Last modified: Friday, May 13, 2005
Vol. 2, no. 7
May 13, 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).
April science news:
* Experimental treatment stays early-stage breast cancer
* Newts besting some snakes in toxic arms race
* Evolution of the human female orgasm
"Rumours and Errours" (MATHEMATICS)
EXCERPT: The confessional essay is not a popular genre in mathematics and the sciences; few of us wish to dwell on our mistakes or call attention to them. An inspiring exception is Donald E. Knuth of Stanford University. During a decade's labor on the TeX typesetting system, he kept a meticulous log of all his errors, and then he published the list with a detailed commentary.
* Indiana University Bloomington mathematicians Daniel Maki and Maynard Thompson published a book in the early 1970s in which they described the mathematics of rumor-making and rumor propagation.
"Orgasmic Science" (BIOLOGY)
April 24, 2005
EXCERPT: The late Stephen Jay Gould was quite fond of his nipples. As the Harvard paleontologist wrote in a 1987 essay in the magazine Natural History, the fact that male nipples, as virtually all biologists believe, are a mere developmental echo of female nipples - whose purpose in child-rearing is obvious - is no reason to think less of them. ''I, for one, am quite attached to all my body parts,'' he wrote, no matter how useless they may seem.
* IU Bloomington Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science Elisabeth Lloyd is the author of a new book about the human female orgasm, especially its study by evolutionary biology and physiologists. In The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution, Lloyd writes, "'The history of evolutionary explanations of female orgasm 'is a history of missteps, misuse of evidence, and missed references.''
"Will cancer vaccine get to all women?" (MEDICINE)
April 18, 2005
EXCERPT: Deaths from cervical cancer could jump fourfold to a million a year by 2050, mainly in developing countries. This could be prevented by soon-to-be-approved vaccines against the virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer - but there are signs that opposition to the vaccines might lead to many preventable deaths.
* IU School of Medicine's Gregory Zimet, a professor of pediatrics and clinical psychology, has found that parents are "overwhelmingly" in favor of getting their daughters vaccinated against the human papilloma virus.
"The Biggest Cancer Drug Ever?" (MEDICINE)
April 15, 2005
EXCERPT: Which of the great minds behind the breakthrough cancer drug Avastin should win the Nobel Prize in Medicine? ... Should it be Harvard Medical School's Judah Folkman, who came up with the idea of fighting cancer by starving tumors of growth? Or should it be Napoleone Ferrara, the Genentech scientist who discovered the protein Avastin blocks?
* Indiana University School of Medicine hematologist/oncologist Kathy Miller helped conduct a clinical trial using Avastin with the better-known cancer drug Taxol. Miller and colleagues found that with the treatment, patients' early-stage breast cancer did not progress for months, on average. Miller tells Forbes reporter Matthew Herper, "Our next challenge will be to try to identify the patients most likely to benefit from this drug."
"'Observatory: A Nonlethal Newt" (BIOLOGY)
New York Times
April 12, 2005
EXCERPT: It would be nice if people, like clams, evolved some resistance to neurotoxins. There wouldn't seem to be enough cases of P.S.P., however, to have much of an evolutionary effect on the population.
* IUB biologist Edmund Brodie III, USU biologists Edmund Brodie Jr. and Shana Geffeney, and others study an "evolutionary arms race" between garter snakes and toxic newts in the Pacific Northwest. A new paper in Nature shows that the newt toxin has forced multiple evolutionary changes in several (sub)populations of the garter snake Thamnophis sirtalis.
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