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David Bricker
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Indiana Science Monthly flag

Vol. 2, no. 3
Dec. 1, 2004

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

ISM on the Web:

November science news:
* Humans ran marathons before there was a Marathon
* Don't get hooked on "phishing" e-mails
* Getting a whiff of airborne PCBs

* NSF and AAAS want you!: 2005 Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge
* Google Scholar: a toy with potential?

November science news

"IU scientists study toxins in Great Lakes" (ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE)
Associated Press
Nov. 28, 2004

EXCERPT: Indiana University scientists are leading a federal effort to track the fluctuation of PCBs, pesticides and other toxins in the Great Lakes basin... IU recently received a $3.5 million Environmental Protection Agency grant to continue operating a network of instruments on the five lakes -- Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior -- which are the world's largest source of fresh water.

* Ron Hites and Ilora Basu of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (IUB) oversee the American contribution to a joint U.S.-Canada environmental toxin study known as IADN, or the Integrated Atmospheric Deposition Network. In the latest phase of the long-term project, Hites and Basu are examining atmospheric PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), and chlorinated pesticides.

IU press release:


"The Web: Tracking 'virtual tumors'" (COMPUTER SCIENCE/MEDICINE)
United Press International
Nov. 24, 2004

EXCERPT: A team of scientists is developing a "virtual tumor," a computer model viewed over the Internet by cancer researchers around the globe. It is used to observe the tumor as it develops from a single cell organism to a neoplasm, an uncontrolled growth of tissue.

* UPI reporter Gene Koprowski quotes me, of all people, extolling the virtues of IU grid computing: "At Indiana University in Bloomington, researchers are 'organizing and studying grid computing, especially as a way of tackling computationally intense science projects,' said David Bricker, a spokesman for the university."


"Flame retardant found in Lake Michigan" (ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE)
Associated Press
Nov. 24, 2004

EXCERPT: Concentrations of a flame retardant banned by many European countries have been found in Lake Michigan and are increasing, adding to concerns over previous findings that the chemicals were showing up in supermarket foods and women's breast milk.

* Associated Press reporter John Heilprin refers to a study coauthored by SPEA (IUB) Distinguished Professor Ron Hites that showed elevated PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) in the blood of mothers and infants in both Indiana and California. University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers recently reported they'd found PBDEs amassing at the bottom of Lake Michigan.

IU press release:


"Rara Avis or Statistical Mirage? Pentaquark Remains at Large" (PHYSICS)
Vol. 306, iss. 5700
Nov. 19, 2004

EXCERPT: Two years ago, scientists in Japan and then the United States made headlines around the world by announcing that they had found an unusual particle. This creature, dubbed the theta-plus, was apparently made of five quarks rather than the two or three quarks that make up all other known quarky matter in the universe. That unique property would make the so-called pentaquark a totally new way to probe the forces that hold atoms together (Science, 11 July 2003, p. 153). "It's a fantastic beast--if it exists," says Ted Barnes, a physicist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

* IUB physicist Alex Dzierba is asked about a type of matter called the pentaquark, whose existence is looking more and more dubious. Dzierba tells Science reporter Charles Seife that "an overwhelming body of negative evidence" bodes not-at-all-well for pentaquarks. Dzierba also suggests pentaquark discoverers have overlooked alternative explanations for their observations, and that a definitive experiment is needed to determine which explanation is correct.
(May require a subscription)


"Research team says long-distance running the key to human evolution" (ANTHROPOLOGY)
Baltimore Sun
Nov. 18, 2004

EXCERPT: Add this to the reasons to take up jogging: It might be what separates us from the apes... Scientists at Harvard and the University of Utah say that much of our anatomy was shaped 2 million years ago when the earliest humans developed the bones, ligaments and joints necessary for long-distance running.

* Regarding a postulation that human evolution was strongly influenced by the need for long-distance running skills, IUB anthropologist Kevin Hunt tells Baltimore Sun reporter Dennis O'Brien, "It's a very curious thing that humans can keep going, and going and going.",0,60208.story


"Phishing" (INFORMATICS)
Science Update
Nov. 18, 2004

EXCERPT: The latest online scams trick victims into giving up their personal information.

