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Thursday, July 30, 2015 - 08:54 PM

Megavirus (Photo Credit: Wikimedia)
The definition of life is in flux, complexity is overrated, and humans are shrinking.

Viruses are supposed to be sleek, pared-down, dead-eyed machines. But when one microbiologist stumbled upon a GIANT virus, hundreds of times bigger than any seen before, all that went out the window.  The discovery opened the door not only to a new cast of microscopic characters with names like Mimivirus, Mamavirus, and Megavirus, but also to basic questions: How did we miss these until now? Have they been around since the beginning? What if evolution could go … backwards?

Join Jad and Robert as they grill Radiolab regular Carl Zimmer on these paradoxical viruses – they’re so big that they can get their own viruses! - and what they can tell us about the nature of life. 



Carl Zimmer


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Comments [74]

Azzanine from AUS

These guys don't know how evolution works do they... It's pure random mutation and permutation via the breeding of survivors. Being filtered out by the unthinking sluice of the natural world. You don't choose the parasitic way of life you aquire that trait outside of your volition or your species choosing. If there's a niche that lets you innately exploit the environment you have been filtered out by the natural world.

Pariciteism is only good in an environment where hosts are doing good and have traits and behaviors that help parasites (like social cohesion and a lack of hygienic perception). If those conditions are present and you are an organism who gets parasitic traits, well lucky you you get to live and breed.

I guess we think like this because we are on the cusp of being able to control our own genetics, so evolution feels like choice. However this too was a result of natural "selection" or filtering of changing environments. We ended up with a bunch of weird fused up alleles which may have caused us problems but came with advantages, one being our brains capacity to think up things like CRISPR.

Nov. 18 2017 06:28 AM
Francisco from Boston

Viruses are not living systems. They lack metabolic networks and they cannot generate their own components. Both conditions are necessary for a system to belong to the class of living systems, as we know them on earth.

Jul. 12 2017 11:05 AM
Ryan Winstead from San Francisco StateUniversity

My name is Ryan Winstead. Im a microbiology major at San Francisco State University.
A new and very great show on HBOGO called West World has a quote relating where Dr. Ford says "this is how good as it gets" when referring to human evolution because they(in there future time period) have cured every disease and every disability. At what point are humans going to shrink to nothing and can only rely on our brain to help us build tools to conquer nature.
Like your analogy of vitamin C- with the same logic, given the medical advancements that are arising, isn't it possible that one day humans can lose parts, for example lets say the heart. If we are at a point where we can build our own hearts does our body need to waste energy creating one? Will the need to have a body go away?
Thanks guys. I love the podcast.

Dec. 14 2016 09:27 AM
Gabe L from Cambridge, MA

I'm wondering if one reason why these "independent" living things "chose" to become viruses, is because that was the the best way to survive because if they hadn't, they would die out because, either they didn't have food that they themselves could obtain, or because the food they could obtain was not digestible by them, so they needed a host, to break down the food for them. Or they lived in harsh times and didn't have the energy to obtain/digest the food.

Also, as an analogy, Agent Smith (and of course others before him), from the Matrix, put it well. He said humans are like viruses. They take over one spot and deplete it of its natural resources and then move on, much like the mansion analogy in the podcast.

So Robert, as much as you would like to think that viruses are terrible, humans are no better.

Think about how "independent" you are: you live off of the planet. You depend on it. In fact, you depend on all the work other humans have put in. You buy processed food, and drive in cars, on roads, towards buildings that others have made.


Regarding the size, why they became small rather than big, it goes back to my first point, about not having the energy. Being small has many advantages. You are more efficient as compared to something big, and you need fewer resources. On top of that, because they became small and are now in the 10^31 range, they outnumber many other living things, and are therefore much stronger.

So being smaller has made them much stronger. So Carl put it best, nature proves Robert wrong.

Nov. 08 2016 09:47 AM
Steve from Houston, Texas

Robert is Cool.

May. 11 2016 07:09 PM

Just as a thought. Would it be possible to list the music played throughout each segment? Well we know it's possible. Would you mind doing it? I know I usually go looking up everything you reference in your stories, often the missing piece is the music. Which just feels icky!

Apr. 22 2016 06:25 PM

What is the music at the end of this episode?

