Last modified: Tuesday, April 5, 2005
Vol. 2, no. 7
April 5, 2005
Indiana Science Monthly is a selection of recent news stories about Indiana University scientists and their research. Comments or questions about this newsletter may be directed to David Bricker, Office of Media Relations (812-856-9035 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
March science news:
* IUB's Richard DiMarchi: peptide chemistry's man about town
* Tiny pebbles could have aided Jupiter's birth
* Hundreds of scientists tell NIH public research funds are being overspent on bioterrorism
* Reminder: Submission deadline looms for AAAS 2006 St. Louis
"The List Gets Longer: New Primates Found" (ANTHROPOLOGY)
EXCERPT: Nine skeletons found in northern Ethiopia dating to about 4.5 million years ago -- less than 2 million years after the lineages of humans and apes split -- have scientists wondering if the remains are related to humans.
* IUB anthropologist Sileshi Semaw's discovery of fossils from (probably) nine individuals of the hominid species Ardipithecus ramidus has greatly expanded scientists' knowledge of this crucial period during hominid evolution. Semaw is affiliated with the Indiana University Center for Research into the Anthropological Foundations of Technology (CRAFT) and the Stone Age Institute.
IU press release:
"Chondrules, By Jove!" (ASTRONOMY)
March 29, 2005
EXCERPT: Dynamic simulations of the early solar system show giant shock waves surfing across the protoplanetary disk from the orbit of Jupiter and striking circling dust grains with enough speed to fuse them. The result is chondrules, millimeter-size beads that make up the bulk of rocky meteorites and play an important role in planet formation.
* Increasingly complex models of an early Solar System suggest massive shockwaves aided Jupiter's formation. Aaron Boley, a graduate student in IU Bloomington Astronomy Chair Richard Durisen's lab, tells Astronomy magazine reporter Robert Adler, "Sometimes the waves form tubes similar to breaking ocean waves... Except these tubes are nearly 1,000 Earth diameters wide."
IU press release:
"Study finds urban soil may fuel childhood lead poisoning" (GEOLOGY/ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE)
March 25, 2005
EXCERPT: Public health officials have made dramatic strides in the past quarter-century reducing childhood lead-poisoning cases, but thousands of inner-city children are still exposed each year to the brain-damaging metal... The reason, according to a new study, may be in the air.
* IUPUI geologist Gabriel Filippelli and colleagues have found that certain environmental and health indices are highly predictive of the number of (human) lead poisoning cases in three U.S. metropolitan areas. Filippelli tells Associated Press reporter Rick Callahan, "When we found this in Indianapolis, we thought `No, this can't be right.' So we applied this same model to these other cities and it matched the blood lead data for them as well."
"'Call to arms' on evolution" (SCIENCE EDUCATION)
March 23, 2005
EXCERPT: Nearly one-third of science teachers who participated in a national survey say they feel pressured to include creationism-related ideas in the classroom... And an alarmed science establishment is striking back in defense of teaching evolution.
* National Academy of Sciences President Bruce Alberts recently implored scientists around the country to come up with ideas about how to counter a new wave of attacks on evolution and its incorporation into public school curricula. Some creationists have even questioned the veracity of evolution in its most general form. IUB biologist and NAS Fellow Jeffrey Palmer tells USA Today reporters Dan Vergano and Greg Toppo, "If there were indeed deep flaws in parts of evolutionary biology, then scientists would be the first to charge in there."
"Dozen IU scientists sign protest letter against germ funding" (SCIENCE POLICY)
March 16, 2005
EXCERPT: A dozen Indiana University scientists have joined colleagues nationwide in signing a letter that protests the shift of federal research money away from common public health pathogens to bioterrorism research... More than 750 American scientists signed the letter, which states that the shift since 2001 of tens of millions of dollars to terrorism-related studies threatens the peer-review process responsible for dramatic gains in science and public health.
* Scientists from around the country have voiced concern that bioterrorism research is sucking up (and wasting) some of the nation's public research funds. IUB biologist Carl Bauer tells Bloomington Herald-Times reporter Steve Hinnefeld, "The problem is that all this money is being diverted from studying organisms that have significant health hazards into other organisms that have no significant health hazards." This Associated Press article was largely derived from the one Steve Hinnefeld wrote.
