This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA
Special English. I'm Barbara Klein.
And I'm Steve Ember. This week, we will tell about a new way to
help predict earthquakes. We also tell
about an American study on happiness.
And, we tell about an international effort to prevent deaths and
injuries in hospital operating rooms.
Scientists in the United States
have developed a method that may help to predict earthquakes earlier. They say it could give people who live in
deadly earthquake areas enough warning to leave before an earthquake hits.
the most modern systems for predicting earthquakes find them only a short time
before the event. Like most strong
earthquakes, the one that hit southwestern China in May was not identified
early enough for people to flee the area.
That earthquake killed sixty-nine thousand people.
scientists who study earthquakes are reporting that new technology could
measure very small changes in the Earth's surface. Their report was published this month in Nature magazine.
Fenglin Niu is a seismologist with Rice
University in Houston, Texas. He and
his team performed experiments along California's San Andreas Fault, an area
famous for its many earthquakes.
team placed highly sensitive electrical devices about one kilometer below
ground in two different places. The
devices were able to measure even small changes in air pressure on the Earth's
surface. The scientists say such
changes are caused when rocks push together, forcing air out of small cracks in
the rock. When this happens, seismic
waves travel faster than usual through the rock.
The experiment was performed near
Parkfield, California. Two earthquakes
hit the area in late two thousand five.
The first took place on December twenty-fifth. A smaller earthquake struck five days later.
The scientists noted changes in the
Earth's surface about ten hours before the first quake struck. That quake measured three in intensity. They then found similar changes taking place
two hours before the other quake struck five days later.
earthquake in China rated seven point nine in intensity. If additional tests confirm the changes are
linked to earthquakes, the scientists believe their equipment could be used for
early warning systems. A system that
provides a signal ten hours before a major earthquake could help move people
from the area and save lives.
scientists now hope they can find earthquakes with even greater intensity by
placing their equipment deeper in the ground.
you live in a happy country? Chances
are strong that you do. Results of a
recent study have shown that many people around the world are happier now than
in the past. The study is called the
World Values Survey. Researchers
responsible for the study are based at the University of Michigan Institute for
Social Research in the United States.
The researchers gathered information
from opinion studies done in more than ninety countries or territories. Those studies were completed between
nineteen eighty-one and two thousand seven.
More than three hundred fifty thousand people told how happy or unhappy
they were feeling. They also said how
generally satisfied or unsatisfied they felt.
The results were reported in the
publication "Perspectives on Psychological Science."
of Michigan political scientist Ronald Inglehart directed the World Values
Survey. Mister Inglehart says the
results surprised him. He said it is
widely believed that it is nearly impossible for happiness levels for a whole
country to improve. He said many
earlier studies have suggested that happiness levels do not really change.
Denmark was found to be the world's
happiest country. Mister Inglehart
notes that Denmark's health care is good and few Danes are hungry. Zimbabwe was rated as the least happy
country. Zimbabweans have suffered from
political and social unrest.
nations in the top ten for happiness include Iceland, Switzerland, the
Netherlands, Canada and Colombia.
Colombia suffers from violence in some areas. But Mister Inglehart says Colombians share strong family,
friendship and religious ties. He says
those qualities are common in areas along the Caribbean Sea. And he says they help balance economic and
political weakness. Also, America's
Central Intelligence Agency says the Colombian government has been working
harder to control the violence.
researchers compared the most recent World Values Survey with information from
a study completed in nineteen forty-six.
Several areas showed rising happiness levels. They include India, Mexico, Northern Ireland, Puerto Rico and
the years, India's economy has grown.
An improved financial situation is an important sign of happiness, the
political scientist says. But living in
a country that is becoming more democratic may be more important. So may acceptance of minorities. Mister Inglehart says the study shows a
strong link between happiness and freedom to choose how life is lived. It shows that equality between men and women
is another reason.
Inglehart says Northern Ireland is doing well financially and moving toward
sexual equality. He also says the area
has the traditional bases of friendship, family ties and religion. Northern Ireland has suffered violence in
the past. But he says most people there
live a normal life today.
Some places showed less happiness than
in the past. They were Austria,
Belgium, Britain and the former West Germany.
However, Mister Inglehart says these areas were still in the top
twenty-five percent for happiness last year.
And, he says, that rating still shows a good level of satisfaction.
around the world now perform more than two hundred thirty million major
operations every year. The World Health
Organization says preventable injuries and deaths from medical operations are a
Experts estimate that at least one
million people die every year because of complications from surgical
treatments. The W.H.O. says studies
suggest that about half of these problems may be preventable. The United Nations agency hopes to reduce
mistakes with a program built around a new Surgical Safety Checklist.
Gawande works at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston,
Massachusetts. He helped develop the
Safe Surgery Saves Lives program.
Doctor Gawande and other researchers studied records from fifty-six
In two thousand four, surgical
complications in developed countries led to death in less than one percent of
cases. In developing countries, the
rate was five to ten percent.
Complications can happen during an operation or after. For example, an infection might develop
after an operation.
More than two hundred medical societies
and health ministries have joined in the effort to make surgery safer. The new list is similar to what airplane
pilots use before flying.
member of the surgical team is responsible for the checklist. The first questions are asked before the
patient receives anesthesia. The very
first step is to confirm the patient's identity and the operation to be
More questions are asked before the
first cut. All members of the team are
supposed to identify themselves by name and job. Another step is to confirm whether the patient was given
antibiotic drugs within the last hour to prevent infection.
The third and final part of the checklist
is completed before the patient leaves the operating room. For example, surgical equipment is counted
to make sure nothing unnecessary stays in the patient.
eight locations worldwide, these actions were being done only thirty-six
percent of the time. But the W.H.O.
says use of the list increased that to sixty-eight percent. Some hospitals reached almost one hundred
results from one thousand patients showed a drop in complications and
deaths. Doctor Gawande says the checklist
has helped him in his own surgery. A
final version of the list is expected by the end of the year.
This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS program was
written by Brianna Blake, Jerilyn Watson and Caty Weaver. Brianna Blake also was our producer. I'm Steve Ember.
I'm Barbara Klein. Join us at this time
next week for more news about science on the Voice of America.