Feb. 22 2016 10:07 AM

Why was there no mention of the origin of mitochondria and other eukaryotic organelles? What's the difference between these symbiotic entities and the giant viruses under discussion?

Dec. 14 2015 02:51 PM
Robert Evans from Needham, MA

Please do bring back the edits

Dec. 14 2015 01:06 PM
Sarah from Massachusetts

Where the flip is the clean version of this so I can have my students listen to it?? (I think it's funny that I can't use the grown-up version of flip in my comments....)

Nov. 11 2015 07:34 AM
mgp from Baltimore,MD

Enjoyed this podcast, guys. Thanks. I had never heard of these viruses before. Two quick things I'd like to point out: for this episode and any future discussions involving evolution, it's really important to keep our natural inclination to say "why would an organism want to do that?" in check. Outside of artificial selection done by humans, organisms don't ever evolve a trait because they want to. For example, to lose their ability to make ATP in a process of becoming a parasitic megavirus is not a choice to forfeit their independence.
The process is always the same: a change in the genes randomly happens, this change bestows some sort of difference in phenotype (sometimes), this difference is successful (sometimes) in terms of survival and being passed on to subsequent generations, it continues to be passed on and becomes more common. As soon as the phenotype is not an advantage, it is selected out. Choice is absent in the process.
Another point that this podcast touched on,which could be a fascinating podcast in and of itself, is that there are plenty of examples of organisms losing traits that were advatageous to their ancestors. This episode mentions how humans lost our ability to synthesize vitamin C as an example. Also consider traits like the cave dwelling amphibians that have no eyes or how the ostrich does not fly. Again, these "losses" are not by choice, but a random change that happened without any selective consequence. With humans, Jared Diamond's book, Collapse, highlights several examples of how different human cultures gave up different technological or cultural advances, like naval technology, which could really have been an advantage to hold on to.

Oct. 18 2015 03:51 PM
Jason from Australia

Jad possesses a keen intuition in this episode. He generates great questions during conversations that go back and forth with the interviewee like a great tennis match. Robert is like the pest that interrupts the game. Maybe he'd be more of a player in episodes on history and law? Maybe he'd stop employing silly antics if the topic was more apt to his background?

Oct. 08 2015 09:16 PM
Mystery Owl from Portland

Is the old man, Robert, drunk? Calling the guest an asshole, even if you are joking, is unacceptable. Trying to be funny and just being annoying is unlistenable. Stop doing voices and trying to get laughs with junior high level humor and stick to the story. That is what is interesting and why people listen.

Oct. 04 2015 09:23 PM
Dennis Vaccaro, Ph.D. from Wellesley

Two comments for Robert. Yes, plants can become animals and vice versa, I earned a MS degree many years ago studying one of these microbes. We were trying to learn how metabolism is controlled in these organisms as a simple developmental system. Here is the link to the paper (

I believe that so called parasites are the greatest hope for disease therapy in medicine right now. They can make and deliver drugs at the appropriate site in the body to treat disease. Here is the paper I wrote some time ago on the topic (

Oct. 04 2015 10:21 AM
Alex Olivera from Florida

What was being said towards the end of the podcast about things getting smaller and smaller and would humans ever do this. There is idea called the "Transcension Hypothesis" for simplicity it basically states that technologically advanced species instead of trying to go outerspace for progress they go into innerspace or to the microscopic level. This is a theory that tries to explain something called the the Fermi Paradox. Joe Silva from Brain Games explains this whole thing a lot better. I think this would be a great topic to get into or even correlate with the "Shrink" episode.

Heres the link to the transcension theory.

Sep. 26 2015 06:34 PM
Ryan scanlon from New Hampshire

I find this episode like many other episodes engaging and the personification in microbiology helps me understand the subject more while also keeping my attention and retention high instead of a strictly lecture based podcast. I enjoy the duality of science and entertainment. Haters gonna hate @ Robert

Sep. 25 2015 12:23 PM
Chrissy from Atlanta, GA

Hi Radiolab!

I'm a middle school science teacher and I LOVE your podcast. I love to bring in topics I heard from Radiolab into my class, and this episode in particular is perfect! We just finished a discussion (and debate) on what is life with the virus as our case study. I would really love to provide this podcast as an extra source of information for my students but I would really appreciate it if you would provided a "bleeped" version of your podcasts.

