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TWiV 186 Letters

Kurt writes:

Dear Vincent,

Sorry I missed your visit to NU- my teaching duties in Evanston prevented it!

Several of my students attended both and had good reports all around. Your work on ISGs sounds like it is coming along well.

I just today listened to the TWiV netcast myself and not only did I understand the Monty Python references, but I wanted to give the answer to one mystery.

I was the 'former student' who framed the Maxam-Gilbert combs for Bob Lamb -- In fact there are two- one made by Bob and the other made by me (I needed more wells as I recall). Little did I know that I passed the sniff test back then! Those ~50bp were hard won and very costly compared with the ease of deep sequencing today.

Best and hope to see you next time,


Jamison writes:

Wow! This episode is bookmarked for relistening. I was really drawn into the scope and frank discussion of core concepts that literally run the world of science as I have come to know it. I have always admired Vincent and companies opinion regarding the need for openness and transparency of science, but even then I had no idea how incredibly dire the need was until it was ranked it terms that your average joe could digest. I assumed that the 21st century system for funding, disseminating, and application of scientific research is primarily based on universally grounded principles itself and it appears that it is just not so. Competition is an essential tool for some areas of science, how much did we gain as an aside because Edison and Teslas ideas fought for supremacy? Never the less it can also cost us unmeasured leaps in human progress when we waste effort competing for the same end. Brilliant astronauts and cosmonauts died fruitlessly because governments define the benefits of competition as gospel rather then dynamic. Discouraging cooperation/collaboration of data amongst scientific experts is irrational far beyond sharing the vapid benefits of prestige and wealth a hundred times over. In words that make the most sense to a tax payer like me: why the hell isn't the science of science based on the science of science? There is no shades of grey here... A scientist should believe that data and research is either open source or close minded, period.

Ferric Fang writes:

Arturo and I are thrilled and honored that you featured our essays on reforming science in TWiV. I listened to the entire netcast this evening and thoroughly enjoyed your thoughtful and entertaining discussion with Rich and Alan (Arturo is presently traveling and heard it earlier today from Madrid). We certainly understand the general pessimism about achieving a wholesale reform of science. Nevertheless we are encouraged by the interest expressed by scientific leaders such as yourselves and hope that momentum can build for substantive changes that will make science better.

By the way, my parents named me "Ferric" because they had decided to give all of their kids names starting with the letter "F" and wanted a strong name for their #1 son (iron). I'm just grateful they chose the more stable oxidation state.

Thanks so much--


Arturo Casadevall writes:

Hello from Madrid where I had the pleasure of listening to the webcast. I thought the discussion was superb. Although I agree with you that change would be incredibly difficult, I believe it is possible because the young people in science are so dissatisfied with the system. Everywhere I go 'reform' is the major topic that people want to talk about. We are working on a set of specific ideas. For example, imagine if the Nobel prizes were given for a human accomplishment instead of to a person - what would this do the economics of science? Imagine if the past year the Nobel Foundation had given a prize 'For the discovery of Toll Like receptors' instead of singling out two people and leaving a lot out. What if collaborative papers were given higher value in promotion process that papers that come from a single lab? Simple changes could have tremendous impact. I am not naïve enough to think that this would be easy but to me the fact that you and your guests talked about this is already progress for discussion is always the beginning.

Again, thank you for bringing attention and new perspective to the problem.


Matt Frieman writes:

Hello Podcast Pioneers, Virology guild members,

I listened to the TWIV 184 on Reforming Science last week and heard the callout to hear my experiences with the life of a young scientist. If you talk to anyone that knows me in science, they will tell you that I love love love this gig. I think it is amazing to have a job where you are doing things on a daily basis that no one has ever done before and when you get a piece of data, it is an answer that no one else in the world has. It is a truly remarkable enterprise that we work in. And I get to share this love of Science with students, techs and postdocs every day.

It is also true this is a rough game sometimes. As a PI, you are constantly being rejected by reviewers of grants and papers who deem your stories insufficient for one reason or another. I am in a constant standoff between spending time writing papers or grants and doing Science. Now with my own lab, unfortunately it is mostly the students and techs doing the work and I get to spend more time at the desk, which I do not enjoy. However it is part of the game we all play.

