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David Bricker
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Indiana Science Monthly flag

Vol. 4, no. 10
July 19, 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

June science news:
* Giants of bacteriology
* The human brain: an uncommon -- and restless - machine
* How big is the gap between humans and chimps?

June science news

"Relative Differences: The Myth of 1%" (BIOLOGY)
Vol. 316, no. 5833
June 29, 2007

EXCERPT: In a groundbreaking 1975 paper published in Science, evolutionary biologist Allan Wilson of the University of California (UC), Berkeley, and his erstwhile graduate student Mary-Claire King made a convincing argument for a 1% genetic difference between humans and chimpanzees... Several recent ... [are]... raising the question of whether the 1% truism should be retired.

* Indiana University Bloomington biologist Matthew Hahn recently estimated the contribution of gene additions and deletions to the overall genetic differences between humans and chimps, finding "gene duplication and loss may have played a greater role than nucleotide substitution in the evolution of uniquely human phenotypes and certainly a greater role than has been widely appreciated."

IU press release:


"Fast-Reproducing Microbes Provide a Window on Natural Selection" (BIOLOGY)
New York Times
June 26, 2007

EXCERPT: Today evolutionary experiments on microbes are under way in many laboratories. And thanks to the falling price of genome-sequencing technology, scientists can now zero in on the precise genetic changes that unfold during evolution, a power previous generations of researchers only dreamed of.

* IUB biologist Gregory J. Velicer experienced... bafflement firsthand while watching the evolution of a predatory microbe called Myxococcus xanthus. Myxococcus swarms lash their tails together and hunt in a pack, releasing enzymes to kill their prey and feasting on the remains. If the bacteria starve, they come together to form a mound of spores. It is a cooperative effort. Only a few percent of the bacteria end up forming spores, while the rest face almost certain death. Velicer tells New York Times reporter Carl Zimmer, "It just makes you ask, 'What on earth is that doing?'"


"Mapping a Medusa: The Internet spreads its tentacles" (INFORMATICS)
Science News
Vol. 171, no. 25
June 23, 2007

EXCERPT: After enlisting the help of thousands of volunteers to track how digital information weaves around the world, researchers can offer a new simile: The Internet is like a medusa jellyfish. It has a dense core surrounded by a highly connected body, from which tentacles dangle.

* Preliminary work shows that networks as diverse as interacting proteins and airline traffic have similar structures under a certain type of analysis. "You see a universality that is puzzling and also exciting," says IU School of Informatics (Bloomington) Professor Alessandro Vespignani.
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"Scientists study background brain activity" (NEUROSCIENCE)
United Press International
June 5, 2007

EXCERPT: A U.S.-led team of neuroscientists has determined the 98 percent of brain activity considered background noise is, in fact, important... Indiana University Associate Professor Olaf Sporns and doctoral student Christopher Honey note brains are always active, even when people are at rest.

* "Some people see the brain in terms of inputs and outputs, like a computer. If you provide an input, you'll get a particular output," said Honey. "We take a different view. We believe that even in the absence of an external stimulus, there are very important processes going on in the brain which affect the stimulus-responses that the brain will produce. We believe that ongoing spontaneous activity should be studied in itself."

IU press release:


"Chemical Information Scholarship Winners Announced" (INFORMATICS/CHEMISTRY)
C&E News
Vol. 85, no. 23
June 4, 2007

EXCERPT: The ACS division of Chemical Information (CINF) has announced the winners of the CINF-Elsevier MDL Award for Scientific Excellence.

* Scholarships valued at $1,000 each were awarded to... Xiao Dong, School of Informatics, Indiana University, Bloomington; and Huijun Wang, School of Informatics, Indiana University, Bloomington.
(Access may require a subscription)


"CREB, alcohol, and anxiety" (MEDICINE)
The Scientist
Vol. 21, iss. 6
June 1, 2007

EXCERPT: Addiction pathways in the brain are complicated, and alcoholism might be the most complex. "Drugs act very differently in the brain, and among them alcohol is the most different," says Markus Heilig, clinical director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). While most drugs of abuse are receptor-mediated, "the problem with alcohol is it gets into everything. It gets into proteins in the membrane, it gets into lipids," says Antonio Noronha, NIAAA's director of the Division of Neuroscience and Behavior.

* In 1993, a group from the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Veterans Administration Medical Center described the characteristics of a selectively bred strain of rats. These P rats (for alcohol-preferring) drank more alcohol than control rats, and they also showed higher levels of anxiety when they were not under the influence.
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* * * * 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,