Cosmic Queries: Viruses, Outbreaks and Pandemics

Post Date: 11 August 2013

Listen now:

Season 4, Episode 23



Infectious disease expert Laurie Garrett is back to answer your questions about viruses. First, she describes two current outbreaks: H7N9 influenza, which killed 25% of the people in China who got it, and MERS-CoV, or Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, a genetic relative of SARS. With pilgrimages like the Haj in October, MERS is a serious pandemic concern to the worldwide health community. Next, Laurie explains how viruses like Ebola and HIV jump from bats and primates to humans through “zoonosis” and why they’re so lethal when they do. She tells Neil deGrasse Tyson and Chuck Nice how we’re developing human engineered microorganisms in the lab, including nanobot viruses, and a competition where high school students invent new life forms. All this, plus a fungus that turns ants into zombies, pathogens that spread via rain, the dangers of the anti-vaccine movement and, unfortunately, so much more.

Chuck Nice, comedian

Laurie Garrett, Pulitzer Prize winning Science Journalist, Director of the Council on Foreign Relations – Global Health Program [Twitter: @Laurie_Garrett]

“Sick” – Evanescence
“Best Arabic House Mix 2013”
“Introduced Species” – Hands Like Houses
“Species” – Krizz Kaliko
“Aliens Invading” – Ke$ha
“From the Stars” – White Lies
“Sick & Tired” – The Cardigans
“Mistakes We Knew We Were Making” – Straylight Run
“Chills in the Evening” – Tom Fletcher (McFly)

  • Christina Vonthronsohnhaus

    Have you guys ever watch the movie Omega Man????

    • Jeff

      Yes! I enjoyed it more than “I Am Legend” or the Vincent Price version, The Last Man on Earth.

  • Linda Berdeaux

    Well …funny and interesting as usual but also somewhat unsettling…looks like one way or another “humans” will exterminate themselves if they can’t find something else to do it for them…for every few intelligent scientists who’re trying to improve things ….there’ll always be a huge number of ….etc.,etc.

  • Lawrence

    Great show, nothing like knowledge that affects your sleep.
    Laurie Garrett a great guest, hope she can visit again.

  • big fan

    please ditch the loud music, and please post some new eps rather than just reposts

    • Jeff

      Big Fan, Cosmic Queries: Viruses, Outbreaks and Pandemics is a new episode. As for the music, no plans on changing it.

  • Jacob Arts

    This show is a discovery double-whammy for me. Not only am I educating myself on mysteries of the cosmos, but I am also finding a bunch of great new music that I was previously unaware of. Thank you Neil and all the cast of Startalk for providing people with such a “positive” and enlightening show.

  • rafael

    Great show. I love everything about this podcast

  • Brianna

    Loved this podcast! As a current student getting her MPH and focusing on epidemiology, I find this incredibly relevant in this day and age. One of the best podcasts by far! Adored Laurie Garrett as well– I believe I’ll have to buy one of her books now.

  • sheepwshotguns

    laurie garrett is such an amazing guest. she’s so interesting, articulate, and entertaining. mr tyson, this episode was awesome!

  • big fan

    new shows instead of reposts please

  • Rebecca

    PLEASE PLEASE keep the biology topics going! This was incredibly interesting!

  • BCereus

    Loved Laurie Garrett! She’s fantastic! One of my favorite podcasts for sure!

  • ndt fan

    Loved the podcast but Laurie’s comment on saying that muslims circle the “tomb of muhammad” is factually inaccurate. The kaaba (the black building muslims circumnavigate) does not contain any tombs, no idols, etc.). It would actually go against the belief of muslims to worship a grave.

    • Jeff

      Thanks for the clarification!

  • Pingback: The United States Seriously Messed Up? - Page 2 - US Message Board - Political Discussion Forum

  • Jose Matos

    One of my favorite episodes! I’ve listened to it at least three times and I always laugh at the part when Laurie explains that the black death it’s called like that because people’s skin turned black and Chuck says: “Yeah, all of the suden that is a baaaad thing!” Priceless!!!

  • ray

    Great show! Hope you have Laurie on again soon. I also have a question – why do viruses and such damage their hosts at all? Wouldn’t it be better to keep them alive, with no symptoms or ill effects, in order to maximize their exposure to reproduce in other humans?

  • Chad Huckabee

    This podcast s04e23 downloads with the date in the title as “s05e12″. The Rest of the title correctly states the topic as being cosmic-queries-viruses-outbreaks-and-pandemics. Not a big problem but did cause a moment of confusion.

    • startalkradio

      Thanks, Chad. We’ll look into it.

    • startalkradio

      Hey Chad, just wanted to let you know that we’re fixing the file name. Thanks again for bringing it to our attention.

  • Jen

    Bring Laurie back please! And More biology topics! Please 😉