Program 754,
  October 8, 2002


A. Efforts to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution in Third World Countries

Narrator: This is Science Today. The Environmental Protection Agency is launching an international initiative to reduce indoor air pollution from cooking fires in Third World countries. Daniel Kammen, a professor in the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley, proposed this initiative. The goal is to provide cheap, efficient stoves that emit less smoke and fumes.

Kammen: But many countries don't have them. And so, at a dollar or so per stove, you could envision programs to either distribute these stoves, or more likely, to work with local entrepreneurs to get them into the market to make these stoves and sell them.

Narrator: Each year, there are over three million deaths worldwide due to acute lower respiratory infections that are caused by indoor air pollution. Kammen says the stoves make a big difference.

Kammen: This really is a way to address local health, deforestation, climate change through reduced energy use, less burns and accidents inside people's homes with better stoves. A whole set of issues all focused around improved stove and fuel combinations.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.

B. New Insight into Ocean Processes

Narrator: This is Science Today. When waves break in the open ocean, they create millions of bubbles, which play an important role in a variety of ocean and atmospheric processes. At the University of California, San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography, researchers have developed a high-tech 'BubbleCam', which oceanographer Grant Deane says is providing new insight into the characteristics of bubbles.

Deane: Understanding the origin of the bubbles and the numbers and sizes that are produced and the physics of that process is important for modelists, who are trying to model this very fundamental process.

Narrator: The BubbleCam is a high-tech video camera with a powerful lens and focusing system, which enables oceanographers to take finely sliced pictures as waves break.

Deane: We think we've discovered the mechanism controlling the bubble production in the ocean waves.

Narrator: These results may someday be used to develop instruments that can remotely monitor greenhouse gas transfer. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.

C. Handgun Studies Strengthen Crime Prevention Efforts

Narrator: This is Science Today. Researchers at the University of California, Davis, have released a groundbreaking, comprehensive report that details how handguns in this country are bought and sold. Garen Wintemute, who directs the Violence Prevention Research Program, says although gun-related violence is a hot topic in public health, this is the most complete picture of handgun sales to date. Wintemute has been gathering data for years and is no stranger to controversial findings. In fact, previous research suggested gun owners who had a misdemeanor record were more likely to be arrested later for gun-related violence.

Wintemute: Now, some of the critics of this study said - to quote them directly - well, duh! What makes this important is the people we studied, people who legally bought handguns, the question that might arise from this simply is, should we be selling guns to these people?

Narrator: Wintemute's latest study on overall sales will help policymakers in their efforts to reduce gun-related violence. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.

D. Who Needs the Flu Shot?

Narrator: This is Science Today. The peak flu season - October through March - is upon us and if you're in a higher risk group, now is the time to get vaccinated. Mary Lynch, a professor of nursing at the University of California, San Francisco, says this category includes the very young, the very old and those who may have chronic disease or are immunosuppressed.

Lynch: Why are we worried about the flu? I'll tell you why we're worried about the flu. Right now and for the past twenty years, over 20 thousand individuals have died each year from influenza or influenza-related complications. So it's not something to take lightly.

Narrator: Lynch says it used to be recommended that people over sixty-five get flu shots every year, but now that figure has dropped to age fifty.

Lynch: Because there was a feeling that many individuals could have existing cardiac or pulmonary problems and not be aware that they had these conditions and not know that they were at risk

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.

E. How Small Strokes May Affect Memory Loss

Narrator: This is Science Today. For years there's been question about how small strokes may affect memory loss and whether people with such memory loss also have Alzheimer's Disease. Now for the first time, a study led by researcher Bruce Reed of the University of California, Davis, has come up with clear evidence that the impact on the brain caused by minor strokes is very different from the damage caused by Alzheimer's Disease.

Reed: We looked at the brain's metabolic function - so we used PET scans, which give you basically a map of the brain's metabolic activity. Memory function in Alzheimer's disease was related to the degree of activity in temporal lobe, basically. But in the stroke patients, how well they remembered things was related to functioning in the frontal lobes of the brain.

Narrator: Reed says these findings can help doctors distinguish between the two forms of memory loss.

Reed: Which is important to people, even if it doesn't have an immediate implication in terms of what drugs you would use. It's still important to the patient, it's still important for the families to know what's wrong.

Narrator: For Science Today, Larissa Branin.



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