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506Episodes
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.

September 26, 2022

Episode 502 - Ignobel prizes ’22 - Blind dates and Mother Ducks

We celebrate the Ignobel prizes for 2022 with science that makes you laugh and then think. What connects a Fish, ducks and slipstream racing? How do mother ducks manage to keep all their ducklings in tow? Does swimming in formation help the ducks save energy? What's the best spot in the slipstream to be? We all know following in the slipstream is good, but if you're 3 or more back you can literally get pulled along. Complex fluid mechanics makes swimming in a line a way for a mother duck to pull the ducklings along. What happens physically when you find someone who is a good match? Is eye contact or heart rate a better measure of having  a 'spark' with someone new?

  1. Wave-Riding and Wave-Passing by Ducklings in Formation Swimming,” Zhi-Ming Yuan, Minglu Chen, Laibing Jia, Chunyan Ji, and Atilla Incecik, Journal of Fluid Mechanics, vol. 928, no. R2, 2021.
  2. “Energy Conservation by Formation Swimming: Metabolic Evidence from Ducklings,” Frank E. Fish, in the book Mechanics and Physiology of Animal Swimming, 1994, pp. 193-204.
  3. Physiological Synchrony is Associated with Attraction in a Blind Date Setting,” Eliska Prochazkova, Elio Sjak-Shie, Friederike Behrens, Daniel Lindh, and Mariska E. Kret, Nature Human Behaviour, vol. 6, no. 2, 2022, pp. 269-278.
September 26, 2022

Episode 502 - Ignobel prizes ’22 - Blind dates and Mother Ducks

We celebrate the Ignobel prizes for 2022 with science that makes you laugh and then think. What connects a Fish, ducks and slipstream racing? How do mother ducks manage to keep all their ducklings in tow? Does swimming in formation help the ducks save energy? What's the best spot in the slipstream to be? We all know following in the slipstream is good, but if you're 3 or more back you can literally get pulled along. Complex fluid mechanics makes swimming in a line a way for a mother duck to pull the ducklings along. What happens physically when you find someone who is a good match? Is eye contact or heart rate a better measure of having  a 'spark' with someone new?

  1. Wave-Riding and Wave-Passing by Ducklings in Formation Swimming,” Zhi-Ming Yuan, Minglu Chen, Laibing Jia, Chunyan Ji, and Atilla Incecik, Journal of Fluid Mechanics, vol. 928, no. R2, 2021.
  2. “Energy Conservation by Formation Swimming: Metabolic Evidence from Ducklings,” Frank E. Fish, in the book Mechanics and Physiology of Animal Swimming, 1994, pp. 193-204.
  3. Physiological Synchrony is Associated with Attraction in a Blind Date Setting,” Eliska Prochazkova, Elio Sjak-Shie, Friederike Behrens, Daniel Lindh, and Mariska E. Kret, Nature Human Behaviour, vol. 6, no. 2, 2022, pp. 269-278.
September 5, 2022

Episode 499 - Air and atmospheres on exoplanets

CO2 gets a lot of bad press on earth, but in space, it could actually be incredibly helpful. On Mars, the Perseverance mission turned CO2 into Oxygen just like a tree. Making air on Mars requires a bit of Moxie and Perseverance. Mar's atmosphere may be thin, highly variable and full of CO2 but it can be harnessed to produce Oxygen. Could future mission to Mars make their own oxygen on the surface of Mars? Finding CO2 on exoplanets has been incredibly hard but the JWST helps shed light on this universal gas. Incredible hot, massive but not super dense, the Hot Jupiter WASP-39b becomes the latest target of the JWST. What can a hot Jupiter like WASP-39b teach us about exoplanet formation?

