Sarah writes:

Hello TWiVsters,

Long time listener first time emailer…

In response to Bob’s letter on TWiV 437, about recent episodes being “boring” – I have to agree with the hosts, there is nothing boring about the in depth discussions of plaque assays! Anyone who has attempted a plaque assay has a story to share, and what’s the fun in science without some anecdotes from time to time. Working with virus isolation in cell culture, there is an art to our science. I myself am preparing to complete plaque assays on Dengue viruses and Zika virus, which typically take 6 days before isolating and plaque purifying. My plaque anecdote: I stain with neutral red and find sheltering the plates with a paper towel in the incubator to prevent exposure to light, the stain will hold its color for closer to two days. Speaking of plaque purification, I was a student in Dr. Rich Condit’s Advanced Virology course at UF in 2015, and my takeaway (and honestly my go-to answer in the exam) was to plaque purify to ensure isolation of the targeted mutation; and this must be repeated – one plaque purification is never enough, and no plaque purification is a waste (and on a Dr. Condit exam, an unacceptable answer).

Thanks for the weekly discussions on various aspects of virology, it’s good to think outside the capsid (or envelope depending on your virus of choice). I myself will be graduating this month with my PhD in Public Health will continue on at the University of Florida as a postdoc working with Zika virus. Currently, 24C and sunny, as is typical in Gainesville.

Tom writes:

Dear Vincent & Crew,

I just had to respond to the letter writer unhappy with TWiV 435 and its lively discussion of plaque assays.

As one of your “lay” (non-scientist) listeners, I found both the April 2nd TWiV  and the April 6th TWiM (episode 149) that discussed publishing via mSphere Direct, to be immensely interesting and enjoyable.

After listening to those two podcasts back-to-back I thought to myself, “Vincent just had a two-home-run game!”

The following week at Cornell, one of your side comments touched on the key to the TWiX success when you said that people learn more from a conversation than a lecture.

The things that make the TWiX podcasts great:

– the collegial environment in which the science is presented;

– the focus on the people doing the research, the people they learned from, and the people whose work they are extending;

– the hosts and guests tossing ideas around and asking interesting questions;

– not being afraid to say, “I don’t know” or “I don’t get” it so I don’t feel like quite such an ignoramus;

– and last but not least, discussing the weather. (I don’t dare pursue this last point for fear of triggering my Anthropology degree.)

I was blessed with endless curiosity and a crippling inability to do math, so I never pursued a career in science. Instead, I got into computers back in the mid-seventies, where they do the math for me.

And I follow science like a sports fan. Discovering your podcasts was like being invited to the pre- and post-game coaching sessions of a favorite team.

So, Vincent, I was pleased to hear you shrug off that writer’s complaint.   As Ricky Nelson (remember him?) sang in Garden Party, “You can’t please everyone; you’ve got to please yourself.”

– Tom in Austin

PS. Rich, I was glad you remembered that where we had lunch was named Threadgill’s. Janis Joplin would never have forgiven  you.

Bob writes:

I sent an email to the TWiVerse, which was listed and read during TWiV 437.  Vincent seemed surprised at my labelling several TWiV episodes “boring” (ones just prior to the Cornell panel podcast, which to my mind was an excellent podcast.)

He responded with the saying, “One person’s meat is another’s poison.”  I utterly agree, I probably phrased my email poorly.  I don’t expect the TWiV panel to entertain me, they have their own interests and agenda, and that is fine indeed.

If I may say, sometimes I find it hard to warm to episodes when they get into the weeds where with my limited knowledge of virology I am barely understanding what is being discussed.

In my opinion, it would be helpful if there were periodic “surfacings for air,” such as “we are discussing the details of …, which is important because … (10,000 meter view.)”

Naturally this is foreign to the TWiVers, used to gabbling with colleagues and students who are much more knowledgeable than us peons out here in the cold.

Thanks for putting up with my ignorance.


Stephen writes:

Hey Twiv crew!

The weather here in Fort Collins, Colorado in warm, over 70 F, though it’s much colder in the mountains where I was this morning and where you can find 4 or more feet of snow in places.

On today’s episode you read a letter about the word ‘bug.’ The writer posed the question, given that true bugs are members of the order Hemiptera, “how did the term bug become a stand-in for all insects?”

The answer: that question is the wrong. The wider use of the word bug can be traced back at least to the 16th century (when it then meant any arthropod (or stage of an arthropod) considered a pest—butterfly larvae were bugs, but not butterflies). The use of bug meaning Hemiptera rose centuries later, in the 18th century (unsurprisingly, only after Linnæus), thus post-dating words like ladybug (late 17th century) that refer to specific non-Hemiptera.

Where did this word bug come from? Etymologists aren’t certain, but it’s likely related to an earlier ‘bug’ meaning an evil creature, as in bugbear, itself likely related to words like bogeyman.

So in short, Vincent is completely justified in talking about a bug podcast.

In long (excuse me while I grab my soap box), scientists have a history of borrowing words from common English and redefining them. Those scientists acknowledged that they didn’t create the word (unlike insect). But today some assume these words originated with science and that the public is misusing them. Often, the public resists (as with bug) though sometimes they go along for the ride. Fun fact, ‘ape’ once referred to primates generally.

Thanks for your hard work,


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