UPI NewsTrack Health and Science News

Discovery encounters an antenna problem

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., April 5 (UPI) — Space shuttle Discovery reached orbit Monday after a near-perfect launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and then encountered a communication problem.

Shortly after attaining orbit following its 6:21 a.m. EDT liftoff, Discovery’s crew determined the shuttle’s Ku-band antenna was not operational.

NASA said the dish-shaped antenna is used for the fast transmission of data, including television, to Earth and for the shuttle’s radar system that is used during rendezvous with the International Space Station.

Space agency scientists said Discovery can safely rendezvous and dock with the space station and successfully complete all its planned mission objectives without use of the malfunctioning antenna.

The Ku antenna is also typically used by the crew during an inspection for launch damage, using the shuttle’s boon sensor system. If the antenna still is not working Tuesday, NASA said the crew will record the inspection video and play it back after docking, using the station’s Ku antenna.

Discovery is to dock with the space station Wednesday at 3:44 a.m. EDT.

The shuttle crew consists of Alan Poindexter, the commander, and astronauts Jim Dutton, Rick Mastracchio, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson, Clay Anderson and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Naoko Yamazaki.

NASA said Dutton, Metcalf-Lindenburger and Yamazaki are making their first spaceflights and are the last rookies to fly aboard a shuttle before the program ends.

The STS-131 mission is Discovery’s 38th and its next-to-last flight. Only three shuttle missions are left, with Discovery to make the final flight of the shuttle program Sept. 16.

More moms breastfeeding would save lives

BOSTON, April 5 (UPI) — If mothers followed the U.S. government’s recommendation of six months of exclusive breastfeeding, some 900 deaths could be prevented, researchers estimate.

Study authors Dr. Melissa Bartick of Harvard Medical School and Arnold Reinhold of the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics, both in Boston, also estimate if 90 percent of new mothers exclusively breastfed — no water, infant food, juice, formula, cow’s milk or sugar water — infants for six months, it could save $13 billion annually, MedPage Today reported.

The study, published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics, also estimates even 80 percent breastfeeding compliance could save $10.5 billion and prevent 741 deaths each year.

Using 2007 dollars, the researchers calculated the lack of breastfeeding cost some $4.7 billion and 447 excess deaths due to sudden infant syndrome alone.

A 2005 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated about 12 percent of U.S. mothers breastfed exclusively for six months, 42 percent did some breastfeeding for six months and 21.5 percent did some breastfeeding after 12 months.

IBM announces water desalination project

ARMONK, N.Y., April 5 (UPI) — IBM says it’s joining with a Saudi Arabian organization to create a water desalination plant powered by solar energy to greatly reduce water and energy costs.

The Armonk, N.Y., company and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology — Saudi Arabia’s national research and development organization — said the desalination plant will be capable of producing 30,000 cubic meters of water per day and will be built in Al Khafji, Saudi Arabia, to serve 100,000 people.

Officials said the plant will be powered by ultra-high concentrator photovoltaic technology being jointly developed by IBM and Saudi Arabia that will be capable of operating at a concentration greater than 1,500 suns, officials said.

The process will also involve another IBM-Saudi Arabian jointly developed technology — a nanomembrane that filters salts and potentially harmful toxins while using less energy than other forms of water purification.

“Using these new technologies, we will create energy-efficient systems we believe can be implemented across Saudi Arabia and around the world,” said Sharon Nunes, vice president of IBM Big Green Innovations.

New method to predict Alzheimer’s created

STATE COLLEGE, Pa., April 5 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’ve developed a method of reliably predicting development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Pennsylvania State University Associate Professor Michael Wenger said the method involves one’s brain’s capacity for information storage.

“We have developed a low-cost behavioral assessment that can clue someone in to Alzheimer’s disease at its earliest stage,” Wenger said. “By examining (information) processing capacity, we can detect changes in the progression of mild cognitive impairment.”

Such impairment is a condition that affects language, memory and related mental functions and is distinct from the ordinary mental degradation associated with aging, Wenger said.

Both mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s are linked to a steady decline in the volume of the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for long-term memory and spatial reasoning, Wenger said.

Although magnetic resonance imaging is the most reliable and direct way to detect hippocampal atrophy, the scientists said the procedure is often unavailable or too expensive.

“MRIs can cost hundreds of dollars an hour,” Wenger said. “We created a much cheaper alternative, based on a memory test that correlates with hippocampal degradation.”

Wenger, along with Mayo Clinic College of Medicine scientists Selamawit Negash, Ronald Peterson and Lyndsay Peterson detailed their findings in a recent issue of the Journal of Mathematical Psychology.

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Categorized | Other, Solar
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