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63 Degrees North

Not enough COVID-19 tests? No problem, we'll make them!

Season 1, Ep. 4

Not enough COVID-19 tests? No problem, we’ll make some!

 

When the coronavirus first transformed from a weird respiratory disease centered in Wuhan, China to a global pandemic, no one was really prepared. Worldwide, no one had enough masks, personal protective gear and definitely — not enough tests.

 

The problem was especially acute in places like Norway, a small country that had to compete on a global market to get anything and everything. 

 

What happened when a molecular biologist, some engineers and a couple of PhDs and postdocs put their heads together to design a completely different kind of coronavirus test — and how it changed lives in India, Denmark and Nepal.  This last country was given coronavirus tests as NTNU’s annual Christmas gift, in coordination with a volunteer organization called NepalimedNorway.

 

Our guests on today’s show are Magnar Bjørås, Sulalit Bandyopadhyay, Vegar Ottesen, Anuvansh Sharma and Tonje Steigedal.


There's a transcript for today's show here.

 

You can read more in detail about the tests here: https://www.ntnu.edu/ntnu-covid-19-test

 

And here is a list of articles from NTNU and SINTEF’s online research magazine, Norwegian SciTech News:

 

NTNU’s new COVID-19 test to be used in India and Denmark

NTNU establishes a factory to produce coronavirus tests

From thousands of tiny balls to 150,000 tests per week

 

This episode was written, recorded, edited and produced by Nancy Bazilchuk. Sound design and editorial assistance from Randi Lillealtern at Historiebruket.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • 23. ENCORE: Shedding light on the polar night

    24:53
    This episode originally aired on January 27, 2021.Krill eyeballs. The werewolf effect. Diel vertical migration. Arctic marine biologists really talk about these things. There’s a reason for that — when it comes to the polar night, when humans see only velvety darkness, krill eyeballs see things a little differently. And when the sun has been gone for months, during the darkest periods of the polar night, the moon does unexpected things to marine organisms. Learn more about what biologists are figuring out about the workings of the polar night — and what it means at a time when the Arctic is warming at a breakneck pace. Our guests for this episode were Jørgen Berge, Geir Johnsen, Laura Hobbs and Jonathan H. Cohen. You can see a transcript of the episode here. Fridtjof Nansen’s book about his Arctic expedition is called Farthest North. You can also read about the other influences his pioneering journey had on science here. You can also read about Geir Johnsen’s different research projects in a series of articles from Norwegian SciTech News. The findings of the polar night team are so surprising that they actually wrote a textbook about it, edited by Jørgen Berge, Geir Johnsen and Jonathan H. Cohen. The book is titled Polar Night Marine Ecology: Life and Light in the Dead of Night.Here are some of the polar night research articles:Berge, J., Renaud, P. E., Darnis, G. et al. (2015) In the dark: A review of ecosystem processes during the Arctic polar night. Progress in Oceanography, 139: 258-271 Ludvigsen, M., Berge, J., Geoffroy, M. et al. (2018) Use of an Autonomous Surface Vehicle reveals small-scale diel vertical migrations of zooplankton and susceptibility to light pollution under low solar irradiance. Science Advances 4: eaap9887 Hobbs L, Cottier FR, Last KS, Berge J (2018) Pan-Arctic diel vertical migration during the polar night. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 605:61-72. Berge, Jørgen; Geoffroy, Maxime; Daase, Malin; Cottier, et al.(2020) Artificial light during the polar night disrupts Arctic fish and zooplankton behavior down to 200 m depth. Communications Biology. 3 (102),  10.1038/s42003-020-0807-6
  • 22. Strange bedfellows: Howard Hughes, a $2 billion ship and a lost Soviet submarine

