But First, The News: Week 3, For Science!

An #operationbeautiful note I posted in February of this year.

It’s Week 3 and the topic is science! I’m also playing with the format of this blog series and so this time around I’m publishing one article and two “weeklies”: one Video of the Week and one Podcast of the Week.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. Enjoy!

Fungi in Space:

Four types of the fungus Aspergillus Nidulans are slated to be sent to the International Space Station this Friday, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The purpose of the mission is to observe how the fungi respond to different stressors in a space environment, as they may induce the fungi to make and release new molecules that could be used to develop new medicines to be used on Earth and during space missions.

Such molecules are known as “secondary metabolites” and are usually released by fungi like Aspergillus Nidulans in an effort to deal with environmental stressors, like the micro-gravity and space radiation the fungi will be exposed to on the International Space Station.

The fungi will be launched on a Falcon 9 rocket, from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on April 8 and are expected to return on May 10th.

The duration of the experiment should last 3-7 days and will be controlled by temperature adjustments.

Before the experiment, the fungi will be kept at 39.2 degrees Fahrenheit (or 4 degrees Celsius) until the onset of the experiment at which point the temperature will be raised to an “ideal growth” temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). A control group of fungi will also be grown on Earth during the experiment. Lab tests on the space fungi are expected to commence mid-May of this year.

During the analyses of the space fungi upon their return to Earth, researchers will look at any secondary metabolites produced and at how the genes that produced the new metabolites were turned on. Once those factors are identified, scientists should be able to induce the fungi into producing more of the new metabolites on Earth.

The space fungi will be taken to the lab of the “principal investigator”, according to the official mission page on NASA’s website. The principal investigator was identified on the mission page as University of Southern California’s  Dr. Clay Wang, Ph. D (School of Pharmacy). 

The data from the lab analyses performed on the space fungi are expected to be archived in NASA’s GeneLab.

Video of the Week: 


This week’s Video of the Week comes from Nature. 

It’s a video that’s only a little over 3 1/2 minutes long, but it packs in a ton of information. You’ll learn some basics about DNA (such as the concept of base pairs).

You’ll also learn about whether or not it would be possible to construct a tiny robot from DNA through a process referred to as ‘DNA Origami.’

Podcast of the Week: 

This week’s Podcast of the Week comes from Ted.com

It’s an audio recording of a TED talk titled “What the discovery of gravitational waves means”. The talk was given by theoretical physicist Allan Adams.

The podcast gives a brief look at the concept of gravitational waves, colliding black holes and the lasting impact of LIGO, the “giant laser detector” used to find said waves. (LIGO stands for “The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory”.)

Check out this podcast if you want to learn what it truly means to “listen to the Universe.”

You can listen to the audio recording  here  or view the video version of the TED Talk here.

Thanks for joining me on this week’s installment of But First, The News. You can view last week’s topic here.

I hope you’re all having a lovely week!




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