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Category: Science & Medicine

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.

January 28, 2019

Episode 311 - Stellar deaths, black holes, white dwarf accomplices and crystal stars

What happens when a star dies? We can investigate what is left behind at the scene of the crime to piece together the final moments of a star. Some become white dwarfs so cold and cool they crystallize with thick oxygen and carbon skins. Others collapse in on themselves becoming supernova in a catastrophic core collapse. But sometimes in complex binary systems there is an accomplice that pushes the star over the edge, into supernova territory. Plus super massive black holes can devour passing stars, but sometimes they have a little help.

  1. Pier-Emmanuel Tremblay, Gilles Fontaine, Nicola Pietro Gentile Fusillo, Bart H. Dunlap, Boris T. Gänsicke, Mark A. Hollands, J. J. Hermes, Thomas R. Marsh, Elena Cukanovaite, Tim Cunningham. Core crystallization and pile-up in the cooling sequence of evolving white dwarfs. Nature, 2019; 565 (7738): 202 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0791-x
  2. Graham ML et al. Delayed Circumstellar Interaction for Type Ia SN 2015cp Revealed by an HST Ultraviolet Imaging Survey. The Astrophysical Journal, 2019
  3. Dheeraj R. Pasham, Ronald A. Remillard, P. Chris Fragile, Alessia Franchini, Nicholas C. Stone, Giuseppe Lodato, Jeroen Homan, Deepto Chakrabarty, Frederick K. Baganoff, James F. Steiner, Eric R. Coughlin, Nishanth R. Pasham. A loud quasi-periodic oscillation after a star is disrupted by a massive black hole. Science, Jan. 9, 2019; DOI: 10.1126/science.aar7480
January 21, 2019

Episode 310 - Glial cells and Neurons, putting a stop to degenerative neurological conditions

A brain injury like a stroke or a neuro degenerative condition like Huntingdon's or Parkinson’s disease can be a long and arduous ordeal. It can be difficult to diagnose and there are no clear treatments, but scientists are working hard to solve it. We find out about the important role Glial cells play in supporting neurons and how things can go wrong if they are disrupted. We also find out about ways to use the abundance of Glial cells to make new neurons. Plus we get a better understanding of cell death and repair and the roll proteins can play in slowing down those processes to give your brain time to recover.

  1. Mikhail Osipovitch, Andrea Asenjo Martinez, John N. Mariani, Adam Cornwell, Simrat Dhaliwal, Lisa Zou, Devin Chandler-Militello, Su Wang, Xiaojie Li, Sarah-Jehanne Benraiss, Robert Agate, Andrea Lampp, Abdellatif Benraiss, Martha S. Windrem, Steven A. Goldman. Human ESC-Derived Chimeric Mouse Models of Huntington’s Disease Reveal Cell-Intrinsic Defects in Glial Progenitor Cell Differentiation. Cell Stem Cell, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.stem.2018.11.010
  2. Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. (2018, December 20). Parkinson's disease protein buys time for cell repair. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 5, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181220080000.htm
  3. Penn State. (2018, November 5). New gene therapy reprograms brain glial cells into neurons. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 5, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181105122433.htm
January 14, 2019

Episode 309 - Mysterious signals from outside our galaxy!

Space is filled with incredibly strange objects, from black holes to neutron stars. In the right conditions these strange stellar objects create incredibly powerful radio bursts which give radio astronomers a treasure trove of data. From the WOW! Signal to Pulsars we recap the history of strange space signals, and we look at the modern hunt for Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) and how the CHIME observatory in Canada is shedding light on this mystery.

  1. CHIME FRB Collaboration. Observations of fast radio bursts at frequencies down to 400 megahertzNature, 2019 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0867-7
  2. CHIME FRB Collaboration. A second source of repeating fast radio burstsNature, 2019 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0864-x
  3. Mann, Adam (28 March 2017). "Core Concept: Unraveling the enigma of fast radio bursts"Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A114 (13): 3269–3271. Bibcode:2017PNAS..114.3269Mdoi:10.1073/pnas.1703512114PMC 5380068PMID 28351957.
January 7, 2019

Episode 308 - Farewell to phantom limb pain, and better prostheses

 Having a traumatic injury, serious infection or cancer is bad enough let alone if you have to have an amputation. But once that amputation has occurred how do you make life easier for the amputee? Prostheses are helpful, but they can require retraining your brain and lack the sense of touch. Plus phantom limb pain can make life painful and frustrating. This week we find out about surgical and biomedical treatments to help improve prostheses and give amputees better quality of life.


