20 MAR 2020

Let’s soap that Corona

How soap destroys viruses

Anton is feeling a bit off colour but bravely soldiers on in this episode about viruses. We start by looking at who discovered them and when, then shrink down to investigate if they are living organism or not. After getting so close to a virus it’s wise to wash your hands so we do just this and find out how soap destroys them. Finally we offer a little friendly advice to keep you all going. Stay safe.

Full show notes coming soon.


This transcript is automatically generated so may contain errors.

Welcome to the curiosity of a child.

And welcome back to episode 12.

Did you think we'd reach this far?

No, not really.

Yeah, it's pretty good, isn't it? Yeah, so you're not feeling 100% today, are you?

Be glad to hear. I don't have coronavirus, but.

I got a bit of a sore throat and a bit of a runny nose.

Yeah you do.

So you're not doing your own feature this time, so we're just going to my feature shammy. Yeah, Okay, so actually it's topical because I'm going to be talking about viruses. Okay, so on with the show.

Will move the show.

Hey, the other day when I was checking Twitter, I noticed a tweet that gone viral.

That was written by an Icelandic professor who would Polly Thordarson and it contained a thread about how soap compacts and destroys viruses such as coronavirus now Polly is the deputy head of chemistry at the University of New South Wales in Australia. So it seems that he's attracted to living large islands.

As your dad, you know I'm waiting. You wash your hands before meal times and I know you come in from outside. Wash your hands, mayonnaise, all that kind of stuff, yeah?

Move that recently.

Have been an prefer gud not actually that bad. You generally do without a fuss. So do you know what viruses are?

Not really.

Know okay, well I'll cover what they are, but I'm going to start with a quote and this is from Sir Frank McFarlane. Burn it.

And even onto in the Nobel Prize for Physiology.


when a new phenomenon like voice multiplication comes to be studied, almost all the knowledge of cellular chemistry and function gained from other types of study turns out to be irrelevant of viruses, not an individual Organism in the ordinary sense of the term, but something which could always be called a stream of biological pattern.

The pattern is carried from cell to cell by the relatively inert virus particles, but it takes on a new borrowed life form from its host at each infection.

So what is kind of saying there is not a regular life or make a little bit different but still biological? It's still kind of a natural thing like an animal plant here.

So when do you think scientists first discovered that viruses exist?

Roughly, think it's long time ago, or quite recently.

I think like 1800s maybe 1700. Allot of things were or maybe Victorian.

Let's have a look. Well, there was a Russian botanist called Dimitri Ivan Sky and he discovered them in 19. They didn't 19 in 1892 as a picture. Now there's a nice facial hair.

Sadie neighbour, a botanist, is.

We played a few board games with the men.

Is it?

Like um aplomb, person or someone who discovers plants and.

Stuff that's right, yes.

It's a scientist who studies plants, so obviously he would be looking through microscopes and things at the time for what he's doing, and then he happened to discover viruses where they didn't really know what they were at the time. So let's find out kind of the Storey of what you did, so he was trying to understand what was causing a disease that was infecting tobacco plants. So he got some SAP one the infected plants and he went through a really fine.

Philtre and then the holes are so small that there trap any bacteria. So like my life straw but wait, discovered was the stop. Still remained infectious to healthy plants even after being filtered. So this means that there must be something even smaller in the SAP that's going the infection and here isn't.

Sorry, it's okay.

And here is an electron micrograph of the rod shaped particles of the tobacco mosaic virus that are too small to be seen using a light microscope like we have ivona Sky. Thought that perhaps a toxin was being released by the bacteria and that was what had managed to partially the philtre. But then other scientists continue to build on this work.

In 1898 adult microbiologist called Martinez.

Beijing Rik may generic name. I can't say my Dutch names and he actually observed the behaviour of a virus for the first time, but many more years of people studying them to get a good understanding. So this is right up there. You kind of beginning of this type of science. So what I'm saying is that they're really incredibly small and not actually being shown them for that long.

So it means that we don't actually know that much about them yet. Still and with so many viruses out there, when we come across a new one, we've got to try and understand it. They're also very odd.

Do you think viruses are dead or alive?

I think they are.

There in between.


There's going to be an in between.

You saying that maybe? But in between them?

Dead is alive ish. Okay, let's find out. So how do we determine if something is living?


It's everything.

We are going to have to go in to the shrinker craft.

If you got a really, really, really really small, so even smaller than a microscope can say okay.

So you ready to strap yourself in?

Yeah yeah ***** bet on.


This house more we're gonna go. So this big circle here is a human hair.

Now that the tiny dots are viruses, so how much smaller would you say they are than the human hair?


100 times.

Yeah, that way smaller ready. Let's shrink down, okay?

