Earthquake Warning Systems / Earth's Mystery Noise / Sharing Gene Research / The Big Bang

Welcome to Science in the News in VOA Special English. I'm Bob Doughty. And I'm Faith Lapidus. This week: a computer program that discovers an earthquake before it happens ... a mystery noise from deep in the Earth ... and we answer a question from a listener in Pakistan.

But first, a new report on ways to improve human health in developing countries.

Scientists are calling for an international effort to share the products of genomics research. The scientists say such an effort could help to save the lives of millions of people in developing countries each year.

The University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics proposed the effort in a report to the United Nations. The report is called Genomics and Global Health. It was presented earlier this month at the Fourth World Conference of Science Journalists in Montreal, Canada.

The science of genomics investigates genes and the way they operate. Genomics has led to new medicines and tools for fighting disease.

The University of Toronto group says such tools are able to identify disease at the molecular level in blood or tissues. It says this will help increase a patient's chance of survival and prevent diseases from spreading. The group says poor countries often waste limited resources on wrong treatments.

Peter Singer is Director of the Joint Centre for Bioethics. He says millions of people in developing countries die from diseases that could be prevented or treated easily through products of biotechnology.

Doctor Singer says the report urges industrial nations to share their wealth of information with developing countries. He says the report also shows a way for developing countries to reach targets set at a United Nations conference four years ago. The targets are known as the U-N's Millennium Development Goals. Delegates at the conference agreed to reach these goals by two-thousand-fifteen.

The report explains how genomics could improve human health in developing countries. For example, scientists could make a genetic map of the organisms responsible for the disease malaria in humans. This information can be used to develop new drugs and vaccines to strengthen the human body's defenses against disease.

The report says the products of genomics once were so costly that only wealthy nations could pay for them. It says developing countries are now able to pay for some of these products. And, it says, a few are now so low-cost and simple they can start replacing older, more costly health care technologies in poorer countries.

The report calls for creation of a program to support genomics for the public good of all people. The program would ask governments, businesses and other organizations to support genomics and learning worldwide.

A team of scientists has developed a computer program that can tell where and when earthquakes will happen. The program successfully warned of fifteen of the sixteen largest earthquakes in the American state of California in the past ten years.

John Rundle of the University of California at Davis led the scientific team. Mr. Rundle says the scientists are extremely happy with results of the project. He says the results are evidence of the project's ability to tell when and where earthquakes will happen in the future.

The method involves the use of a special computer program called QuakeSim. The program examined information about large earthquakes in the past. The information tells where and when the earthquakes took place. It also includes their strength as measured by the Richter scale. The computer program used information about earthquakes in California as long ago as nineteen thirty-two.

The program also examined information about small, recent earthquakes and information gathered from satellites in Earth orbit. The satellites measured small changes in the surface of the planet.

The computer program then consideed all of the information to help the scientists tell where and when earthquakes were most likely to happen.

The scientific team published its findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in February, two thousand-two. Their report warned that fifteen earthquakes would take place. There were eleven earthquakes after the report was published. Four others happened before it was released to the public.

The effort to estimate when earthquakes will happen was a project developed by scientists at the University of Colorado and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The American space agency and the United States Department of Energy paid for the study.

Scientists in the United States believe they have identified the cause of a mysterious noise made by the Earth. They say the noise seems to be coming from some ocean areas. They say it starts during periods of severe winter storm activity.

For years, scientists have known the Earth can ring like a bell after an earthquake. They believed that the shaking would end when there are no earthquakes. Yet studies have shown it continues long after the effects of an earthquake.

Scientists in Japan first described the noise six years ago. They said it is a deep, low sound that is present in the ground. The sound is too low for human ears to hear. Scientists say the sound is not very powerful. They say it only has as much power as a few one hundred watt electric light bulbs.

Recently, research scientists from the University of California at Berkeley attempted to find the cause of the noise. Barbara Romanowicz and graduate student Junkee Rhie reported their findings in the publication Nature.

The researchers studied information collected by seismographic equipment in California and Japan. Seismographs measure the movements of the ground and within the Earth. The researchers considered information gathered on sixty days during the year when there was little or no earthquake activity.

The researchers say the noise appeared to come from the northern Pacific Ocean during winter months in Japan and California. During summer months in these areas, the noise seemed to move to oceans of the Southern Hemisphere, just north of Antarctica. The researchers noted that these are times and places where winter weather causes strong winds and large waves.

Professor Romanowicz says this suggests that the force of the water hitting the ocean floor may be causing the noise.

Toshiro Tanimoto is a geophysicist with the University of California at Santa Barbara. Professor Tanimoto praised the new study for finding a believable explanation. He says he proposed a similar explanation in the past. He also said the noise shows that the Earth, its oceans and atmosphere all are part of a common system.

Several weeks ago, we began asking listeners to send us any science questions they might have. Electronic mail messages came quickly. One came from Pakistan. Nadeem wants to know about the Big Bang theory. Our first stop for information was the American apace agency, NASA.

NASA calls the Big Bang Theory the leading theory for describing the beginning of the universe. The theory says the universe was created almost fourteen-thousand-million years ago from a huge explosion.

Big Bang scientists think all the parts of the universe started from a single object. It would have been small, but of great mass. Scientists believe this object exploded. They think the universe is still expanding today from that event.

There are two major pieces of evidence that scientists say support the Big Bang theory. First, stars and other objects in space appear to be moving away from each other. The other major evidence is the existence of background microwave radiation. Scientists think the Big Bang explosion created this energy.

The Big Bang theory is widely accepted by scientists. However, most of them would agree that it is unlikely anyone will ever be able to prove the theory.

This program was written by Brian Kim, Paul Thompson, George Grow and Caty Weaver. Cynthia Kirk was our producer. I'm Bob Doughty. And I'm Faith Lapidus. Join us again next week for Science in the News in VOA Special English.

Voice of America Special English

Source: SCIENCE IN THE NEWS - Earthquake Warning Systems / Earth's Mystery Noise / Sharing Gene Research / The Big Bang
TEXT = http://www.voanews.com/specialenglish/archive/2004-10/a-2004-10-25-1-1.cfm?renderforprint=1