  1. The JWST Transiting Exoplanet Community Early Release Science Team et al. Identification of carbon dioxide in an exoplanet atmosphereNature (in press), 2022 [abstract]
  2. Jeffrey A. Hoffman, Michael H. Hecht, Donald Rapp, Joseph J. Hartvigsen, Jason G. Soohoo, Asad M. Aboobaker, John B. Mcclean, Andrew M. Liu, Eric D. Hinterman, Nasr, Shravan Hariharan, Kyle J. Horn, Forrest E. Meyen, Harald Okkels, Parker Steen, Singaravelu Elangovan, Christopher R. Graves, Piyush Khopkar, Morten B. Madsen, Gerald E. Voecks, Peter, H. Smith, Theis, L. Skafte, Koorosh R. Araghiand, David J. Eisenman. Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE)—Preparing for human Mars explorationScience Advances, 2022 DOI: DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abp8636
August 15, 2022

Episode 496 - Dwarf Planets and Massive collisions forming Moons

Dwarf planets are strange objects in our solar systems, but Ceres is unusual amongst that group. Why is Ceres' surface so strange and how could it have formed without a hot core? Ceres is too small to really have a molten core or large molten surfaces. How did Ceres end up with odd plateaus and continent like features without an active core? How could radiation cause Ceres to form in such an odd way? The Moon's relative size is puzzling but how can we prove that it was caused by a colossal collision?

  1. Scott D. King, Michael T. Bland, Simone Marchi, Carol A. Raymond, Christopher T. Russell, Jennifer E. C. Scully, Hanna G. Sizemore. Ceres’ Broad‐Scale Surface Geomorphology Largely Due To Asymmetric Internal Convection. AGU Advances, 2022; 3 (3) DOI: 10.1029/2021AV000571
  2. Patrizia Will, Henner Busemann, My E. I. Riebe, Colin Maden. Indigenous noble gases in the Moon’s interior. Science Advances, 2022; 8 (32) DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abl4920
July 18, 2022

Episode 492 - Finding hidden objects in the early universe

How can you find objects that are hard to see in the depths of space? There is plenty of gas in a galaxy, but trying to see a cloud amongst all those starts is not easy. The further back in time you look in the history of the universe, the colder and darker it gets. How do you figure out the structure of the earliest galaxies and their cold gas? A black hole roaming across a galaxy sounds like bad sci fi horror, but may have been found. How can you spot a black hole without any frame of reference? Detecting a roaming black hole is tricky but not impossible.