The other part of the gig that you talk about are the issues with publishing and funding. There is great competition for an ever-shrinking piece of the funding pie. We have been blessed with an RO1 for my research, which allows us to breathe a bit and take the time to do the work the right way instead of rushing to get data for grants. It also allows us develop complete stories for papers rather than rushing out small crappy papers just to build up a CV list for grant review. As discussed in the articles, there is a huge explosion in the numbers of journals, meaning that more crap science can be published in journals that no one reads, again to just make your CV heavier. As for grant reviews, they are getting pickier and pickier. You didn’t talk about the numbers in the show but there are basically only 2-3 grants per study section that get funded from smaller labs. The other 4-5 grants go to the big labs that already have multiple grants and contracts. I have also heard from people on study section that as a new investigator, the chance that I will get a second RO1 shortly after receiving my first RO1 is slim to none. I still try, because I like to prove people wrong, but I know the next RO1 has to have a fully developed story backed by 2-3 papers before it is going to get a funded score.

Another big problem, which is touched on in the papers, is that the next generation of scientists, those in graduate school now, do not want to go into academic science. In my experience, most aren’t even considering academic postdocs. They see the other professors scraping for cash from NIH or other assorted agencies. They think that they will have no chance of getting grants for their own lab since all of the big cheese labs are also scrambling and fighting for the same cash. It is those, like myself, who are stubborn enough to be keep getting back up when you are told NO over and over again. The good news is that everyone is being told NO all the time in this game. However, the future of science will have to change soon to accommodate the changing times.

I don’t know what the answer is. I do think that there should be a cap on the amount of NIH money a lab can get. I do think that there should be more money for training grants for students and postdocs, which will alleviate stress on labs. I do think that we need to talk to the public more about what Science does for them. It is time to get past the next great cancer cure BS that shows up on the Today Show every week. That is not helping our cause with the public. Educating people to how Science really works is the key. Carl Zimmer and Ed Yong do this very well every day. Students out there in high school and college need to be shown how awesome it is to work in a lab. I still have a picture of my first DNA gel I ever ran. Kids are all techies now. We don’t have to dumb it down very much to get them interested. It is time to initiate a new wave of creative and intelligent kids into the guild that we practice on a daily basis. And hopefully, by the time they get into grad school, we will have this whole funding/publishing/grant review mess figured out.

OK, time to finish my plaque assay!


Matt Frieman

The University of Maryland School of Medicine

The Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Thomas writes:

Hello Vincent, Alan, Dickson and Auxiliaries ;)

I have come across this apparently new Bunyavirus that emerged in Germany Recently.

here is a link http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications/Publications/Forms/ECDC_DispForm.aspx?ID=795

Seems like a pretty strange virus. Hope you guys could do a twiv on it (because it "might" make humans sick too)

greetings from china

Jeff writes:


This is an article I came across and thought of you guys!


Your podcast is great! I've listened to about half of the TWIV ones in the past month or so.

Thanks for your service


Neva writes:

Hi Fellas- Vince, Dickson, Alan & Rich,

Once again I must say I love your podcasts! Thank you for sharing them.

Below is the url for a blog post from my dear friend Ken Wilson of Dripping Springs Texas. He is a person of many talents and interests including expert silversmithing, collections of antique photographs, documents and postcards, kayaking and Texas history.

This blog entry describes finding a shard of pottery that leads to the tale of an incredibly successful (financially) malaria-and-what-ails-you 'cure: Wm RADAM'S MICROBE KILLER, a patent "snake oil" medicine created in the 1880s by William Radam, a Texas nurseryman who had previously invented several potions to kill blight and fungi on plants.

Sadly, as you mentioned in a recent TWIP, snake oil products -especially for malaria in Africa- is still a thriving business.


Hope you find this interesting,


Buda, Texas

Simon writes:

Hi TWiV!

Firstly, brilliant show it is very informative and easy to listen to!

I have only just downloaded and started listening the podcast, so am catching up, if this topic has already being discussed please let me know.

I would like to make a suggestion for a show topic...

Viruses, infectious diseases and hygiene

What I’d like to hear about is your experiences with viruses in terms of what protection is needed in the lab. Have you any experience in the higher bio safety levels; what viruses are kept in the various safety levels and why? What happens if someone is accidentally infected by an agent in a lab, are they isolated there and then?

I think it is interesting from a public health perspective to know the process of virus handling safety and how these procedures can be used to influence public behaviour during pandemics.