  1. Bowen, J. B., Ruter, D., Wee, C., West, J., & Valerio, I. L. (2019). Targeted Muscle Reinnervation Technique in Below-Knee Amputation. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 143(1), 309-312. doi:10.1097/prs.0000000000005133
  2. Cheesborough, J., Smith, L., Kuiken, T., & Dumanian, G. (2015). Targeted Muscle Reinnervation and Advanced Prosthetic Arms. Seminars in Plastic Surgery, 29(01), 062-072. doi:10.1055/s-0035-1544166
  3. Nathanaël Jarrassé, Etienne de Montalivet, Florian Richer, Caroline Nicol, Amélie Touillet, Noël Martinet, Jean Paysant, Jozina B. de Graaf. Phantom-Mobility-Based Prosthesis Control in Transhumeral Amputees Without Surgical Reinnervation: A Preliminary Study. Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, 2018; 6 DOI: 10.3389/fbioe.2018.00164
  4. Arizona State University. (2018, November 7). New prosthetic hand system allows user to 'feel' again: The Neural-Enabled Prosthetic Hand (NEPH) system marks first time bidirectional prosthesis can be used in home setting. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 5, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181107093757.htm
December 31, 2018

Episode 307 - Ancient druidic treatments, wasp venom and peptide cages

The arms race against antibiotic resistant bacteria continues. As the world faces down this challenge, we turn to stranger and stranger places for treatment. So how can you turn ancient druidic treatments into modern new antibiotics? How do you make wasp venom actually a useful treatment? Can you trap bacteria inside a cage and just starve them to this? This week we find out about the fight back against bacteria.


  1. Luciana Terra, Paul J. Dyson, Matthew D. Hitchings, Liam Thomas, Alyaa Abdelhameed, Ibrahim M. Banat, Salvatore A. Gazze, Dušica Vujaklija, Paul D. Facey, Lewis W. Francis, Gerry A. Quinn. A Novel Alkaliphilic Streptomyces Inhibits ESKAPE Pathogens. Frontiers in Microbiology, 2018; 9 DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2018.02458
  2. Sina Krokowski, Damián Lobato-Márquez, Arnaud Chastanet, Pedro Matos Pereira, Dimitrios Angelis, Dieter Galea, Gerald Larrouy-Maumus, Ricardo Henriques, Elias T. Spiliotis, Rut Carballido-López, Serge Mostowy. Septins Recognize and Entrap Dividing Bacterial Cells for Delivery to Lysosomes. Cell Host & Microbe, 2018; 24 (6): 866 DOI: 10.1016/j.chom.2018.11.005
  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (2018, December 7). Engineers repurpose wasp venom as an antibiotic drug. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 29, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181207112651.htm


Antibiotics from druidic recipes in the Irish countryside.

December 24, 2018

Episode 306 - Drones as a force for good and evil

Drones being used for good, and drones being used for evil. We look at ways that drones can help biologists protect, treat, regrow marine damaged ecosystems. Including IVF transplants for the Great Barrier Reef, sea-grass disease hunting drones and even drones to detect camouflaged birds in forests. We also look into the science behind drone defense and how we can protect our critical infrastructure from rogue drones.


