is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Faith Lapidus.
And I'm Steve Ember. This week, we will tell about new concerns
about the H1N1 virus. We will
also tell about a study of socially unacceptable words. And we will report on the recovery of what
archeologists are calling the oldest musical instrument ever found.
Governments around the world have
been taking steps to guard against the H1N1 influenza virus, commonly
known as swine flu. Health officials say
the virus is especially risky for pregnant women. If they become infected, especially after the
first three months of pregnancy, they can get very sick or even die.
women face an increased risk even during outbreaks, or periods, of seasonal
influenza. But the H1N1 flu has
been affecting a younger age group than seasonal flu epidemics.
World Health Organization says pregnant women should take the antiviral drug
Tamiflu as soon as possible after they show signs of being sick. The drug is also called oseltamivir.
The W.H.O. says treatment should begin immediately and
not wait for the results of laboratory tests. The effects are greatest when given within
forty-eight hours. But experts say the
medicine could still do some good even if there is a delay.
Since April, more than
one thousand deaths have been reported from the H1N1 virus. But the virus has yet to show itself to be
more severe than seasonal flu.
Health Organization has predicted that the virus will infect at least two
billion people in the next two years. The
WHO's Director-General, Margaret Chan, has expressed concern there is not a
good process in place to produce enough vaccine against the virus.
In the United States, there are now policies for the
use of H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available. An advisory committee of the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention said there are five groups that should be
include pregnant women and people who live with or care for children younger
than six months. They also include
workers in health care and emergency services, and people between six months
and twenty-four years of age.
group on the list is people twenty-five to sixty-four with chronic, or
long-lasting, health problems.
language. Curse words. Profanity. Swearing. These are all ways of
describing words people consider socially unacceptable. But such words are commonly said after a
painful injury. So, do they serve a
purpose in reducing physical pain? That
is what researchers at Keele University in Britain set out to discover.
Richard Stephens wondered if using curse words truly helped people experiencing
physical pain. To test the theory, he
asked more than sixty college students to take part in an experiment.
The students were
asked to write down five words they might say after hitting their finger with a
hammer. One of the words was chosen as
their swear word. The students were also
asked to choose five words they might use to describe another object: a
table. These words were their control
students were then asked to hold their hand in cold water for as long as they
could. While holding their hand underwater,
they were asked to repeat a swear word. Then they repeated the experiment using their control word instead.
The researchers found a link between swearing and an
increased ability to deal with pain. When students repeated a swear word, they were able to hold their hand
longer in the cold water. On average,
students using swear words were able to keep their hand in the water for about
two minutes. Those using control words
removed their hands after about one minute fifteen seconds. In addition, those using swear words said
they experienced less pain than those who used control words.
experiment showed that swearing caused people's heart rate to increase. It also found interesting differences between
men and women. The heart rate of both
men and women increased. Yet swearing
had a greater effect on the women.
believe the increase in heart rate might demonstrate what they call the fight
or flight response. They say this permits
the body to experience or ignore pain better.
results of the study were published in the journal NeuroReport.
is unclear to scientists exactly how swearing affects physical reactions to
pain. Professor Stephens believes that
swearing activates a different part of the brain than normal language. He says more experiments on different kinds
of pain are needed to better understand the effect of swearing.
researchers note that swear words have existed for hundreds of years. They say their findings offer one reason why
the custom of cursing may have continued for so long. Swear words are said with emotion. For that reason, says Mister Stephens, the
more someone swears, the less of an effect the words have.
archeologists in Germany say they have recovered the oldest and most complete
handmade musical instrument ever found. Tests show the instrument, a flute, is at least thirty-five thousand
years old. The archeologists say its
discovery helps show that early modern human beings in Europe had a complex and
seems to have been important to these early humans. In recent years, the archeologists found
examples of finely-cut statues in the same area as the flute.
Conard from the University of Tubingen led the team of
researchers. The team published its
findings in Nature magazine.
The researchers made their discoveries last year in two
caves in southwestern Germany. The researchers
say they found one nearly complete flute made out of bones from a bird -- the
griffon vulture. They also found small
pieces of three flutes made from ivory.
Scientists agree that musical instruments are a sign of
fully modern behavior and a complex form of communication. But they continue to debate the early
evidence of music because few archeological objects exist to prove how music
developed and spread. The group of now
extinct humans known as Neanderthals did not leave clear evidence of being musical. But modern humans, or Homo sapiens, did.
The bone flute is about twenty one centimeters
long. The researchers estimate that,
when it was complete, it measured about thirty-four centimeters. The flute has five finger holes.
predict how this instrument might have sounded by studying a copy of a smaller
bird bone flute found several years ago in the same area.
This smaller flute has three finger holes and produces
four main musical notes. By blowing
sharply into the smaller flute, a player can make three more overtones. The researchers estimate that the five-hole
flute would produce an even wider mix of notes.
Professor Conard and his team also found
broken pieces of three ivory flutes. They say the technology for making flutes out of ivory is much more
complex than for making one out of bone. And, the professor suspects that early humans liked ivory flutes more
because the instruments produced a deeper, richer sound. These flutes were cut from the naturally curved
area of ivory from an animal -- the mammoth.
are able to estimate the age of these objects by dividing layers of dirt into
time periods. The area where the flutes
were found has been linked to the Aurignacian culture
within the period of history known as the Upper Paleolithic. The Aurignacian culture began about forty
thousand years ago and ended about twenty-eight thousand years ago.
Radiocarbon test results from two laboratories show
that the flutes are over thirty-five thousand years old. The people who used them were some of the
first populations to arrive in and settle in Europe.
From this find and others made in the area, the researchers
believe that music was important in the Aurignacian culture of southwestern
SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Dana Demange, Caty Weaver and Brianna Blake,
who was also our producer. I'm Steve
I'm Faith Lapidus. Join us again next
week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.