Steve writes:

Interesting paper on Viral DNA, the type that makes you sick, well, sort of.

Hello my industrious TwivMasters,

The link that you find below is a paper from U Washington which discusses the creation of an actual code, written in in the language of nucleotides, for a computer virus, dressed up and disguised as a DNA molecule. If this whole concept doesn’t mess with your head then you are obviously not thinking deeply enough. 😉

The fortunate thing, my guess, is it probably does not replicate well in vivo, but then your DNA sequencer may not exactly appreciate your playing with such sequences anyway.

Thank goodness that DNA sequencers have not yet become self aware, as their seeing their masters simply trying to shut them down via a set of deliberate DNA sequences, they might have rogue thoughts with dire consequences to your lab, reminiscent of SkyNet. Please tell me your DNA sequencers have not yet incorporated AI, as to aid them in performing their work-flow just yet.

I’m just a computer scientist, but when I saw this I thought you could use a laugh or two. Keep up the great podcast! Keep your sequencers running safe.

John writes:

Dear Vincent,

I started listening to the Twix series of podcasts about 4 months ago and wanted to write in to say a big “thank you” for all the work that you and the rest of the Tweamsters have put into Twix.

I’m currently working as a consumer healthcare rep and have had my days livened up by fantastic discussions of news, studies, and clinicals.

I was blessed to begin my career in the Villas-Boas lab at the School of Biological Sciences at The University of Auckland from the age of 19. Check out the lab if you get a chance, Dr Silas Villas-Boas leads a metabolomics group with an emphasis on fungal secondary metabolites among other areas. I’d highly recommend his lab to anyone with an interest in pursuing microbial metabolomics at a graduate or postgraduate level, he is a great supervisor with lots of industry knowledge, focus, and contacts.

Life intervened in such a way that I lost my passion for science towards the end of my bachelors in Biology/Statistics (emphasis on Microbiology). Long story short I encountered difficulties in reconciling the traditional values I had been brought up with and the fact that I lived in the 21st century. It’s all fine now, it required a few years to understand but life is much better now.

Recently that passion has come back in a greater, more mature, and sincere way. I must credit the entire Twix team for this. I started on Twiv, then went to Twim, then Twip,  then Twievo, and now I don’t know how I will be able to catch up.

I don’t know where my career will go from here but I can say you all helped rekindle a love I thought long gone. Sorry for the long-winded email and thank you for all your hard work. Twix is as viral as ever, may your exponential growth phase be forever like that of a continuous chemostat culture.

Best Regards,

John Boikov (from Melbourne, Australia)

P.S. Nearly forgot, I’m sitting in Hong Kong airport where it’s a balmy 28 degrees C outside with 79% humidity. I suspect conditions inside the airport are closer to 22 degrees C and very little humidity due to a massive air conditioning effort.

Jeffrey writes:

Dear TWiV crew,

Podcasts may not be Facebook, but that doesn’t stop you all (other TWiX series included) from being my favourite Nerds of Trust.

Sad to see though that controversial topics on Facebook include “climate change, vaccines, evolution, genetically modified organisms”. Good to see that they aren’t so controversial on TWiV.

Incidentally, it’s fun to see that there’s a lauded, and quite scientifically-minded, column and cookbook called The Food Lab written by none other than Fred Alt’s son. A step past Blue Apron though, unfortunately, you do need to dig up the ingredients yourself.

Keep up with the outreach,

Jeff from CanadaLand

Steve writes:

Phages inserted in E. coli genome promote haemorrhage with antibiotics (?)

Hi Vincent et al,

A tragic story from Promed Mail highlights a virus/bacteria/antibiotics interaction that I don’t recall hearing about before. Certainly a terrible blow to clinicians trying to do their best to save patients, to find that a logical decision to give antibiotics to sick children can actually set off this dreadful haemorrhagic process.

Perhaps you could usefully discuss what is known about the mechanisms behind this in one of your podcasts.


Steve Hawkins




Anthony writes:

Joel Clement, says the Trump administration is threatening public health and safety by trying to silence scientists

Washington Post

Ricardo writes:

Hello Vincent, have you seen this?

Ricardo Magalhães

Anonymous writes:

TWiVirions: I look forward to the upcoming episode from Montana—I hope you have a great trip.

I really enjoyed the recent series on antiviral RNAi, especially the comments from Drs. Sullivan and TenOever.

You mentioned that Victor Ambros was not among the 2006 Nobel laureates (for RNAi), so I wanted to point out that it would be difficult to justify including him but not Gary Ruvkun, his long-time collaborator and co-discoverer of microRNAs. They were studying timing in worms—another example of serendipitous fundamental discovery arising from purely curiosity-driven research.

Ambros and Ruvkun were awarded the Lasker together with Sir David Baulcombe, who will lead the newly announced Cambridge Centre for Crop Science:

Speaking of plants and RNAi, listeners who recall the Voinnet saga may be interested in a related editorial that accompanies a recently published paper:

John writes:

Ye TWiV,

Happy to have a good reason to write in again. The weather in SoHo, New York, is much the same, I imagine, as it is up at Columbia today–29C, sunny.

I heard your conversation on this past week’s TWiV (452) regarding Magainins and their discovery in frogs. This caught my ear as I’ve known about Magainins since long before I even knew what a PhD was, let alone had one. My pediatrician told me about them when I was about eight years old, specifically because he thought they were interesting, and because I speak Hebrew. Magainins were named for the Hebrew word for “shield,” and I thought you and the TWiV audience would be interested in hearing that.

In English it’s usually rendered as “magen,” so “magennins” would be more in line with what I’d expect, but “magainins” is the spelling we have. “Magen” is also used in “Magen David,” which is often mistranslated as “Star of David,” but in fact means literally “shield of David.” Today, it’s more often called the “Jewish star.” “Magen” comes from the same Hebrew root that gives us “haganah,” or “defense.”

The point being that “magainins,” because of their origin in the word “magen,” are essentially also named defensins–they just happen to be named that in Hebrew.

The last time I wrote you, I had just finished my PhD and was on the hunt for a job. Shortly after that, I became a full time science communicator as a Medical Writer, helping pharmaceutical companies provide fair and balanced educational and medical science communications regarding their products. It’s the sort of career that I was considering when we did TWiV 324, and I must say that I would highly recommend it to any young scientist who wants to stay close to the data but also wants to be in a communications-related scientific role.

At present, I mentor a variety of postdocs and students who are interested in transitioning to the field, and would be happy to speak to anyone else you or the rest of the TWiV hosts may know who might be looking for a description of the field.)

Best, and thanks for all you do,

John Skylar/Leighland Feinman

Bryan writes:

Hello TWIVarium!

“Long time listener first time writer.” In the suburbs of DC it’s a sticky 29° C. In regards to your recent mentions of predatory journals, I was wondering if you all had seen this story posted to Science Alert. ( )

Amusing to say the least.

Please keep up the good work with the TWI* podcasts.

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