    1. Kieran A. Cleary, Jowita Borowska, Patrick C. Breysse, Morgan Catha, Dongwoo T. Chung, Sarah E. Church, Clive Dickinson, Hans Kristian Eriksen, Marie Kristine Foss, Joshua Ott Gundersen, Stuart E. Harper, Andrew I. Harris, Richard Hobbs, Håvard T. Ihle, Junhan Kim, Jonathon Kocz, James W. Lamb, Jonas G. S. Lunde, Hamsa Padmanabhan, Timothy J. Pearson, Liju Philip, Travis W. Powell, Maren Rasmussen, Anthony C. S. Readhead, Thomas J. Rennie, Marta B. Silva, Nils-Ole Stutzer, Bade D. Uzgil, Duncan J. Watts, Ingunn Kathrine Wehus, David P. Woody, Lilian Basoalto, J. Richard Bond, Delaney A. Dunne, Todd Gaier, Brandon Hensley, Laura C. Keating, Charles R. Lawrence, Norman Murray, Roberta Paladini, Rodrigo Reeves, Marco P. Viero, Risa H. Wechsler. COMAP Early Science. I. OverviewThe Astrophysical Journal, 2022; 933 (2): 182 DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/ac63cc
    2. Casey Y. Lam, Jessica R. Lu, Andrzej Udalski, Ian Bond, David P. Bennett, Jan Skowron, Przemek Mroz, Radek Poleski, Takahiro Sumi, Michal K. Szymanski, Szymon Kozlowski, Pawel Pietrukowicz, Igor Soszynski, Krzysztof Ulaczyk, Lukasz Wyrzykowski, Shota Miyazaki, Daisuke Suzuki, Naoki Koshimoto, Nicholas J. Rattenbury, Matthew W. Hosek Jr., Fumio Abe, Richard Barry, Aparna Bhattacharya, Akihiko Fukui, Hirosane Fujii, Yuki Hirao, Yoshitaka Itow, Rintaro Kirikawa, Iona Kondo, Yutaka Matsubara, Sho Matsumoto, Yasushi Muraki, Greg Olmschenk, Clement Ranc, Arisa Okamura, Yuki Satoh, Stela Ishitani Silva, Taiga Toda, Paul J. Tristram, Aikaterini Vandorou, Hibiki Yama, Natasha S. Abrams, Shrihan Agarwal, Sam Rose, Sean K. Terry. An isolated mass gap black hole or neutron star detected with astrometric microlensingAccepted to APJ Letters, 2022 [abstract]
    3. Kailash C. Sahu, Jay Anderson, Stefano Casertano, Howard E. Bond, Andrzej Udalski, Martin Dominik, Annalisa Calamida, Andrea Bellini, Thomas M. Brown, Marina Rejkuba, Varun Bajaj, Noe Kains, Henry C. Ferguson, Chris L. Fryer, Philip Yock, Przemek Mroz, Szymon Kozlowski, Pawel Pietrukowicz, Radek Poleski, Jan Skowron, Igor Soszynski, Michael K. Szymanski, Krzysztof Ulaczyk, Lukasz Wyrzykowski, Richard Barry, David P. Bennett, Ian A. Bond, Yuki Hirao, Stela Ishitani Silva, Iona Kondo, Naoki Koshimoto, Clement Ranc, Nicholas J. Rattenbury, Takahiro Sumi, Daisuke Suzuki, Paul J. Tristram, Aikaterini Vandorou, Jean-Philippe Beaulieu, Jean-Baptiste Marquette, Andrew Cole, Pascal Fouque, Kym Hill, Stefan Dieters, Christian Coutures, Dijana Dominis-Prester, Clara Bennett, Etienne Bachelet, John Menzies, Michael Alb-row, Karen Pollard, Andrew Gould, Jennifer Yee, William Allen, Leonardo Andrade de Almeida, Grant Christie, John Drummond, Avishay Gal-Yam, Evgeny Gorbikov, Francisco Jablonski, Chung-Uk Lee, Dan Maoz, Ilan Manulis, Jennie McCormick, Tim Natusch, Richard W. Pogge, Yossi Shvartzvald, Uffe G. Jorgensen, Khalid A. Alsubai, Michael I. Andersen, Valerio Bozza, Sebastiano Calchi Novati, Martin Burgdorf, Tobias C. Hinse, Markus Hundertmark, Tim-Oliver Husser, Eamonn Kerins, Penelope Longa-Pena, Luigi Mancini, Matthew Penny, Sohrab Rahvar, Davide Ricci, Sedighe Sajadian, Jesper Skottfelt, Colin Snodgrass, John Southworth, Jeremy Tregloan-Reed, Joachim Wambsganss, Olivier Wertz, Yiannis Tsapras, Rachel A. Street, Daniel M. Bramich, Keith Horne, Iain A. Steele. An Isolated Stellar-Mass Black Hole Detected Through Astrometric MicrolensingAccepted to APJ, 2022 [abstract]

 

May 9, 2022

Episode 482 - Nova and Micronova not quite super still immensely powerful

Supernova get all the press, but Nova and Micronova are still pretty powerful. White dwarf stars are normally pretty inactive, unless some hydrogen ends up kickstarting them again. Enough helium leeched from a nearby star can ignite the entire surface of a white dwarf. Nova may not destroy the star, but they can create immensely powerful explosions and particles. The right combination of White Dwarf and Red Giant can create powerful particles near the speed of light. Micronova sound small but they are still colossal and brief explosions on white dwarf stars. Not powerful enough to ignite the whole surface of a star, but definitely enough to destroy a planet, micronova are quite deadly.