Say there's seven criteria to determine if something is living. Now. Number one living things must maintain a mere stasis, so you do not know what that is.

Basically it means that they can keep in balance with their environments, so they are able to control kind of their internal temperature and their contents and things for us is not actually made of cells.

They are much more simple than that to easy damaged and they have a shell made of proteins called a capsid.

But more on that later when we talk about sleep now my cells have a nucleus which is kind of like their brain.

With the control centre and other complex structures inside them that help him sense their environment and do different things but fires, this don't have that. Together this means that they didn T have control of themselves and their environment so they can't control or regulate their temperature, and they can't really react.

In the normal manner to environments.

Number two living things have different levels of organisation.

So what this means they kind of made out of all different sizes, building blocks, so you have kind of your uromi name, acids, your DNA yourselves. An themselves will make up different things like organs and viruses. Kind of that as well. Okay, so the past that once said no to the first one, yes to the second one. Now living things reproduce.

How do you think viruses can reproduce?


Yeah, but I didn't in the normal way. Save artists. Order passed this test alone. They can't actually reproduce because I don't have everything inside them that they need to do that. So when you're infected with virus there enter cells inside your body and hijack them so they take control of them because the virus itself just got some R and a in or DNA in and kind of inject that into the cell and then it will then kind of run the cell like a factory to create more copies of itself.

And sometimes when they get safe over the cell itself, exploit, then send out with viruses everywhere to infect more cells at school.

We watched the video and how.

DNA was maze and stuff and then it was. They actually did do like this demonstration of the minifactory thing. So it's like the virus is taking over that.

Exactly, yeah yeah, it's sent its own kind of instructions of what to build inside the cell.

A virus as well as using these cells to create copies of itself. It's actually kind of combined themselves with the DNA of the cell when they sell itself, replicates it, then copies devices DNA with it. So it's like a more dormant.

Kind of stage that contain them when they feel the time is right. They then get back to their normal mode actually takeover the seller getting it to produce lots of copies of the virus.

So do you think they can reproduce?


Maybe not in the regular way, but they still can, yeah?

Living things grow. #4 devices, grey, no. That's right, they don't eat that created fully formed and they do not have to grow.

#5 living things use energy.

Survivors itself doesn't actually need to use energy to survive.

Because when it's reproducing or doing things, it's using the cells of another Organism, such using their energy.

So their strange aren't they?

Six living things respond to stimuli to know what that means.

They will respond to things that happened to them, such as if I pakki

ohh if I was to shine a bright light in her eyes, you would blink when you have turned away as viruses are very simple structures that don't contain many of the things that make up selves so they don't respond to light or touch or different things so.

Do you remember some of the tiny creatures that we saw under the microscope from that little red dot? The light sensitive kind of organ that they had? Yeah, so viruses don't have any of that, but then they might be that much about them. They might respond to other kind of interactions with stimuli, so it's probably another #7 is the final one.

Living things adapt to their environment to think cells can adapt. And do you think viruses can adapt?


Yes, as mentioned in .3 they can either hide in this out or hijack it based on the conditions that they are in and the virus they will see mutate so they can change to be better to the environment. So you can kinda say yeah they can adapt to their environment, but that's how viruses can spread or jump between different species because they can adapt to that species.

So do you think viruses are dead or alive?

In the middle, still in the area.

But the general consensus is that there probably not alive, but they aren't that kind of weird barrier, aren't they? Which is an odd thing to think about that there's.

A thing out there which shows some signs of life but not all of them.

When I was researching this, at first it seemed like many other behaviours that we discovered were intelligent.

But the more I thought about it, the more it feels to me. A bit like computer Cade, its instructions that just being run. So write code at work as you know.

When I've written the computer, then follows my instructions and does what it needs to. So for me, that's kind of how I'm thinking about it, almost like tiny little machines that have instructions, and then they can give those instructions to inside cells, and one of the strange things about viruses is if you got all the required blocks to build them. They were actually self assemble. Imagine having a bunch of Lego bricks, put them together in a pot and they built themselves into the model.

It's kind of a virus contained, so we don't know exactly how this works, but is one way that they can reproduce. So when they hijack his cell they make it with a different building blocks it requires, and somehow they just.

Come together, which is really weird.

So now you know a little bit about viruses, dekhni.

But how do we stop them?

Washing our hands, yeah.

I said remember that straight forward we talked about vaccines and you do you remember how they worked?

You inject a little bit or have a little bit put into you so you can get immune to that.

Yeah, that's right. So it's like a.

A dead or weakened version of the virus injection. Then your body's natural defences will learn how to fight it. So if you get a rare infection, they can fight off Co.

But developing vaccines is very expensive.