    18:52
    It's 1968 and a Soviet sub carrying nuclear warheads has gone missing – lost, with all hands. The Soviets never found it – but the Americans did – in nearly 5000 meters of water.What follows is the strange tale of Project Azorian, an ultra-secret mission by the US Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA, that played on national fervor over deep sea mining to create an elaborate cover story to raise the sub. This strange tale involved Howard Hughes, a journey around the tip of South America, the 1973 Chilean coup and a 1974 burglary. This last resulted in an expose of what has been called one of the greatest covert operations in the CIA's history.I stumbled onto this story in the course of reporting the episode on Norway's decision to open its seabed to exploration and mining, and couldn't resist making a little podcast extra about it since it's such a bizarre tale. Fortunately, my guest on today's show, Mats Ingulstad, a professor at NTNU's Department of Modern History and Society, was equally fascinated by this little sidebar to the history of deep sea mining, so here you have it.Here are some links to relevant documents:The declassified CIA document (heavily excised) about Project Azorian, with lots of amazing detailsThe US National Security Archive's webpage describing the declassification of the CIA's Project AzorianThe US Department of State, Office of the Historian's extremely detailed description of The Hughes Glomar Explorer’s Secret Mission to Recover a Sunken Soviet SubmarineFor the definitive account of the whole affair, check out the book Project Azorian: The CIA and the Raising of the K-129.A New York Times article about the 1974 burglary that first exposed Project Azorian: https://www.nytimes.com/1975/03/27/archives/an-easy-burglary-led-to-the-disclosure-of-hughescia-plan-to-salvage.htmlThe Wikipedia page on Project AzorianThe Kennedy speech came from a 28-minute film made on behalf of the US Air Force, called Oceanography: Science for Survival. It's available from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.I don't talk about it, but the part of the sub that was raised also contained the bodies of six submariners, who were subsequently given a proper burial at sea. There's a video of the ceremony here.If you've read this far, I'd be interested in feedback on the sound design of this podcast. I had access to a different music library and decided to use a lot of music to see how it would sound. So let me know: was it too loud, too much, not enough? If you do send a note, make sure to tell me what kind of headphones you're using. Other comments? Questions? Fan mail? email me at nancy.bazilchuk@ntnu.no
  • 21. Seabed mining – savior or scourge?

    28:15
    Norway's Mid-Arctic Ocean Ridge is alive with underwater volcanic activity – where big towers called black smokers spew mineral-laden boiling hot water into the ocean. The minerals precipitate out, and have accumulated over millions of years. At the same time, this extreme environment is home to lots of weird creatures mostly unknown to science. This week, a look at the pros and cons of Norway's decision to open an area the size of Italy to extract minerals. Today's guests are Mats Ingulstad, Egil Tjåland, Kurt Aasly and Torkild Bakken.Here are links to some of the articles and opinion pieces mentioned in the show:Norway needs to know much more before actually mining the deep sea Opinion piece written by Mats Ingulstad and his colleagues at Triple Deep, first published Dagens Næringsliv, a national newspaper.This link takes you to the 17 Jan. EU Parliament hearing on Norway's decision.Norway will be the first in the world to approve seabed mining. Is it a good idea? A piece from Norwegian SciTech News with a roundup of coverage on seabed mining.A report summary from Rystad Energy, commissioned in part by the Norwegian Forum for Marine Minerals, which estimates the economic potential of the seabed minerals in the area opened by the Norwegian government.The European Academies' Science Advisory Council report assessing future needs and environmental impacts of deep sea mining. This editorial from the academic journal Nature argues that Norway's decision undermines efforts to protect the ocean.The scientific article about new species discovered around Loki's Castle: Eilertsen, Mari Heggernes; Kongsrud, Jon Anders; Tandberg, Anne Helene S.; Alvestad, Tom; Budaeva, Nataliya; Martell, Luis. (2024) Diversity, habitat endemicity and trophic ecology of the fauna of Loki’s Castle vent field on the Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge.Here's a link to the press release from the University of Bergen on the discovery of Loki's Castle.Find the transcript here
  • 20. Report from Dubai

    12:38
    Our guest on today's show is Anders Hammer Strømman, one of the lead authors for the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on mitigation of climate change, released in April 2022. He was invited to Dubai to the COP 28 climate talks to talk to the shipping industry about how they can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. He also shares his experience – not from the negotiating rooms – but from the perspective of a scientist seeing his work being taken up by policy makers.Here's a link to the IPCC report for which Anders was one of the lead authors:https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg3/chapter/chapter-10/You can read more about other NTNU researchers, including Helene Muri and Edgar Hertwich, who participated in the conference here:https://norwegianscitechnews.com/2023/12/climate-talks-and-the-way-forward/https://norwegianscitechnews.com/2023/12/the-energy-footprint-of-architecture-built-by-oil/https://norwegianscitechnews.com/2021/09/blocking-the-sun-to-control-global-warming/
  • 19. When trees talk