  1. Hartley, A. (2018, November 27). This attempt to save the reef is the largest, most complicated coral regeneration project ever. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-11-27/reef-ivf-unprecedented-new-approach-could-save-dying-coral-reefs/10557718
  2. Hegranes, J. (2018, January 26). The Past, Present And Future Of Anti-Drone Tech. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2018/01/26/the-past-present-and-future-of-anti-drone-tech/#845428852d62
  3. Minogue, K. (2018, September 17). Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. Retrieved from https://serc.si.edu/media/press-release/eelgrass-wasting-disease-has-new-enemies-drones-and-artificial-intelligence
  4. Vincent, J. (2015, December 11). Tokyo police unveil net-wielding interceptor drone. Retrieved from https://www.theverge.com/2015/12/11/9891128/tokyo-interceptor-net-drone
  5. Shewring, M. (2018, December 13). Drones can detect protected night jar nests (S. Weiss, Ed.). Retrieved from https://www.britishecologicalsociety.org/drones-nightjar-nests/
December 17, 2018

Episode 305 - Reaching space, the darkside of the moon and wet asteroids

It's been a busy week in space news from Virgin Galactic finally reaching space, to wet asteroids and even a mystery in space. We find out about the latest missions to investigate surprisingly damp asteroids by JAXA and NASA. We recap the swirling controversy around a mysterious hole in the Soyuz spacecraft, plus the latest on Chang'e-4's journey to the dark side of the moon.

  1. Antczak, J. (n.d.). Virgin Galactic tourism rocket ship reaches space in test. Retrieved from https://phys.org/news/2018-12-virgin-galactic-rocket-ship-space.html
  2. Jones, A. (2018, December 12). Chang'e-4 spacecraft enters lunar orbit ahead of first-ever far side landing. Retrieved from https://spacenews.com/change-4-spacecraft-enters-lunar-orbit-ahead-of-first-ever-far-side-landing/
  3. Yamaguchi, M. (n.d.). Photos from Japan space rovers show rocky asteroid surface. Retrieved from https://phys.org/news/2018-12-photos-japan-space-rovers-rocky.html
  4. Materials provided by University of Arizona. Original written by Erin Morton/OSIRIS-REx and Daniel Stolte. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
December 10, 2018

Episode 304 - Flexible electronics, graphene transfer and paper sensors

Flexible electronics and phones sound like science fiction,but materials engineers are turning them into science fact. We find out about projects from across the world to make it a reality. From Australian flexible screens, to MIT's incredibly thin and exotic semiconductors to Purdue's paper based circuits for medical applications.


  1. Linglong Zhang, Ankur Sharma, Yi Zhu, Yuhan Zhang, Bowen Wang, Miheng Dong, Hieu T. Nguyen, Zhu Wang, Bo Wen, Yujie Cao, Boqing Liu, Xueqian Sun, Jiong Yang, Ziyuan Li, Arara Kar, Yi Shi, Daniel Macdonald, Zongfu Yu, Xinran Wang, Yuerui Lu. Efficient and Layer-Dependent Exciton Pumping across Atomically Thin Organic-Inorganic Type-I HeterostructuresAdvanced Materials, 2018; 30 (40): 1803986 DOI: 10.1002/adma.201803986
  2. Wei Kong, Huashan Li, Kuan Qiao, Yunjo Kim, Kyusang Lee, Yifan Nie, Doyoon Lee, Tom Osadchy, Richard J Molnar, D. Kurt Gaskill, Rachael L. Myers-Ward, Kevin M. Daniels, Yuewei Zhang, Suresh Sundram, Yang Yu, Sang-hoon Bae, Siddharth Rajan, Yang Shao-Horn, Kyeongjae Cho, Abdallah Ougazzaden, Jeffrey C. Grossman, Jeehwan Kim. Polarity governs atomic interaction through two-dimensional materialsNature Materials, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41563-018-0176-4
  3. Behnam Sadri, Debkalpa Goswami, Marina Sala de Medeiros, Aniket Pal, Beatriz Castro, Shihuan Kuang, Ramses V. Martinez. Wearable and Implantable Epidermal Paper-Based ElectronicsACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2018; 10 (37): 31061 DOI: 10.1021/acsami.8b11020
December 3, 2018

Episode 303 - The risks of life in the big city from insomnia to cardio-metabolic health

Life in the big city can be fully of late nights, lots of lights and risky behaviour. This week we look at what living in the big city may mean for your health. Whether it be the impact of light pollution and getting a good night's rest, to the trade-offs of being a night owl, our circadian rhythms can be impacted by living a 24/7 life. We find out about studies on big data about a cities health, from a long term study of insomniacs in South Korea to using social media to determine when a city is 'feeling lucky' and willing to take a risk.


