SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Bob Doughty.
And I'm Barbara Klein. Today, we will tell about a plan to fight a
leading killer of children in developing countries. We will tell about a new way to recognize
harmful minerals in rocks and soil. And
we will tell about a major study of laughter.
Diarrhea kills one million five hundred
thousand children each year. That
represents one in five child deaths worldwide. The only disease that kills more children
under age five is pneumonia.
diarrhea causes more child deaths than the diseases AIDS, malaria and measles
combined. New findings show it also
kills more than a million young people and older adults every year.
Therese Dooley works for UNICEF, the
United Nations Children's Fund.
THERESE DOOLEY: "In
addition to the deaths, there's about two-point-five billion -- and I want to
emphasize, about two-point-five billion cases of diarrhea among children every
But a new
report says sixty percent of those in developing countries do not get the
suggested treatment. UNICEF and the
World Health Organization wrote the report. It was published in the medical journal The Lancet.
fluid loss and reduces the body's supply of zinc. This mineral is needed for normal growth and
development. For the past five years,
UNICEF and the W.H.O. have suggested zinc supplements to treat diarrhea. They also recommend fluid replacement
solutions made from what are called low-osmolarity oral rehydration salts.
supplements remain largely unavailable in the developing world. The fluid replacement solutions can also be
difficult to find.
leading cause of diarrhea in children is the rotavirus. Public health officials are now advised to
include the rotavirus vaccine in all national immunization programs. But the vaccine is still not available in many
says new ways to expand the use of treatments are now being developed. Proposals include, for example, supplying
treatment kits through community health workers or special campaigns.
Experts say children with
diarrhea should continue to eat, and babies should continue to breastfeed.
help prevent diarrhea, the report suggests that children receive both the
rotavirus and measles vaccines. It also
calls for improving supplies of clean water in developing countries.
Another prevention measure is
hand washing with soap.
Diarrhea can be easy to prevent. Campaigns to fight childhood diarrhea had some
success during the nineteen seventies and eighties. UNICEF and the W.H.O. hope this new plan will
help return the issue to worldwide importance.
Asbestos is the name for several fibrous minerals. The long, thin fibers are strong, and can work
well to reduce temperature changes. They
are also resistant to fire.
of these qualities, people have been using asbestos in products for many
years. Asbestos was a favorite of
builders and manufacturers during the twentieth century. Some people praised it as a wonder
recent years, however, asbestos has become feared as a threat to human health. Asbestos has been linked to serious health
problems, including two kinds of cancer. In some countries, costly repairs were made on many buildings to remove
the material. All new uses of asbestos
were banned in the United States in two thousand seven.
Still, asbestos develop naturally in rocks and soil in
some areas. The material can harm people
who do not know it is there.
more than a century, scientists in California have made maps of rocky areas
that might contain asbestos. They did
their research on the ground. But
scientists are reporting that some asbestos in the earth can now be found
quickly by sensing devices from the air.
Swayze works for the United States Geological Survey in Denver, Colorado. He led the team of scientists. They developed a new method of making maps of
hard-to-reach areas. Their test flights
took place in two thousand one. A report
about the study appeared recently in the publication Geology.
kind of mineral has its own structure and chemicals. Fibrous minerals like asbestos are no
exception. The light absorbed, or
collected, by an asbestos surface can be recognized by an appearance all its
own. So can the light that the surface
reflects, or reproduces.
minerals in the asbestos family can absorb light with a wavelength measuring
two-point three micrometers. When the
asbestos is seen in light near that wavelength, the minerals look darker than
those around them.
The researchers examined areas in the California
counties of El Dorado and Plumas from the air. The areas were suspected or known to have rocks and soil containing
asbestos. The team's sensor devices were
set on differing wavelengths. The
researchers were able to identify asbestos even in places eighty-percent
covered by dry grass.
But Mister Swayze notes limits on the
asbestos searches from the air. He says
water also holds some of the major wavelengths that identify asbestos. For this reason, he says, air searches would
need to be done in areas where the climate is dry or plants lacking altogether.
now, however, the method offers the promise of making a map of asbestos easier
and faster than earlier ways.
of the harm asbestos can do and the ban on its new uses did not take place until
recently. But people have suspected it
for centuries. More than two thousand
years ago, the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder observed its harmful
effects. Pliny and the Greek geographer
Strabo both noted that slaves making cloth with the material developed lung
people often avoid situations that force close contact with other people. They worry that something they say or do will
make others laugh at them.
But some people worry much more than others about being
the target of laughter. These people are
frightened. They suffer from an
emotional disorder called gelotophobia. That long name comes from the Greek language. The word "Gelos" means "laugh," while
"phobos" means fear.
Rubio is an expert on human behavior at the Autonomous University of Madrid. He says people laugh at others for many
different reasons. He says being laughed
at causes a fear response in the victim. That fear leads the victim to avoid social situations. Sadly, gelotophobia limits the way they lead
Mister Rubio was among researchers in a huge
international study about laughter. The
researchers wanted to understand the difference between normal shyness and true
gelotophobia. Another goal was to
measure the fear of being laughed at within different cultures. A team from the University of Zurich led
ninety-three researchers from many countries in search of answers.
researchers questioned more than twenty-two thousand people. They used questions provided in forty-two
languages. Their findings were reported
in the scientific publication "Humor."
Some of the people
questioned said they felt unsure of themselves in social situations. But they hid their feelings. Others said they avoided social situations
where they had been laughed at before. People also admitted to differing levels of fear that they themselves
were the targets of other people's laughter. The researchers measured and compared all these reactions.
Fear of being laughed at, being made fun of, is a
common emotion. But the researchers
learned that these feelings differed from nation to nation. For example, the study found that people in
Turkmenistan and Cambodia are likely to hide insecure feelings when they are
around others' laughter. But people in
Iraq, Egypt and Jordan who feel they have been victims before may avoid such
People in Finland were the least likely to believe that
people laughing in their presence were making fun of them. Only eight and one half percent of Finns said
that was true. In Thailand, however, eighty
percent of those questioned said they believed they were objects of laughter.
This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by June Simms and
Jerilyn Watson. Our producer was Brianna
Blake. I'm Bob Doughty.
And I'm Barbara Klein. Join us again next week for more news about science in Special English
on the Voice of America.