Please consider this courtesy. I know other podcasts offer both versions, and you would be able to reach a wider audience with both kid friendly and adult podcasts.

Thank you! I value what you do, and your podcasts are always so thought provoking, educational, and well done.

Sep. 14 2015 06:18 PM
Linda from St. Louis, MO

Terrific show! Love how you guys always take science and explain it so that those who haven't taken Microbiology, Chemistry, etc...can relate.
Would LOVE to hear more on similar topics.

And as for those who might want to criticize Robert? They simply don't get, or rather don't appreciate your podcast format of good cop/bad cop. Hehehe.

Sep. 12 2015 11:15 PM
Tiffiny Wine from Denver

I'd like to point out to Robert that we actually are parasites on this planet. Europe had over fished all its rivers and streams and deforested all its forests by the 1500s helping to spur colonization and expansion. Look into the history of our agriculture and you will find people overfarming prairies and deforested lands until they were no longer productive and moving on to the next farm... Lincoln came from a family that did this.

We continue to overfish our seas, deplete our soils, mine and exploit all the resources on this planet without any consideration to our own population growth which is exponentially growing. We've come up with chemicals and artificial ecosystem-destroying and often carcinogenic technologies in an effort to keep producing, but considering these options are put in place with the sole purpose of making certain companies rich rather then keeping the ecosystem, our host, intact and healthy, I doubt this can go on forever.

Once upon a time we woke up inside that mansion. Yes we had to hunt and fish for our food but still the average indigenous person only spent about 17 hours per week working toward survival, while we spend more than 40-50 in this country. The land was the mansion. We destroyed it, putrefied it. The next mansion down was the Americas. We have no place to go after this, unless we figure out the whole Mars thing after all.

Look at any city, at the factories, landfills, dirty rivers and polluted dead zones of our oceans, and tell me we aren't doing exactly what you describe.

"You can be blind, dumb, fat and destructive... gosh, I'm so excited". When you said this it sounded to me like many an average American.

On the other hand, I love listening to both your guys' comments. It added humor that Robert sees viruses so negatively, and I wouldn't listen to radio lab in the first place if I didn't love to hear both your comments and ideas.

Sep. 07 2015 06:11 PM
Dustin from Oakland CA

Wanted to say that I'm big fan of the show, and thought that this episode was super interesting. I like the editing that you all do in the show but it was also kinda cool to listen to it mostly untouched. I do have one suggestion though, I find (and I don't think I'm alone) that when you guys personify things it gets a bit annoying. It seems like it happens a lot and I think it really distracts from what the topic is. For example in the episode when you use the analogy of Bear Grylls off in the wilderness and stumbles upon a house with everything he needs to explain why these virus factories might have started taking over cells seems super distracting in my opinion. Even with that said though, I have really enjoyed all the stories that I have listened to for the last 2 years or so, keep it up! On a side note, who is the artist with music at the very end of this episode?

Sep. 07 2015 04:37 PM

Awesome episode. Would definitely love to hear another radiolab on viruses as long as Robert doesn't pick on viruses the whole time.

Aug. 30 2015 10:36 PM

While the topic itself was interesting, and I typically enjoy unedited conversational podcasts, hearing Robert's constant interjections made me consider turning it off several times. He's not funny, patronizing, often off-point, and only serves to slow down the story. Even when the podcast is tightly edited, Robert's comments are cringe-worthy in how lame and patronizing they are (if anyone were to ever laugh at his jokes, it must be a child). This episode scared me by showing that this is actually how this guy regularly talks. Unbearable.

I don't mean to be cruel, but I really do think that the podcast is tremendously better without Robert. This episode now makes me instantly cringe at the sound of Robert's voice.

Aug. 25 2015 04:18 PM
Erik from SF

Great episode! And contrary to the sournerds I really enjoy Roberts' care packages--he fences in the conversation well. I also love the raw cut, and the hilarious amendments thereafter. Since there's typically only a show a week I'd love to be have access somehow to an early release of the unedited version--I'd listen to them both!

Aug. 21 2015 02:18 PM
AJ from Cali

@12:56 How annoying is that?! Robert please stop.. so unpleasant to hear

Aug. 20 2015 11:23 AM

Well, I liked it.

I follow what's new in virology elsewhere (TWIV,, where the paradigm is different. Dear Critics: you're listening to a Radio Show. The presenters know the differences between science and dramatic effect. They're using "compelling storytelling". As has been said, lighten up.

