Forelimb bone data predicts predator style

In their quest to understand what kind of hunter the extinct marsupial thylacine was, two paleobiologists built a dataset of forelimb bone measurements that predict the predation style of a wide variety of carnivorous mammals. They describe the data in a study posted online in the Journal of Morphology.

The contemplative studies concentration

In May, the College Curriculum Council approved contemplative studies as a concentration, turning the 10-year-old Contemplative Studies Initiative into a full-fledged degree option for students and making it the first college major of its kind in North America. Harold Roth, professor of religious studies and director of the Contemplative Studies Initiative, spoke with Courtney Coelho about the new concentration.
Not your grandfather’s Persian music

An exiled Iranian musician goes avant-garde

Noah Elbot, a 2014 graduate, prepared this profile of musician Mohsen Namjoo for the “Explore Watson” feature of the Watson Institute’s website. Dozens of articles at that site demonstrate the “different dimensions of, perspectives on, and connections among the Institute’s core foci: development, security, and governance.”

Costs of War: $4.4 trillion, 350,000 lives

Updated figures for the direct costs of war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan now stand at more than 350,000 lives lost and $4.4 trillion spent. Indirectly, another 250,000 lives have been lost to war-related causes like loss of civilian access to food and health care, and another $8 trillion in interest on war debt may come due during the next 40 years.
Mathematical framework

How a wrinkle becomes a crease

Kyung-Suk Kim and Mazen Diab have worked out the mathematics of how wrinkles form in solid materials under compression — and how, under more compression, those wrinkles can become creases. The mathematics of wrinkles and creases could help in the design of flexible electronic circuits, artificial skin, and soft robotic grips and may help explain brain injuries due to compression.

Morone named director of Taubman Center

James Morone, professor of political science and urban studies, has been named director of the A. Alfred Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions. He begins his new duties July 1, 2014.

Emergence of bacterial vortex explained

Bacteria in a drop of water spontaneously form a bi-directional vortex, with bacteria near the center of the drop swimming in the opposite direction of bacteria swimming near the edge. New computer simulations, confirmed by a novel experiment, explain how that vortex comes to be.
Commentary by Jo-Anne Hart

Will we have ISIS to thank for peace with Iran?

If there is any good news in the ISIS developments in Iraq, it is that the United States and Iran both want to see ISIS stopped and Iraq’s government stabilized. It’s possible, writes Jo-Anne Hart, that addressing the ISIS issue could lead to confidence-building between the United States and Iran. Hart is an adjunct professor of international studies at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies.

Stem pipeline problems to aid STEM diversity

Educators and policymakers have spent decades trying to recruit and retain more underrepresented minority students into the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) pipeline. A new analysis of disappointing results in the pipeline’s output  leads two Brown University biologists to suggest measures to help the flow overcome an apparent gravity.

A virus reveals the physics of nanopores

Nanopores could provide a new way to sequence DNA quickly, but the physics involved isn’t well understood. That’s partly because of the complexities involved in studying the random, squiggly form DNA takes in solution. Researchers from Brown have simplified matters by using a stiff, rod-like virus instead of DNA to experiment with nanopores. Their research has uncovered previously unknown dynamics in polymer-nanopore interactions.

BRCA test results affect patients’ surgery plans

A new study reports that 7 in 10 women with breast cancer who learned before surgery they have BRCA gene mutations changed their surgical plan, often to a more extensive procedure that would reduce future cancer risk. The authors therefore recommend that women who meet genetic testing guidelines get the tests before surgery.
Day of discovery

First-graders flood campus

On a very soggy Friday in June, 55 first-graders from the Paul Cuffee School in Providence flooded campus for a series of activities that supported their classroom work studying multiple intelligences.

Proliferation cues ‘natural killer’ cells for job change

Why would already abundant ‘natural killer’ cells proliferate even further after subduing an infection? It’s been a biological mystery for 30 years. But now Brown University scientists have an answer: After proliferation, the cells switch from marshaling the immune response to calming it down. The findings illuminate the functions of a critical immune system cell important for early defense against disease induced by viral infection.

Found: ‘master’ protein in pulmonary fibrosis

In Science Translational Medicine scientists reveal the key role that an ancient protein plays in the course of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The research offers more than an unprecedentedly detailed explanation of the disease’s tragic course. It also points toward a new therapeutic strategy.