During the 2009 Swine Flu Pandemic we were advised (in the U.K) to use alcohol gel frequently and cough into the elbow rather than hand etc...This was intended to impair the spread of the influenza. Are governmental guidelines sound or should an individual do more during a pandemic (i.e. stay home) avoid crowded places etc. What measures did you take during the 2009 pandemic?

What hygiene measures would you recommend/ have used for infectious diseases...particularly in public transport?

On another note when someone is tested for antibodies how exactly does the procedure work? Does the researcher look for a specific antibody or is there a testing method that lists/displays the antibodies found in a sample?




Ricardo writes:

Hello TWIV members.

Thank you for TWIV 171. All of it, but specially the last part. We truly learn a lot of Virology from this show, but from a long time now I have noticed some other things we can learn (especially students as they are so many, I bet); enthusiasm for what you do, even if it is Science, an enormous desire for knowledge and the ways of getting it in a proper fashion...

This afternoon we learned that it is possible you can make a mistake, it is ok to be told about it, and mainly, it is ok to face it and accept the criticism. I'm proud to recommend TWIV.

Please keep the good work, because You guys are doing it fine.

Ricardo Magalhaes, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Microbiology


Faculty of Health Sciences of Fernando Pessoa University

Rua Carlos da Maia, 296

P-4200-150 Porto


Sven writes:

Dear TWIV team,

I really enjoy your Podcast (Podcasts I should say, including TWIM). I have been thinking about going back to academia for a while now after I worked for ~5 years in biotech. Your podcast helped my decision making significantly since I realized that I want to do more hands-on research.

I am a trained molecular virologist with >10 peer-reviewed papers (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=enterlein) and several years of BSL-4 experience. I published the first successful rescue of a recombinant Marburgvirus from cDNA a few years ago. My dream is to get an academic position at University of Hawaii since my interest has always been emerging infectious diseases and I am sure that my experience could help the Pacific Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases Research, especially with the new BSL-3.

I have been out of academia for 5 years but I hope that this is not too long to step back into academia. Do you have any suggestions for me that could help me in my endeavors?

Many thanks and best wishes from Maryland.

John writes:

I enjoy your podcasts and always learn a lot. The problem is though is that I rarely have enough time to listen to the typical hour and twenty to hour and forty minute program. I respectfully request that you work to reduce program length to one hour. Maybe you could consider shortening the introductory and ending discussions and have less chit-chat in the middle.


Jim writes:

I see discussions about the Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics initiative, but no mention of bio sciences. Is there a similar initiative under way? Bio science developments are certainly appearing at every turn, so a need for more help must exist.


Sergio writes:

Dear TWI(V)(M)(P)ers:

It has been a long while since I decided I wanted to write to you again, so I ask for your apologies if the ideas on this mail fall all over the place.

When I discovered TWIV I was still a naïve an innocent master student in Japan. I was hooked immediately (kudos to Vince’s son and the gaming chapter). Many years later (also a new iPod, one daughter, a baby soon to come, an earthquake, a tsunami, and a nuclear accident later) I came back to my country (Bolivia) a year ago, with a Ph.D., a family to look for, and many dreams (needless to say, very little money).

Unfortunately, I am still looking for a stable job (Ph.D.’s are not in a high demand in developing countries) but I try to keep up with TWIV, TWIM and TWIP (Sorry to say that being used to a super-fast connection in Japan, it now seems it takes ages to download each episode…but I keep waiting every one of them, although now I am sort of behind in all three podcasts).

Well I am an Agronomist (I bet now Vince knows what that means after being in Brazil) and I specialized in plant pathogens in general (therefore I find all of your podcasts fascinating). My doctoral dissertation was about a bacterial plant pathogen, Ralstonia solanacearum, and its survival in water and soil, so I guess you could say that I am sort of a plant epidemiology/microbial ecology guy. Nevertheless, virology still is fascinating to me (plant viruses obviously) and I learned a lot about parasites as well (nematodes are very important plant pathogens. By the way, where is Dickson lately?). That also explains why I am a little biased in preferring stories about bacteria and fungi.

I have written to you previously wanting to know about dengue fever (I hope I am not suffering that right now: fever, malaise, runny nose, etc. “Welcome to the tropics”), about gene silencing in plants and funding (I am the guy who put Rich Condit in the spot asking for suggestions on how to get funded, sorry about that).

