio Labbate, Andrew Camilli, Diane McDougald. Vibrio cholerae residing in food vacuoles expelled by protozoa are more infectious in vivoNature Microbiology, 2019; DOI: 10.1038/s41564-019-0563-x
  2. Bines, J., At Thobari, J., Satria, C., Handley, A., Watts, E., & Cowley, D. et al. (2018). Human Neonatal Rotavirus Vaccine (RV3-BB) to Target Rotavirus from Birth. New England Journal Of Medicine378(8), 719-730. doi: 10.1056/nejmoa1706804
  3. Mannix, L. (2021). Eureka science prizes go to childhood vaccine and microplastics hotspot hunt. Retrieved 9 October 2021, from https://www.smh.com.au/national/childhood-vaccine-microplastics-hotspot-hunt-take-top-science-gongs-20211007-p58xyi.html
  4. Protozoans and pathogens make for an infectious mix. (2021). Retrieved 9 October 2021, from https://www.uts.edu.au/news/health-science/protozoans-and-pathogens-make-infectious-mix
  5. Tu, J. (2021). Meet the women transforming science in Australia: Eureka Prize finalists. Retrieved 9 October 2021, from https://womensagenda.com.au/latest/meet-the-women-transforming-science-in-australia-eureka-prize-finalists/
October 4, 2021

Episode 451 - Microbes and Metals as allies and enemies

Microbes and metals as enemies and allies. Metals can have superb antimicrobial properties but they're not ideal for making sheets...unless. Using a melt in your hand melt, and some copper you can make antimicrobial sheets and masks. Metals are great at fighting microbes but are challenging to make comfortable to wear. Is it possible to get a bio drive fuel cell? Bacteria can be used to clean up waste, but can they also make electricity at the same time? Cleaning up pollution and producing renewable electricity, what's not to love about the bacteria Shenwanella. With metallic tinged skin, bacteria can be boosted into a garbage eating electricity producing machine.

  1. Ki Yoon Kwon, Samuel Cheeseman, Alba Frias‐De‐Diego, Haeleen Hong, Jiayi Yang, Woojin Jung, Hong Yin, Billy J. Murdoch, Frank Scholle, Nathan Crook, Elisa Crisci, Michael D. Dickey, Vi Khanh Truong, Tae‐il Kim. A Liquid Metal Mediated Metallic Coating for Antimicrobial and Antiviral FabricsAdvanced Materials, 2021; 2104298 DOI: 10.1002/adma.202104298
  2. Bocheng Cao, Zipeng Zhao, Lele Peng, Hui-Ying Shiu, Mengning Ding, Frank Song, Xun Guan, Calvin K. Lee, Jin Huang, Dan Zhu, Xiaoyang Fu, Gerard C. L. Wong, Chong Liu, Kenneth Nealson, Paul S. Weiss, Xiangfeng Duan, Yu Huang. Silver nanoparticles boost charge-extraction efficiency in Shewanella microbial fuel cellsScience, 2021; 373 (6561): 1336 DOI: 10.1126/science.abf3427
August 23, 2021

Episode 445 - De-carbonizing Transportation and Fertilizer

Can you really power a plane with enough batteries to fly across the world? How many batteries does a ship need to circumnavigate the globe? Is there an efficient way to stop relying on diesel and dirty jet fuel? How can we turn big CO2 emitters like ships and planes into CO2 negative systems? Can aviation and transport ever be carbon neutral? How can we make fertilizer without using so much energy? The Haber Bosch process helped feed the planet, but how can we replace it to save the planet?

 

References:

  1. Travis A. Schmauss, Scott A. Barnett. Viability of Vehicles Utilizing On-Board CO2 Capture. ACS Energy Letters, 2021; 3180 DOI: 10.1021/acsenergylett.1c01426
  2. Chade Lv, Lixiang Zhong, Hengjie Liu, Zhiwei Fang, Chunshuang Yan, Mengxin Chen, Yi Kong, Carmen Lee, Daobin Liu, Shuzhou Li, Jiawei Liu, Li Song, Gang Chen, Qingyu Yan, Guihua Yu. Selective electrocatalytic synthesis of urea with nitrate and carbon dioxide. Nature Sustainability, 2021; DOI: 10.1038/s41893-021-00741-3
August 16, 2021

Episode 444 - Deadly Creatures in Australia for Nat. Sci Week

It's National Science Week in Australia so we celebrate with some Aussie Science. What's more Aussie than dangerous creatures? Queensland Museum researchers have found even more spiders in Brisbane. Golden Trapdoors sound like they contain treasure, but since it's Australia we're talking about, its just another scary creature. Your average Brisbane backyard may contain more types of spiders than you imagine.  How did snakes evolve their deadly fangs? What came first the venom or the tooth? Why have so many different snakes evolved venom where Lizards haven't? In Australia even the plants can be deadly. We know tobaccos is dangerous, but in WA scientists have found an insect eating wild tobacco plant. Wild tobacco plants can thrive in odd places in Australia and can even chow down on Insects. 

