Ken writes:

Greetings from Hong Kong (9C where it is normally 10C warmer and hotels don’t have heating).

Regarding the question of whether private data will end up in future training there is a setting to keep one’s data private. And it is private by default if you have a “team” membership (an extra $5/month).

Regarding ChatGPT and science “The Impact of Large Language Models on Scientific Discovery: a Preliminary Study using GPT-4” is a recent paper covering many scientific disciplines.

Regarding the TWIV discussion here’s how ChatGPT 4 summarized it:

This discussion revolves around the experiences and opinions of various individuals about ChatGPT-4, its implications in education, and its potential uses and limitations. The key points include:

Educational Implications: There’s a focus on how ChatGPT-4 can be integrated into classrooms. One speaker, who teaches writing-intensive classes, discussed how they explored the AI’s capabilities and adapted their teaching methods to accommodate it. They also emphasized the need to educate students about appropriately acknowledging the assistance received from AI tools like ChatGPT-4.

AI in Academic Integrity: Concerns were raised about students potentially using ChatGPT-4 to complete assignments, and the difficulty in detecting such usage since the responses generated are unique and not stored. There was a suggestion to require all documents produced by ChatGPT-4 to indicate they were AI-generated, though it was noted that this is unlikely to be implemented by the AI developers.

Practical Uses and Limitations: One speaker shared their experience using ChatGPT-4 for analyzing RNA-seq datasets, noting its capabilities and limitations based on the quality of prompts given. There was a discussion about the AI’s ability to generate coherent and varied outputs, and the importance of specific and clear prompts.

Data Privacy and Ethical Considerations: The discussion touched on concerns about feeding unpublished data into ChatGPT-4, as this data could then be used in generating responses for other users. The implications of this for data privacy and academic integrity were noted as potential risks.

Potential for AI to Advance: A few participants speculated about the future development of AI, discussing whether it could become conscious or sentient. Opinions varied, with some expressing skepticism and others considering it a possibility.

Classroom Strategies with AI: Ideas were shared about how to incorporate ChatGPT-4 in educational settings, such as using AI-generated essays as a basis for teaching editing and critical thinking skills.

Overall, the conversation reflects a mix of enthusiasm, caution, and curiosity about the evolving role of AI like ChatGPT-4 in education and research, with a focus on adapting to its presence rather than outright rejecting its use.



Christine writes:

Dear TWiVers,

While listening to Ep 1085, “When macrophages go to alimentary school” (clever, clever!), I suddenly remembered my late mother’s violent flu sicknesses incapacitating her once each winter between the ages of about 70 and 92. The flu really hit her hard – for a week or longer in bed with fever and various symptoms. I always thought those illnesses were odd.

Our family, both on her side and on my father’s side, is unusually healthy. I jokingly attribute my German parents’ health profile to the Thirty Years War when more than half of the population in the Palatinate region, where my father and half of my mother’s ancestors originated, died. Only the strong survived. My father fell asleep forever at 97. My mother lived to 92 and would still be alive if it weren’t for some reckless hikes she took that caused her to fall. My 25-year-old daughter has never taken antibiotics. She did have an ear infection once but we were in the woods in Quebec and she just suffered – briefly – through it; an evacuation was not necessary.

Speaking of antibiotics, my mother in her old age loved going to and socializing with her many charming doctors in Germany and requested prescriptions for antibiotics at every visit. I lived with her for a couple of years when she was 89 and 90 and she was on antibiotics most of the time. Why? She suffered from urinary tract infections and was convinced that she needed them. Her doctors prescribed them. Listening to the description you all gave of the connection between gut microbiota and relative immunity to influenza, I wondered whether my late mother’s overconsumption of antibiotics made her more vulnerable to the flu.

I love TWiV and recommend it often to the visitors at our branch of the Nashville Public Library where I work at the reference desk.

Best regards,


Nashville, Tennessee

Alexey writes:

Dear TWiV Team,

Your recent discussion of a new outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the UK has reminded me of a Mark Knopfler’s song “Hill Farmer’s Blues” from his 2002 solo album “The Ragpicker’s Dream”. The song reflects on some dire consequences of the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in the UK, when some farmers lost all their livestock and well-being, developed serious psychological problems and some even committed suicide: Here is an analysis of psychosocial effects: That outbreak is certainly an example of how a non-human, non-zoonotic virus can affect people and even indirectly cause human deaths.

Here is a concert version of the song, performed in Caen, France during Mark’s 2013 tour. In this live set, the song is preceded by a beautiful instrumental composition “Father and son” (from the soundtrack for the “Cal” movie, 1984):

And here is another Mark Knopfler’s instrumental piece about science (in this case, archaeology), which is simply called “This is science”, from the soundtrack for the “Altamira” movie (2016, in collaboration with a percussionist Evelyn Glennie):

Keep up your great work!



Zaharoula writes:

Hello TWiV Team,

At the beginning of episode 1087 you were discussing Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in ruminants. You mentioned that this does not occur in humans. This is actually incorrect as this disease has become almost a rite of passage in childhood and is usually caused by the nonpolio enteroviruses, including echoviruses and  coxsackieviruses.

Coxsackievirus A6 has been associated with some of the most recent atypical and severe exanthem presentations in children in the U.S. in recent years.

Please see the CDC Non-polio Enterovirus Outbreaks and Surveillance page and the RED Book (published by the AAP) for additional info.

Thank you all for great science discussions and all the superb education.



Anthony writes:

Happy Darwin Day!

About Darwin Day

# # #

Though I am a strong advocate for free thought on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against Christianity and theism produce hardly any effect on the public; and freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds, which follows from the advance of science. It has, therefore, always been my object to avoid writing on religion, and I have confined myself to science.

refusing permission for Edward B. Aveling to dedicate The Students’ Darwin to him; following Aveling’s own publication of the letter in 1897, it is sometimes incorrectly reported as a response to a request from Karl Marx to dedicate Das Kapital to Darwin

letter to Edward B. Aveling, 13 October 1880; in L. Feuer ‘Is the Darwin–Marx Correspondence Authentic?’ in Annals of Science vol. 32, 1975

# # #

And so is to be expected the attack on Science from those false prophets for whom religion is the forge for shackles?