Since I do not have (yet, I am always optimistic) a fixed job, I have been doing consulting jobs (awkwardly enough, for university projects) in biological control and plant pathology. The last of those little jobs brought me to the middle of the Bolivian sub tropic, where I am 8 hours away from the city (my hometown LaPaz) through the most dangerous road of the world (I am not making this up, check this,


they call it the death road), and I get to teach to tropical agronomy students about plant disease integrated management. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life, because thanks to internet and open access (in which of course the TWI(V)(M)(P) media empire is included) I am able to give to farmer kids, who have never had access to the latest knowledge sources, the best information I can. Of course they have deficiencies (the education system is very bad as you can imagine), but I can see there is potential if these students get the opportunity to get a better education).

So, after such a long intro I have the “weekly pick” suggestion. Since I am a plant pathologist, I have been using for the classes I mentioned, mainly info I found in the American Phytopathological Society website (APSnet). They have education material, suggestions for professors, photographs, lessons, etc. and it is all free! They even hove some material translated to Spanish, Chinese and Portuguese. So I think it is a nice pick for TWIM (since plant pathogens are microbes), and they deserve some publicity for the valuable material they put out there for third world countries. I must say that you are also on the same page, perhaps the language is a barrier, but being completely open you allow bilingual people such as myself to get informed and then pass this information to less fortunate folks. Believe it or not, it is a great service that you can’t always realize from a lab bench in a prestigious university. So there you go, a pick and a compliment.

Another excellent podcast that is on the same vein is “El mundo de los microbios”, which is the podcast in Spanish of ASM (conducted by another Bolivian, go figure!!). There they touch human microbiology but have also dealt with plant pathogens some times.

Finally, as I always do, I would like to suggest some more episodes on plant viruses (in TWIV), and plant parasitic nematodes (in TWIP). I hope this long mail didn’t exceed your patience due to its length. Once again, thanks for your great podcasts, and keep them coming. We will keep listening.


Ph.D. in Biocontrol Science

Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology

United Graduate School of Agricultural Science

Biocontrol Science Department

Instituto de Investigaciones Fármaco-Bioquímicas

La Paz, Bolivia

Gopal writes:


I wonder if any one has drawn your attention to this article published in the British newspaper, the Guardian:


The remarks of Dr. Jeremy Farrar, a specialist who has been seeing serious cases of avian H5N1 infections for many years now in Vietnam, are, I thought, particularly noteworthy:

The genetic mutations that made Fouchier and Kawaoka's viruses so transmissible in ferrets would not necessarily be the same ones that help bird flu jump into humans. But if the details were published, Farrar said he could at least screen for them and learn whether the mutations appear only singularly in the wild, or start appearing in clusters of twos, threes and fours. More importantly, knowing how the mutations transform the virus would help scientists spot other mutations that could make bird flu adapt to humans. "All of this surveillance is not much value if the experimental work, which is mostly done in western labs, is not made available to the countries where it's most needed. We can't be blinkered into thinking these are the only mutations that matter, but the information could be important for us," Farrar said.

People of dying of H5N1 infections in Asia and places like Egypt, not in Europe or America. If the H5N1 virus was killing people in America, would this crazy debate created by the NSABB ever have taken place? I doubt it.

Gopal Raj

Science Correspondent, The Hindu newspaper, India

Stephanie writes:

Dear TWIV crew,

I noticed an editorial in the March 29th 2012 edition of nature asserting that the low success rate of clinical trials based on pre-clinical data was due to the sloppiness of scientists. Isn't it a bit strange for someone to assume that effective treatments in animal models should necessarily work in humans? Shouldn't the severe limitations imposed on clinical trials by both cost and patient number be considered here? What do you guys think of this accusation?

[Here’s the editorial: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v483/n7391/full/483509a.html and comment: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v483/n7391/full/483531a.html]

Howard writes:

Hi TWiV(s),

First, congratulations to Dr. Racaniello on receiving the Peter Wildy Award. Certainly a well deserved honor.

Next, two letters on TWiV #176 strongly resonated with parts of my experience. The letter from the graduate student who was upset at the lack of professional respect shown when a presumed colleague appropriated her intellectual property reminded me of a similar incident when I was a graduate student in Medical Microbiology. In my case the trusted individual Xeroxed my master’s thesis and subsequently got a position at a prestigious research lab working on the same microorganism at Harvard University. He repeated and confirmed my unpublished work and published it without attribution. The upside is that the results helped initiate a couple of research projects by the PIs in his lab and their scientific ability and intellectual prowess resulted in discoveries in areas I might not have investigated. It is satisfying to be part of the process, even if unacknowledged.