  1. Jin-young Min, Kyoung-bok Min. Outdoor Artificial Nighttime Light and Use of Hypnotic Medications in Older Adults: A Population-Based Cohort Study. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 2018; 14 (11): 1903 DOI: 10.5664/jcsm.7490
  2. Suzana Almoosawi Snieguole Vingeliene Frederic Gachon Trudy Voortman Luigi Palla Jonathan D Johnston Rob Martinus Van Dam Christian Darimont Leonidas G Karagounis. Chronotype: Implications for Epidemiologic Studies on Chrono-Nutrition and Cardiometabolic Health. Advances in Nutrition, 2018 DOI: 10.1093/advances/nmy070
  3. A. Ross Otto, Johannes C. Eichstaedt. Real-world unexpected outcomes predict city-level mood states and risk-taking behavior. PLOS ONE, 2018; 13 (11): e0206923 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0206923
November 26, 2018

Episode 302 - Ancient empires changing the planet, leaving behind ruins and relics

This week we find out about ancient empires which have changed the face of the planet, changed the climate and left behind trophies of their conquests. From pyramid building termites in Brazil, to large climate changing colonies in Spain and even David vs Goliath battles in Florida with trophies of the dead.

  1. Stephen J. Martin, Roy R. Funch, Paul R. Hanson, Eun-Hye Yoo. A vast 4,000-year-old spatial pattern of termite mounds. Current Biology, 2018; 28 (22): R1292 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.09.061
  2. David Martín-Perea, Omid Fesharaki, M. Soledad Domingo, Sara Gamboa, Manuel Hernández Fernández. Messor barbarus ants as soil bioturbators: Implications for granulometry, mineralogical composition and fossil remains extraction in Somosaguas site (Madrid basin, Spain). CATENA, 2019; 172: 664 DOI: 10.1016/j.catena.2018.09.018
  3. Adrian A. Smith. Prey specialization and chemical mimicry between Formica archboldi and Odontomachus ants. Insectes Sociaux, 2018; DOI: 10.1007/s00040-018-0675-y
November 19, 2018

Episode 301 - More effective Vaccines.

Using vaccines to tackle a pandemic is a serious challenge for health agencies. So how do we make vaccines more effective? Can we remove the requirement for a cold chain from lab to clinic? We also find out ways to boost the performance of a flu shot with a simple cream. Plus an update on a new vaccine types to prevent Ebola.


  1. Jing Zou, Xuping Xie, Huanle Luo, Chao Shan, Antonio E. Muruato, Scott C. Weaver, Tian Wang, Pei-Yong Shi. A single-dose plasmid-launched live-attenuated Zika vaccine induces protective immunityEBioMedicine, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2018.08.056
  2. Ami Patel et al. Protective Efficacy and Long-Term Immunogenicity in Cynomolgus Macaques by Ebola Virus Glycoprotein Synthetic DNA VaccinesJournal of Infectious Diseases, 2018 DOI: 10.1093/infdis/jiy537
  3. NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (2018, September 6). Clinical trial testing topical cream plus influenza vaccine in progress: Cream regimen could boost immunity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 13, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180906101347.htm
November 12, 2018

Episode 300 - Once in a blue asteroid, hidden objects in the Lagrange Point

In our 300th episode we return to our roots, the Lagrange Point. We find out about some odd objects hanging out at Earth's Lagrange Point, and how satellites can survive fierce solar storms only to be undone by a stiff breeze. Plus something rarer than a blue moon, a blue asteroid!

  1. Judit Slíz-Balogh, András Barta, Gábor Horváth. Celestial mechanics and polarization optics of the Kordylewski dust cloud in the Earth–Moon Lagrange point L5 – Part II. Imaging polarimetric observation: new evidence for the existence of Kordylewski dust cloudMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2019; 482 (1): 762 DOI: 10.1093/mnras/sty2630
  2. Richard B. Horne, Mark W. Phillips, Sarah A. Glauert, Nigel P. Meredith, Alex D. P. Hands, Keith A. Ryden, Wen Li. Realistic Worst Case for a Severe Space Weather Event Driven by a Fast Solar Wind Stream. Space Weather, 2018; DOI: 10.1029/2018SW001948
  3. University of Arizona. (2018, October 29). Rare blue asteroid reveals itself during fly-by. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 9, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181029152849.htm
November 5, 2018