And complex in a very time consuming process.

And we don't have vaccines for lots of different viruses, but that's not too seriously. We saw body does an amazing job of fighting them off, but occasionally new virus comes along such coronavirus, which obviously you've heard a lot about recently.


It's scarier and some other ones, so I've got no vaccine for it.

And then trying to produce one is. It's difficult really. Complex science that people have done. It has been properly tested.

But there's an even more effective way to combat them. As you've already said, and that's to destroy it from the tape and washing your hands.

This will start with a tweet that I read, remember by Polly Thordarson, and here's a quote from him. I'm not quite sure how you do an Icelandic Aussie accent, but here guys.

When I shared the information using Twitter, it went viral. I think I've worked out why health authorities have been giving us 2 messages. Once you have a virus, there are no drugs that can kill it or help you get rid of it. But also wash your hands to stop the virus spreading.

That seems very odd.

You can't for even $1,000,000 get a drug for the coronavirus, but your grandmother is. Bar soap kills the virus.

So how does this work?

Now our skin is a good home for viruses because it's full of proteins and fatty acids. So when you touch another surface that maybe someone sneezed on the virus particles will stick to your skin, but our skins are good barrier and it stops the virus from entering into our body.

Well, we've got lots of holes in our body, haven't we?

So can you name a few homes in our body?



Nostrils, mouth ears eyes eyes *** **** yeah and.

Can I say the scientific name please? Penus yes.

Thrown out my kids section.

Yeah, so you got lots of holes, leave your face, haven't you? And then most people touch their face every two to five minutes. I'm going to show you a video now of a health official giving critical advice to people about Kareena virus.

So you ready?

She's now licked her finger.

Exactly, so let's fly the shrink a craft close to that influenza virus over there and spray it with some say.

Yeah, nice illustrations.

Thank you. OK, so positions makes the virus.

I've got the cannons ready. Yeah, now I want you to aim at the lip tip envelope.

And fire.

Access, but can you already see it falling apart? Yeah, so do you know how this happens? No, okay. Do you wanna find out? Yeah, okay, great.

Hey night, now my spices have an outer shell call. Dilip tips. This shower is fatty and it's dissolved by soap and the virus will literally fall apart so you know when you're washing the dishes or something.

Yeah, when I wash.

Yeah, you never know I'm washing the dishes or something.


Very liquid wherever you using other brands exist. It's going to work in the same manner BSP there, destroying fat and grease aren't they and plates and things. Yeah, now so truly effective because it contains amphiphiles. Now do you know what they're like? Okay, there are really clever molecules because they got a split personality. One side is hydrophilic and that means it loves water and the other side is hydrophobic, which means that hates water. Yeah, So what do you wash your hands with? Soap and water exactly?

So what that means is that one end of the other file.

Is going to be attracted to the dirt. All the grease and going to try and attach itself to the other end is going to be attracted to the water molecules. It's going to try and attach itself to that.

Imagine we can have a bit of Velcro or something.

And then it gets pulled off.

Exactly, yeah, actually pulls apart, which is really clever, isn't it?

Now our shrinking craft is running low on power saver.

Let's pretend to know massage, shall we?

And I think you better watch your hands.

So how do you do it properly?

Um, you do like the palms of your hands and everything? Then you go out in between your fingers on the back and then what I like to do is.

I'm just twist your hands on your thumb and then.

Okay, so this is a chart here of the areas most often missed during hand washing. So where do people usually miss?


Some particular back tips or fingers.

Yeah, in the back of your ring finger. Yeah, don't miss these thumbs in these fingertips. Things were sticking your mouth.

Organised then in your mouth.

Or licking tea and change your page and.

It's exactly yes. Now I've got a map in a minute. I'm going to read it right now and it's of the countries and the percentage of people that wash their hands after going to the toilet. So who do you think good and bad and you're up?


Britain are very clearly, I think, Italy, France and Spain are gonna be worse.

Well, let's see, shall we? Italy only 57% of people wash their hands after the toilet. Yeah, the Netherlands here only 50%.

Francia 62 the UK 75 Turkey down here 94.

That's good.

As I think this is Bosnia Herzegovina here, 96% of people very cleanly there. Any surprises for you?

Let's cheque, I am surprised that they said the things on the left hand side of the map. Yeah, West or worse. Although there is one in the very far Portugal. 85%, yeah.

Do you wash your hands after the toilet? Basically nicely says. Sometimes you part that 25% of British people who think their hands here.

How long should you wash your hands for?

20 seconds.

Yeah, or do you? Happy birthdays, isn't it? Yeah, so there's actually in an apparently which you can get. Which rather than playing Happy Birthday, will sing it to yourself. It will play any song you want.

