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David Bricker
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Friday, June 16, 2006

Indiana Science Monthly flag

Vol. 3, no. 8
May 11, 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

April science news:
* The physics and physiology of birdsong
* Meet nine people, take one home
* IU acquires powerful supercomputer for science

April science news

"How to pick a perfect mate" (PSYCHOLOGY)
New Scientist
April 29, 2006

EXCERPT: Selecting a mate is the most crucial decision of our lives. We spend a huge amount of time and energy trying to find that special someone. Our appetite for a relationship fuels a billion-dollar industry of match-making services, lonely hearts ads and online dating. Yet we're often not satisfied. A survey in 2005 of more than 900 people who had been using online dating services found that three-quarters had not found what they were looking for. We seem as much in the dark as ever about who is a suitable match for us.

* IU psychologist Peter Todd and a colleague devised a computer simulation that estimates the chance a person will meet a suitable mate at a particular social gathering. At an event with 100 people, the researchers determined a person is likely to encounter a suitable mate among the first nine strangers he or she encounters. Of course, some of us prefer not to play the odds where love is concerned...


"'Inauthentic Paper Detector' detects fakes" (INFORMATICS)
United Press International
April 24, 2006

EXCERPT: Indiana University researchers say they have designed an "Inauthentic Paper Detector" to distinguish between real and fake technical papers... The program, said to be one of the first of its kind, uses compression to determine whether technical texts are generated by man or machine.

* IU Informatics (Bloomington) data mining experts Mehmet Dalkilic and Predrag Radivojac and Informatics doctoral students Wyatt T. Clark and James Costello created a program that sniffs out papers generated by machines, not humans. The program looks for "authentic text" that is syntactically correct and meaningful.

IU Informatics press release:


"Briefing: Pipe bugs" (BIOLOGY)
New York Newsday
April 20, 2006

EXCERPT: A bacterium that clings to the inside of water pipes stays in place with the strongest glue known to exist, according to a team of scientists that includes an Indiana University biologist. Researchers found the bacteria Caulobacter crescentus can withstand a force equivalent to five tons per square inch. Yves Brun, the Indiana University biologist who co-authored the research, said the adhesive the bacteria produce could be mass produced for engineering and medical purposes. The findings appear in the April 11 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

* 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.

(Not available online)

IU press release:


"X-rays reveal the secret of birdsong" (BIOLOGY)
Daily Telegraph (U.K.)
April 19, 2006

EXCERPT: When Percy Bysshe Shelley sang the praises of the skylark's "flood of rapture so divine'' the poet mused "how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?'' ... Two centuries later the answer is provided by scientists who have used X-rays to reveal that the purity of bird song is owed in large part to rapid, controlled changes in the shape of the birds' upper vocal tracts.

* IUB neurobiologist Roderick Suthers and colleagues followed the throat action of singing cardinals and found that, among other things, the birds shape sound much the same way humans do. The finding also supports the continued use of certain songbirds in investigations of human sound-making and vocal ailments.

IU press release:


"Newton's curse" (CHYMISTY)
New Scientist
April 8, 2006

EXCERPT: It looks like a curiously clumsy anachronism, set among the modern Pyrex glass and fume cupboards. Surely this chemistry lab at Indiana University in Bloomington shouldn't contain a crude furnace constructed from bricks and mortar. It gets worse: look past the furnace and you'll see a couple of people hunched in a corner, poring over what appear to be the scrawlings of a madman. What's going on - is this the rebirth of alchemy?

* IUB History and Philosophy of Science professors William Newman and Catherine Reck are attempting to recreate Isaac Newton's experiments in alchemy. Newton himself has proved something of an obstacle. In his writings, the famed mathematician and physicist invented symbols and jargon that are difficult -- if not impossible -- to decipher. Of Newton's manuscripts, Newman tells New Scientist reporter Philip Ball, "They are in a state of considerable disorder."
(Access to the full article requires a subscription)

IU press release:


"When Physicians Get Cancer" (MEDICINE)
National Public Radio
April 6, 2006

EXCERPT: Dealing with a potentially fatal cancer is difficult for anyone, but doctors with cancer face a special challenge. They're accustomed to giving medical care, not receiving it. And they know better than most what their future might look like.

* IU School of Medicine internist William Tierney discusses with NPR's Joanne Silberner his experience with cancer. Going from doctor to patient was difficult, as he recalls. "We help people and their families through difficult times when people die, etc., and you have to be the one who's strong to lead them through it, to be the one that people lean on," Tierney says. "And it's very difficult for physicians to just back off and say you take care of me."


"IU to acquire fast new supercomputer" (GENERAL SCIENCE)
Associated Press
April 5, 2006

EXCERPT: Indiana University is acquiring what school officials call the nation's fastest university-owned supercomputer a powerful tool that's expected to aid research in a wide range of fields at the campus... IU President Adam W. Herbert said Wednesday that the purchase of the IBM supercomputer the various components of which cost about $9 million will give research scientists the computing power and data storage they need for their complex research.

* Time on the supercomputer will be prioritized for scientific applications. On the importance of providing powerful computing machinery to scientists, IU President Adam W. Herbert says, "The top research universities of the 21st century will be those that can best perform these essential information technology functions."

(Not accessible online)

IU press release:


"Gene Therapy Shows Hope in Immune Disease" (MEDICINE)
Los Angeles Times
April 3, 2006

EXCERPT: After a year of scant progress in the once-promising field of gene therapy, German scientists said Sunday that they had successfully used the experimental technique to cure two patients with a rare immune disorder... The patients suffered from chronic granulomatous disease, or CGD, an inherited illness that leaves its victims susceptible to life-threatening infections.

* IU School of Medicine oncologist Mary C. Dinauer expressed some reservations about the announcement, saying the growth was "very dramatic," but that, "People have concerns. You can get too much of a good thing."

(Not accessible online)


"Better Than Ever At Pittcon 2006" (CHEMISTRY)
Chemical & Engineering News
Vol. 84, no. 14
April 3, 2006

EXCERPT: Pittcon, the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry & Applied Spectroscopy, was first held in Pittsburgh in 1950. This year, Pittcon held its 57th meeting in Orlando, Fla., where it delivered on its annual promise to provide a wide range of edifying presentations on analytical chemistry and to introduce a plethora of the latest analytical instruments for research and industry. The 2006 meeting saw the use of innovative technologies to develop instruments that, at least in some cases, are smaller and cheaper, offer higher performance, and are overall just better than ever before.

* IUB analytical chemist Gary Hieftje was asked for his opinion of new atomic spectroscopy devices introduced at Pittcon. He said most devices on display were not truly innovative but were rather improvements on older designs, with a few exceptions.


"Soundbites" (ANTHROPOLOGY)
New Scientist
April 1, 2006

EXCERPT: "The Gawis cranium provides us with the opportunity to look at the face of one of our ancestors." ... Sileshi Semaw, an Ethiopian research scientist at the Stone Age Institute at Indiana University, announces the discovery of a hominin (sic) skull estimated to be 200,000 to 500,000 years old.

* IU Center for Research into the Anthropological Foundations of Technology scientist Sileshi Semaw was deemed quotable by editors of the science and technology magazine.

Stone Age Institute press release:


* * * * 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,