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David Bricker
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Thursday, December 30, 2004

Indiana Science Monthly flag

Vol. 2, no. 4
Jan. 3, 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

December science news:
* Cicadas and salmon among 2004's top stories
* Lilly Endowment grant to IUB infuses new life into science
* IU will go to Mars not on Spirit, but definitely in spirit

* IU Life Sciences Week is coming: Jan. 22-29, 2005

December science news

"38: Caution: Farmed Salmon May Cause Cancer" (ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE)
Vol. 26 No. 01
January 2005

EXCERPT: Rich in heart-protective fats, salmon has become the favorite entree of the health conscious, so much in demand it is farmed around the world. But environmentalists have fretted that fish farms also breed toxins, and in January the largest study of its kind revealed that farmed salmon often have dangerous levels of poisons like PCBs and dioxins.

* Discover magazine editors and writers selected a Science paper comparing toxin levels in farmed and wild salmon as 2004's 38th "top" science story. The paper's lead author was SPEA (IUB) environmental chemist Ronald Hites.
(Access to the full article requires a subscription)


"Top Ten National Geographic News Stories of 2004" (BIOLOGY)
National Geographic News
Dec. 30, 2004

EXCERPT: Cicadas, a possible flooded future, and the discovery of a hobbit-like human were the most popular National Geographic News stories in 2004. An astronomical oddity—the blue moon—and this year's spectacular meteor shower rounded out the top five.

* Readers of National Geographic News online voted the re-emergence of Brood X periodical cicadas in May their favorite news story from 2004. Reporter John Roach wrote most of the articles for National Geographic's online news service, frequently quoting IUB biologist Keith Clay and/or IUB geographer John Odland. Clay and Odland have National Science Foundation funds to study periodical cicadas' interactions with forests and humans, respectively.


"Lilly Endowment Gives $53 Million to Indiana University" (GENERAL SCIENCE)
Philanthropy News Digest
Dec. 22, 2004

EXCERPT: Indiana University, in Bloomington, has announced a $53 million grant from the Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment to broaden and intensify its life sciences research. The grant is the largest ever received by the university.

* The $53 million will be used to establish research "nodes" and support facilities for metabolic and cytological research.

IU press release:


"Study shows fat boosts mammals' immune systems -- and could work for humans, too" (BIOLOGY)
Ottawa Citizen (Canada)
Dec. 21, 2004

EXCERPT: It's cold, and -- hold on, what's this? Some scientist is telling us it's good to pack on a few pounds over Christmas and New Year's? ... It's partly true, at least, say the folks at Indiana University. Cold weather does some nasty things to your immune system. Things a little fat can help to overcome.

* Ongoing work by IUB biologist Gregory Demas shows that adipose tissue serves a number of vital functions -- some unexpected -- in animal models. Ottawa Citizen science reporter Tom Spears' article ran in a number of Canadian dailies, including the Calgary Herald and the Vancouver Sun.

(Not available online)


"IU to help design, build Mars rover instruments" (GEOLOGY)
Associated Press
Dec. 16, 2004

EXCERPT: Two Indiana University scientists will help design and build two miniaturized instruments for NASA's next Mars rover mission... The instruments will be mounted on the Mars Science Laboratory, set for a 2009 launch and a Mars landing in 2010. It will be NASA's follow-up to twin rovers that are still exploring Mars nearly a year after landing.

* Two of the eight devices selected to go to Mars on NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover have IUB geologists behind them: Juergen Schieber and David Bish.

IU press release:


"The future of life on Earth will be a gas" (GEOPHYSICS)
Guardian (U.K.)
Dec. 16, 2004

EXCERPT: Untapped reserves of methane that could provide future generations with energy might lie deep within the Earth's crust. A team led by Henry Scott at Indiana University has found that squeezing rocks in the laboratory at temperatures and pressures found about 100km down generates methane. Oil and gas wells are drilled up to 10km beneath the surface.

* A science news brief describes a recent presentation by IU South Bend geophysicist Henry Scott to colleagues at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Scott helped show that inorganic chemical processes inside the Earth can also form so-called "fossil fuels.",,1374273,00.html

IUSB press release:


"Radio ID tags proliferate, stirring privacy debate" (INFORMATICS)
Christian Science Monitor
Dec. 15, 2004

EXCERPT: Nearly unknown a decade ago, a device the size of a pencil tip is beginning to infiltrate every corner and pocket of American life... This recent technology - called RFID for "radio frequency identification" -- is making everything from warehouse inventory to lost-luggage tracking to library checkouts easier, faster, and much more informed.

* Advances in information technology are making it easier to identify not only the whereabouts of our things, but the whereabouts of us, too. Director for Applied Cybersecurity Research (and School of Law Professor) Fred Cate tells the Christian Science Monitor's Daniel B. Wood, "Almost no one is talking about it publicly, but every day all over the country toll pass information is being used by lawyers in divorce cases... What is scaring a lot of people is they feel that as soon as each new idea for the technology exists, it's only seconds before the government will have it."