Thanks guys, for another enjoyable episode.

Aug. 19 2015 05:00 PM

This episode (terrific) left me craving more information about viruses generally. Perhaps an episode that highlights them in both their biological and electronic forms?

Also I agree with those other commentors who criticize Robert's participation in this conversation. Both here and in the corresponding CRISPR segment (apparently part of the same conversation) his moralizing feels both alarmist and impertinent. Out of place. What utility is there in disparaging the lack of "integrity" of a virus (let alone so urgently and repetitively)? In the CRISPR segment, Robert's alarmism over the potential for flying pigs, and more so his immature manner of expressing it (interrupting to press his point) is cringeworthy.

There is a pace for skepticism, but Robert's additions in this conversation argue strongly for heavier editing.

Aug. 17 2015 12:35 AM
Jenny dunbar from Bradford

Very interesting. Someone brought this into my dads shop for him to listen to. My dad is Dr. Timothy Rowbotham!

Aug. 16 2015 03:20 PM
Brian from Washington, DC

Great episode! Aside from viruses, I think the other odd-ball grouping of life is Archaea. Could you guys do a story on that?

Aug. 16 2015 11:45 AM

I've become so very aware in the last few years about how dependent we humans are on the microbes with which (with whom??) we co-inhabit our corporeal bodies. I see that one area that is getting much attention is at the interface between inside and outside of our bodies, at the epithelial cells that line our "food channel", our skin and our lungs, where the microbes perform specific tasks that both mediate between the inside and outside as well as moderate the effects of the outside on our insides.

So Robert may not like it, but the concept of humans being some isolated animal that is not dependent on any other living thing (other than food of course) is outdated, even antiquated. Here is an Evernote notebook that contains references on Microbiota:

Aug. 15 2015 11:08 PM
Dog Salsa from Chicago

Jad, you've got to stop swearing. It just sounds SO DORKY, like a child trying to be transgressive on the playground. You're so square that it's like Rick Moranis and Ira Glass had a baby - no edge, no edge! No edge!

Aug. 14 2015 11:40 AM

Mind blown again! I am glad you are back to science topics (I am just not a music person). You guys do a great job of making topic understandable to us non-professional scientists (and if that means anthropomorphize then that's fine with me.) You bring such richness and a fuller understanding of the complexity/amazingness/diversity in this world.

P.S. Cuss all you want. It is a ridiculous notion that some words are too "bad" to say "on air" I'd rather have children say an explitive when they fall down than say "I hate you" even if all the "words" are "ok words" to say.

Aug. 13 2015 07:16 PM
Silkox from Washington

When I was in grad school, Sydney Brenner came to give a talk. He's pretty famous, and his talk was a collection of things he'd been thinking about. One was the idea that as organisms evolve, they get simpler. Seemed like crazy talk at the time.

In the podcast somewhere there was a mention of how humans can no longer make their own vitamin c. That reminded me of this gem, which might make an interesting topic for a future show: .

Aug. 13 2015 01:38 PM
Molly from California

Hey, Jad and Robert! Thanks for the episode! The unedited format was great in of itself and in giving me fresh appreciation of the editing.

I just wanted to pitch in with a Classics factoid, re: a question raised in the course of the episode that wasn't answered because it didn't need to be, it has nothing to do with the science, but I happen to know so can't resist. :-)

When learning that Pandora's "box" was originally an urn, Robert asked, "So why do we call it a box?" In part because the urn did have a lid, so modern associations would think "box" before "urn" as things with lids, but also because: Christianization! We retell that myth in such a way as to equate Pandora with Eve. We give her the choice of whether or not to defy an instruction and the motivation of curiosity. But those are entirely modern, post-Christian additions.

In the original myth (as far as we know from Hesiod's "Works and Days"), Pandora is not given any blame or credit—in fact, it's debatable whether she even had consciousness. (Though of course the way we define "consciousness" now is profoundly different from the way they did.) She was simply the Trojan horse (…preemptively) Zeus used to punish Epimetheus for the crime of his brother, Prometheus, in stealing fire. She was literally created out of clay in order to be the pretty packaging for the urn so Epimetheus would accept it. She had no prior existence, wasn't given any instructions, and never made a conscious choice nor exhibited any curiosity. She was made simply to physically carry the urn to earth, and as soon as it was there, it did its work of releasing its contents. Though she did replace the lid before Hope could escape, but even that was attributed to "the will of Zeus". (See again: how "consciousness" was differently defined, no contradiction then between "free will" and "divine will", but mortals and gods to some extent being natural extensions of each other. Which is a much longer conversation!)

