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TWiV 78 letters

Michael writes:

Hi guys really like the show even though some of it (not much) goes over my head. I also listen to twip and hope there will be a matching number of episodes to rival twiv.  My name is Michael and I was talking to my dad the other day and he mentioned that he took parisitology from Dr. Brown (Stoolie) when he was at Columbia. Small world. I was also interested in checking out some classes at UCLA, I live in LA, and wanted to know if you had any recommendations as far as instructors or classes.

A couple of things I was wondering how your iphone app is coming along. I know lots of programmers and artists and would like to produce one of your ideas.

Secondly you guys mention all the time about the dearth of research being done. How would you like to start your own non profit? And is there a website that tracks current field studies or lists proposed studies? I have a great plan for a virtual corp. that could direct and help synergize field research. You guys would get to do the fun part i.e. plan the protocols and general aim of the project, and approve the personnel, take all the public credit. I would do what I do best which is organization and logistics. I think Field Studies International sounds good.

Well enough of your time for now thanks for the great podcasts.


Mary writes:

As much as you guys are adamant against engaging in political discussion, I know you also feel strongly about exposing the truths behind alternative medicine, anti-vaccination campaigns, and so much other medical and scientific disinformation espoused by quacks all over the world… so maybe this is something you might feel like passing onto listeners?   I’m not sure if really counts as “politics”, anyway.

As you may know, science writer Simon Singh is being sued essentially for bringing debate on alternative medicine into the public forum, and the millionaire- and corporate-backed British libel laws, among the most repressive in the world, are allowing this to happen to responsible journalists, writers, anyone—even outside Britain, thanks to the thriving “libel tourism” the laws have given rise to. There is a movement sponsored by journalists and others, including scientists, to reform these laws, and it includes a petition, for which they are inviting signatures from around the world, because even those of us outside the UK are at risk for litigation.<

Just food for thought. (Please excuse me if this is wildly inappropriate.)

In a separate (or maybe conceptually related?) vein of thought, here is a good essay from the Journal of Cell Science a year or so ago (attached) on the importance of admitting and even embracing our own stupidity as scientists.

Thanks for the great shows!


Cedric writes:

Dear This-Week's-TWiV-Crew,

I heard in a lecture from Prof. Steven L. Goldman of Lehigh University that atmospheric/wind currents can pick up dirt, bacteria, and viruses and transport them across entire oceans. I was wondering if this can or could have been a means of viral spread. Can a virus survive in the upper atmosphere, or would radiation render it inert? Is this a phenomenon that can be of significance in today's world of human-created interconnectivity?

Many thanks for your podcast. I am a high school student working part time as an intern at a national lab and I love to listen to TWiV and TWiP while doing the menial chores.

Salubrious Salutations,

John writes:

Listening to your show reminds me of the excitement I felt as a child reading Paul DeKruif's "Microbe Hunters." As a physician living in North Carolina, you are making me nostalgic for my days as a resident and intern at Columbia. Your show reminds me of what a great institution it was and is.

Benhard writes:

Dear TWiVers and TWiPers,

Since I've discovered TWiV (and TWiP), I'm addicted to virology (and parasitism), well, at least during my commute to work and back home. It took me quite some time to catch up but it was definitely worth it!

Although I'm working as a software designer for medicinal chemists in a pharmaceutical company, I've always been interested in the big picture of biology. Listening to TWiV (and TWiP as well) gives me a glimpse into how biologists work and think, which helps me communicate with them. There are many other podcasts which I've since also subscribed to but TWiV and TWiP are special in how well they match what I would be interested in from the respective fields and how entertaining the subject is presented.

The second reason I write is to suggest a Pick of the Week:

Last year, I learned about 'Sustainable Energy - without the hot air' ( by David MacKay. I knew his previous book 'Information Theory, Inference, and Learning Algorithms' as a treasure trove, but it's probably too heavy reading for general consumption. Sustainable Energy, however, is fairly easy reading, full of facts and figures, surprising calculations, provides a big picture, and shows how the world might be able to escape it's current agony. It provides a sober view on (British and world-wide) energy consumption and production with real figures and personalized measures. It could arguably be the most important book on the topic written to date. So, have a look and decide for yourself.

Keep up the good work (including the jokes)


Dave writes:

Hi DrsVAD,

When GRID computing is promoted, the usual suspects mentioned are Seti@Home and Folding@Home. At least of equal merit and more germane to TWIV should be: (WGG)

I found the following factors (listed on the WCG website) more compelling than Folding@home:

“World Community Grid harvests the unused computing capacity of volunteer PCs around the world, creating a secure virtual supercomputer available at no charge to scientists engaged in not-for-profit humanitarian research.”

“The World Community Grid team helps scientists prepare research projects for grid computing, process results and reconfigure work for further computation. In return, research partners must commit to open publication of their results”.

Highlighted below are three research projects with a virology connection:

Current WCG Research:

Help Cure Muscular Dystrophy - Phase 2
Help Fight Childhood Cancer
Nutritious Rice for the World
Help Conquer Cancer
Human Proteome Folding - Phase 2
Influenza Antiviral Drug Search
Discovering Dengue Drugs - Together
Help Cure Muscular Dystrophy
Genome Comparison
Help Defeat Cancer
Human Proteome Folding

It would be good if you could give WCG an honorable mention along with Seti and Folding.

I am an Information Technology (IT) professional with no formal training in any of the sciences, but I really wanted to make a contribution to scientific research. My charitable cause is WCG.

Since 2004, I have donated 88 CPU years to WCG projects. This is equivalent to turning on a PC in the year 1922 and having it run 24 x 7 x 365 uninterrupted to present day, computing work units for the Current WCG Research Projects previously mentioned.

As you’re probably doing your goszinto’s right now, this involves 10 multi-core PC’s (9 quads and a dual for a total of 38 CPU cores) running pretty much at 100% load. Yes, my power bill does take a hit.

As for the TWIV and TWIP podcasts, thank you immensely DrsVAD for devoting your time and effort on the podcasts and especially for enthusiastically sharing your knowledge on virology and parasitism. I was hooked from episode 1 on both podcasts.

I suspect I’m not your average listener type since I don’t work in any scientific field and I’m circa Vincent’s age. My career ship has sailed, but in my next incarnation I hope I come back as a microbiologist or virologist. After finishing Volume 1 of Principles of Virology, it became obvious to me that to obtain a competent knowledge of viruses, I needed to take a deep plunge into biochemistry, cell / molecular biology and immunology. I’m just coming up for air, but what a fascinating journey. Science fiction pales in comparison to reality. Ready for Volume 2 of PoV.

For me, I love that you don’t dumb down the podcasts too much. There is delectability in the details. For example, when you were talking about a membrane lipid, you use the actual terminology phosphatidylinositol.  This is helpful so I can do further investigation and also very useful to hear how terms are pronounced. Having no contact with scientific types, I have to guess at how some terms are pronounced.  This can be problematic since often online audio dictionaries will not have technical terms. Now if we could just get Marc Pelletier (FIB podcast) to quit calling them [ am I no ] acids, life would be good.

My hope is that you continue to enjoy doing the podcasts as much as we, your audience, enjoy listening to them.

Keep it viral!



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