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TWiP 4 letters

Rich writes:

Here is a composite of 384 electron microscope photographs, combined into one image so that you can zoom and pan:


I think I can see several species of parasites on the barnacle, and perhaps parasites upon them. I have heard you recommend Powers of 10 in the past, and I think this is a good extension of this type of work. The photo reminds me of this poem, which I first saw in a computer science book, but googling suggests this is the original:

The Vermin only teaze and pinch Their Foes superior by an Inch. So
Nat'ralists observe, a Flea Hath smaller Fleas that on him prey, And
these have smaller Fleas to bite 'em, And so proceed ad infinitum.
[1733 Swift Poems II. 651]

Anyway, I know Rich and Molly, who made the picture. If you have any ideas for this sort of thing, Rich might take requests!


Tom writes:

Some parasitism jokes from science comedian Brian Malow who jokes among other things that a virus is "the ultimate David and Goliath" when compared with humans.

'A Virus Walks Into a Bar...' and Other Science Jokes - Brian Malow



Felix writes:

Vincent, Dick,

you guys are fantastic!


I am loving TWIP and the way you guys work together makes it really fun to listen to.

So far it is easier to follow than TWIV, presumably because (a) it is the start of the series and (b) parasites being larger than vaccines we don't have to know all about dna replication and intra-cellular machinery.

I have _watched_ the beginning of TWIV60 and I think it looks great to be able to show us the occasional picture or diagram. I hope that it doesn't add to the required effort to much so that you can use it often. Obviously too much use of it would break the podicast-iness of the shows which I expect you would be reluctant to do.

My only concern is that I have to wait 1 month for the next episode of TWIP!

Best wishes



Jesse writes:

Wow, I've never been around for the birth of a podcast before. This one was quite informative and entertaining; perhaps Dick should write an autobiography!

I think you missed something in your scale of parasites though: parasitic plants. Here's an example

(http://www.fcps.edu/islandcreekes/ecology/indian_pipe.htm): Indian pipes are plants that do not produce chlorophyll, so they form a relationship with fungi similar to mycorrhizal symbioses (in which plants give carbon to a fungus and the fungus gives something, such as phosphate, in return), except in this case the parasite takes nutrients from the fungus without giving anything back. I was quite fascinated when I discovered this.

Anyway, thanks for TWiP. Eukaryotic parasites are pretty interesting to me, and I wish this podcast were more frequent, but I'll take what I can get.




Etienne wrote:

Great first episode, but once a month doesn't seem enough. Maybe every 2 weeks?


Mike8 wrote:

Hi Professor, Great first podcast. I'm glad you began with the basics. You answered many questions I've been wondering about, such as: Are archaea infectious? What range of parasites exist and why are they here? What IS a parasite? ...I also enjoyed the brief recounting of your professional career, especially during the early years. I look forward to future episodes and would like to hear more about mycoplasma and rickettsia. And, if you feel so inclined, it would be interesting to hear a further discussion of the limitations on host populations caused by parasites, vs. the limitations caused by predators, habitat and availablity of food.


William wrote:

Dear Vincent Racaniello and Dick Despommier,

The long awaited TWIP inaugural episode fully met my TWIV set expectations. Though I might be delusional due to some pathology, I this shows appeal to match or even exceed TWIV’s. So allow me to start the clamoring early for increased episode frequency, assuming you have the time to produce them.

I find parasitism fascinating and profound. On TWIV we've been compared to mobile microbial habitats. Isn't our very existence still thought due to structures that originated as a type of parasitism such as mitochondria?

And lest you have any doubt regarding the widespread public appeal, note the popularity of parasitic monsters that haunt the public imagination such as Alien, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (doesn't this count), zombies, and even vampires (aren't vampire bats parasites?).

I sincerely appreciate your wonderful creative efforts that succeed in bringing the wonder of science to both the public at large and subject area experts alike.

Respectfully yours,



Oxandbull writes:

Guys, please make it every 2 weeks! I think listeners of TWIV won't mind at all if 1 episode is sacrificed in the name of TWIP. Hope to hear more from TWIP soon. John writes: Is there an evolutionary advantage for long-lived parasites to be more benign to their hosts?  My intuition is that a parasite that makes a long-term home in a host has part of its fitness determined by the continued well-being (or at least survival) of the host, while aparasite that only sticks around for a few weeks has much less of its fitness determined in that way.


Lisa Ann writes:

Dear Drs, Dick "Emeritus"  Despommier and  Vincent Racaniello,

(I know that you are backed up with emails so I do not expect for this to be read on air)

Again, another super subject and podcast!  This Thanksgiving, I have you both, Dr. Dove, and all of your guests from TWIV  and now this new podcast, to be grateful to for a fascinating  year of listening and learning.

In the discussion of "what is a parasite" and archaea; you touched upon a subject that I hadn't fully considered before. How the ecology of all life on earth is an historic,shifting , complex , interactive landscape and that human beings are not the center of and certainly not the dominant species.  Contrary to my previous and embarrassingly unexamined beliefs, I have come to the awakening  that we are not " the most special of all ".   As a Nurse, all roads in my discipline are human- health -focused and all other life forms seem to be generally regarded as  the aberration and therefore ,the threat.  I had not thought much about our part in a whole medical ecology and framework until I listened to your first TWIP show. Since then, in my digging around in open access research articles, I found a paper that I believe rings with the message that Dick was conveying.  If not, or you have read this particular paper, forgive me. I found it very interesting and it has further opened my mind to a  new perspective on how to view human health. That is that human health  actually relies upon the condition ,resources, energy demands, and "determination" of innumerable organisms surrounding us. If we can see ourselves in a more humble light, perhaps some new medical advances can be made that as of yet,have been out of our reach due to our simple arrogance. Here is a link to  the paper from" Gut Pathogens", titled "The case for biocentric microbiology".



Lisa Ann


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