  1. Scaringi, S., Groot, P.J., Knigge, C. et al. Localized thermonuclear bursts from accreting magnetic white dwarfsNature, 2022 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-04495-6
  2. V. A. Acciari, S. Ansoldi, L. A. Antonelli, A. Arbet Engels, M. Artero, K. Asano, D. Baack, A. Babić, A. Baquero, U. Barres de Almeida, J. A. Barrio, I. Batković, J. Becerra González, W. Bednarek, L. Bellizzi, E. Bernardini, M. Bernardos, A. Berti, J. Besenrieder, W. Bhattacharyya, C. Bigongiari, A. Biland, O. Blanch, H. Bökenkamp, G. Bonnoli, Ž. Bošnjak, G. Busetto, R. Carosi, G. Ceribella, M. Cerruti, Y. Chai, A. Chilingarian, S. Cikota, S. M. Colak, E. Colombo, J. L. Contreras, J. Cortina, S. Covino, G. D’Amico, V. D’Elia, P. Da Vela, F. Dazzi, A. De Angelis, B. De Lotto, A. Del Popolo, M. Delfino, J. Delgado, C. Delgado Mendez, D. Depaoli, F. Di Pierro, L. Di Venere, E. Do Souto Espiñeira, D. Dominis Prester, A. Donini, D. Dorner, M. Doro, D. Elsaesser, V. Fallah Ramazani, L. Fariña Alonso, A. Fattorini, M. V. Fonseca, L. Font, C. Fruck, S. Fukami, Y. Fukazawa, R. J. García López, M. Garczarczyk, S. Gasparyan, M. Gaug, N. Giglietto, F. Giordano, P. Gliwny, N. Godinović, J. G. Green, D. Green, D. Hadasch, A. Hahn, T. Hassan, L. Heckmann, J. Herrera, J. Hoang, D. Hrupec, M. Hütten, T. Inada, K. Ishio, Y. Iwamura, I. Jiménez Martínez, J. Jormanainen, L. Jouvin, D. Kerszberg, Y. Kobayashi, H. Kubo, J. Kushida, A. Lamastra, D. Lelas, F. Leone, E. Lindfors, L. Linhoff, S. Lombardi, F. Longo, R. López-Coto, M. López-Moya, A. López-Oramas, S. Loporchio, B. Machado de Oliveira Fraga, C. Maggio, P. Majumdar, M. Makariev, M. Mallamaci, G. Maneva, M. Manganaro, K. Mannheim, L. Maraschi, M. Mariotti, M. Martínez, A. Mas Aguilar, D. Mazin, S. Menchiari, S. Mender, S. Mićanović, D. Miceli, T. Miener, J. M. Miranda, R. Mirzoyan, E. Molina, A. Moralejo, D. Morcuende, V. Moreno, E. Moretti, T. Nakamori, L. Nava, V. Neustroev, M. Nievas Rosillo, C. Nigro, K. Nilsson, K. Nishijima, K. Noda, S. Nozaki, Y. Ohtani, T. Oka, J. Otero-Santos, S. Paiano, M. Palatiello, D. Paneque, R. Paoletti, J. M. Paredes, L. Pavletić, P. Peñil, M. Persic, M. Pihet, P. G. Prada Moroni, E. Prandini, C. Priyadarshi, I. Puljak, W. Rhode, M. Ribó, J. Rico, C. Righi, A. Rugliancich, N. Sahakyan, T. Saito, S. Sakurai, K. Satalecka, F. G. Saturni, B. Schleicher, K. Schmidt, T. Schweizer, J. Sitarek, I. Šnidarić, D. Sobczynska, A. Spolon, A. Stamerra, J. Strišković, D. Strom, M. Strzys, Y. Suda, T. Surić, M. Takahashi, R. Takeishi, F. Tavecchio, P. Temnikov, T. Terzić, M. Teshima, L. Tosti, S. Truzzi, A. Tutone, S. Ubach, J. van Scherpenberg, G. Vanzo, M. Vazquez Acosta, S. Ventura, V. Verguilov, C. F. Vigorito, V. Vitale, I. Vovk, M. Will, C. Wunderlich, T. Yamamoto, D. Zarić, F. Ambrosino, M. Cecconi, G. Catanzaro, C. Ferrara, A. Frasca, M. Munari, L. Giustolisi, J. Alonso-Santiago, M. Giarrusso, U. Munari, P. Valisa. Proton acceleration in thermonuclear nova explosions revealed by gamma raysNature Astronomy, 2022; DOI: 10.1038/s41550-022-01640-z
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
January 3, 2022

