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TWiV 139 Letters

Norma writes:

Some time ago I emailed you about transcribing an episode of TWiV and have finally finished episode 60. Let me join the chorus of appreciative listeners in praise for your podcast! I've learned a lot from it I was inspired by your generosity to give something back so please find attached a word document with a transcript of one of the TWiV 101's. I do work in science but not specifically in science writing so I hope it doesn't have too many mistakes.

Thanks again to you and your fellow TWiVists.

Best regards,


[TWiV transcripts are at www.twiv.tv/transcripts]

Peter writes:

After listening to Alen's pick of The Artful Amoeba, I went to the site and noticed something that you guys may have missed. The diagram showing amoeba structures has an organelle labelled "Plans for world domination".

What a cracker!

great pick!

keep up the good work etc etc.

<insert platitudes here>




I am also going to steal Dick's di-hydroxy-chickenwire line that he quipped on one of the twips.

John writes:

Dear Doctors,

Thanks for reading my question. I'm glad you guys seemed at least somewhat interested in covering the near future of virology. I think one reason it would be a particularly interesting discussion is that while young at heart the hosts are generally experienced scientists and in one case has moved to emeritus status. This gives a unique perspective as to what the next generation of the field may be looking towards. Unfortunately in the popular media most discussion of the future of science is either at the extreme speculative level of 50 years in the future or silly commercial applications of basic science.

While that's good for fiction it's not as interesting as looking at what scientists think are important issues or research opportunities that will or should be explored in the near to mid term future.

Thanks again for a wonderful series of podcasts.


PS Yes I am part of the Alan Dove Fan Club.

Eric writes:

I discovered twiv not long ago, and have suffered a "virulent" (excuse the pun) case of virology-mania ever since. From what I have heard so far on twiv, I am not alone in this. That being the case, I can only hope my questions are not victims of severe repetition by other submissions to twiv. Being merely an ill-informed yet viciously curious teenager, I can't help but ask the obvious questions. Anyways, in my limited (so far) research, it has come to my attention that the exact origin of our tiny infectious friends are as of yet, unknown. According to my findings, the primary speculations are as follows:

1. Viruses arose from non living matter, distinct yet parallel to other forms of life.

2. They are the result of more complex life forms, having become a sort of parasite to host cells, and losing much of their functions as a result.

3. Arose as parts of cell genomes and aquired the ability to separate from the host and infect others.

Why is this so? How is that after several hundred years of scientific breakthroughs within microbiology, that we still cannot pinpoint the orgin of viruses? Is this one of the irrelevant questions, best left to Abiogenisis? If you could touch on these 3 speculations a little, and perhaps introduce your own, it would be much appreciated.

As I said before, my scientific knowledge is limited, however my newfound appreciation and excitement for this field is not. I find it astounding that such an amazing world is hiding right under our noses, and the average person only goes as far as where and when the next flu shot can be obtained. I am starting my first college classes in the fall, and I have a feeling that I will not regret my choice in choosing Biology as my major, thanks in part to twiv. Keep up the great work, Dr.


Benjamin writes:

Dear Professors and Allan,

I'm a recent Communications graduate from the University of Washington. In my last quarter of school I discovered TWiV and I realized that I had gone and earned the wrong degree. I enjoyed creating photos and writing marketing copy but I have found, thanks in part to Vincent's triad of podcasts, that microbiology is what I really should have gone to school for. Unfortunately, I'm now sitting here with a degree in a field that is saturated, and even the odd internship at the local public relations or marketing firm is next to impossible to snag thanks to the down economy and an extremely competitive market.

What are my options as a non-science degree holder to at least associate myself with a research or laboratory environment? I'm 24 years old with zero debt and a decent GPA so reentering school isn't out of the question, but my old adviser and several trusted sources have been trying to dissuade me from attempting to earn a postbac. Are there options for someone trained in communications to work with companies involved in microbiology that don't involve being a pharmaceutical sales representative? Should attempt pursuing a microbiology postbac in spite of my people's advise against doing so? Are there other options or avenues that I just have not considered?

I know I'm asking a lot and I would appreciate any feedback. Even if you pass over my email I want to let you guys know that I appreciate what you have done to make advanced science accessible to the odd photographer. I've even managed to hook a few of my friends. This democratization of information that you are spearheading is really a wonderful and exciting thing.

Thanks Again,



Ben writes:

I noticed that after being badgered by another listener over your use of Fahrenheit temperatures, you've been having fun describing your inability to convert between the two. Now, obviously, you know the formula x°C = 5/9 × (y - 32)°F, but I agree that this isn't really easy to handle in your head. A quick and dirty way to approximate the conversion is to use guideposts at increments of 10°C. Obviously, 32°F = 0°C, but since a Fahrenheit degree is 5/9 of a Celsius degree, every ∆T of 10°C is equal to 18°F. So here's a list of guideposts to memorize:

-20°C = -4°F

-10°C = 14°F

0°C = 32°F

10°C = 50°F

20°C = 68°F

30°C = 86°F

40°C = 104°F

I bolded 10°C because 50°F is a nice round number that can serve as a starting point in case you forget the rest (remembering 50 + 18 = 68 is pretty easy if you don't remember 20°C = 68°F).

After setting forth those guideposts, the next step is an approximation. The 9:5 Fahrenheit to Celsius ratio is about a 2:1 ratio, so if you double the deviation from the Celsius guidepost or halve the deviation from the Fahrenheit guidepost, you won't produce a huge error. For instance, taking 15°C (59°F) and figuring that 10°C equals 50°F and adding 10°F for the extra 5°C, you get 60°F, which is only 1°F off.

Now obviously it's a bit trickier going the opposite direction, since the guideposts in Fahrenheit aren't multiples of 10, but for instance 90°F is closest to 86°F, meaning that you start with 30°C and add 2°C for the extra 4°F to get to 90°F, leaving you with 32°C (exact conversion is 32.22222...°C).

After that initial guidepost memorization, I've found it much easier to give a rough ballpark conversion of temperature on the fly. Knowing it has also made the Celsius temperature system more intuitive to this American who was raised entirely on Fahrenheit until I had to use Celsius in science classes. I find there's generally a bit of a value-added to knowing what Celsius means intuitively rather than merely as another number to plug into your experimental equations.

Hope this is helpful,



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