This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Bob Doughty.
And I'm Faith Lapidus. On our program this week, we will tell about the new
United Nations report on climate change. We will also tell about an ancient
burial place and a possible method to reduce blood shortages in hospitals.
Leaders of eight industrial nations meet this week in the German town of
Heiligendamm. The leaders are to discuss many issues, including the warming of
the Earth. One subject is expected to be a new United Nations report. The U.N.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report last month at a
conference in Thailand.
The report says the world has the technology necessary to reduce gases that
trap heat from the Sun. But it warns that action by governments and individuals
must begin immediately.
Groups of experts from around the world produced the report. The groups
examined scientific information needed to understand climate change. They did
not carry out scientific research.
Earlier studies have linked Earth's rising temperatures to production of
heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide. Some scientists have already said what
they believe will happen if carbon dioxide emissions continue to grow. They say
long-term effects will include rising sea levels, damaging storms and severe
lack of rain in different areas. The scientists say this could result in extreme
heat, more floods, and shortages of clean water to drink. They say it could also
lead to reduced food production and more world hunger.
The new report expands on two earlier U.N. reports. The earlier reports said
climate change is likely the result of human activity. They also said it
threatens life on Earth.
The new report says severe climate change can be stopped. It calls for
immediate action to reduce the release of carbon dioxide. The report says
governments around the world already have the ability to slow or stop this
pollution. It says policy makers should support increased use of natural gas and
less dependence on coal for fuel. The report supports increased use of wind
power and other kinds of renewable energy.
The report suggests other ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. They
include developing vehicles that use less fuel and speeding the use of energy
The report says governments must provide support for such changes. This will
help industries develop new technologies and improve present methods of energy
The report says actions being taken today are not enough to stop the expected
damage. It says carbon dioxide emissions must start to fall within the next
fifteen years. Without additional action, the amount of heat-trapping gasses
released by the year twenty thirty would grow by up to ninety percent.
The report sets a goal of limiting the average temperature change worldwide
to two degrees Celsius by twenty fifty. That would require a gas emissions cut
of more than fifty percent of emissions levels in the year two thousand. The
report says this will not be costly. It says this can be done at a cost of less
than three percent of the world's gross domestic product by twenty thirty. Gross
domestic product is the value of all goods and services produced by any one
Last week, President Bush announced his own plan to fight climate change. He
wants fifteen major polluting countries to set a goal by the end of next year to
reduce gases tied to climate change.
In the West Bank, a thirty-year long search may have
finally come to an end. Israeli archeologists recently found what they believe
to be the burial place of King Herod.
The Roman Empire appointed Herod as the ruler of Judea over two thousand
years ago. The Christian Bible's book of Matthew says King Herod ordered the
killing of all boys two years old or younger in the Bethlehem area. Historical
experts do not know if this story is true. But they do know that Herod killed
many of his political opponents by the end of his rule.
Archeologist Ehud Netzer works at Hebrew University in Israel. He led the
team of researchers who discovered the burial place at Herodium. Herodium is a
large area with many buildings and other structures. It is built on a small
man-made mountain about eleven kilometers south of Jerusalem.
King Herod built Herodium and its many richly designed buildings as an
example of his power and wealth. He also chose the exact place where he wanted
to be buried. But it has taken a great deal of searching for the team of
researchers to find the area. They had been searching for years at the bottom of
the small mountain of Herodium. In August, they moved their dig higher up the
side of the mountain.
Knowledge of King Herod's burial comes from the first century historian
Josephus Flavius. He described how Herod's body was carried to Herodium and gave
details about his funeral. Flavius wrote about Herod's rich burial coverings
that included solid gold objects, jewels, and purple colored cloth. But the
historian did not say where the body was buried.
The archeologists recovered many broken pieces of a sarcophagus -- a
container used to hold a buried body. The container was made out of limestone
and measures about two and a half meters long. Other broken pieces near the
sarcophagus include stone cuttings made to look like flowers. The costliness of
the objects led the researchers to believe that this must be King Herod's burial
Other experts say there is still no evidence confirming the burial place
belongs to Herod. Stephen Pfann is a historian at the University of the Holy
Land in Jerusalem. He says Ehud Netzer and his team have made a valuable
discovery. But he says there is no way to be sure the place was King Herod's
until someone finds his name among the burial objects.
The discovery has increased old political tensions between Israelis and
Palestinians. Both sides claim this area between Bethlehem and the Judean
Scientists may have found a way to reduce shortages of type
O blood. Type O is the kind of blood that hospitals most often need. What the
researchers are testing is an easier way to make type O blood out of other kinds
There are four main kinds of blood. Most people are born with one of these
four: type A, type B, type AB or type O. Type O can be safely given to anyone.
So it is commonly used when a person is injured or sick and has to have blood.
Type O is the most common blood group. But the supplies of it available in
hospitals and blood banks are usually limited. This is because of high demand.
Type O blood is used in emergencies when there is no time to identify the
patient's blood type.
Giving A, B or AB to someone with a different blood type, including O, can
cause a bad reaction by the person's defense system. Their immune system can
reject the blood. This immune reaction can be deadly.
The difference between blood types is linked to whether or not red blood
cells contain certain kinds of sugar molecules. These molecules are found on the
surface of the cells. They are known as antigens. These antigens are found with
type A, B and AB blood but not with type O.
More than twenty-five years ago, scientists found that the antigens could be
removed to create what they called universal-type cells. They could be removed
with chemicals called enzymes. But large amounts of enzymes were required to
make the change.
Recently, a report published in Nature Biotechnology described two formerly
unknown bacterial enzymes. The report said these enzymes remove the antigens
more easily. To find these enzymes, researchers examined more than two thousand
five hundred kinds of bacteria and fungi.
Doctor Henrik Clausen of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark led the
study. He worked with researchers from France, Sweden and the United States.
The next step, they say, is to complete safety tests. The team is working
with the American company ZymeQuest to test the new method. If it meets safety
requirements and is not too costly, it could become a widely used life-saving
tool to increase the supply of universal blood.
This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Brianna Blake, Dana Demange and Nancy
Steinbach. Our producer was Caty Weaver. I'm Bob Doughty.
And I'm Faith Lapidus. Listen again next week at this same time for more news
about science in Special English on the Voice of America.