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David Bricker
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Thursday, June 15, 2006

Indiana Science Monthly flag

Vol. 3, no. 9
June 16, 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

May science news:
* Might the removal of one cancer cause another?
* 12th-century locals were pottery artisans
* Getting a grip on genus-one helicoids

May science news

"A Helix with a Handle" (MATHEMATICS)
American Scientist
May-June 2006

EXCERPT: Dip a loop of wire into a soapy solution, and the film that covers the loop will be what mathematicians call a minimal surface. The soap forms such a shape because it minimizes surface tension. At any point, a minimal surface is maximally curved in one direction and minimally curved in the opposite direction, but the amount of curvature in each direction is exactly the same...

* Indiana University Bloomington mathematician Matthias Weber and colleagues at Stanford and Rice universities have proven a certain class of topological structures, "genus-one helicoids," are minimal surfaces, meaning the helicoids have the lowest surface area of all possible configurations. Proving such a thing mathematically is not as easy as it sounds, but then, isn't that always the case with problems in topology?

IU press release:


"5-century-old pottery operation found in Ind." (ANTHROPOLOGY)
Associated Press
May 29, 2006

EXCERPT: An archeological dig at southern Indiana's Angel Mounds complex has uncovered a pottery-making operation that reveals the artistic skills of the Indians who lived there hundreds of years ago.

* Ongoing excavations in southern Indiana by Glenn A. Black Laboratory Director Chris Peebles and his staff have revealed much about the lives of American Indians who lived during and before the expansion of Europeans across North America. Peebles says of the southern Indiana discovery, "'This is the best collection of pottery tools ever found here."


"Phishers could start using the personal touch" (INFORMATICS)
New Scientist
May 29, 2006

EXCERPT: As if "phishing" emails weren't already hard enough to spot, imagine hackers being able to discover which websites you visit and using this information to personalise their bogus messages. They could then send you a phishing message purporting to be from your own bank, asking you to hand over sensitive information.

* IUB computer scientist Markus Jakobsson presented a new method of thwarting "context-aware" attacks at the World Wide Web conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 26 May. Jakobsson recommended that banks and other e-businesses give each of their customers a secret URL for their transactions. Jackobsson is an Associate Professor of Informatics.
(Access to the complete article requires a subscription)


"Cancer surgery concerns" (MEDICINE)
Baltimore Sun
May 26, 2006

EXCERPT: Could surgery to remove breast cancer tumors actually increase the risk of a relapse? ... A small group of respected researchers suspects that in a significant number of women, surgery itself may trigger the rapid growth of smaller tumors elsewhere in the body.

* The article refers to a study by IU School of Medicine surgeon Susan E. Clare and colleagues that suggested the removal of cancerous growths in mouse breasts spurred the development of cancers in other tissues.,0,4281752.story


"Researchers Closer to Finding a Genetic Cause for Hearing Loss" (MEDICINE)
Voice of America
May 25, 2006

EXCERPT: Nearly one third of people over age 65 have hearing loss associated with environmental and genetic factors. Environmental causes include exposure to loud noises, such as industrial machines. Researchers from Indiana University are a step closer to identifying the gene linked to hearing loss as we age.

* IU School of Medicine medical geneticist Terry E. Reed is one of many scientists worldwide looking for genes that influence hearing loss. Reed and colleagues recently identified a genetic marker (corresponding to a gene or genes) that seems highly correlated with people who experience age-related hearing loss. "This was a form of deafness that the onset occurred in the teen years and later and gradually got worse... It started out with high tone hearing loss and [there were] a lot of parallels to the hearing loss with age," Reed tells VOA's Rosanne Skirble.

IUSM press release:


"Government Crackdown, Please" (GENERAL SCIENCE)
Vol. 312, no. 5776
May 19, 2006

EXCERPT: Concerned about the chaotic way scientific misconduct allegations in China are being publicized, Chinese scientists are asking the government to step in...

* A series of questionable announcements and publications in China is roiling scientists worldwide. IU School of Medicine microbiologist Xin-Yuan Fu calls for a "rule of law" that would tighten scrutiny of declarations and publications by scientists and engineers in China.
(Access may require a subscription)


"Nature's Glue May Have Medical Uses" (BIOLOGY)
Journal of the American Medical Association
Vol. 295, no. 19
May 17, 2006

EXCERPT: Researchers have discovered that a unique adhesive made by the water-dwelling Caulobacter crescentus bacterium can withstand the stress of about 70 N/mm2, the equivalent of 5 tons per square inch, making it the strongest biological adhesive ever measured... A number of potential medical and engineering applications for such a natural glue can be envisioned, particularly because its effectiveness in wet environments may make it a promising adhesive for procedures such as surgeries.

* IU Bloomington biologist Yves Brun and Brown University collaborators have isolated a polysaccharide from the bacterium Caulobacter crescentus. The sugary substance may be the strongest adhesive in nature. The scientists report their findings in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
(Access may require a subscription)

IU press release:


"The body snatchers" (MEDICINE)
Nature Medicine
Vol 12, no. 5
May 1, 2006

EXCERPT: For 58 years, Alistair Cooke enchanted his radio audience... In March 2004, one week after he announced his last broadcast, Cooke died of lung cancer in his New York home. He was 95. As his listeners mourned, his family sent his body to be cremated at a local funeral home. But the ashes that came back were not from Cooke's body...

* The riveting article examines the use of corpses for medical science purposes. The director of the body donation program for UCLA was accused in 2004 of trafficking as many as 800 bodies to the black market. In response, IU School of Medicine Chief of Anatomy David Burr tells Nature reporter Emily Waltz, "We don't have an overabundance of bequeathals. Our programs work off good public relations, so when something happens at UCLA, it's a problem for us too."
(Access may require a subscription)


* * * * 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,