So the length of time, so I don't think it's very good though, because what are people going to do? They're going to.

Here the toilet with a covering of fingers.


Yeah, wash their hands and then with clean hands that touch there Corona phone.

Answer But why? Why do people need help? My favourite song gone for 20 seconds so.

I don't get it. So now you know about viruses.

Do you think my little bit more about them and how safe works against them?

So watch the future hold direction.


Either death and destruction.

Or just like feature auditions?

Immortal Turkey

Oh yeah. Okay so I was just imagining big immortal Turkey there at Christmas time storm troopers houses.

Maybe hopefully it will even bring people closer together, except for those in social isolation.

As globally, we share a common problem and realised that we are all just one people on the planet.

The same thing that happened, but hopefully a little bit. Hopefully some people will see that.

It's not the first time, and it won't be the last time that a virus is going to cause fear and panic and death. Your prediction was death and doom.

Or emotional taki's

less country in the definitely met from Okay.

I'm so there's one theory that, as the permafrost melts, that's all the ice caps, as it melts, you did label warming different viruses and bacteria that being phrasing for thousands or 10s of thousands of years will be released, which we don't have any immunity. So in 2005, NASA scientists successfully revived a bacteria that being phrasing in an Alaskan pond for 32,000 years.

Still alive and then two years later another team revived 8,000,000 year old bacterium. That could be anything out there under the ice.

Now I've got another quite here. We re bonjour.

What language am I going to do?


Excuse me, it wasn't Bongiorno. Permafrost is a very good preserver of microbes and viruses because it is cold. There is no oxygen, and it's this dark, says Ivelisse, me biologist Jean Michel. Clever pathogenic viruses that can affect humans are animals might be preserved in old permafrost layers, including some.

At a cost level, epidemics in the past. Luckily for us, however, most viruses are rapidly inactivated outside host cells due to light desiccation or spontaneous fire chemical degradation.

The best advice though is be aware of what's going on and don't panic. Wash your hands properly.

And if you do get infected, remember your body is amazing. We've been fighting viruses for, well, forever, haven't we?

Make you were telling me before it might be, it might be at school, can't remember now. It's quite long time ago. If you had a cold in like a mediaeval times you would die from it because you wouldn't have like Muesli to.

Other could be a chance. Yeah, that must mean you've got the influenza vaccine now, so every.

Yeah, fundable people will get the vaccine for that, yeah, so there's three strains of influenza that they are vaccinated against.

Yeah, so we've been friends for a long time, so remember that when we did the guessing game the other day where I was reading out different things like Black Death and Smallpox and Spanish flu. But humans have survived and our medical knowledge and everything so much better now, so hopefully nothing like that would ever happen again. Was bout being vigilant.

So just remember you gotta be sensible, particularly vulnerable groups. So with coronaviruses older people and then not being able to do what you want for a week or two weeks, you're isolated. I mean, is that actually a big deal or a problem?

Yeah, no it's not. I mean no also.

Can't wait to bike.


The schools were my schools pretty shutting down next.

Week he knows.

We've got like this. Yes classdojo, they're going to be doing a school based off that.

Ohh you mean remotely?

Yeah, yeah. And then there's like video things and stuff.

That we can do as well, so I'm still unfortunately going to be doing some school work.

No, no, well that's what was going to say. I mean, if people self isolating for little bit, then actually maybe they should go read a book or something or learn about something. Don't just.

Sit on social media with the time.

Listening to all the panic or fear when go learn something, you discover something. I mean, this is the best opportunity you've got to do, something you've always wanted to know about and come out a better person.

So how do you feel about viruses now?

I feel I wasn't really scared or anything in the place, but I feel like.

More controlled.


Yeah, and that.

Amaze how much washing your hands is an I didn't actually know how safe work side or if I'm feeling sick or something I'd always imagined like white blood cells. So like fighting things that sick.

Fighting against them.

Wasn't then and then they have like little puny guns.

Thanks for listening. There's no you special Anton features. We said maybe a little bit quiet at the start because we were chilling out where it needs. Yeah, I think you're feeling not too bad now they.

Cuddle blanket nice and warm.

Yes, thanks for this thing. I hope it was interesting. And remember if you are infected or may somebody is or with anything just be sensible.

Yeah, just be over.

But soonish, by the summer time, I see that depends where you are in the world.

Yeah well mate was out of our control, but do what you can. I mean it's.

Just give it a book. Okay, listen to our back catalogue wink, wink.

Sorry, thanks for listening and we'll catch you again and we're going to do something a bit more abit later on for the next episode I think.

Yeah, yeah, definitely.

Yeah, okay, so you could buy him. Thank you for listening, yeah.