"Watching Peptide Drugs Grow Up" (CHEMISTRY)
Chemical & Engineering News
March 14, 2005
EXCERPT: Imagine a conversation between a small molecule and a peptide on a make-believe pharmacological playground. The small molecule would tout its virtues of small size, low price, oral availability, ability to cross membranes, and straightforward synthesis. The peptide would respond: "True, I may be bigger, more expensive to synthesize, and less stable than you. I may clear faster from the body and usually need to be injected rather than swallowed as a pill. But I can be much more potent, show higher specificity, and have few toxicology problems. I also don't accumulate in organs or face drug-drug interaction challenges like you do. So there."
* IUB chemist Richard DiMarchi is one of the scientists who is developing peptide drugs (drugs that are proteins and not, for example, simple organic chemicals). In describing the utility and flexibility of peptide drugs, DiMarchi tells C&E News reporter Vivien Marx, "Nature has done a pretty good job with just those building blocks -- from antibodies to enzymes to peptide hormones to chemokines to cytokines."
(Requires subscription; accessible on campus)
A C&E News Web exclusive about DiMarchi and his work:
"Rewiring The Body" (MEDICINE)
March 7, 2005
EXCERPT: Reed S. Kohn has donated his brain to science. An epileptic since he was 8 years old, Kohn has tried everything from experimental drugs to harrowing surgery to control his seizures. Time and again, neurosurgeons have taken out bits of his brain that spark his hallucinations, or auras, and have severed nerves that enable aberrant electrical impulses to arc from lobe to lobe and generate a full-blown seizure. They have also run filaments to a nerve in his neck and to the core of his brain to microshock the disease into submission. Inevitably, though, the illness reemerges, corrupting a new clump of brain cells, and he is disabled once again. A college grad and certified computer programmer, Kohn lives with his parents at age 34 and has never had a job. Since his first seizure in 1978, he figures he has had 10,000 more.
* A round-up of medical advances in neuroscience includes mention of a recent IU School of Medicine report that 2 of 10 paraplegic patients regained slight ability to move their legs after receiving a new kind of treatment. One man in the study even regained some sexual function.
IU School of Medicine press release:
"From ashes, a return to star-gazing" (ASTRONOMY)
Christian Science Monitor
March 4, 2005
EXCERPT: When a searing brush fire savaged the Canberra region two years ago, it destroyed one of astronomy's crown jewels: the Mt. Stromlo Observatory... In 20 minutes on this gently rounded mountaintop, the fire incinerated five telescopes and their domes, a historic administration building, a library housing $4 million worth of volumes, and a workshop building cutting-edge custom detectors and optics systems for telescopes around the globe. It was so hot the aluminum on the site burned and brass fittings fused together.
* An observatory complex in Australia is making a comeback after most of it was destroyed by a January 2003 fire. IUB astronomer Catherine Pilachowski tells Christian Science Monitor reporter Peter N. Spotts, "Mt. Stromlo was one of the very top research institutions in astrophysics in the world. I've been totally blown away by how successful they've been." Soon after the fire, then-President of the American Astronomical Society Pilachowski sent Mt. Stromlo staff a letter of support (and an offer of aid).
(A wire version of this article appeared in USA Today)
"The Web: Online publishing ascending" (GENERAL SCIENCE)
United Press International
March 2, 2005
EXCERPT: An avid sports fan who produces a Web log on the Boston Red Sox is bought out by a major daily newspaper and hired as a sports producer for its Web site... This may sound like some wishful thinking, like some tenuous scenario in one of those fantasy baseball leagues many fans join, but the blog BostonDirtDogs.com, founded by Steve Silva, is now part of The Boston Globe online. Silva is now filing regular reports from the World Series champion Red Sox spring-training site in Florida.
* The Web is putting new pressure on academic publishers, including but hardly limited to journals like Genetics and the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, whose budgets largely depend on print subscriptions. I attended a session at February's AAAS annual meeting on the future of academic publishing. "Essentially," UPI reporter Gene Koprowski quotes me, "all the speakers said the same thing: traditional business models aren't working. For publishers to make money, something must change."
Reminder: Submission deadline looms for AAAS 2006 St. Louis
The annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science will take place in St. Louis next February (2006). AAAS is currently soliciting proposals for symposia and panel participants. AAAS is most interested in "hot" areas of scientific research and science's most pressing social issues. In addition, each year AAAS selects a number of panel participants to take part in press conferences -- often when there's real news to announce. Hundreds of science reporters from dozens of countries regularly attend these meetings; participating in AAAS can be a great way to share your good work with the world.
Deadline: MONDAY, MAY 2, 2005
More information is here:
* * * * Do you have an important and/or interesting paper in press? A major event or presentation coming up? Please contact IU Office of Media Relations science writers David Bricker at 812-856-9035, email@example.com, or Hal Kibbey at 812-855-0074, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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