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TWiM 11 Letters

Steve writes:

As a microbiologist I enjoy listening to your broadcasts.  However, I was very disappointed on the one about Salomonella in cantaloupe and E. coli O157:H7 in Lebanon bologna.  Many incorrect statements were made, such as "Salmonella enteritidis is the species", The species is Salmonella enterica.  Also, it is not necessary for Salmonella to grow in a food to cause illness as was stated by one of the guests.  Many foods that do not allow the growth of Salmonella (peanut butter, dry cereal, etc.) have caused outbreaks of salmonellosis.  FDA does not regulate plants that make bologna - all such meat plants are regulated by USDA.  Also, it was obvious that the guests knew very little about how fermented meats are manufactured and what factors are involved in destruction of E. coli O157:H7.  It actually is a combination of pH, heat and time, not just pH as was mentioned.

The basic problem with this program was that none of your guests was a food microbiologist, so most of the conversation involved a lot of guessing. In the future I strongly recommend that you include guests that have expertise in the area of microbiology the program is addressing, so that they know what they are talking about!

Looking forward to more high quality TWIM programs!

Jim writes:

This is neat in that a flatbed scanner is used repeatedly to generate time-lapse results that help in the identification of color changes. And, perhaps another example of simple technology that can be applied with less training.

Jim Smithfield, VA

Get a whiff of this: Low-cost sensor can diagnose bacterial infectionsvia ScienceDaily: Latest Science News on 4/27/11

Bacterial infections really stink. And that could be the key to a fast diagnosis. Researchers have demonstrated a quick, simple method to identify infectious bacteria by smell using a low-cost array of printed pigments as a chemical sensor. In only a few hours, the array not only confirms the presence of bacteria, but identifies a specific species and strain. It even can recognize antibiotic resistance -- a key factor in treatment decisions.

Kendall writes:

Dear TWiM,

First of all I'd like to say that i really enjoy your podcast, its both informative and easy to listen to. I listen to it when i go on my long runs and it makes them go by so much faster! However, on one of these long runs I happened to see an oil sheen in the river next to the trail, and it got me thinking about oil degrading bacteria. I don't know much about them but I would really like to learn more and if possible I would love to see a TWiM about oil degrading bacteria.   You could even tie it in with the one year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and talk about the impact the bacteria may or may not have made in the cleanup efforts.

Sincerely, Kendall an undergrad bio major

Joe writes:

Enjoyed the last TWIM and thought of a great marketing idea for you all. Two nesting buckets with the TWIM logo on one side and "OOOHHH I should have listened to TWIM" on the other side.

May all your bugs be good ones!

Joe EH&S Manager

Joe writes:


As a chemical engineer who has learned more than his share of physical chemistry over the years, I really enjoy your facility with the electro chemical aspects of biological systems. I am hoping you can provide some insight into something that has always seemed to be a paradox to me. (Note: the guys on TWIV seem to be somewhat mathphobic, so you are my last hope...!)

The third law of thermodynamics regards the property of Entropy and basically states that the amount of disorder in any system must always increase. This makes sense to me as an engineer in that there is always lost work or waste energy (heat, friction, chemical wastes, etc) generated. While living things obviously obey the third law, it has always amazed me that life processes seem to be about creating order out of disorder in incredibly complex ways. The more I listen to the TWIV, TWIP, TWIM podcasts the more striking it becomes.

Viral proteins that self assemble!

DNA and RNA that form machines to make more DNA and RNA!

Flagella motors!

Folding proteins!

Viruses that infect caterpillars and make a smell that attracts wasps to get a flight to a new host!

Ion selective membranes to send signals in cells


This is the stuff that makes science fun! I can appreciate that living systems consume high quality energy sources to create their ordered systems but the whole thing seems so counter to the idea of entropy that I feel like I am missing something.

So my question is do you have any insights into entropy and biological systems that will illuminate my understand and answer the age old question of "What up with that!? Thanks as always for all the great science.

Joe, EH&S Manager


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