This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special
English. I'm Bob Doughty.
I'm Faith Lapidus. This week, we will
tell how some storms might help to prevent large earthquakes. We will tell about the winner of the two thousand nine World Food Prize. We
will also tell about a study of one of the world's most unusual-looking animals.
New research suggests that ocean
storms could be helping to prevent powerful earthquakes -- at least on the
island of Taiwan. Typhoons often strike
the island during the second half of the year. Typhoon is the name used for major storms in the western Pacific Ocean. Scientists
call them cyclones when they develop over the Indian Ocean.
scientists reported that typhoons striking Taiwan can cause slow earthquakes. Slow earthquakes are different from violent
earthquakes, which happen suddenly and can be extremely destructive. Instead, slow earthquakes release their energy
over a period of hours or even days.
People cannot feel slow
earthquakes on the ground, and instruments like seismometers cannot measure
them. However, scientists say a slow
earthquake could be helping to release pressure, and possibly preventing more
the study, scientists placed highly sensitive measuring equipment two hundred
to two hundred seventy meters under the ocean's surface. These devices were placed in holes near
This same area is also
where two major tectonic plates meet. As
many as twenty tectonic plates cover the Earth's surface. The plates can cause earthquakes as they
scientists collected measurements from two thousand two until two thousand
seven. The information they gathered
suggests typhoons and slow earthquakes near Taiwan are linked. The equipment measured twenty slow earthquakes
during the five-year observation period. Of those twenty, eleven took place at the same
time as typhoons.
atmospheric pressure to drop. The
scientists suggest that this causes a reduction in pressure on the land where
the plates meet. As a result, one side
of the fault area lifts, causing the pressure that has been building up inside
to be released. This could explain why
Taiwan has a large number of small earthquakes, but rarely a major one.
The findings were
published last month in the British journal Nature. The lead researcher was Chiching Liu of the
Institute for Earth Sciences at Academia Sinica in Taipei. The findings help to show how and why
different kinds of earthquakes take place. This, scientists believe, could lead to better
You are listening to the
VOA Special English program SCIENCE IN THE NEWS. With Bob Doughty, I'm Faith Lapidus in
Sorghum is an important
grain for Africa. Millions of Africans
have more to eat because of Gebisa Ejeta. The Ethiopian scientist developed sorghum
seeds that can resist long dry periods. The
seeds can also resist the Striga weed, a big cause of crop failures in Africa.
Now his work has earned him the World Food Prize from
the World Food Prize Foundation in Des Moines, Iowa. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the
announcement last month in Washington, D.C. She said Professor Ejeta did not just develop the seeds. He also worked to get them to farmers.
He will receive the two hundred
fifty thousand dollar award at a ceremony in October. He is only the second African to win the
prize since it was established in nineteen eighty-six. Monty Jones, a rice expert from Sierra Leone,
was the winner in two thousand four.
Gebisa Ejeta is a professor at
Purdue University in Indiana. Over the
years, he has worked with farmers and seed companies and developed more than
eighty seed types for Africa.
the early nineteen eighties, Professor Ejeta developed the first sorghum hybrid
seeds. These resisted drought and led to
a major increase in production.
Drought is not the only enemy. Striga is a parasitic plant that Africans
commonly call witchweed. The weed
attacks sorghum and other crops and steals water and nutrients from the roots.
the nineteen nineties, Gebisa Ejeta and another Purdue researcher identified
the complex relationships between Striga and sorghum plants. That finding led to the development of seeds
resistant to both Striga and drought.
Ejeta was raised in a one-room hut in a rural village in west-central
Ethiopia. His mother wanted him to get
an education. He walked twenty
kilometers to school in a neighboring town. He left home on Sunday nights and returned on Fridays.
secondary school, he attended an agricultural and technical school. It was established by Oklahoma State University
under an American government program. From there he received an invitation to study at Purdue, where he
continued his education.
Professor Ejeta has never forgotten his African roots. Today he urges other scientists to turn their
attention to Africa's needs.
long-beaked echidna is one of the oldest and rarest mammals on Earth. It is also one of the most unusual-looking
animals. About the size of a small dog,
echidnas look like a mixture of a porcupine, an anteater, a pig and a mole.
are part of a group of egg-laying mammals called monotremes. The only other kind of monotreme alive today
is the platypus. There are four kinds of
echidnas: three species are long-nosed, while another has a short nose.
are like birds and reptiles because they lay eggs. And, like birds they have a single opening
with which they produce eggs, have sex and expel waste. But echidnas are mammals, so they feed their
young, called puggles, with milk.
long-beaked echidna is an endangered animal that only lives north of Australia,
on New Guinea and nearby islands. Until
recently, almost nothing had been written about echidnas living in the wild. This is partly because they are very private,
live in areas without human beings, and only come out to feed at night. It takes great patience to study this
Muse Opiang became interested in the echidna while working as a
researcher in the rain forests of New Guinea. The Journal of Mammology recently published his report about the
echidna. It was one of the first reports
published on the biology of the animal.
Opiang spent years searching for echidnas. Over twenty months, he spent almost six thousand hours searching in a
protected area in the Simbu Province of Papua New Guinea. His research was carried out between two
thousand and two thousand three. During
this period, he only found twelve echidnas, five of which he captured
twice. In total, he found twenty-two
echidnas over five years.
Opiang studied how echidnas eat, by digging in the earth with their long noses
to find worms. And, he captured them
temporarily to record their mass, length and estimated age. He studied more than two hundred echidna
shelters to understand where they like to hide and how often they change
Mister Opiang also placed
a computer chip into the skin of the animals for identification purposes. Some echidnas received a radio transmitter so
he could follow their movement. These
devices were not always helpful since they easily became disconnected.
Opiang's study gives new information about the echidna and its behavior. And, it provides examples of how to search
for and study this animal. But many
questions remain. For example, experts
are still not sure what kind of animals hunt echidnas.
researchers praised Muse Opiang's report. They say it will help scientists better understand how to protect
long-beaked echidnas and the areas where they live.
SCIENCE IN THE NEWS program was written by Dana Demange, Jerilyn Watson and
Brianna Blake. Mario Ritter was our
producer. I'm Bob Doughty.
And I'm Faith Lapidus. We
would like to hear from you. Write to us
at Special English, Voice of America, Washington, D-C,
two-zero-two-three-seven, U-S-A. Or send
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for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.