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TWiV 173 Letters

Judi writes:

A listener pick - since I know you all really enjoy the visualization of science!


Judi (high school teacher, lover of TWIV, TWIM, andTWIP)

Glenn Rall writes:

My very favorite title was the "Super CalTech..." from a couple of weeks back. It takes either a very creative or very sick mind to come up with something that amusing.

Barny writes:

Dear TWIVists

My primary reason for writing is just to thank you all for the countless hours of entertaining education. If you feel that it would be interesting for TWIV it would be great if you could address my personal story, and it may stop others making the same mistake.

I have never been immunized with MMR, and have had all three of the illnesses; due to a bad case of mumps I have permanently lost the hearing in one ear, thankfully not more. When talking to my parents they said that the MMR autism scare was not the primary reason for not immunizing.

They seem to believe that having measles would have given my immune system a “work out”, in my case this has not worked to well. However i would like to know if there is any truth in this “what does not kill you will make you stronger” theory. My ex-family, and their current, doctor supported and encouraged their choice.

I am pro-vaccination in general but do not blindly support all vaccines. I hope this is not a too immunology based query to be addressed on TWIV.

Thank you and keep up the weather based introductions, bad jokes, general informal chat and educating the planet.



Cardiff. Wales. UK.

Alice writes:

Twivvers --

Just listened to your really in depth review of "Contagion" on TWIV. I thought I would let you know about a short conversation I had with one of the co-stars, Bryan Cranston, who played a military character named Lyle Haggerty (I haven't seen the movie yet, I got this from IMDB.)

In November, Cranston came to the State Department (where I work) to film some scenes from an upcoming movie called "Argo." After he finished his scenes, he hung out with us for a little while (very nice guy). I mentioned that my son had seen "Contagion," and that he had liked the movie.

When I said this, the effect was pretty dramatic -- Cranston got real serious, practically did a full-body shiver, and said that after he did "Contagion," he became very wary of touching door handles or anything else; it really had an effect on him. He said, "It really makes you wonder about what's on surfaces that might be dangerous." I didn't know what to say; all I could do was agree with him because what he said was true -- even though a person shouldn't worry about it to excess.

He probably should listen to TWIV -- maybe he'll feel better.

Anyway, great review and love TWIV, TWIP and TWIM. Keep up the good work.



Freddie writes:

Hello there Twivers !

My name is Freddie, and I run a software company in London. I came across your wonderful pod-cast on Stitcher by accident back in November, and have been hooked ever since.

Listening to your witty discussions of contemporary science has opened up a whole new world of knowledge and discovery, that I'd previously assumed I'd shut myself off from by not studying science at university. I work long hours at my company, but whatever free time I have is invariably spent watching Vincent's Introductory Virology lectures. Vincent - thanks so much for putting these online! I finished the 3 lecture introductory series over Christmas, and am now tackling the 26 lecture undergrad series. When I'm done, I intend to work my way through the graduate series, and in time I plan to make the switch from working with computers to working in bio-technology. This is such a fascinating area! With computers, our knowledge all proceeds from first principals. But with biology it's like we're reverse-engineering an advanced alien technology, which is really exciting. I hope to one day program living organic systems, much as I now program software systems.

I just finished listening to your last pod-cast, which ended with an email from a listener who complained about the tone of your discussion about the NSABB and their treatment of the H5N1 issue.

I just wanted to say that I had completely the opposite reaction to that listener. I felt that your discussion was completely fair and reasonable, and there there was nothing remotely hubristic about it.

Its true that I've never heard you guys get stressed about an issue before on Twiv. But, scientists and lovers of truth and reason as you are, that is completely reasonable. If you're going to get indignant about anything in life, then scaremongering and group-think are good things to take a stand against, and I applaud you for being outspoken about your very reasonable views.

Science and reason may have a foothold in the western world, but the notion of scientific impartiality has been under a sustained attack of late, and it's become acceptable to criticise a politician for being 'too intellectual'. It will be a very dark time for all when science and truth are subordinated to fear and prejudice. Scientific openness is an important issue, and you're absolutely right to feel the way you do, and speak your minds about this.

You were big to apologise, and see things from that other listener's perspective. If only self-criticism and open-mindedness to other views were more common in the world today. But I personally don't think you had anything to apologise for. Compared to all the phoney sensationalism that often dominates popular culture and political decision-making, I found it profoundly refreshing to hear you guys getting passionate about something that really matters, with the facts on your side.

It may be true that in an open debate reason will, eventually, win over fear and prejudice. But not if lovers of reason fall silent because they don't want to offend the scaredey-cats. So don't ever feel you need to be 'polite', and silent in the face of nonsense. Listening to that episode made me fell passionate about this issue as well, and I spoke with several friends about it. That's how good ideas are spread, and the tide of fear is held at bay. I suspect that the vast majority of your listeners would agree.

All the best, and thanks again for a wonderful pod-cast :-D !


Josh writes:

Dear TWiV Doctors,

Regarding the situation with the NSABB: I heartily defend the derision that you heaped on the Michael Osterholm and the NSABB, and disagree entirely with the letter from "joe", the lawyer.

I am not a scientist, but from what I know, it's not the motives of the persons involved that matter. It's the science. They either follow the science or they don't. If they do, then they are fine, and if they don't then they deserve the same treatment that is reserved for homeopathic "doctors". Just because Mr. Osterholm is sincere, doesn't make him somehow above criticism.

Saying " we know but we can't tell you" to serious researchers, is an outrage and they deserve whatever they get. If they don't like it, well, how does that phrase go about the kitchen and the heat?

P.s. Look forward to the show every week.



Paul writes:

Hi TWiVers,

I've been listening to TWiV since last October and love it. While listening to the discussion about the single virus genomics paper on TWiV 171, and having read the paper several months ago, it struck me that I would get even more out of TWiV if I knew the papers that you'd be discussing for the upcoming TWiV. I would bet that there is a subset of listeners who would download and read the papers before listening to TWiV or leaf through the papers as you are discussing them. What do you think?

Thank you for all the great podcasts,


University of Pittsburgh


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