    29:41
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  • 18. 1100 Norwegian teachers fought Hitler — and won

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  • 17. Tea bags on the tundra

    30:32
    Up on the Arctic tundra, a young man in chest waders is wandering around a peat bod, burying tea bags — Lipton tea bags, green tea and rooibos, to be exact. This week, I head to Iskoras mountain, a low peak in far northern Norway, outside of the town of Karasjok to find out what burying tea bags in the tundra — and doing sophisticated measurements in a peat bog —can tell us about the future of permafrost and its effects on the climate.This week's guests are Hanna Lee, Anja Greschkowiak, Lisa van Solt and Daniel Angulo Serrano.Here are some videos that explain the research and show the field site in more detail:A brief description of the project, by Inge Althuizen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sz4argYGIb8An artistic video about the project fieldwork by Sasha Azanova. https://vimeo.com/457877275You can read more about the research in this episode here:Jiao, Yi; Davie-Martin, Cleo L.; Kramshøj, Magnus; Christiansen, Casper Tai; Lee, Hanna; Althuizen, Inge. (2023) Volatile organic compound release across a permafrost-affected peatland. GeodermaLee, H., Christiansen, C., Althuizen, I., Michelsen, A., Dörsch, P., Westermann, S., and Risk, D.: Long lasting greenhouse gas emissions beyond abrupt permafrost thaw event in permafrost peatlands, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-4211, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu22-4211, 2022.Rixen, Christian; Høye, Toke Thomas; Macek, Petr; Aerts, Rien; Alatalo, Juha M.; Andeson, Jill T.. (2022) Winters are changing: snow effects on Arctic and alpine tundra ecosystems. Arctic ScienceCai, Lei; Lee, Hanna; Aas, Kjetil Schanke; Westermann, Sebastian. (2020) Projecting circum-Arctic excess-ground-ice melt with a sub-grid representation in the Community Land Model. The Cryosphere
  • 16. When the doctor is out

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  • 15. Listening to Leviathans: Sounds from the deep

    30:49
    Norwegian technology, courtesy of the 19th-century whaler Svend Foyn, played a critical role in establishing the modern era of industrial whaling.By the time the 1960s rolled around, most large whale populations hovered on the brink of extinction. Now, Norwegian researchers are testing new technologies so they can track and study these marine giants — and help protect them. This week, tapping into fibre-optic cables to eavesdrop on whales in a way that's never been done before— and how deploying a comprehensive library of whale dialects can help prevent ship-whale collisions in busy California shipping ports. This week's guests are Jennifer Bailey, a professor at NTNU's Department of Sociology and Political Science; Martin Landrø, a professor at NTNU's Department of Electronic Systems; Léa Bouffaut, a postdoc at the Cornell University K. Lisa Yang Center for Conservation Bioacoustics; and Ana Širović, an associate professor at NTNU's Department of Biology. Ana's work with whale dialects and ship strikes is part of the Whale Safe Project.You can read more about the fibre-optic research in these articles from Norwegian SciTech News:Tracking whales as they cruise the ArcticEavesdropping on the Earth itselfEavesdropping on whales in the High ArcticHere are some of the academic articles related to the research discussed in the episode.Landrø, M., Bouffaut, L., Kriesell, H.J. et al. Sensing whales, storms, ships and earthquakes using an Arctic fibre optic cable. Sci Rep 12, 19226 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-23606-xLéa Bouffaut, Kittinat Taweesintananon, Hannah Kriesell, Robin A Rørstadbotnen, John R Potter, Martin Landrø, Ståle E Johansen, Jan K Brenne, Aksel Haukanes, Olaf Schjelderup and Frode Storvik. Eavesdropping at the speed of light: distributed acoustic sensing of baleen whales in the Arctic. Frontiers in Marine Science. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2022.901348Rørstadbotnen RA, Eidsvik J, Bouffaut L, Landrø M, Potter J, Taweesintananon K, Johansen S, Storevik F, Jacobsen J, Schjelderup O, Wienecke S, Johansen TA, Ruud BO, Wuestefeld A and Oye V (2023) Simultaneous tracking of multiple whales using two fiber-optic cables in the Arctic. Front. Mar. Sci. 10:1130898. DOI=10.3389/fmars.2023.1130898