Markus writes:

Dear TWiVvers

During this episode you referred a lot to boatloads several times and at one point even asked, how much this is. So here goes my theory.

Boatload is an euphemism for buttload. People avoid to say buttload because they think it refers to a human posterior. It does not. A butt is a standard size of barrel, equal to two hogsheads. The hogshead varied in size but today usually is taken to be 63 US gallons.

So a boatload is 106 gallons, or, much preferably to me, about 4 hektoliters / 0.4 m^3 hectoliter

Thanks for all you do, I enjoy your podcast, and very much the things surrounding the science. Never cut the banter.

All the best


Charles writes:

Hello TWiVers;

A wonderful 72 F in Chapel Hill this fine Sunday morning.

A couple of people that know me well have said I have an “obscure sense of humor”.  That sense of humor is what caused me to refer to TWiV 1031 as TWiV 2007.  It can all be explained with yet another Tom Lehrer song called New Math:

or I can just tell you that 1031 in base 10 is 2007 in base 8 and the song New Math does a math problem in base 8.  Or even shorter answer, I am a Tom Lehrer nerd and wanted to know if some of you were fellow travelers.  I bet some of your listeners have written in with the answer.  Please give a count on the next TWiV.



Anonymous writes:

Hello Dr. Racaniello,

I have been listening to your TWIV podcast since the beginning of the pandemic and I thoroughly enjoy all of the accurate scientific information that is presented by you and the team. I have an otherwise healthy 24-year-old daughter who was initially told that she had a positive test for HSV 2 taken from a lesion on her lip.  Now she is being told that she does not have HSV 2.  Her HMO  has been reluctant to refer her to an infectious disease specialist to explain and clarify her diagnosis.  This is very confusing and upsetting to her. Has all of the research around SARS-CoV-2  led to more research on HSV-2?  Is there a definitive test to test for HSV 2 and is there more research being conducted on cures or treatments for HSV-2 at this time?

Vr: Here is a good review:

HSV-2 testing is readily available, try another lab

Darach writes:

Vincent has elaborated a conception of viruses where, if I’ve got this right, the virion is just one stage of viral life and the infected host cell is another stage. Did I get that right? Sounds good to me, but there’s one implication and one comparison I was wondering if y’all could elaborate on.

Vincent and other hosts make a point to correct statements where authors report estimating viral load with a molecular assay of the genome, such as qPCR. I get the feeling that a plaque assay would be preferred by this crowd – but doesn’t a plaque assay just measure one part of the viral life cycle? Does “viral load” necessarily refer to infectious particles? Do infected cells count as viral load? Regardless – plainly reporting results in the context of the assay is critical for clear communication.

Second thing – I think I heard someone count the virus-infected cell (let’s say while it’s faithfully producing viable virions) as potentially being alive. Did I mishear that? I’m interested in this idea, in particular to wonder whether the viral-infected cell, let’s say it’s actively producing viable virions, is a living cell or a living virus, or both. So then is a mitochondria-infected cell a living organism? Are we chronically infected, perhaps even hijacked, by mitochondria? Mitochondria are often but not always clonal and asexual ( for exceptions consider yeast ) – are mitochondria alive??? Do we care ???

I appreciate the philosophical bent, amongst all the usual wonderful work yall do. Keep it up, you know why.


PS Re: the double-headed nanobody to target in the Fc-mediated functions reminds me of CAR T-cells. Are a lot of future therapies just going hotwiring the immune system to target whatever we want to clear? Neato.

PSS Looking for a long podcast? Try this 5 hour and 43 minute episode about aspartame !   

John writes:

Esteemed Drs TWiV,

After 1031, when you mentioned complaints that you’re engaging in politics, I had planned to write that it is not engaging in politics when a politician first comes into your wheelhouse and declares that something you know to be true, isn’t, and you defend accepted science.  I think you basically said the same thing in 1033.

But then I ran across this semi-related quote from the famous 19th century agnostic Robert Ingersoll, whose birthday was yesterday, and which seems to illustrate how things used to be:

“Now that science has attained its youth, and superstition is in its dotage, the trembling, palsied wreck says to the athlete: “Let us be friends.” It reminds me of the bargain the cock wished to make with the horse:   “Let us agree not to step on each other’s feet.” “

Mr. Ingersoll would be dismayed at the rooster’s tenacity now some 140yrs later, and with all of Science’s advancements in that interval, to boot.

Otherwise we came off of a high of 86F/30C here in Greater Braddock today that wasn’t that bad since the air kept moving.  Now 72F/22C this evening in the aftermath of a Tornado Watch and some scattered thunderstorms that only served to end the day’s bricklaying efforts prematurely.

And Vincent – I liked the blue/green/yellow background in 1031.



Jim writes:

Love the show, I’ve been a listener since 2020 and love learning about all kinds of viruses.With respect to the quote discussion on TWiV 1033 (concerning the quote about how you can’t use reason to get someone out of a position they didn’t use reason to get into), there are versions of this quote going back at least to Jonathan Swift in 1721, per .  That page also has many variations of this quote over the centuries, which at least to my eyes are slight re-wordings of the same sentiment.

Douglas writes:


This well written article by Bert Hubert is likely to make interesting reading to you and all Twivvers:

Thank you for your informative podcasts,



Matt writes:

Dear TWiV,

Apologies if this was already a pick, but I haven’t heard it mentioned, and it sure seems up your alley. The topic (and solution) will come as no surprise to regular listeners of the podcast, but I found it a good reminder that we could reduce the likelihood of pandemics by leaving habitat for these animals and their ecosystems.

Best regards,


PS It’s 68°F/20C and breezy this evening in Portland, OR