Episode 464 - Rogue Planets and glass in meteorites

Rogue planets hurtling across space without a place to call home. How do we detect intergalactic nomads like Rogue planets? Just how many rogue planets are out there? Are there rogue planets lurking in our own solar system? Glass inside meteorites can help us understand early earth. How does meteorite rock differ from rock here on earth? What can we piece together about the cataclysmic events that formed glass inside meteorites? Rapidly heating then even more rapidly cooling coalesced glass inside meteorites.

  1. Núria Miret-Roig, Hervé Bouy, Sean N. Raymond, Motohide Tamura, Emmanuel Bertin, David Barrado, Javier Olivares, Phillip A. B. Galli, Jean-Charles Cuillandre, Luis Manuel Sarro, Angel Berihuete, Nuria Huélamo. A rich population of free-floating planets in the Upper Scorpius young stellar association. Nature Astronomy, 2021; DOI: 10.1038/s41550-021-01513-x
  2. Nicole X. Nie, Xin-Yang Chen, Timo Hopp, Justin Y. Hu, Zhe J. Zhang, Fang-Zhen Teng, Anat Shahar, Nicolas Dauphas. Imprint of chondrule formation on the K and Rb isotopic compositions of carbonaceous meteorites. Science Advances, 2021; 7 (49) DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abl3929
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
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
September 20, 2021

Episode 449 - Ig nobel ‘21 Part 2- Weaving and colliding in crowds

We celebrate the greatest scientific awards night, the 31st Ig Nobel Prizes. In this multi part special we find out about the history of the Ig Nobel prizes and some of the more well known examples from storied history. Who came home with the top prize this year in the Ig Nobel's? How can you navigate a crowd safely? What's the best way to model a busy train station? Does using a phone make it harder to navigate a crowd safely? Do people coordinate and work together to make through a rush hour crowd? Does a crowd self organise into lanes to navigate a busy intersection?

References:

  1. Physics-based modeling and data representation of pairwise interactions among pedestrians,” Alessandro Corbetta, Jasper A. Meeusen, Chung-min Lee, Roberto Benzi, and Federico Toschi, Physical Review E, vol. 98, no. 062310, 2018.
    WHO TOOK PART IN THE CEREMONY: Alessandro Corbetta, Jasper Meeusen, Chung-min Lee, Roberto Benzi,, Federico Toschi
  2. Mutual Anticipation Can Contribute to Self-Organization in Human Crowds,” Hisashi Murakami, Claudio Feliciani, Yuta Nishiyama, and Katsuhiro Nishinari, Science Advances, vol. 7, no. 12, 2021, p. eabe7758.
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 5, 2021

Episode 438 - Super fast and dense White Dwarfs and odd Supernova

What happens at the end of a star's life if it doesn't go out with a bang? White dwarfs are the end stage for 97% of stars, but can they still go 'nova? What happens if two white dwarf stars merge together? Rotating once every 7 minutes with a magnetic field billions times stronger than the Sun, super dense white dwarfs break all the records. There are many types of supernova, but which one happened at the Crab Nebula in 1054? What happens if a star isn't quite heavy enough to have an iron core supernova? Electrons are so tiny compared to a supergiant star, but if they're taken away it can lead to a supernova.