The next letter about the possible Epstein Barr Virus etiology of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome also hit close to home. Some years ago my wife and one son were exposed to a diagnosed severe case of Infectious Mononucleosis. They both developed typical symptoms with my wife’s being a bit more severe although her physician was skeptical that she also had Mono because she was almost 40 YO and would be presumed to have contracted it as a young adult like our son had. I requested a more complete lab workup and discovered she had a high titer of anti-EBV antibodies of the IgM class indicating a recent first infection. Her symptoms then progressed over the next several weeks into what we later discovered were “typical” CFS symptoms. Working with her physician, we ruled out other possible diagnoses and an immunological workup at the Cleveland Clinic showed a CD+8 T cell response that was typical for chronic EBV infections and which is associated with CFS. She gradually improved but over the years she has had flare ups with inflamed lymph nodes and nodules under skin and near muscles, generalized pains, and extreme fatigue but symptomatic treatment allows her to bounce back. My suspicion is that having a severe EBV infection as an adult rather than as a youngster or young adult may lead in some cases to the chronic condition diagnosed as fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. Maybe this is analogous to having an initial infection with polio virus or the mumps or measles virus as an adult where the infection and sequalae are more severe. However none of the above precludes the involvement of another infectious agent being required for the observed outcome.

And finally, thank you and your crew for the educational and entertaining TWiV, TWiM, and TWiP series. They are good for my brain and the rest of my body too because I often listen to them while working out and have extended my time doing aerobic exercise so as not to finish before the end of the podcast.

Best regards,

Howard, Ph.D.

Mentor, Ohio

Peter writes:

Dear TWiV team.

This research looks interesting, a variation in a single gene (IFITM3) can make influenza life-threating for some people and a relatively mild disease in others.

Particularly interesting to me as I have always been prone to respiratory infections, and they seem to persist for longer than in most people.


The protective mechanism is not yet known but if a test is produced to show who has the less effective form of the gene then they could be given preferential vaccinations.

Neva writes:

Hi TWIVers all,

I am sure you have read the interesting Wired Science article "Should Science Pull the Trigger on Antiviral Drugs...".By Carl Zimmer. Dr. Racaniello is quoted in the piece. It might be a good pick for your listeners.


A note on the pronunciation of Buda (Texas). The name origin story locally is that the town was named after a boarding house/eating establishment on the railroad stop run by two widows. The Spanish word for widow is "viuda" so the name became Buda pronounced "Beu dah". Most folks hereabouts are pretty laid back so if you say Buddah, what the heck.

Love your podcasts,


Buda TX

Manoj writes:

Dear Prof. Racaniello and the dear old gang,

I'm a big TWIV fan and have listened a lot over the past few years, first walking to and from work at Imperial College London (Dept. Infectious Disease Epidemiology) where it (and TWIP) have really helped me to learn about virology, parasites and biology. My background is in physics and math and I have had to retrain as a biologist (albeit a mathematical biologist). Your chat with Alan, Dickson, Richard and now Michael is terrific fun and very informative! My latest position is in Atlanta, where I have moved with my wife, at CDC. I have been trying to put together projects and people for an infectious disease mathematical modeling unit and, so far, I'm working my proverbial butt off on several projects concerning viral and bacterial infections. But it's enormously exciting and challenging.

Regarding episode 173 (Michael Walsh's last appearance): Michael was talking about issues relating to the kind of work I have been trying to kick start at CDC and I would enormously welcome such a chat (please let Michael know and take him up on it)!

Keep up the great work. Your listenership seems rightly devoted and delights in every show.

Yours, Manoj PhD

Imperial College London & CDC, Atlanta, USA

Robin writes:

When an entity is not metabolically active, it is not, at that time, alive. It is living in the context of appropriate time and ecological frames. A mammoth-specific virus recovered from permafrost would be neither alive nor (in this age) living. it could be "reVIVED" if a mammoth was successfully cloned. A virus particle is not alive. In itself, it is not living any more than a human being would be living outside the ecosystem that sustains the human: a human without a spacesuit on the moon would not be alive or living.

Abstracted as an individual entity, a virus particle is no more live than a frozen bacterium.