Thanks again!

Aug. 12 2015 06:03 AM
Lord Pickles from Denver, CO

Why does Krulwich insist on anthropomorphizing microorganisms? Life is about replicating and doing it efficiently. A virus or a cell has no concept of "integrity." I'm not sure he understands evolutionary biology very well.

Aug. 12 2015 04:35 AM
KDW from Charlotte, NC

This is a great episode. I like the loose conversational feel. I just wish you guys talked about mitochondria.

Aug. 12 2015 12:25 AM
Lauren Waldrum from NYC

this was very interesting. But then just days after listening the NYC legionnaire has been taking over cooling towers in the Bronx. Do you find these two things linked?? I would love to know your thoughts.

Aug. 11 2015 06:07 PM

This episode had an interesting topic but I found it really hard to pay attention to. It's weird because I never thought of the editing as being such a vital part of the experience.

Aug. 11 2015 02:15 AM
dirk from omaha

another good show thanks, must tho say the Romantic humanist schtick in the face of scientific facts is wearing thin and not adding to the story telling.
thanks all

Aug. 10 2015 08:59 PM

i love you guys and your show, and one of the joys i have had in listening to your episodes has been being able to share the most interesting ones for me with friends and family. i may be mistaken, but i do not ever recall your not editing out foul language ("swearing") in prior podcasts if it existed. i have never been mistaken for being a prude, but was disappointed that i would not be able to share this episode with my kids or with more etiquette-sensitive friends.

Aug. 09 2015 08:34 PM
Tim from Chicago

The song at the end is "Marilyn Set Me Free" by Casino Versus Japan.

Aug. 09 2015 05:52 PM
tamu from Los Angeles

really loved the format of this podcast. can't quite put my finger on it but i think it's because i mirrored jad and robert's fascination with the topic allowing me to relate more to the podcast. loved it. please use this format more!

Aug. 06 2015 01:29 PM

Why did it take you all so long to broadcast this?

Aug. 06 2015 10:48 AM
Brian from Indianapolis, IIn

This was a great episode. You should have Mr. Zimmer on more often.

Aug. 05 2015 10:22 PM

Tough crowd. This episode was great; some of the commentors need to lighten up a bit. You're commenting on a free show that takes multiple people full-time job hours to produce, ya dinguses. And often Robert is playing the role of a journalist and story-teller, motivating the conversation and playing off the other personalities involved. Everyone's a critic xD


Aug. 05 2015 09:17 PM

stick to the editing...

Aug. 05 2015 04:19 PM
John from New York

This episode was pretty unbearable, thanks to Robert's constant need to interrupt and his lame attempts and being funny. And Jad, what compels you to say 'f--k' in the middle of an otherwise educational program. I understand that you have a small child of your own. I'm sure you wouldn't talk that way around him, so why talk that way in front of millions of listeners, with parents and children listening together, no doubt? I just remembered that Robert called Mr. Zimmer an 'asshole' as well. That was pleasant. There's a time and a place.

Haha - your website tells me, "Watch your mouth! The word "f--k" is not allowed here." while trying to give a direct quote from the show. Hilarious.

Anyway, kudos to Mr. Zimmer for being so patient with you guys.

Aug. 05 2015 08:16 AM
Paul from Philly

Great episode! It would be cool if you included at least one unedited conversation as an extra after each episode in the future.

Along with those folks trying to educate Robert and, basically, telling him not to anthropomorphize viruses and cells, I too found his choice of words troubling.

However, I believe his view of cell "choice" lends insight into a rather common - and unfortunate - idea about agency in people. Around 32:35, he continues on the track that viruses behave with less "integrity", and eventually become the equivalent of "blind, dumb, and fat".

