Jessica writes:
I just finished listening to Chewates and Coconuts and was so elated to hear about the open access paper comparing the Soybean Oil, Beef Tallow, and Coconut Oil effects on fungal colonization. I am a biologist by education, but I also have quite the “Crunchy” side. If you have ever seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding you may recall that the father figure uses Windex to solve all of life’s problems, and that is me with Coconut Oil. I have several friends in different fields of science and they poke fun at my inFATuation (pun totally intended) with Coconut Oil and often demand scientific evidence for my claims. This is going to be a great addition to my arsenal along with your entertaining and informative podcast! If you ever have the time or desire you should devote an entire tsegment to Coconut Oil and all of its anti-microbial claims! Thank you for the segment and your weekly contributions to science.

Laboratory Technician

Aaron writes:
Greetings Dr Racaniello and colleagues,

Thank you so much for your wonderful podcast. I am a high school biology teacher and I thoroughly enjoy your discussions of current articles and topics in microbiology. My background is in biochemistry, and your discussions are engaging and keep me thinking about the unseen microbial world that is all around us.

I am currently working on developing a curriculum where students will investigate the Microbiome of drosophila guts. I was fortunate enough to have a lab fellowship in an immunology lab at the University of Massachusetts medical school this past summer where I developed the fly dissection techniques and basic plating. As most of the Microbiome of Drosophia is comprised of Lactobacillus and acetobacter, I used MRS agar and ACE agar this summer but I found the ace agar difficult to work with and I think it will be challenging for my students (plus it contains cyclohexamide which I don’t want to bring into my HS classroom). Could one of the panelists recommend some other potential media that I could consider for introducing these techniques to my students?

Again, thank you for the wonderful show and I look forward to future episodes.


Ethan writes:

Dear TWIM Team,

I have listened to TWIV for a while but just recently added TWIM to my repertoire, so forgive me if this has been addressed in earlier episodes.

Having a background in chemistry and biology with an eye toward human therapeutics (if only in part for funding purposes), I was a amused by the apparent surprise expressed by the hosts at a microbial secondary metabolite being used in human therapy (TWIM #112). I would argue that the majority of small molecule therapies (especially antibiotics and anti-cancers) to date are derived from microbial secondary metabolites, either directly or some having been chemically tweaked for enhanced stability and pharmacokinetic properties.

Chemists are getting better at rational design or the clunky approach of high-throughput screening of random chemical libraries to find new therapies, but 3.8 billion years of evolution has done a lot of work for us.

I found this review paper on the subject which is rather dated, but seems comprehensive and doesn’t appear to be behind a paywall.

Always a joy to listen,

Mike writes:

Hi Professors TWIM,

I am a recent convert to microbiology and I am preparing to take a medical microbiology course soon. In preparation, I have been reading several microbiology textbooks and getting a little frustrated. Every book starts with a long discussion of the marvels of the gram stain, but yet after a few hours of googling I still can’t find the answer to one very simple question: are gram positives and gram negatives monophyletic? From my initial reading it seems that gram positives are a small monophyletic group, and that ‘gram negatives’ encompasses a massive group of bacteria so large as to be almost meaningless. Am I completely wrong? Do you know of good review papers that explain bacterial taxonomy? Right now I am left wondering if our obsession with the distinction between gram negative and positive is a relic of a pre genomic age. Or maybe I have no idea what I am talking about (likely). I would love to hear your take on this interesting question.

I love all three of your science podcasts, and I keep meaning to get to the vertical farm podcast soon. I have listened to almost every episode of the others though, and I loved them all.

The weather at Stanford right now (10 pm) is 17 °C, humidity 69%, dew point 12° with a cool breeze from the ocean. A lovely evening; although I really wish we would have some rain.

Thank you ask for the wonderful podcasts, they are all a fabulous service to the community and to the public. They are also wonderful good fun.

Thanks for your help,


Justin writes:

So if I understand this correctly, this means that the cooling towers spray a mist of the bacteria (with or without amoeba) into the air and that “rains down” and contaminates the air around the building?
This really conflicts with how some sources are saying it has to do with showers since the cooling towers shouldnt feed into the showers at all.
Could you provide a clarification for me as to what is actually going on? I’m inclined to trust the cooling tower mist idea just because of the source but that’s a lot of bacteria you’d need to have raining down…
Thank you.

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