Donna writes:


I’ve been listening to your podcast for more than a year now and was delighted when I tuned into your 150th episode! Currently, I am working as a postbac in a research laboratory in Hamilton, MT (coincidentally the location of episode 140 ‘Small Town Big Science’) but am applying to clinical laboratory science programs.

While I am very excited about what this career path has to offer I have definitely seen the lack of recognition and respect that people receive in this profession. This is very unfortunate as laboratory professionals are essential to the hospital community.

Thank you for shedding some light on this important profession!

Tarwin writes:

Hi TWIMsters,

First, as always thanks for all your work.

Sorry if I’m pedantic in the following but I know you all like to be quite specific a lot of the time.

When listening to the episode Viral Arbitrium when talking about prions, I got a little confused with the discussion. This is probably simply that I lack understanding, but I still found it confusing.

The beginning of the confusion was when talking about the “central dogma” and it was saying that this break it. This was corrected but was the start of confusing things.

It was said “prions secrete amyloid”. Was it meant that they can create an amyloid? It seems so looking at an article on from Lindquist Lab (

There was talk about Congo Red being a way to detect amyloids, but also as a way to detect prions. Did you mean that because prions may form amyloids it helps?

It was agreed that it is likely that archaea also have prions, and joked “prokaryotes came before everything”. This was confusing as the whole discussion was about finding prions in prokaryotes (bacteria) I thought. Also, is there evidence that archaea came before bacteria? Or is it that there is evidence that archaea may not have changed as much as bacteria from when their lineages broke away from each other because the environments that archaea live in are likely more like those at the time?

The following is comments of interest. Because I listened to it 3 times over to make sure I tried to understand things I had more thoughts than usual about content.

In terms of what prions do in bacteria. Does it make sense that they could be a way to have, say, a strong promoter without much energy? Maybe you want a switch that is quite quick but at the times when you want to flick that switch you don’t have a lot of energy to produce new proteins, so having prion proteins that can switch without having to be re-made helps?

There was also questions on “why only small examples of pathogenic ones”. I know we’re not meant to ask these questions but … in humans, sheep etc they’re proteins that are created anyway. It’s just that they don’t normally fold this way. After a long life (procreation has already happened) it is more likely that a protein will miss fold and become a prion (just time) but there isn’t a fitness cost here so why bother “fixing” the protein that is already doing it’s job (correctly fold version)?

Again, so many thanks for all your teaching and entertainment.



Mark writes:

Dear Purveyors of TWiM-osomiasis,

First, here in California’s South Bay we are having a few days of sunshine between storms. From what I observe, the New York metro area is oscillating between regimes of unusually warm, or cold and high precipitation.

I am writing for two reasons:

1) to continue a listener email + host discussion thread from a few Summer’s ago. In that discussion, Dr. Michael “Copper Man” Schmidt, another listener/emailer, and I were making various points about grapes, flies, yeast and fermenting wine.

I am sending the attached image which I took in the tasting room of a local winery. To me is distills some worldly wisdom you might share with listeners as the episode’s image on

2) to share some levity as a listener pick of the week: many are familiar with the dry, satiric, humorous wit of The Onion. Well, there is a site that parodies The Onion focusing on science. The site is: The Allium,  Here is an article demonstrating their humor — be careful the link language will earn you an explicit tag:

Keep up the good work. The only improvement that I can think of is to go to a weekly recording schedule.

All the best.


Diana writes:

Dear Doctors,

I am a vet student in my final year at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna (Austria). Unfortunately, I have discovered your podcasts rather late. Studying along while listening and learning from your podcast would have been a lot more fun.  

Of course, I would be delighted to hear more often vet stuff from you. But since I am interested in wildlife and emerging diseases, I am also excited to hear about your regular topics, vector-borne diseases and zoonoses, from a human medical perspective. I highly enjoyed the podcast at the Bronx Zoo. Please invite again Dr. Callee!!

My question is if you have ever discussed about the TBC vaccine (BCG) and if you can please refer me to that podcast. If not, what are your thoughts on this?

Thanks very much and keep up the good work!

Best from Vienna,


Ben writes:

Dear TWiMers,

I’m writing from Sydney, Australia where it is currently sunny and 16.3 degrees C with wind gusts up 40km/h. After the extreme heat of our summer I’m grateful for the cooler conditions. I just wanted to thank the TWiX folks but particularly the TWiM and TWiEVO teams for putting out the great podcast material that was particularly useful to me in writing a review of Donna Haraway’s recent book for the Sydney Review of Books-

I draw on material from TWiM 34, TWiM 64 (particularly Elio Schaechter’s contributions to these episodes)  and TWiEVO 11 (Nicole King’s work with choanoflagellate’s).

As I was writing my essay it was really pleasing to see that TWiX material is licensed under creative commons and that I could go ahead and use some of your great material in my essay without having to worry about copyright issues. Its great to see that your many comments about free and open scientific publishing also extend to the TWiX podcasts.

Also I apologise in advance if I’ve got anything wrong in relation to the science in my essay. I am a mere artist/writer but I’m committed to thinking across disciplines because I reckon that understandings from contemporary biological sciences are central to our ability to share the planet with the rest of life and that art can help us to imagine futures that don’t take us further down the path of mass extinction.

Kind regards

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

One comment on “TWiM 151 letters