It's a common misconception that obesity is a moral failing, that living on welfare is a moral failing. Unfortunately, there are many who still believe that people choose to live like that. Of course, some agency typically exists but circumstances heavily dictate how a person behaves, interacting with neurobiology and creating a cycle that sometimes becomes a vicious spiral. Behavior is a product of our neurobiology, and many folks grow up in disadvantaged situations, correlating with other tragic situations, blunting brain development, as well as changing the brain in other ways. This is not about integrity. It's about circumstance.

I'm done ranting now. FYI I love your show. <3

Aug. 04 2015 11:23 AM
Ron from Toronto

Very interesting show, but I have to call FOUL on your use of evolutionary theory.

I don't think Darwin ever suggested that things evolve-out because a species doesn't need them anymore. Carl, Jad and Robert all seemed to buy into that assumption during the podcast. That's not natural selection, guys. Doesn't a mutation have to be evolutionarily advantageous (and not just "not needed anymore") in order for the mutated gene to outlive its un-mutated kin and change a species?

Someone's going to have to posit an evolutionary advantage to organism-shrinkage (or to not producing your own Vitamin-C, to use another example from the episode) before you start throwing around Darwin's good name like that!

Great show.

Aug. 04 2015 11:17 AM
Eraticus from Honolulu

An interesting example of an organism "simplifying"as it adapts to a parasitic lifestyle is Sacculina, which is a barnacle, but has adapted itself to be a (very) soft bodied parasite of crabs.

Aug. 03 2015 10:13 PM
Edward F. from Des Moines, f**king Iowa

I noticed at the 11:13 mark one of the participants says "...what the f**k is this giant leviathan virus...". Have I won a t-shirt for being the first to notice? Size XL, please.

Aug. 03 2015 09:17 PM
Peter Mitchell from sydney

I was interested that Robert kept insisting that cells had a choice about whether to be parasitic or independant. Evolution normally works by environmental pressures so it's much more likely that how these viruses live is the only way they might survive.

Aug. 03 2015 07:31 PM

I cringed every time Robert suggested that when things evolve they are presented with a choice of how they want to improve their existence. This prevented me from enjoying the episode as much as I normally would.

Aug. 03 2015 07:04 PM

This was the best episode in a long time! Truly fascinating conversation and topic, but it made me wonder if, after discovering these viruses in water towers on the roofs of hospitals, they then sought a connection between these viruses and illnesses currently being treated at these hospitals. It makes me want to find out what happened after the discovery of these strange viruses.

Aug. 03 2015 04:12 PM

Amazing episode! This episode reminded me of why I fell in love with Radiolab back in 2011. Yay for science!

Aug. 03 2015 11:26 AM
mimi chen from Shenzhen, China

My name is Mimi. I found this recording quiet interesting! Haha...

Aug. 03 2015 08:26 AM
NM from Melbourne, Australia

Great episode but disappointed that the pandoravirus found in a shallow pond at a university in Melbourne in 2013 didn't get a mention!

Aug. 02 2015 10:16 PM
Tim from St Louis

What did I learn from this podcast?
Mr Zimmer deserves an award for his patience. How he keeps up telling a story when you two keep jumping at every " squirrel " moment in the story.

You guys are awesome.

Aug. 02 2015 08:31 PM
Douglas Woolley from Poughkeepsie, NY

The conversation made me appreciate the editing work that is done on these interviews. It was fascinating nevertheless. What I wonder about is that science has been looking at and not seeing these viruses for how long? Well,we all have our biases, What else in all the wide diversity of the microbiological managerie are we missing?

Aug. 02 2015 12:46 PM
Randy from St. Louis, MO

In human beings there are a class of human cells that ingest things in an amoebic fashion - white blood cells. This new discovery that viruses can enter a cell by being ingested and can be much larger than first imagined, should soon start a hunt for these large viruses in human blood. Start perhaps with CLL or other leukemia patients. Also, I would hope we will soon be experimenting with these new large viruses as a possible therapeutic. Either as a delivery device for gene therapy for white blood cells or as a targeting destruction mechanism for cancerous white blood cells - if we can first figure out how to make the cancerous white blood cells ingest the medicinal mega viruses first.

Aug. 02 2015 11:43 AM

That was just so delightful! :) :) Thanks, Radiolabs, thanks Carl Zimmer, as always.
And Mr Zimmer was right, the exact same debate did in fact ping-ponged between him and the Haggard Hunter before :D
Thanks for the corrections at the end of the show as well. I think the confusion about 1st discovery my have befallen him because it was the Pithovirus that had been discovered in the Sibirian permafrost.

