Rhys writes:

Hi TWiNers,

I love this new show, I listen to all of the other podcasts in the TWi-verse and love them all. I’m a student at the University of New England, here in NSW Australia where it is sunny and 25┬░C making it a lovely spring day, not too hot, not too cold. I am studying a bachelor of science in biotechnology and genetics with an aim of getting into research relating to bioremediation of climate change, though every time I think I know what I want to do it changes so that is definitely provisional. 

In episode 2 of TWiN someone said that electrons essentially move instantaneously, which obviously would mean moving at around, though under, the speed of light. This is not quite correct as electrons have mass and are therefore much slower than light in their general movements. The speed of electrical charge propagating through a wire is indeed quite fast, near but noticibly below the speed of light. The electrons themselves are much slower, moving at a speed nearer to a couple of cm/s. The way that the charge can move so much faster than the electrons is actually the same sort of process as with waves in water. The wave “moves” through the water, but what is actually happening is some water molecules are being pushed back and forth with the frequency of the wave and they pass the force on to the next in the line. Each water molecule moves back and forth around a specific point, drifting over time in one direction or another, but the waves can propagate much faster. 

A good visual aid for this is imagining pouring some dye in the water at a beach. The water will take up the dye, spreading it out over time, but the waves will keep moving through the dye, lifting and crashing it into the sand. The water that impacts the sand with the dye in it will do so a large number of times before the dye dissapates, but the waves that came in that time didn’t actually bring new water in any significant quantity, the waves just moved back and forth a bunch of times. 

Thanks again for a wonderful show, keep up the good work! 


Anthony writes:

Gee,I don’t get no respect!   I HAD the first letter! Should I, like Mendel, simply say “Meine Zeit wird schon kommen”? 

I do think that it’d be great if as a small regular feature in TWiN, there could be the debunking of Neuroscience used as a prop for pseudoscience — like the 2 examples in the original email below.  

In Freud on Madison Avenue


Lawrence R. Samuel reviews the Marketing world’s brush with Motivational Research that promised a direct route to the consumer mind.  Mostly malarkey — the best known is the subliminal suggestion experiment at a Fort Lee, NJ drive in with EAT POPCORN flashed on a screen.  This can be found mentioned in Psychology texts today, The only problem is that it most likely never happened. The experiment was claimed by the “researcher” in the hope of getting contracts from Advertising firms.  

My impression is that the new Neuromarketing is basically the old Motivational Research with a little recent terminology tossed in.  The oft mentioned “Reptile Brain” with its core of FEAR and GREED (a rewriting of Freud’s Super Ego and Id to reach those no longer impressed with Psychoanalysis?) is for Marketers what the Philosopher’s Stone was for an Alchemist — nonsense to peddle to those with more money than thinking ability.

Jeepers!  With the TwiXes flying in so fast now, a Red Queen phenomenon takes effect.  I have to listen more and more, just to keep falling behind.



Caitlin writes:

Dear TWiN Studies,

I win a prize? Yay! I didn’t expect that.

In my previous email, I was referring to how studies on gender and the brain are particularly vulnerable to Headline Syndrome. They tend to run one of three ways: 

1. Science proves every stereotype, every last one of ’em.

2. Science knows nothing about gender and the brain, NOTHING! It’s all a tissue of lies. 

3. Surrealism. Some things I have seen include the claim that that men think with grey matter and women think with white matter (I know there are differences in utilization, but come on), and some very extreme takes on the differences between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. My personal favourite, though, was the claim that babies do not develop a central nervous system until they are three years old, and until that time, their mother functions as their central nervous system (this being a task that only women can perform). The brain-linking ponytails from the movie Avatar come to mind. You don’t need to debunk that one; it’s solely for your entertainment.

A little sanity would be appreciated, or at least some better quality insanity. 

Yours thoughtfully,