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David Bricker
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Indiana Science Monthly flag

Vol. 4, no. 2
November 8, 2006

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

October science news:
* Earth's below-ground bacteria an inspiration to astrobiologists
* Modeling the brain -- and the senses that feed it
* Ancient animal embryos reveal an early start for complex development

* SPEA's Matt Auer examines Congress and conservation at Bloomington Science Cafe

October science news

"Scientists look at brain-body development" (NEUROSCIENCE)
United Press International
Oct. 30, 2006

EXCERPT: U.S. and Japanese scientists have found a way to objectively quantify the ways the body interacts with the environment to produce information.

* IUB neuroscientist Olaf Sporns and a Japanese colleague are using circuitry to simulate human behaviors. His latest work doesn't only model the brain, but also the panoply of sensory inputs living organisms typically experience.

IU press release:


"Mastodons in Musth: Tusks may chronicle battles between males" (PALEONTOLOGY)
Science News
Vol. 170, no. 18
Oct. 28, 2006

EXCERPT: Damaged segments on fossils of male mastodons' tusks hint that the creatures engaged in fierce combat with each other during a specific time almost every year of their adult lives, a new study suggests. That behavior parallels the annual period of heightened aggression and hormone-fueled jousting for mates in modern bull elephants. Scientists call the yearly period musth.

* As evidence for this hypothesis, University of Michigan scientists point to the annual regularity of the tusk damage. IPFW paleontologist James O. Farlow tells Science News's Sid Perkins, "It's a plausible hypothesis," though he is said to wonder why similar features haven't been reported in the tusks of modern-day elephants.
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"Bacteria found digesting radiated water" (GEOLOGY/BIOLOGY)
New Scientist
Oct. 19, 2006

EXCERPT: A U.S.-led international team of geologists report finding a self-sustaining community of bacteria living in rocks 1.7 miles below the Earth's surface... The scientists from nine collaborating institutes say the bacteria rely on radioactive uranium to convert water molecules into useable energy.

* IUB biogeochemist Lisa Pratt led IU's contribution to the research. "We know surprisingly little about the origin, evolution and limits for life on Earth," Pratt says. "Scientists are just beginning to study the diverse organisms living in the deepest parts of the ocean."

IU press release:


"Big Testes or Big Horns? It's One or the Other for Male Beetles" (BIOLOGY)
National Geographic News
Oct. 16, 2006

EXCERPT: Big horns or big testes? It's one or the other for maturing male dung beetles looking to ensure reproductive success, a new study suggests... The finding confirms a theory that beetles have evolved in response to trade-offs between the two traits.

* Asked to comment on the University of Western Australia report, IUB evolutionary biologist and horned beetle expert Armin Moczek tells National Geographic News's John Roach that he has "absolutely no doubt trade-offs will turn out to be one of the major ingredients in determining the path that evolution takes."


"Climate Change Is Nothing New" (GEOLOGY)
Washington Post
Oct. 16, 2006

EXCERPT: Global climate change isn't just a problem of the industrial age. Dinosaurs had to cope with it, too, geologists have found... The carbon and nitrogen content of ancient rocks retrieved from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean 1,000 miles east of Japan indicate that ocean surface temperatures fluctuated by as much as 11 degrees Fahrenheit during the Cretaceous period 120 million years ago.

* IUB geologists Simon Brassell and Mirela Dumitrescu and Dutch colleagues retrieved ancient rock samples from the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Their data agrees with similar data collected from the Atlantic, suggesting climate fluctuations during the Cretaceous were occurring on a global scale. "If there are big, inherent fluctuations in the system, as paleoclimate studies are showing, it could make determining the Earth's climatic future even harder than it is," Brassell says. "We're learning our climate, throughout time, has been a wild beast."

IU press release:


"Fossil embryos from China reveal the oldest animals on Earth" (BIOLOGY)
Telegraph (U.K.)
Oct. 13, 2006

EXCERPT: The discovery in China of a group of fossilised embryos more than 500 million years old has given a glimpse of the first animals to evolve on Earth, overturning the accepted picture of how life evolved.

* The fossilized animal embryos are remarkably intact, and some contain what appear to be fossilized organelles. "We're learning something about how the very earliest multi-cellular animals formed embryos," IU Bloomington biologist Rudolf Raff says. He and IUB Biology Chair Elizabeth Raff were coauthors of the report.

IU press release:


"U.S. antibiotic guidelines effective" (MEDICINE)
United Press International
Oct. 10, 2006

EXCERPT: Researchers report that U.S. hospitals that follow national guidelines on controlling antibiotic use have lower rates of antibiotic resistance.

* Scientists from the IU School of Medicine, Regenstrief Institute, Inc., and Richard Roudebush Veterans Administration Medical Center studied the effectiveness of national guidelines for antibiotic use in hospitals. The scientists found hospitals that follow the guidelines they are less likely to be plagued by antibiotic resistant bacteria. Not exactly a surprising result, but hey, when it comes to nosocomial infection, we need to know scientific recommendations aren't just good theory, but good practice, too.

IUSM press release:



SPEA's Matt Auer examines Congress and conservation at Bloomington Science Cafe
From the cafe's official Web page, "In the House of Representatives, climate change science remains akin to witchcraft. But views are changing in the Senate, evidenced by recent legislative activity as well as stepped-up speech-making. We'll explore the drivers of Senators' changing perceptions. Plausible drivers are high fuel prices and crisis events like Katrina. Other plausible variables include scientific evidence commissioned by Congress from legislative research bodies like the Congressional Research Service. Another possibility are changes in the substance of testimony provided to Senators during Congressional hearings. We will consider how these different forces might lead to future legislative outcomes."


* * * * 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,, or Hal Kibbey at 812-855-0074,

Indiana Science Monthly is produced for internal use only. If you have received this eMail in error, or do not wish not to receive this monthly eMail, or if you have a news item for the next edition of ISM, please contact David Bricker at 812-856-9035,