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TWiV 179 Letters

Ebrahim writes:

Dear Dr. Racaniello

I was watching the conference in Dublin and I wanted to thank you for sharing my e-mail with the people in the panel, since I saw how nice it was for me to reach the specialists with that ease through TWIV.

As a footnote actually my name is Ebrahim not Laurence :) but anyways thanks again!

Kind Regards

Josh writes:

Dear Dr. Racaniello,

Thank you for reading my email on the air on TWiV 178. It's always nice to be included on my favorite podcast, even if you guys did disagree with me.

Would you mind an outsider's perspective on the situation? And although TWiV is my favorite podcast, I am an outsider: I'm not an academic, and I don't know any of the people involved.

I am apprehensive about the entire role of the NSABB, and fear that the biological community will soon be subject to the same levels of restriction and classification that currently affects the physics community. I think that in almost every case, things that fall into the category of classified information are almost always done for reasons that have nothing to do with the science, and everything to do bureaucratic nonsense. Restricting information about nuclear weapons, for instance, hasn't prevented many countries from acquiring them.

Which disappointed me when you read my letter on TWiV, not because you disagreed with me but because I wonder if you are seeing the larger picture. I agree that it should be about the science, but it's not. Once you remove the scientists(and there are lots of non-scientists on the NSABB) from the equation, it's about politics and the bureaucrats. So they are going to either restrict the information or they are not. If they do, we agree that this is a bad thing. If they don't, this is a good thing. In this instance, it's kind of a zero-sum game.

A game that I believe TWiV played a large part in winning, because week after week you applied pressure to the scientists and other members of the NSABB by calling them out on their nonsense. It's one thing to be rebuked for your actions behind closed doors, and quite another to be publicly reminded that you are not following the science by your peers. You had an issue that you are passionate about, you skillfully applied public pressure, and your side won the day. That's not only how you play the game, it's how good policy wins out over bad policy.

The next policy fight that is coming is that those people on the other side want to change the entire scientific publishing system in the US and Europe. They want to have a system where those people "on the list" get the papers, and everyone else does not. Those people "on the list" will not be able to discuss it either. Anthony Fauci said as much on that NPR story. It's not only bad policy, it's bad science. TWiV can either be in the middle of this policy fight, or it can be on the sidelines. I know what I would prefer.

I know it's distasteful. I know you don't want these public dust-ups. But what choice do we have? If you don't engage, then they will not be any opposition to the plans. And that's an outcome I don't think our country can afford.



P.S. On a personal note, TWiV and your online virology course inspired me to sign up for MIT's new online course offering, 6.002x, Circuits and Electronics. It's week 5 and so far, so good. The math is hurting me since I haven't had calculus in 20 years, but I'm mucking through it

Tanel writes:

Dear Twivoners (twiv + marathoner),

I'm a grad student from Freiburg, Germany (originally from Estonia though), who has been listening to twiv as long ashas been running. On Monday 16th I will run the Boston marathon and no matter how it goes, I would like to use the opportunity to thank the twiv team for the support throughout the training season. Research and graduate studies can often be frustrating and running has been a way to keep a clear mind. Running 6 times a week and between 8 to 30 km a day, means quite a bit of time in running shoes.

Twiv (but also twip) has made those hours also entertaining and educative!

I’m sure there are many researchers in running shoes and maybe even those who will join me on Monday in Boston. Good luck fellow twiv listeners and marathoners!

All the best,


PhD student

Laboratory of Prof. Stäheli

Department of Virology

University of Freiburg

Maximilian writes:

Hello TWIVers!

I discovered your netcast today, and I am hooked!

I am currently a pre-frosh at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering, with an intended major in Biomedical Engineering. I have two questions for you, which I've been thinking about for the past few weeks while I finalize my intended major/double major.

1) Is there a possibility of working on viruses/immunology if I were to focus on protein engineering? I ask because my first love in biology was virology/immunology and that love has always competed with my more prevalent interest in BME.

2) Would it be more prudent to double major in Chemistry (conc. on biochemistry) or Biology (molecular/cellular) if I want my double major to focus on my interests in virology and immunology?

Thanks so much,



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