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TWiP 27 Letters

Jim writes:

Vince and Dickson,

You both have probably seen this already, but for TWIP and TWIM listeners fighting malaria with transgenic fungi is the first item in the 41 minute podcast for 25 Feb 2011, from http://www.sciencemag.org/ . This sounds both fascinating as another means of dealing with animal and plant pathogens, and frightening from my understanding that fungi, at least as a human pathogen, are difficult to control. Could such fungi be transferred to humans and how can that be tested? Here's a hard copy source, too: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-02-transgenic-fungi-combat-malaria-bug-borne.html

I think that podcast also talks about a new palm-sized NMR device! Man, it just keeps getting better and better...

On a totally different subject. Vince, you went through Weed, California some months back and I see you were just up in Washington state. As a kid I lived a few miles south of Weed, in the logging town of Mt Shasta (next to the mountain) as well as in a railroad town of Dunsmuir a few more miles south. You can also see Black Butte just north of the town of Mt Shasta along the interstate. Black Butte is a cinder cone about 2000 ft high with a path on the back side that's visible with Google Earth, that used to lead to a US Forest Service fire watch station that was continuously manned. I think it took us kids a couple hours to climb the path. If you get back that way in the summer, have the time and want the exercise, the climb up Black Butte would be a pleasant adventure. Mind the altitude, though. The starting point is about 4,000 ft.

For Dickson, a couple miles west of Mt Shasta up in the Cascades is a small mountain lake (almost a pond), maybe 20 acres in size with 2-foot-long rainbow trout that appeared to float in mid-air, the water was so clear. The lake only supported a few of these beauties and they were impossible to catch. The lake name, which you can locate with Google Earth, was either Porcupine or Toad Lake. Porcupine seems to be the one, but I don't see any logging roads to it as appear to exist for Toad Lake and the one with the fish could be reached by road, while you had to walk to the other. That was 50 years back, though.

There's a web cam for Mt Shasta, http://www.snowcrest.net/camera/ with several days worth of time lapse viewing that I look at. The same site provides temperature data. It was interesting as a kid to have a mountain in your back yard.

Smithfield, VA

Eric writes:

Dear Vincent and Dickson:

Thanks for reading my email. The "sync" trick I referred to was the synchronous mouse infection that Dickson describes at 15:20 into twip #5.

It's wonderful that Dickson shares this with the new researchers coming up. It's a bit like a magic trick - difficult at first to see how it's done, but much easier once you know the technique.

In rooting out computer bugs, if you can repeat the problem, you can always find its cause. The sync trick is like repeating the problem many times in parallel, so you only need to run the experiment one time. And if you have to destroy a cell to see what stage its at, you have many others still running at the same pace. Love it!



Jim writes:

This is for Dick, again, in the infomatics realm: just in case you've not kept up with the different presentations, http://bit.ly/hRFr8y .
I love these things.

Smithfield, VA

Sorry Dick, but I should have used the www.gapminder.org link rather than one that showed a couple of his TED presentations dealing with statistics.

Stephen writes:

Dear TWIP,

Isaac Asimov was a biochemist, not a physicist as mentioned in episode 23.

He did write many "Popular Science" books explaining physics and astronomy (I have 3 or 4 of those), so it is an easy mistake to make.

- Stephen

Judi writes:

Hello Drs R and D,

Thanks for the great podcast - I learn science, history, and a bit of politics from you and love the unexpected connections you make (Abe should have given a medal to the hookworm as the supreme undercover agent!)

I am a high school teacher and I try to teach my students to think about things - and one of the things I've been pushing is that virtually every decision or action has a potential positive and a potential negative - you weigh both sides to make your decision.

In that vein, i have to ask the other side. When you talk about parasites, you talk about them in relation to human disease, and , rightly so, the goal is to rid the world of them to protect people. My question - do they have no other function in the larger ecosystem? Can we rid the world of onchocerca - or hookworm or malaria for that matter - and have no effect on the larger ecosystem?

If these are truly a single food chain, rather than being part of a food web, I will use them in class as an example. Right now I tell kids that almost all organisms are part of a food web and so we need to look carefully before to bulldoze or plow or pave or overfish.

Thanks for keeping me learning and interested - and for the best professional development I have ever gotten! I strive to teach as well as the two of you...

San Diego, CA

Raphael writes:

I've been doing some transcribing in my free time on your TWiP's "Hookworm" episode for my blog site and it seems that Dr. Dick made an error on mentioning the term "hematuria" for the dark-brown colored stools found in patients with intestinal bleeding. "Hematuria" is meant for blood in the urine. What Dr. Dick was supposed to mean was "melena," and contrasting this to the word "hematochezia" for the bright-red stools (undigested, fresh blood).

If you're interested to note the error, it's around 39 mins and 55 secs of the recording time.

The Learning Blog


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