Christophe writes:

Hello Vincent et al.

Funny how you can feel like you know people you have never met. Although perhaps not so strange after listening to them speak for literally hundreds of hours.

Vincent likes to explore the demographic of his audience so here is a quick bio.

44 years old, born and raised in Australia but now living in Canada for the last ten years. No science training but have always been interested in science, technology, history, art and philosophy (in no particular order). I am a Web designer and I work in Toronto.

I first discovered TWIP while searching iTunes for a science podcast, then through that TWiV and TWiM. I started at episode 1 and have now after many, many months, have caught up to both TWiP, TWiV and TWiM.

Some of the discussions are too technical for me but i would rather listen to experts discuss something i occasionally don’t understand than have you guys dumb it down.

The banter is welcome (even the occasional heavy breathing by Dickson) Feel free to lose yourself in digressions on lawn mowers, boats and weather patterns whenever you like. The unforced friendly camaraderie is half the appeal i think.

Now on to what made me write now. Apart from finally getting up to date i thought i would share a recent small “WTF” moment.

I have always thought homeopathy was ridiculous and am constantly trying to gently convince some of my otherwise intelligent friends and family just why it makes no logical sense – even without looking at clinical trials, it fails basic plausibility. With little result. I am just branded the cynic/sceptic/closed minded curmudgeon. A lot of my friends are anti-establishment types and while intelligent they tend to conspiracy and woo.

Anyway, i thought i would share this face palm moment. I got into a “discussion” on Facebook about vaccination – after a bit of back and forth (original post was anti-vac, then i countered etc) i stopped trying when a third person posted this: “I’ve left this decision (Vaccination) to my children so they can make their own informed choice.” Right… So once they are 18 they can choose to get vaccinated for a childhood disease? Sigh.

P.S. I just finished reading Dan Brown’s latest book, Inferno. Unfortunately not a great book. I had enjoyed the earlier ones but this one seemed phoned in and formulaic. Without getting into detail that might be considered a spoiler what makes it relevant here is around chapter 100 one of the characters mentions Fouchier’s H5N1 ferret apocalypse 🙂

Okay this letter started more than a month ago. Would just like to give a listener pick, a weekly podcast by Dr Karl Kruszelnicki.

“Dr Karl has degrees in Physics and Maths, Biomedical Engineering, Medicine and Surgery and has worked as a physicist, tutor, film-maker, car mechanic, labourer, and as a medical doctor at the Kids’ Hospital in Sydney.”

He co-hosts a weekly call in show on Australian radio and answers listeners questions about pretty much anything and everything with good humour and is always promoting the scientific method. He occasionally gets things wrong but is cheerfully upfront when called on it and corrects himself.

Sorry for the rambling email and thanks for the great podcasts.

P.P.S. I have taken so long to write this that the temp has gone from 2C and overcast to 30C and sunny.



Tom writes:

Hello again to the TWIV-hood:

The TWIV 242 Letters section inspired some excellent comments from Alan about science journalism and the challenge of finding a way to make it pay.

One of my ‘net-savvy relatives is a fan of Zynga games on Facebook. These games generally include two types of in-game money for purchasing in-game items: one type is earned by playing the game; the other type is purchased on-line with real-world money.

This has a tendency to create two classes within the game: the rich players and everybody else. Since the best features and items are often only accessible with the purchased in-game money, this can be a disincentive to playing the game.

Zynga has recently come up with what I consider a brilliant solution to this problem. Players can earn “money” money by choosing to open short in-game advertising videos.

This is a win-win for everybody: the advertiser gets your eyes and pays Zynga, Zynga gets income to stay in business, and players get access to all the game features.

Alan, you said that everybody wants free content and hates ads. Imagine one of those publication sites behind pay walls offering non-subscribing visitors access to a given paper if they first agree to watch an advertisement.

There’s an interesting psychological switch getting flipped here. If I click a link and see an ad pop up in my face before I get where I want to go, I hate it. If the site first politely asks me to help earn them income by watching the same ad, and then they’ll show me the content, I feel altruistic and don’t mind at all. I’m “contributing” without having to pay any money.

Maybe something like this will catch on in support of on-line journalism. Heck, Vincent could easily put an ad on the TWIV site with a “Click here to earn money for TWIV” label and folks wouldn’t mind helping cover TWIV production costs.

(Side note: I suspect there are any number of ongoing studies of psychological addiction focusing on Zynga games. They’re not only conceptual viruses, they’re constantly evolving to become even more addictive.)

– Tom in Austin

P.S. When you find out if/where/when you’re going to be doing a TWIV in Austin this October, please post it somewhere on the TWIV site. I’d like to attend if at all possible.

Adam writes:

Hello! I’m a relatively new TWiV fan, but I’m definitely hooked now. (547.47° R, 304.15° K, 31° C, 88° F with partly cloudy skies here in Southern Michigan) In TWiV 241, you discussed the potential use of stalk-specific antibody delivery via AAV vectors in the development of an Influenza vaccine. As you mentioned, this is a permanent change, the long-term effects of which are not known to any appreciable extent. Of course, stalk-specific vaccines are a major area of research, and a recent letter published in Nature a group described a nanoparticle-based approach that seems to have quite a bit of promise with regards to the induction of broad-based immunity. I’ve attached a link to the article, which, unfortunately, is behind a paywall. Oh, and I’m including a link to a Facebook page I found called “Virology Fact of The Day” that posts fairly interesting stuff on a High School bio to undergrad level. (Not sure if this counts as a listener pick.)

Nanoparticle Flu vaccine article:

Facebook page:!/VirologyFactOfTheDay

Bruna writes:

Hey there!

I’m a young Virologist from Brazil. I’m finishing my Master degree at University of Brasilia. I’m looking for a PhD opportunity in the US. I already have funding (from Science without Borders) what I need is someone who accept me. I would like to know if you guys have some clues about any group working on: infectious clone, plant as expression system, plant biotechnology, interactions between plants and viruses. It could be really extensive, I know… So I’ll tell what I’m doing in my Master maybe it could help. I’ve constructed an infectious clone of a Tobamovirus and now I’ve modified it to display peptides.

I hope you can help me!

Best regards,

Deborah writes:

Hello Vincent, Dick and Rich!

Writing from Scotland here, where we have actually had some warm (at least for us!) weather, at 19 degrees Celsius, and sunshine! Not typical of the upcoming season but taking advantage nonetheless.

I recently graduated with Honours in Virology from Glasgow University, where I started listening to TWIV in my third year. (Vincent, only found out afterwards you were at the Centre for Virus Research hosting an episode, wished I could have snuck in!) It was refreshing to listen to discussions/debates about viruses as well as associated topics with other guests when taking a break from journals and textbooks! Unfortunately I have not been keeping up with listening since leaving university a couple of months ago, but intend to catch up and keep reading related material before pursuing postgrad study next year. Which brings me to my main question. I am currently reading a TWIV pick, “Ignorance, How it drives Science”, and would really like a good book covering the history of microbial diseases and pandemic events (not just influenza). I have come across one or two but find they are more written for the layperson and wondered if you could recommend any more detailed works.

Hope you can suggest a good pick and keep TWIV-ing!

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