Episode 299 - Redefining the kilogram a history of measurement

Have you ever stopped to wonder what ruler rules them all? How we set the standard for height, for weight, for everything around us? What if you weighed one thing one day, and travelled to another country and suddenly gained 5 kgs or had to use an entirely different weight system? What if you weighed one thing this week and more the next? This week we find out the history measurement systems, how we've standardised them and come up with unique and repeatable measures that don't rely on artefacts (real and metaphorically).


  1. Suplee, C., Lauren Lee, J., Gillespie, A., Porter, G., Stein, B., & Phillips, B. et al. (2018). A Turning Point for Humanity: Redefining the World’s Measurement System. Retrieved from https://www.nist.gov/si-redefinition/turning-point-humanity-redefining-worlds-measurement-system
  2. Jabbour, Z., & Yaniv, S. (2001). The kilogram and measurements of mass and force. Journal of Research of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, 106(1), 25. doi:10.6028/jres.106.003
  3. Newell, D. B. (2014). A more fundamental International System of Units. Physics Today, 67(7), 35-41. doi:10.1063/pt.3.2448
  4. Bureau International des Poids et Mesures. (n.d.). On the future revision of the SI. Retrieved from https://www.bipm.org/en/measurement-units/rev-si/
October 29, 2018

Episode 298 - Self healing materials, scratch tests and the crockmeter

Self healing materials sound like science fiction, but how can we turn them into a reality? What does self healing even mean? We dive into the material science of self healing systems to find out what mechanism are used and how you can make a material heal. Plus we find out how you can make a self healing material out of common plastics using one of the weakest forces. Plus how scientists test and assess different materials including using....a crockmeter.


  1. Marek W. Urban, Dmitriy Davydovich, Ying Yang, Tugba Demir, Yunzhi Zhang, Leah Casabianca. Key-and-lock commodity self-healing copolymersScience, 2018; 362 (6411): 220 DOI: 10.1126/science.aat2975
  2. Linqian Feng, Beatrice (Nadia) Benhamida, Chen-Yuan Lu, Li Piin Sung, Pierre Morel, Andrew T. Detwiler, Jon M. Skelly, Leslie T. Baker, Deepanjan Bhattacharya. Fundamentals and characterizations of scratch resistance on automotive clearcoatsProgress in Organic Coatings, 2018; 125: 339 DOI: 10.1016/j.porgcoat.2018.09.011
October 22, 2018

Episode 297 - Antibiotic superweapons - hunter killer cells, dream teams and evolutionary history

Making new treatments often starts by finding out just what building blocks you have. But what if you could use the blocks with whole new sets? What if you could see how the blocks changed between owners? What about making your own brand new blocks? When fighting bacteria, we need every tool we can get. This week we find out about some great ways to take the fight back to bacteria in new and interesting ways from artificial cells, or new combinations of treatments, even to tracking the way bacteria changes over aeons.


  1. Emily J. Richardson, Rodrigo Bacigalupe, Ewan M. Harrison, Lucy A. Weinert, Samantha Lycett, Manouk Vrieling, Kirsty Robb, Paul A. Hoskisson, Matthew T. G. Holden, Edward J. Feil, Gavin K. Paterson, Steven Y. C. Tong, Adebayo Shittu, Willem van Wamel, David M. Aanensen, Julian Parkhill, Sharon J. Peacock, Jukka Corander, Mark Holmes, J. Ross Fitzgerald. Gene exchange drives the ecological success of a multi-host bacterial pathogen. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2018; 2 (9): 1468 DOI: 10.1038/s41559-018-0617-0
  2. Elif Tekin, Cynthia White, Tina Manzhu Kang, Nina Singh, Mauricio Cruz-Loya, Robert Damoiseaux, Van M. Savage, Pamela J. Yeh. Prevalence and patterns of higher-order drug interactions in Escherichia coli. npj Systems Biology and Applications, 2018; 4 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41540-018-0069-9
  3. Yunfeng Ding, Luis E. Contreras-Llano, Eliza Morris, Michelle Mao, Cheemeng Tan. Minimizing Context Dependency of Gene Networks Using Artificial Cells. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2018; DOI: 10.1021/acsami.8b10029
October 15, 2018

