16 June, 2021 – Episode 829 – Why Are Bats Disease Vectors?


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What is in the This Week in Science Podcast?

This Week: Whirling Filaments, Mouse Free, Healthy Hops, Plastic Microbes, Swiss Bats, Interview w/ Drs. Angelique Corthals, Liliana Davalos, & Diana Moreno Santillàn RE:Bat Immunity Genetics, Underwater Archaeology, Bird Song Translator, Pain And Vitamins, And Much More…

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Disclaimer, Disclaimer, Disclaimer!!!

Jon Stewart recently went on the late show with Steven Colbert and suggested COVID-19 had escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China.

And that might be true. It’s possible for that to have happened.
Things like that have happened before.
Because even a level 4 Biosafety lab is only as safe as its weakest followed protocol.
Also, it happens to be located in a country without a free press where the government controls information like an authoritarian cheerleader mom with next level deepfake skills.
Also, it might not have.
The Spanish flu of 1918 most likely started on a farm in Kansas. It just got identified in Spain.
But, Jon isn’t anti-farm, in fact he has one!
One of the reasons there are often emerging novel corona viruses from east Asia is not because east Asia has an inordinate amount of labs…
It is because that is where 1 out of 5 humans live…
Greater numbers of humans, denser urban areas, leads to a higher number of novel pathogens
Add in a temperate environment with some help from global warming,
another thing science is trying to save you from,
and you have nearly constant conditions conducive to transmission.
There are many thousands of Coronaviruses in east Asian animal reservoirs,
Which is why studying them is so important!
And, yes there is a lab that studies them in Wuhan, a city with 2.5 million more people than New York City…
And, yeah, maybe they should put labs like that out in the country near say, a farm in rural new jersey, to keep them better isolated from greater humanity.

But what’s worse…
Jon blamed science for covid-19…
saying the pandemic was “more than likely caused by science.”
Anti science talk like that is hurting America
It’s why we can’t get meaningful action on global warming.
It’s why we relied on Russian rockets to go to space for a decade.
It’s why the pandemic hit the United States so hard.
And, it’s why it isn’t done spreading.
SO stop…
Stop hurting America.

Think of what halting all research on viruses would even look like?
We knocked out Hib, small pox, chicken pox, measles, mumps, rubella, and polio.
Remember polio, Jon?
No, because you didn’t have to live through it.
But, the people who did were losing their children to these diseases.
So they fought back… with science.
What about AIDS? Should we end all AIDS research?
It’s a race for a cure not a run from the research…

And yes, working with pathogenic viruses is very dangerous.
The front line researchers who study them know this all to well.
There is a constant risk that a pathogen will escape containment despite the multiple layers of precautions that are in place…
And they occasionally fall ill from the very thing they are studying.
It’s dangerous work scientists do while responding to these threats.
But, these are caring people who want to keep the experiment of humanity viable.

And, next time you want to blame science for something,
Look no further than
This Week in Science,
Coming up next…

Let’s start with the science news

Whirling Filaments
Massive filaments that crisscross the universe… spin.

Mouse free study titles get reported as human
This is not confusing at all.

Hops are good for your liver…
In mice.

Plastic Microbes
A new method modifies E. coli bacteria to turn PET plastics into a compound you might recognize called vanillin.

Swiss bats have diverse viruses
This means there is a lot of viral mixing.


And, now for our Interview!

Tonight we are speaking with W/ Drs. Angelique Corthals, Liliana Davalos, & Diana Moreno Santillán about their new paper investigating the genetics of bat immunity.

Dr. Corthals is a biomedical researcher and biological/forensic anthropologist at CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Dr. Dávalos is Professor of Conservation Biology at Stony Brook University’s Department of Ecology and Evolution. And, Dr. Moreno Santillàn is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Texas Tech University.


What did Justin bring for us?

Underwater archeology
Obsidian tools found in Lake Huron originated from a quarry in Oregon… over 2000 miles away. They provide support for cross-continental trade routes of ancient Americans.

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Let’s finish TWIS strong with science from Dr. Kiki!

Song Translator
What does it take to turn brain activity into a song?

Pain And Vitamins
A new study finds a very clear link between Vitamin D and opioid addiction… in mice. It’s an interesting story with potential for therapeutic uses.

This Week in Science Questions!

Do you have questions that you want us to answer? Send us your questions! We will do our best to have answers!

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Want to see what we were talking about at this time last year? Check out this episode of TWIS from 2020 when Dr. Kiki was joined by lizard lassoer, Earyn McGee! We discussed lizards, life, and of course… science.

You might also enjoy this episode from 2011! We contemplated how water vapor is shot into the universe by jets from young stars, mice being cured of depression with ketamine (this was an early study leading to the human therapy that is growing now!), AND the inheritance of promiscuity in zebra finches. What a coincidence that zebra finches were featured in episodes EXACTLY a decade apart. Enjoy the blast from the past!

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