"Living" can be a verb, unlike •alive".

Allison writes:


I won't lie, I've taken a long hiatus from listening to your podcast. I blame it on a bad experience with a few virologists and consequently you and my passion for virology were casualties. At the time I was taking a virology class and I found a few of the organizing faculty were rather snotty toward my non-virology background/research. The experience ended badly and I took it as a clear indication that my path was set away from virology. So now a couple years later I have defended my Ph.D. (yay!) and in my pursuit of a post doc in an area of research I am interested in I am once again thinking about virology. But the question remains as to whether a switch is even feasible. Do you have an advice for obtaining a post doc in virology if you are coming from a non-virology field?



David writes:

Dear TWiV

In TWiV 168, Vincent's pick of the week was a blog post about the use of technology in the classroom. I've tried all kinds of technology in teaching and allow my students to use laptops and ipads in class. The most frequent comment I get however is that the use of one specific technology is most helpful: the oldest technology available in every classroom, the blackboard. Perhaps they assume that if I’m writing it on the blackboard, it must be important and noteworthy.

Also in TWiV 168, a listener's e-mail asked about endogenous retroviruses and whether they could be removed. Welkin mentioned that those sequences now play an important role in the overall architecture of the genome. I'd like to add to that discussion by mentioning that some of those ancient retroviral integrations are essential in other ways too. Formation of the placenta depends on expression of proteins called syncytins, which drive the fusion of cells to forms the syncitiotrophoblast. Syncytins appear to be env genes of retroviral origin, which of course, have fusogenic activity. A process critical to the development and evolution of placental mammals, thanks to an ancient virus. I wouldn't be surprised to find other important processes that are the result of ancient viral integrations.




Tom writes:

Dear Vincent, Dick, Rich, Alan and whoever your guest is today,

I wrote to you some weeks ago regarding the "So ..." preface to answers, and mentioned that my wife's name for whatever variant of CFS she has as WBD (Wierd Butt Disease).

In addition to TWIV, I'm now following along on Vincent''s W:3310: Virology course in iTunes U. This is a wonderful resource, and is greatly enriching my understanding of the TWIV conversations.

In Lecture 3, a student asks you if there are viruses that tap into the mitochondiral DNA replication machinery. You respond that you (we?) don't know of any, but there could be.

My first thought was, there MUST be. Mitochondria are often described as symbionts that presumably evolved from some independent life form. Over the course of evolution it's hard to imagine that distant ancestor staying immune to viruses. If nature provides a resource (such DNA replication), some other aspect of nature will evolve to tap into it.

My second thought was to wonder if this could be at least part of what is going on with CFS.

From the onset of my wife's illness, the symptomatic description that always fit best was that her mitochondria had a greatly diminished capacity to produce ATP. (Some doctors provide symptomatic relief to CFS patients using glutathione supplementation to boost ATP production.)

Coupling that to patients' frequent accounts of their illness onset resembling the body's viral defense response, I think this could be something to investigate. It may also explain why, despite symptomatic and epidemiological hints that CFS may be viral, research along those lines has so far failed.

Tossing things back in your court as a null hypothesis, how would one go about establishing that a mitochondria virus does not cause CFS? Can you think of a line of research that could probe this question?

Keep up the good work. And Alan, your punning is contagious, if not outright viral.


Austin, Texas

P.S. Vincent, I apparently missed something you said in your lectures. Several times you've presented a slide showing the seven viral genomes, based on their respective paths to mRNA, but the labeling circles with roman numerals only go from I to VI. Where's the seventh genome?

Joe writes:

I listen to Science 360 radio, which broadcasts all of your This Week in ______ shows. Love them all! I am especially interested in virology, so I try to pay close(er) attention to that. Any chance you guys give an episode just based on the basics of virus replication? If you've already done then apologies. Also - I'm an undergrad biochemistry major/physics minor. I may be involved in some biophysics (neuroscience) undergrad research since the virus research at my university is very limited and out of my dept (biology dept is protective of their undergrad research spots). Would this cause problems regarding any chance of my getting into a virology program? Any other advice? Thanks a ton.

Big fan!


Ben writes:

Greetings TWIV chiefs,

first of all I'd like to offer congratulations to Vincent for receiving the Peter Wildy Prize (although it was, of course, only a question of when in my opinion). I have to say that TWIV is the only podcast, science or otherwise, consistently on my iPhone every week since I started listening to it in, oh my, I think 2009. Furthermore, this veritable goldmine of free and easy-to-use knowledge on your webpage is just stunning. Please continue just the way you do, I wish we had more people like you (and of course the rest of the TWIVome).