Katie from Central New York:
the answer to your question is..., uh, BEHIND YOU...!

Aug. 02 2015 11:38 AM
Caz from Melbourne

Hey everyone at radiolab including the awesome guests! I just want to say that listening to the podcast every week is my reward and I cannot wait for every single one that comes out brand spanking new! Its why I go back to listen to the old ones again. Great job on the show, best podcast in the world and I have no idea how I lived without these before. Lots and lots of love

Aug. 02 2015 11:03 AM
Katie from Central New York

My question: How long until we find a virus like this that is so large it can be seen by the naked eye? And at that point, what do we classify it as? It would no longer be a "micro"organism. It may require a whole new category, as mentioned before.

Aug. 02 2015 02:47 AM

Best episode in a long time! More like this and I would be happy.

Aug. 01 2015 06:36 PM
abee from Spokane WA

Love this episode!!! When I returned to biological studies in 2000 (after 20 years) I was surprised by a pop quiz (HA HA) that viruses weren't alive. I asked a lot of questions and had lots of discussions. I came to the conclusion that maybe viruses are the most advanced "thing" on earth. They have it made, like you said with the mansion with conveyor belts of steak and ice cream. After learning how "expensive" sex is for an organism, it helped me believe why not dispense with any type of reproduction. Let "someone" else do it, and maintain all the machinery for it, like a virus. So Robert, what do you think now? Not as independent as you think! Love the show and all you guys!

Aug. 01 2015 03:37 PM
Joumana from Beirut, Lebanon

Hi guys, love your show! Was wondering how come in your search for a metaphor for the viruses (mansion and such), "colonization" did not come to mind. Seems to me that's what they are doing.

Aug. 01 2015 03:37 AM
arman from London

I wish you had asked your guest: is it possible that these giant viruses evolved from zombie dead cells? Cell corpes that eat brains but are dead :D

Jul. 31 2015 05:12 PM
Justin from NYC

The name of the song at the end is Marilyn Set Me Free by Casino Versus Japan

Jul. 31 2015 03:49 PM
Thomas from Silver Spring, MD

Love you two and your guests and your podcast! I've listened to every episode, some more than once, and have tried to support your funding how and when I can.

I wasn't a big fan of hearing Jad pitch Morgan Stanley in the middle of this very interesting episode. "Capital creates the next episode" sounds more like a threat than anything else, and I was disappointed that Radiolab was serving as the messenger of that threat.

I know you gotta pay the bills. But, damn, what's next? Exxon? Northrop Grumman?

Jul. 31 2015 01:49 PM
Hannes from Berlin

Wow, that was one effing interesting conversation! Keep up the good work, love to listen to you guys.

Aaaand, please answer the last question about the musiuc in the end :)

Jul. 31 2015 12:12 PM

Hey, may I request the title of the song at the end of the show?


Dayton M.

Jul. 31 2015 11:56 AM
AC from NY

I'm trying to find evidence online that Myxozoans evolved from bigger ancestors, but the only information I can find is that they are a type of jellyfish. In other words, they might have simply evolved into parasitism from equally small ancient jellyfish and remained that way, rather than have "shrunk".

Can someone confirm and substantiate that they did in fact evolve from an ancestor closer in size to the jellyfish we know today?

Jul. 31 2015 11:09 AM
Lina from Rostock, Germany

This story was such a gem! Thank you guys for making me to laught my lab full and for the new peace of knowledge.

Jul. 31 2015 09:54 AM
DrGonzo513 from Albany, NY

Meme = same, in French!

Jul. 31 2015 09:37 AM
Brian from Croatia

Hey Robert,

For a little perspective, it might help to consider that your own cells rely on mitochondria -- most likely the descendants of bacteria long ago assimilated by an eukaryote -- for most of their energy (among other functions).

So, in a very real sense, nearly every one of your cells is a lazy do-nothing, profiting off of the slave labor of a race of proto-bacteria, bred in captivity and literally worked to death producing the energy you use moralizing like a Victorian about the moral bankruptcy of viruses.

Or perhaps, like viruses, your mitochondria have infiltrated your cells and hijacked their reproductive machinery. Either way, you're seriously conflicted, on a cellular level.


Jul. 31 2015 08:42 AM

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