Anthony writes:

Hi Twiv Team, 

Recently I came across a news article discussing how the second person to ever receive a heart transplant from a genetically modified pig died 2 months post-surgery. This got me curious as to why this would happen, as I am sure there are an abundance of reasons that could cause problems. A quick search noted the presence of certain pig viruses in the heart that may have caused issues in the patient. 

Do any of you have thoughts on this? Do we know of specific pig viruses that could survive and replicate within a human? Is it likely that a virus from a pig’s heart replicates within a human? Or would it be more of an immune response to residual virus in the pig’s heart, and not that the virus is actually replicating in the human? I suppose they would be on immune suppressants if they just received a transplant.

Since the Covid pandemic, it is abundantly clear that animal viruses can infect humans, but it seems like a fast turnaround directly from the pig to the human. 

Just thought this was an interesting topic that involved viruses. 

Love your show and the service you provide to the public. I don’t know of any other podcasts where I can learn about various science subjects and the origin of the term boatload. 



Ines writes:

Dear Vincent et al

I hope this email finds you well.

I am a big fan of your work.

I am a veterinarian by occupation, so naturally this topic is very interesting to me.

It was probably in TWiV #1049 when Dr Rich mentioned ‘what is sentience’?

It would be great if this topic could be further discussed. However, I don’t know if it would fit into TWiN or TWiEvo or neither.

Anyway, since Dr Rich expressed genuine curiosity about animal sentience, I wanted to share something with him.

In the UK, since about a year ago the law about animal welfare includes molluscs and crustaceans.

Here is a summary of evidence of sentience in those animals that was used to establish this new legislation;



Now, until all legislation related to these organisms is finalized (how to transport them, how to humanely end their lives, etc) not much changes for them. However, it might be a step in the right direction. I say might, because I remember hearing in one of your episodes about microscopic crustaceans in New York’s tap water and this upsetting a certain demographic for not being kosher !

How can we protect the sentience/ welfare of the organisms we can’t see, for ex zooplancton?

I think this is a first law of it’s kind, and perhaps they overlooked the fact that crustaceans and molluscs can be very tiny.


Please keep up the good work.

With kind regards and gratitude,


Diane writes:

Hello all,

Just wanted to weigh in on the poetry discussion. Please check out Jane Hirshfield. I believe she read at the March for Science. She trained as a Zen Buddhist and she has a passionate interest in science and her poems weave both together. Her poetry is just marvelous.

Also agree about Billy Collins. I enjoy his wordplay and gentle humor.

Thank you,



Joshua writes:

Vincent et al,

I’m helping to run a twice-monthly paper reading seminar at my job where I work in ecological restoration and education. Many of the folks I work with don’t have as much experience engaging with literature, and so I’d love it if you and the cohosts could give me some tips or resources to help new people get into scientific papers.

(And yes, I will tell them listening to TWIV is a great way to get into paper discussions)

All the best,


[see ]

Brian writes:

Dear Vincent & TWIV team,

After listening to the Excellence in Influenza TWIV from Baltimore, I think something of interest from the California Pacific coast may interest you. I tried to find Rafael Medina’s contact info, but came up short; I would have sent this to him as well.

2 months ago, August 19, we visited a small cove beach south of Muir Beach, in the Marin Headlands National Park. As shown in the photos below, two dead seals were present. Neither seemed wasted, nor had bad teeth. Later on, speaking with a ranger, he presumed they were hit by ship’s propellers. If so, they were remarkably undamaged.

We visited the cove two or three weeks later, and no evidence of seals remained. This is an area with significant wave activity; beaches themselves change a lot year to year.

Pictures of dead seals on the Pacific coasts of Peru, Chile, and Ecuador also show bodies otherwise robust and well-fed.

The Pacific’s strong tides pull inert objects all over. The South Pacific gyre pushes stuff into the South American coast. The North Pacific gyre rotates the other way, and drags stuff away from the North America coast. This may play a role in the presence of dead animals, favoring their deposition on South American coasts. If this or some other factors are at work, influenza infected North Pacific pinnipeds may be undersampled.

Thank you for your tireless, successful efforts in scientific education.


John writes:


A few epitopes ago – maybe 1049 – you touched on the question of re. life elsewhere.  I’m with you.  Yeah, probably but we’re never going to know. So much collective time wasted by mankind trying to understand stuff that we’ll never know the answer to, but no shortage of charismatic crackpots coming up with “answers”.