After getting this off my chest, allow me to chirp in on a tangent to your recent episode (176 - all email), where you mention it would be a good idea to have a cell version of ChronoZoom. I just love the idea, the closest thing I could come up with is - I hope you didn't mention this on any earlier show - the Nature biology online textbook. You can register as a teacher there, they'll give you free trial access and once you subscribe, you can have your whole class use their iOS/Android/watchamacallit devices to acces this. It's an interactive textbook with great illustrations, animations, and films, links to related Nature articles, and, best of all, it's updated whenever something profound is discovered in a field covered by the book.

Sorry if I sound like a Nature marketing person, I just love the idea. So, how about a digital virology textbook? I guess you'll need a second life though. Anyway, thanks for listening, keep up the great work,


PS: Sorry, I know TWIV chiefs isn't the most original address. I know one for your spouses, though: TWIVes. How about that?

David writes:

I wanted to point out one of the important aspects of science that is often brought up in TViW podcasts, to hopefully invoke some discussion. That point is that science is a pursuit of the truth in nature. Truth is often hidden or obscured, sometimes by the complexities of nature, sometimes by people unknowingly, and sometimes by people by design.

One important aspect of scientific investigations is the process taken to prevent us from deceiving ourselves. Science is a process, with checks and balances, partly because some truths are hard to discern. With all the different cognitive biases we are susceptible to, it is easy to be mislead by others or by ourselves. I warmly compliment all the TWiV contributors for being open to correction, a healthy attribute few seem to cultivate (especially in an election year). As Richard Feynman put it, "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool."

David from Austin

P.S. I don't think that check and balances are confined to science; they occur in other fields of investigation designed to ferret out the truth. For example, journalism's "who, what, when, where, why, and how" and criminal investigation's (at least on TV) need to establish "means, motive, and opportunity".

A couple of cognitive bias links:



Stephen writes:

Dear TWiV team,

With all the discussion of note taking software recently I couldn't help but notice, and be surprised by the fact, that no-one mentioned Microsoft Onenote. I print all of my powerpoints and pdfs into OneNote and annotate around them (as seen in attached). It's probably the most robust note taking software available, but generally has to be stored locally unfortunately. There is an option to store all of your notes on SkyDrive but the size of each page I was creating was too large for it. Although recently they increased the size allowed so I will have to test it again. You can also record audio or video into the page.

Just thought I would contribute my bit as I think it is the perfect solution for students.

[he sent twiv.tv/notes.png and twiv.tv/Cardio.png]

Amber writes:

Really interesting show, well explained and super informative. I will be back, great job!

Cale writes:

Dear TWiV,

Thank you so much for such an informative and fascinating podcast. I am a young unemployed fellow, so I spend a lot of time writing cover letters, walking the streets of brooklyn, and lifting weights at the gym. After discovering your podcast a couple weeks ago, your dulcet voices and revelatory viral musings have been the soundtrack to this strange lifestyle. After listening to TWiV 175 I started working my way through your back catalog and I'm in the mid-thirties already. I can't thank you enough for the free educational service you provide! Thank you so much!



Tarwin writes:


I've been listening to your podcasts for a few years now and, along with the Australian Science Show and Futures in Biotech you've now managed to teach me enough science to be able to converse, and maybe even contribute to conversations, with working scientists.

I was always interested in science, but was put off by how slow it went in high school, and ended up as a designer and programmer instead. It's interesting how many of your listeners seem to be from tech. I think it's partly because tech people listen to a lot of podcasts, but also because they think in similar logically creative ways. And really, when it comes down to it, playing with life is so much cooler!

Your "How to read a paper" in TWIV #169 was very useful and actually helped me track down, slowly connecting the dots, a paper that had information in it that might be able to help my housemate further his research when he thought it was at a dead end.

On another topic, how do you track how many people listen to your podcasts? The simple count of how many people subscribe through iTunes + other places may not be the best indication. Do you [technical] track the number of downloads through server logs, which would give the best idea of the actual number of downloads.

Anyway, thanks again. No need to read this on air. Just wanted to say thanks!

Tarwin (from Australia, recently Silicon Valley)

Touch My Pixel



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