"Yushchenko Shows Record Dioxin Level" (ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE)
Associated Press
Dec. 15, 2004

EXCERPT: New tests reveal Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko's blood contains the second-highest level of dioxin poisoning ever recorded in a human more than 6,000 times the normal concentration, according to the expert analyzing the samples.

* Viktor Yushchenko, the victor-apparent of Ukraine's third presidential election in eight months, believes he was poisoned by political opponents. The chemical culprit behind Yushchenko's facial transformation is dioxin, which is actually short for 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo[b,e][1,4]dioxin. SPEA (IUB) environmental toxicologist Diane Henshel tells Associated Press reporter Emma Ross that one way to get the toxin out of Yushchenko's system might be to prescribe Olestra, a fat substitute that readily interacts with dioxin. Olestra could absorb and trap dioxin until the poison and fat simulacrum are jointly excreted.


"Healthy Turnout" (CHEMISTRY)
Chemical & Engineering News
Vol. 82, no. 50
Dec. 13, 2004

EXCERPT: Drawing inspiration from increasing media attention and public awareness of health issues, thousands of American Chemical Society volunteers gathered at museums, universities, malls, and local schools for this year's National Chemistry Week, which had the theme "Health & Wellness." The annual NCW festivities, which took place Oct. 17--23, aimed to communicate the positive effects chemistry has on everyday life.

* The IUB Department of Chemistry and the southern Indiana section of the American Chemical Society co-sponsored special events for children and teens during National Chemistry Week 2004. C&E News reporter Aalok Mehta's cover story surveyed chapter activities across the country, including those in Bloomington, where kids were given the chance to visit a haunted laboratory. It was late October, after all. Other activities included "a poster contest, a chemistry magic show, henna tattoos and face painting, demonstrations of medical equipment, and a variety of hands-on experiments," writes Mehta.
(May require a subscription)


"Plant DNA shows speedy changes" (BIOLOGY)
New Scientist
Dec. 11, 2004

EXCERPT: The mitochondria of a group of nondescript flowering plants contain the fastest-evolving DNA yet known... Until now, the mitochondrial genomes of plants were thought to evolve slowly. But when Jeffrey Palmer and colleagues at Indiana University in Bloomington compared mitochondrial DNA from nine species of plantain (members of the genus Plantago) and 41 other plants, they found that some Plantago sequences changed several thousand times as fast as the slowest-evolving plant lineages.

* Palmer et alla's findings were unexpected, since mitochondrial genes are usually among the most conserved DNA sequences in any eukaryote's genome.
(Abstract of the PNAS article)


Naked Science: "What is Human?" (ANTHROPOLOGY)
National Geographic Channel
Dec. 8, 2004

EXCERPT: Naked Science travels the globe in search of our earliest ancestors. Follow our struggle to survive and learn what eventually propelled one animal to rise above all other creatures on Earth. This is our story -- the story of what makes us human.

* IUB anthropologist and CRAFT co-director Nick Toth is shown talking about the complex cognitive processes required tool-making, and how the development of tool use by early human ancestors probably went hand-in-hand with the evolution of hominid brains. Toth also lends his stone tools to Bedford, Ind., butchers, who demonstrate how well a finely hewn rock can cut through meat.


"Outpouring of junk e-mail adds holiday touch" (INFORMATICS)
Sacramento Bee
Dec. 7, 2004

EXCERPT: If you've noticed a torrent of e-mails promoting "replica Rolexes" or free laptops, it's just the work of jolly spammers getting into the holiday spirit... While those messages aren't replacing promises of a better sex life or instant riches, they are adding a seasonal flavor to our already stuffed electronic in-boxes.

* In his consumer-oriented article about unwanted e-mail messages, Sacramento Bee reporter Clint Swett asks IUB computer scientist and informatician Filippo Menczer about the curiously persuasive economics of spam. Menczer tells Swett, "You can send a million e-mails and maybe that only costs you $20... So you sell only one fake Rolex. You still might make $30."



IU Life Sciences Week is coming: Jan. 22-29, 2005
This week of life sciences-related activities around the state is a large-scale project involving personnel from the Office of the President, the Office of the Vice President for University Relations, the Office of the Vice President for Research and Information Technology, the IU Foundation, the IU School of Medicine, IU Bloomington, IUPUI, and many other entities. The university seeks to answer basic questions the general public has about life sciences -- including what they are. In addition to life science-related museum exhibits at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis, IU plans life science-related announcements and events throughout the week.

I must say I'm looking forward to the Hermann Muller exhibit. One wonders whether Lilly Library staff will put Muller's ratchet on display.

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,, 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,