Lagrange Point Episode 296 - Fighting back against hayfever, what histamines do for you, stopping travellers sickness

A change of seasons means you may be sniffling, sneezing and having teary eyes. So why do our bodies sometimes cause such an over the top response to pollen? We dive into the science behind hay fever, what histamine even does for you, and how it's helping you in more ways than you realise. Plus we find out what's being done to deliver a 1,2,3 blow to Traveller's Diarrhoea.


  1. Alessandra Misto, Gustavo Provensi, Valentina Vozella, Maria Beatrice Passani, Daniele Piomelli. Mast Cell-Derived Histamine Regulates Liver Ketogenesis via Oleoylethanolamide Signaling. Cell Metabolism, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2018.09.014
  2. Caroline B.K. Mathiesen, Michael C. Carlsson, Stephanie Brand, Svenning Rune Möller, Manja Idorn, Per thor Straten, Anders E. Pedersen, Sally Dabelsteen, Adnan Halim, Peter Adler Würtzen, Jens Brimnes, Henrik Ipsen, Bent L. Petersen, Hans H. Wandall. Genetically engineered cell factories produce glycoengineered vaccines that target antigen-presenting cells and reduce antigen-specific T-cell reactivity. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2018.07.030
  3. Renee M. Laird, Zuchao Ma, Nelum Dorabawila, Brittany Pequegnat, Eman Omari, Yang Liu, Alexander C. Maue, Steven T. Poole, Milton Maciel, Kavyashree Satish, Christina L. Gariepy, Nina M. Schumack, Annette L. McVeigh, Frédéric Poly, Cheryl P. Ewing, Michael G. Prouty, Mario A. Monteiro, Stephen J. Savarino, Patricia Guerry. Evaluation of a conjugate vaccine platform against enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC), Campylobacter jejuni and Shigella. Vaccine, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2018.09.052


October 8, 2018

Episode 295 - Powerful and precise Lasers - Nobel Prize in Physics ‘18

Laser are used in some many things around us from computer storage, discs, communication, medical scanning and even laser surgery. Turning lasers from an expensive tool in the exclusive hands of large laboratories to something people all over the world can simply and easily use required groundbreaking physics. As did turning a laser into a pair of precise tweezers. For that groundbreaking research Arthur Ashkin, Gerad Morou and Donna Strickland won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2018. We find out about lasers, how they're used and how they were made powerful and precise.


  1. Ashkin, A. (1997) Optical trapping and manipulation of neutral particles using lasers,
    Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, Vol. 94, pp. 4853–4860
  2. Strickland, D. and Mourou, G. (1985) Compression of Amplified Chirped Optical Pulses,
    Optics Communications , Vol. 56, Nr 3
  3. How Lasers Work. (2018). Retrieved from https://lasers.llnl.gov/education/how_lasers_work
  4. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, The Nobel Committee for Physics. (2018, October). Tools made of light [Press release]. Retrieved from https://www.nobelprize.org/uploads/2018/10/popular-physicsprize2018.pdf
  5. Image Credit: Baxley/JILA, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Extreme ultraviolet (EUV) frequency comb, 2012
October 1, 2018

Episode 294 - What is the biggest bird; Island Giants and dwarfs.

What is the biggest bird? Why do some species in some locations end up becoming giants? What makes islands like Madagascar so special and why are so many of the species once found there so very large in size? This week we look at island gigantism and island dwarfism across the world with a focus on the giant Elephant birds of Madagascar.