I was going to send you just that, but then happened on this and found myself in good company re. the last part, from the last para of a letter by Nicola Tesla in 1939, on how his fascination with electricity began (which started with an observation of static electricity on a dry day after stroking his beloved cat Macak):

I cannot exaggerate the effect of this marvellous night on my childish imagination. Day after day I have asked myself “what is electricity?” and found no answer. Eighty years have gone by since that time and I still ask the same question, unable to answer it. Some pseudo-scientist, of whom there are only too many, may tell you that he can, but do not believe him. If any of them know what it is, I would also know, and my chances are better than any of them, for my laboratory work and practical experience are more extensive, and my life covers three generations of scientific research.

The whole letter is reproduced here:

Cheers from a Greater Braddock now drying out from a soggy yesterday that probably passed by you in the middle of the night,


L writes:

New word for you: Ultracrepidarian

According to Merriam-Webster, an ultracrepidarian is, “one who is presumptuous and offers advice or opinions beyond one’s sphere of knowledge.” Basically, a know-it-all who actually knows nothing.

Craig writes:

I took Alan’s two suns over New England as a bit of a challenge to see if I could track it down.  I found a few things of interest.

Malcolm Gaskill (not to be confused with Malcolm Gladwell) says “Toward the end of 1646 two suns appeared over New England”.  so 1646 not 1649.

But Gaskill may have it wrong.  I found in Winthrop’s journal : “History of New England”, 1630-1649

by Winthrop, John; Hosmer, James Kendall, 1834-1927

for December 1645 

“15. 10. {December 15.)] There appeared about noon, upon the north side of the sun, a great part of a circle like a rainbow, with the horns reversed, and upon each side of the sun, east and west, a bright light. And about a month after were seen three suns, about the sun-setting ; and about a month after that two suns at sun-rising, the one continued close to the horizon, while the other (which was the true sun) arose about half an hour.”

It’s pretty clearly a strong sundog.  Something they would have seen from time to time but still remarkable.

I found a recording of a talk by Gaskill  and in particular at 

In response to an audience question he presents his view as Alan identified:

“the difficulty with some of these kind of present-centered explanations is that

 they might be right but they take us away I think from the mentality of the time, so in the book I don’t talk …

… I use the categories that people used at the time because I want to make sense of Witchcraft as witchcraft in their own

mentality whereas when one starts putting these other theories and although they’re very interesting they

can sometimes take us away from this contemporary way of viewing the world and put it very much into our way

of looking at things and the the difficulty that we have I think in the 21st century is looking back and trying

to understand witchcraft as witchcraft we always want to try and make it in something else…”

On the way to the 1645 discovery I found a reference to John Hull, and then “The diaries of John Hull, mint-master and treasurer of the colony of Massachusetts Bay, from the original manuscript in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society, with a memoir of the author. by Hull, John.

16th of 3d. Betwixt Milford and New Haven, there was seen two suns, for the space of half one hour, by sundry persons, about four o’clock in the afternoon; the one about a point of the compass southward of the true sun.” 

What year?  On the next page is a note of an eclipse on Aug 22.  But with the Julian/gregorian conversion this would have been Sep 1, 1663, and be

And the preceding page 207 does say 1663, so the two suns would have been March 16, 1663 Julian = March 26 Gregorian.

Not the event Gaskill noted, but interesting.



John writes:

Vincent and TWIV team,

In last week’s show, which centered on the infection of white-tailed deer in Ohio, Dickson mentioned doing an experiment where deer would be tranquilized and examined in an isolated environment, in order to determine how SARS-CoV-2 spreads in wildlife in a more controlled way.

There is an interesting paper, published in December that looks at deer from Staten Island. Because deer would have some difficulty getting on and off the island, although not impossible being there are bridges and deer swim, an infected population on an island would, at least in principle be interacting in a more controlled geographic space.

The paper looks at the distribution. alpha, delta and omicron variants in tranquilized, not harvested deer from across the island. Active infections were also found.

Although limited in numbers, paired nasopharyngeal swabs and blood samples were collected and analyzed for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA and antibodies. Of 135 serum samples, 19 (14.1%) indicated SARS-CoV-2 exposure, and 11 reacted most strongly to the wild-type B.1 lineage. Of the 71 swabs, 8 were positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA (4 Omicron and 4 Delta). Two of the animals had active infections and robust neutralizing antibodies, revealing evidence of reinfection or early seroconversion in deer.

Thanks for all your great work—

Stay well,


Charmaine writes:

Here is my submittal for a pick:

Petition for National Science Appreciation Day ScienceSaves

Stand with #ScienceSaves today and tell your governor you want March 26, 2024, designated National Science Appre…

    Thanks for your consideration,

    – Charmaine

      Walnut Creek, CA

Peter writes:


This article will interest you if you have not seen it yet and could be a “Listener’s Pick”:

Thank you for the interesting podcasts.