  1. Caiazzo, I., Burdge, K.B., Fuller, J. et al. A highly magnetized and rapidly rotating white dwarf as small as the MoonNature, 2021 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03615-y
  2. Daichi Hiramatsu, D. Andrew Howell, Schuyler D. Van Dyk, Jared A. Goldberg, Keiichi Maeda, Takashi J. Moriya, Nozomu Tominaga, Ken’ichi Nomoto, Griffin Hosseinzadeh, Iair Arcavi, Curtis McCully, Jamison Burke, K. Azalee Bostroem, Stefano Valenti, Yize Dong, Peter J. Brown, Jennifer E. Andrews, Christopher Bilinski, G. Grant Williams, Paul S. Smith, Nathan Smith, David J. Sand, Gagandeep S. Anand, Chengyuan Xu, Alexei V. Filippenko, Melina C. Bersten, Gastón Folatelli, Patrick L. Kelly, Toshihide Noguchi, Koichi Itagaki. The electron-capture origin of supernova 2018zdNature Astronomy, 2021; DOI: 10.1038/s41550-021-01384-2
May 17, 2021

Episode 431 - Super stellar collisions and super computers

Space is really big, but when a collision happens it's incredibly complicated. Studying and predicting collisions between stars is hard even for super computers. How can you speed up the modelling of stellar collisions? A neutron star and a black hole colliding may not be as rare as you think. The collision of two heavyweights could give us the data we need to crack a century old question. The merger of a black hole and a neutron star gives off tremendous amounts of energy and may be more common than we thought. By 2030 we should have enough data captured on LIGO and other instruments to solve Hubble's dilema.

  1. Dominic C Marcello, Sagiv Shiber, Orsola De Marco, Juhan Frank, Geoffrey C Clayton, Patrick M Motl, Patrick Diehl, Hartmut Kaiser. Octo-Tiger: a new, 3D hydrodynamic code for stellar mergers that uses HPX parallelisationMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2021; DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stab937
  2. Stephen M. Feeney, Hiranya V. Peiris, Samaya M. Nissanke, and Daniel J. Mortlock. Prospects for measuring the Hubble constant with neutron-star–black-hole mergersPhys. Rev. Lett. (accepted), 2021 [abstract]
May 10, 2021

Episode 430 - Using Corn to clean water, and new wind turbine designs

Clever engineering can turn waste products into planet cleaning tools. Corn is America's biggest crop, but it's incredibly wasteful. Corn waste can be given a second life as activated carbon to help clean water. Corn waste makes for an efficient water when it's turned into activated charcoal. Wind turbines have to be carefully placed and located to maximise their efficiency. When designing a wind farm, the location and style of the turbine can greatly impact generation. Which design is better for wind turbines; vertical or horizontal? Vertical wind turbines aren't as common, but they can work together to boost efficiency.

  1. Mark Gale, Tu Nguyen, Marissa Moreno, Kandis Leslie Gilliard-AbdulAziz. Physiochemical Properties of Biochar and Activated Carbon from Biomass Residue: Influence of Process Conditions to Adsorbent PropertiesACS Omega, 2021; 6 (15): 10224 DOI: 10.1021/acsomega.1c00530
  2. Joachim Toftegaard Hansen, Mahak Mahak, Iakovos Tzanakis. Numerical modelling and optimization of vertical axis wind turbine pairs: A scale up approachRenewable Energy, 2021; 171: 1371 DOI: 10.1016/j.renene.2021.03.001
April 26, 2021

