Last modified: Thursday, February 8, 2007
Vol. 4, no. 5
February 8, 2007
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 email@example.com).
January science news:
* Harrowing research environments encourage cheating
* The isolation of human odors
* Modeling avian flu pandemics
* SPEA's Marc Lame to discuss America's love affair with pesticides at Bloomington Science Cafe
"Science in culture: Chart toppers" (INFORMATION SCIENCE)
Vol. 445, no. 7126
Jan. 25, 2007
EXCERPT: It was often said that geography was about maps, and history about chaps. But there are virtually no sets of data — about chaps or anything else — that cannot be mapped, although sometimes a visually appealing map can hide as much as it reveals. This is the message of the exhibition 'Places and Spaces: Mapping Science' (http://scimaps.org/exhibit/nyscience/), which can be seen at the New York Hall of Science until 25 February, after which it will tour the United States, Japan and Europe.
* The exhibit is curated by the IU School of Library and Information Science's Katy Börner and Julie Smith, and includes recently created maps of science (papers and the relationships between scientific fields) as well as older maps, such as Charles Joseph Minard's chart of French troop losses during Napoleon's doomed assault of Russia.
(Access may require a subscription)
"Scientist at work: Katy Börner":
"Model predicts pandemic flu spread" (INFORMATICS/MEDICINE)
United Press International
Jan. 23, 2007
EXCERPT: A U.S.-led team of scientists has developed a model that predicts how pandemic influenza might be spread around the world by airline passengers.
* The researchers found that strict travel limitations would do little to prevent the global spread of avian flu.
IU Informatics press release:
EXCERPT: Male hamsters' urge to mate is switched on by the same chemical that triggers puberty in humans... Greg Demas at Indiana University in Bloomington and his colleagues found that the peptide kisspeptin is involved in switching fertility on and off in Siberian hamsters (Phodopus sungorus), which only breed in summer.
* Believe it or not, kisspeptin and its gene, KiSS-1, were not named whimsically. They were originally associated with metastatic tumor suppression (the SS in KiSS-1 stands for "suppressor sequence"). The subsequent connection of KiSS-1 and kisspeptin to reproductive function was entirely fortuitous.
IU press release:
"Scientists learn what every dog knows -- that we all have a unique smell" (INFORMATICS)
Jan. 21, 2007
EXCERPT: The researchers, from Bristol University, the University of Vienna in Austria and Indiana University in the US, have developed a way of analysing the traces of scent that every person leaves behind.
* Milos Novotny was part of the team that sampled sweat, urine, and saliva from 197 adults in the Austrian Alps. Sweat turned out to be the most variable, and gave the clearest chemical "fingerprint" for any given individual.
"Sending Einstein into a spin" (PHYSICS)
No. 193, iss. 2587
Jan. 18, 2007
EXCERPT: It's not every day that respectable scientists challenge Einstein. But that's what Nobel prizewinner Sheldon Glashow and his colleague Andrew Cohen, both of Boston University in Massachusetts, have dared to do. They believe it is time to rewrite the rules of Einstein's special theory of relativity, our best description of the nature of space and time for over a century.
* IUB physicist Alan Kostelecky is one of the challengers. Kostelecky is examining possible violations of Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity. "If Lorentz violations are discovered, they would provide an experimental handle on the underlying unified theory combining gravity and quantum physics - a handle that is sorely lacking to date," Kostelecky tells New Scientist reporter Amanda Gefter.
(Full access requires a subscription)
"Breeding cheats" (GENERAL SCIENCE)
Vol. 445, no. 7125
Jan. 18, 2007
EXCERPT: Take one prestigious laboratory. Add some pressing grant deadlines and a dash of apprehension about whether the applications will succeed. Throw in an overworked lab head, a gang of competitive postdocs and some shoddy record-keeping. Finally, insert a cynical scientist with a feeling that he or she is owed glory. It sounds hellish, but elements of this workplace will be familiar to many researchers. And that's worrying, as such an environment is, according to sociologists, the most fertile breeding ground for research misconduct.
* IUB ethicist Kenneth Pimple says disgraced South Korean researcher Woo Suk Hwang and other result fabricators are to research integrity what serial killers are to crime prevention. That is to say, the scientific community is quick to chastise and punish those who bend or break the rules. Lesser, more subtle misbehavior is more common than many believe, Pimple tells Nature reporter Jim Gilles.
"The ancestor within all creatures" (BIOLOGY)
No. 193, iss. 2586
Jan. 15, 2007
EXCERPT: From October to April every year, fishermen in Taiji in Japan herd schools of dolphins and porpoises into shallow bays and slaughter them for food. Each year they kill around 20,000 animals. That would have been the fate of one particular dolphin, a bottlenose that scientists now call AO-4, had fishermen not spotted something rather unusual about it.
* The dolphin had an extra pair of fins near its tail, a feature associated with the dolphin's 40-million-year-old ancestors. In 1994, IUB evolutionary biologist Rudolf Raff and colleagues examined the likelihood of evolutionary reversals. Where a single nucleotide is concerned, of course, the likelihood of reversal is relatively high. The development of anal fins, however, is exceedingly rare, and therefore involves a bit more than one or two nucleotide changes. Raff's group concluded the reversal of a heavily modified gene is therefore very unlikely, and might only happen to genes that have been modified in a lineage's recent past.
(Full access requires a subscription)
"Trees flirt with death during dry periods" (ECOLOGY)
Jan. 8, 2007
EXCERPT: Tree growth in temperate forests is driven by availability of water and not by temperature as previously thought, new research suggests.
* IUB geographer Constance Brown used a massive scaffold to measure canopy density in the Santa Catalina Mountains. She found that the largely evergreen temperate forests there were dependent on water, not temperature, for growth.
IU press release:
"Social sciences: Life's a game" (INFORMATICS)
Vol. 445, no. 7123
Jan. 4, 2007
EXCERPT: Is a ruthless dictatorship a better way of running a country than a well-oiled democracy? Would people be happier if all their property was confiscated? Might our economies be healthier if inflation ran at 100%?
* Social scientists and natural scientists are increasingly using game simulators to explore hypotheses. IUB Communications professor and economist Edward Castronova is writing a Shakespearean-themed game to study the interaction of human players. If he writes the software, he can control the parameters of players' interactions -- and study the results. To the detractors of this method of research, Castronova acknowledges credible results are crucial. He tells Nature's Jim Giles, "They'll believe us when we start showing it's possible."
IU press release:
SPEA's Marc Lame to discuss America's love affair with pesticides at Bloomington Science Cafe
Feb. 8 (tonight), from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Borders book store on E. 3rd St. The title of Lame's talk is "Losing the Message of Rachael Carson's Silent Spring: America Dependence on Pesticides." Lame wrote a book recently that explains how public schools (where a significant portion of non-agricultural pesticides is dispersed) can use pesticides more parsimoniously yet also more effectively. More information about the Science Cafe is available at http://www.sciencecafebloomington.org.
* * * * 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, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Hal Kibbey at 812-855-0074, email@example.com.
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