* School of Informatics (IUB) cybersecurity expert Markus Jakobsson tells Science Update reporter Bob Hirshon that "phishers," a variety of identity thief, are getting better at duping unsuspecting victims. Science Update is a syndicated science news program produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and is carried by more than 400 radio stations throughout the U.S.
(Requires Real Player or the Real Audio plug-in for your Web browser)

IU press release:


Chemical & Engineering News
Vol. 82, no. 46
Nov. 15, 2004

EXCERPT: In fiscal 2002, the picture for academic research and development continued to brighten. Total academic R&D spending expanded 10.9% to reach $36.3 billion in that year, the latest for which figures are available from the National Science Foundation. That healthy growth spurt surpasses the previous year's 9.0% rise, as well as the 6.8% annual average for the previous decade.

* Boosted by increases in available federal funding and renewed interest in life sciences-related research, American chemistry enjoyed a great deal of growth in FY 2002, the last year for which data are available. Indiana University was second only to Florida State University regarding one salient type of investment: money spent on new chemistry research equipment.
(May require a subscription)


"Give and Take: Plant parasites dole out genes while stealing nutrients" (BIOLOGY)
Science News
Vol. 166, no. 20
Nov. 13, 2004

EXCERPT: Parasites are the ultimate moochers, earning a living by stealing hard-earned nutrients from their hosts. Now, a new study in plants suggests that parasites sometimes give something back: foreign genes.

* IUB biologists Jeff Palmer and Jeff Mower recently published a report in Nature that helps establish plant parasitism as the first-known vehicle for "horizontal gene transfer" in eukaryotes. Palmer tells Science News reporter Christen Brownlee, "Parasitic plants could potentially be loaded with genes stolen from other plants, and they might serve as a reservoir to pass on these different genes."
(May require a subscription)

IU press release:


"Best Places to Work in Academia" (GENERAL SCIENCE)
The Scientist
Vol. 306, iss. 5694
Nov. 8, 2004

EXCERPT: The US institutions that made the top 10 list in The Scientist's 2004 Best Places to Work in Academia survey represent an interesting mix of small and large academic and private research centers from across the country. The characteristics that make them great places to work, however, are surprisingly similar.

* A survey of 1,456 scientists by The Scientist magazine identified Indiana University as one of the nation's most coveted "Places to Work in Academia." IU ranked 10th on a list of 66 desirable American academic institutions. Among the top ten institutions, IU is third in government research funding, third in number of life sciences researchers, and third in the number of academic papers generated by life scientists. The survey did not take into account quality of life -- if it did, IU surely would have trounced Purdue University, which also made the list.
(Access requires a free subscription)

IU press release:


"Raised by Others, Birds Use Code to Find Their Kind" (BIOLOGY)
National Geographic News
Oct. 15, 2004

EXCERPT: Reproduction success hinges on several factors, not least of which is finding a mate within the same species. While this is an easy enough task for humans, it is seemingly more complicated for brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater).

* Some bird species somehow manage to dupe other birds into feeding and raising the wrong young. After depositing their eggs into the nests of other bird species, brown-headed cowbirds and other so-called "parasitic" birds are thus released from most parental responsibilities. It's sort of like Dr. Seuss's Horton Hears a Who! minus the zany couplets. Having been raised by another bird species, how the imposters know what kind of bird they are is an ongoing mystery. In explaining how cowbirds find each other, IUB psychologist (and biologist) Meredith West tells National Geographic News reporter John Roach, "It's sort of by default that they end up with each other, because nobody else wants to be around them."



NSF and AAAS want you!: 2005 Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge
The NSF and AAAS are currently accepting scientists' submissions for their annual Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge. Judges will accept submissions no later than May 31, 2005. Winners and their work will be published in the Sept. 23, 2005, issue of Science. I happen to know a lot of you already do great work in visualizing your data and have great imaginations. Please consider entering. If you win, you'll get the chance to share something cool about your work with 150,000 scholars and science enthusiasts.

More information is here:

* * * *

Google Scholar: a toy with potential?
Google's "Scholar" is the Mountain View, Calif.-based company's latest experiment in search engines. It allows Web browsers to look for scholarly papers by keyword, article title, author name, name of journal, etc., using Google's familiar and easy-to-use search interface. While I wouldn't recommend Google Scholar to people who know what they're looking for, it's an attractive Internet portal for students and science writers who are looking for recently published articles and books about any given research subject.

A brief Nature article about the tool:


* * * * 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,