  1. Wilson, J. D., & Rix, M. G. (2021). Systematics of the AUSTRALIAN golden trapdoor spiders of the EUOPLOS VARIABILIS-GROUP (Mygalomorphae : IDIOPIDAE : Euoplini): Parapatry And Sympatry between closely related species in SUBTROPICAL QUEENSLAND. Invertebrate Systematics. https://doi.org/10.1071/is20055
  2. Chase, M. W., & Christenhusz, M. J. (2021). 994. NICOTIANA INSECTICIDA: Solanaceae. Curtis's Botanical Magazine. https://doi.org/10.1111/curt.12402
  3. Palci, A., LeBlanc, A., Panagiotopoulou, O., Cleuren, S., Mehari Abraha, H., Hutchinson, M., Evans, A., Caldwell, M. and Lee, M., 2021. Plicidentine and the repeated origins of snake venom fangs. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 288(1956), p.20211391.
August 9, 2021

Episode 443 - Strange chemistry, ice, life and moons

Moons across our solar system have rich chemistry that may harbor life. Ganymede may have more water in it's 'oceans' than Earth. The makeup of Ganymede may include layers of ice, oceans and even water vapor atmospheres. Piecing together data from Hubble, Galileo and Juno to help crack the mystery of Ganymede's atmosphere. Melting ice on Ganymede's surface could explain the odd atmosphere. Enceladus has great geysers but they contain more methane than we can explain...unless we consider biological systems. Enceladus has many mysteries beneath it's ice, but could geothermal vents help explain whats in it's geysers? Cassini did a daring flyby through Enceladus' geysers, but they were filled with many things we did not expect.

  1. Lorenz Roth, Nickolay Ivchenko, G. Randall Gladstone, Joachim Saur, Denis Grodent, Bertrand Bonfond, Philippa M. Molyneux, Kurt D. Retherford. A sublimated water atmosphere on Ganymede detected from Hubble Space Telescope observations. Nature Astronomy, 2021; DOI: 10.1038/s41550-021-01426-9
  2. Antonin Affholder, François Guyot, Boris Sauterey, Régis Ferrière, Stéphane Mazevet. Bayesian analysis of Enceladus’s plume data to assess methanogenesis. Nature Astronomy, 2021; DOI: 10.1038/s41550-021-01372-6
August 2, 2021

Episode 442 - Just what is a metal anyway

Just what is a metal anyway? It can be hard to classify things, no matter what you do there's always exceptions to the rules. Chemists, Physicists and Astrophysicists have wildly differing opinions on what a metal is. Although there is disagreement about what makes a metal, can you find new exceptions? What needs to happen to turn water into a metal? Can pure water be made to conduct electricity without needing a Jupiter sized planet? How do you turn water into a golden, shimmering, conducting metal? 
References:

  1. Philip E. Mason, H. Christian Schewe, Tillmann Buttersack, Vojtech Kostal, Marco Vitek, Ryan S. McMullen, Hebatallah Ali, Florian Trinter, Chin Lee, Daniel M. Neumark, Stephan Thürmer, Robert Seidel, Bernd Winter, Stephen E. Bradforth, Pavel Jungwirth. Spectroscopic evidence for a gold-coloured metallic water solution. Nature, 2021; 595 (7869): 673 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03646-5
July 19, 2021

Episode 440 - Turning off plants with a switch of a light

Turning off plants with a switch of a light. How can optogenetics be used to turn off photosynthesis. Stomata cells help a plant from feasting too much in times of famine. Stomata cells regulate how much photosynthesis plants undertake, but can they be regulated with light? How can Yeast be used to help plants fight back against fungus. Fungal infections can devastate crops and plants, but can we avoid dangerous fungicides? How can we protect plants from, fungi without damaging the environment? Can yeast grown proteins help stop fungal infections without killing all fungi?

  1. Tiffany Chiu, Anita Behari, Justin W. Chartron, Alexander Putman, Yanran Li. Exploring the potential of engineering polygalacturonase‐inhibiting protein as an ecological, friendly, and nontoxic pest control agent. Biotechnology and Bioengineering, 2021; DOI: 10.1002/bit.27845
  2. Shouguang Huang, Meiqi Ding, M. Rob G. Roelfsema, Ingo Dreyer, Sönke Scherzer, Khaled A. S. Al-Rasheid, Shiqiang Gao, Georg Nagel, Rainer Hedrich, Kai R. Konrad. Optogenetic control of the guard cell membrane potential and stomatal movement by the light-gated anion channel GtACR1Science Advances, 2021; 7 (28): eabg4619 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abg4619
June 21, 2021

Episode 436 - Squeezing and grinding to create next generation materials from humble begingings

Squeezing and grinding to create next generation materials from humble beginnings. Changing magnetic field by changing shape could open the door for more efficient computers. Magnetostriction causes that 'hum' you hear from electronics but it can be harnessed for good. Large electrical devices like transformers or fluorescent tubes shape influences their magnetic field. The next generation of computers may harness the way magnetic fields and physical shape can be linked. Forget rare earth metals, there is a more efficient way to make high powered computer chips out of humble iron and gallium. Luminescent polymers can be found in fancy OLED screens but are complex to produce. How can you make fancy luminescent polymers from generic polymers? By grinding them. A unique way of grinding and rolling basic generic polymers could create powerful luminescent polymers for use in high end screens, lasers and bio-imaging.

  1. P. B. Meisenheimer, R. A. Steinhardt, S. H. Sung, L. D. Williams, S. Zhuang, M. E. Nowakowski, S. Novakov, M. M. Torunbalci, B. Prasad, C. J. Zollner, Z. Wang, N. M. Dawley, J. Schubert, A. H. Hunter, S. Manipatruni, D. E. Nikonov, I. A. Young, L. Q. Chen, J. Bokor, S. A. Bhave, R. Ramesh, J.-M. Hu, E. Kioupakis, R. Hovden, D. G. Schlom, J. T. Heron. Engineering new limits to magnetostriction through metastability in iron-gallium alloys. Nature Communications, 2021; 12 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-22793-x
  2. Koji Kubota, Naoki Toyoshima, Daiyo Miura, Julong Jiang, Satoshi Maeda, Mingoo Jin, Hajime Ito. Introduction of a Luminophore into Generic Polymers via Mechanoradical Coupling with a Prefluorescent Reagent. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 2021; DOI: 10.1002/anie.202105381