  1. James P. Hansford, Samuel T. Turvey. Unexpected diversity within the extinct elephant birds (Aves: Aepyornithidae) and a new identity for the world's largest birdRoyal Society Open Science, 2018; 5 (9): 181295 DOI: 10.1098/rsos.181295
  2. James Hansford, Patricia C. Wright, Armand Rasoamiaramanana, Ventura R. Pérez, Laurie R. Godfrey, David Errickson, Tim Thompson, Samuel T. Turvey. Early Holocene human presence in Madagascar evidenced by exploitation of avian megafaunaScience Advances, 2018; 4 (9): eaat6925 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat6925
September 24, 2018

Episode 293 - Finding a fly in you drink, plus placebos on the brain - Ignobel Prize ‘18 Part 2

Can a single fly ruin a drink? How long does the fly even need to be in there to destroy the quality and taste? How does a fly even manage to ruin your sense of taste? These important questions were answered by the winners of the Ignobel Prize 2018 in Biology. 

Does having a more expensive label on something make it feel 'better' to eat, drink or use? What's going on in our brain when the "Label Placebo" effect takes hold? If you're an expert are you more easily swayed by the placebo than a regular person?

  1. "The Scent of the Fly," Paul G. Becher, Sebastien Lebreton, Erika A. Wallin, Erik Hedenstrom, Felipe Borrero-Echeverry, Marie Bengtsson, Volker Jorger, and Peter Witzgall, bioRxiv, no. 20637, 2017.
  2. Marketing actions can modulate neural representations of experienced pleasantness, Hilke Plassmann, John O'Doherty, Baba Shiv, Antonio Rangel, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Jan 2008, 105 (3) 1050-1054; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0706929105
  3. Goldstein, R., Almenberg, J., Dreber, A., Emerson, J., Herschkowitsch, A. and Katz, J. (2008). Do More Expensive Wines Taste Better? Evidence from a Large Sample of Blind Tastings. Journal of Wine Economics, 3(01), pp.1-9.
  4. Liane Schmidt, Vasilisa Skvortsova, Claus Kullen, Bernd Weber, Hilke Plassmann. How context alters value: The brain’s valuation and affective regulation system link price cues to experienced taste pleasantnessScientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-08080-0
  5. Trei, L. (2018). Price changes way people experience wine, study finds. [online] Stanford University. Available at: https://news.stanford.edu/news/2008/january16/wine-011608.html [Accessed 15 Sep. 2018].
September 17, 2018

Episode 292 - Roller coasters for medical treatment - Ignobel Prize 2018 Part 1

It's Ignobel Prize 2018 time. As part of Improbable Research's celebration of curious and comedic science, we find out the rollercoasters, and how they are just what the doctor ordered. The Ignobel Prize 2018 in Medicine went to Mitchel and Wartinger for their ground breaking work into how to use rollercoasters to treat Kidney stones. We look into how rollercoasters work, their impact on the body, and how it can help pass kidney stones. Plus we look at some research into how rollercoaster g-force can impact your brain. 



  1. Marc A. Mitchell, David D. Wartinger. Validation of a Functional Pyelocalyceal Renal Model for the Evaluation of Renal Calculi Passage While Riding a Roller Coaster. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, 2016; 116 (10): 647 DOI: 10.7556/jaoa.2016.128
  2. ROLLER COASTER PHYSICS & G FORCES - COASTERFORCE. (2018). Retrieved from http://coasterforce.com/physics/
  3. DeHart, Roy L. (2002). Fundamentals of Aerospace Medicine: 3rd Edition. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  4. "NASA Physiological Acceleration Systems". Web.archive.org. 2008-05-20. Archived from the original on 2008-05-20. Retrieved 2012-12-25.
  5. NASA Technical note D-337, Centrifuge Study of Pilot Tolerance to Acceleration and the Effects of Acceleration on Pilot Performance, by Brent Y. Creer, Captain Harald A. Smedal, USN (MC), and Rodney C. Vtlfngrove, figure 10
  6. NASA Technical note D-337, Centrifuge Study of Pilot Tolerance to Acceleration and the Effects of Acceleration on Pilot Performance, by Brent Y. Creer, Captain Harald A. Smedal, USN (MC), and Rodney C. Vtlfngrove
  7. Kuo, Calvin & Wu, Lyndia & P Ye, Patrick & Laksari, Kaveh & Benjamin Camarillo, David & Kuhl, Ellen. (2017). Pilot Findings of Brain Displacements and Deformations During Roller Coaster Rides. Journal of neurotrauma. 34. 10.1089/neu.2016.4893.