Episode 428 - Lightning and Early life on earth

What kicked off early life on earth? Organic chemistry and early life need the right minerals to be present and accessible. What helped unlock early minerals on earth like phosphorous to kick start life? Lightning strikes seem rare, but they're much more frequent than meteorites. Early life on Earth could have been helped along through lightning strikes and meteorites. DNA, RNA and Proteins are locked in a complex dance, but which came first. DNA can't replicate without the help of protein and RNA, so how did we develop DNA in the first place? Is it possible for RNA to replicate on it's own?
References:

  1. Benjamin L. Hess, Sandra Piazolo, Jason Harvey. Lightning strikes as a major facilitator of prebiotic phosphorus reduction on early EarthNature Communications, 2021; 12 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-21849-2
  2. Alexandra Kühnlein, Simon A Lanzmich, Dieter Braun. tRNA sequences can assemble into a replicatoreLife, 2021; 10 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.63431
March 29, 2021

Episode 424 - Hunting for atmospheres on other planets

Mars was once covered with water, so where did all the water on Mars go? What happened to the water in the Martian atmosphere? Why isn't there an abundance of heavy water in the Martian atmosphere? Water can get trapped inside rocks and minerals without volcanoes to cycle them. Volcanoes and tectonics help sequester, cycle and release water, so what happens on a planet without them? How can we hunt for signs of water atmospheres on exoplanets? On hot rocky exoplanets with oceans of magma, what happens to their hydrogen rich atmospheres?  An atmosphere of of hydrogen can slowly turn and change into water with the help of a magma ocean. 
References:

  1. E. L. Scheller, B. L. Ehlmann, Renyu Hu, D. J. Adams, Y. L. Yung. Long-term drying of Mars by sequestration of ocean-scale volumes of water in the crustScience, 2021; eabc7717 DOI: 10.1126/science.abc7717
  2. Edwin S. Kite, Laura Schaefer. Water on Hot Rocky ExoplanetsThe Astrophysical Journal Letters, 2021; 909 (2): L22 DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/abe7dc
March 22, 2021

Episode 423 - Humans vs Bacteria on earth and in space

Space is hard, things are different there which means something simple as salmonella becomes much more challenging. The rules of bacterial infection and response change once you're in space. How does your body respond to bacterial infection in microgravity environments? Getting sick in space may be worse than on earth. The human microbiome is incredible diverse and not well understood. Your gut contains 100,000s of bacteria groups, virus and other things. A large global study of gut microbiome has revealed thousands of new virus and bacteria types.

  1. Jennifer Barrila, Shameema F. Sarker, Nicole Hansmeier, Shanshan Yang, Kristina Buss, Natalia Briones, Jin Park, Richard R. Davis, Rebecca J. Forsyth, C. Mark Ott, Kevin Sato, Cristine Kosnik, Anthony Yang, Cheryl Shimoda, Nicole Rayl, Diana Ly, Aaron Landenberger, Stephanie D. Wilson, Naoko Yamazaki, Jason Steel, Camila Montano, Rolf U. Halden, Tom Cannon, Sarah L. Castro-Wallace, Cheryl A. Nickerson. Evaluating the effect of spaceflight on the host–pathogen interaction between human intestinal epithelial cells and Salmonella Typhimuriumnpj Microgravity, 2021; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41526-021-00136-w
  2. Luis F. Camarillo-Guerrero, Alexandre Almeida, Guillermo Rangel-Pineros, Robert D. Finn, Trevor D. Lawley. Massive expansion of human gut bacteriophage diversityCell, 2021; 184 (4): 1098 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2021.01.029
January 25, 2021

Episode 415 - Greener ways to make Hydrogen and Ammonia

You've probably heard about the wonders of a Hydrogen economy, but how can we make it better for the environment. Synthesizing Ammonia helped feed the planet, but at a huge environmental cost. How can we produce Ammonia without harming the environment? Production of ammonia (and fertilizer) has a huge carbon footprint. How can we clean it up? Hydrogen fuel cells could help decarbonize our economy, but how do we produce it cleanly? Electrolysis can separate hydrogen from water, but how can we do it more efficiently?