127 Carl Zimmer - The Mysterious World of Viruses

We don’t know for sure, but estimates place the total number of viruses on this planet >10^31. That’s more than stars in the universe. Which is exceptional, because we hear a lot about viruses, but just a select few. Zika, Ebola, the flu, etc. Not all viruses are bad - there has to be some good ones in 10^31, right?

If you want to learn about viruses, there is only one source to talk to - Carl Zimmer. He may be the preeminent science journalist in the US, with a weekly column in the NY Times, and a weekly video series as national correspondent for STAT. We talked about this idea that viruses shaped humans more as allies than as enemies. He noted that 8% of our genome can be attributed to viral fragments - fossils of our intertwined evolutionary history. That’s compared to only 1.2% that encodes useful proteins. We had a ranging conversation about the extremes of the bell curves when it comes to viruses, including the very odd giant viruses who may represent a separate branch of life itself.

image

JOSÉ ANTONIO PEÑAS/SCIENCE SOURCE - A giant mimivirus

Carl’s NY Times column on viruses

Carl on STAT

Giant viruses

image

DNA folding in STAT by Carl Zimmer

Science in the News:

Size of artist signatures equate to high narcissism and prices for works