Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Commercial spacecraft speeds toward space station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Opening a new, entrepreneurial era in spaceflight, a ship built by a billionaire businessman sped toward the International Space Station with a load of groceries and other supplies Tuesday after a spectacular middle-of-the-night blastoff.

The launch of the Falcon 9 rocket and its unmanned Dragon capsule marked the first time a commercial spacecraft has been sent to the orbiting outpost.

Tracing a fiery arc across the night sky, the rocket lifted off just before 4 a.m. and smoothly boosted the capsule into orbit. The capsule is expected to rendezvous with the space station within days, delivering a half-ton of provisions for its six crew members.

It is considered just a test flight — in fact, the capsule was packed with only nonessential items, in case something went disastrously wrong — but if all goes well with this mission and others like it, commercial spaceships could be carrying astronauts to and from the space station in three to five years.

"Falcon flew perfectly!!" billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, founder of the SpaceX company, said via Twitter. "Feels like a giant weight just came off my back."

Musk later told reporters: "For us, it's like winning the Super Bowl."

Up to now, flights to the space station were something only major governments had done.

The White House offered congratulations. Learn More...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sugar can make you dumb US scientists warn

Eating too much sugar can eat away at your brainpower, according to US scientists who published a study Tuesday showing how a steady diet of high-fructose corn syrup sapped lab rats' memories.

Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) fed two groups of rats a solution containing high-fructose corn syrup -- a common ingredient in processed foods -- as drinking water for six weeks.

One group of rats was supplemented with brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids in the form of flaxseed oil and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), while the other group was not.

Before the sugar drinks began, the rats were enrolled in a five-day training session in a complicated maze. After six weeks on the sweet solution, the rats were then placed back in the maze to see how they fared.

"The DHA-deprived animals were slower, and their brains showed a decline in synaptic activity," said Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

"Their brain cells had trouble signaling each other, disrupting the rats' ability to think clearly and recall the route they'd learned six weeks earlier." Learn More...

Monday, May 7, 2012

Putin to be sworn in as president of divided Russia

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Vladimir Putin will be sworn in as Russia's president at a glittering ceremony on Monday, hours after clashes between police and protesters laid bare the deep divisions over his return to the Kremlin for six more years.

The former KGB spy will take his oath before nearly 2,000 guests in the Kremlin's St Andrew Hall, the former throne room with sparkling chandeliers, gilded pillars and high Gothic vaults, before being blessed by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and taking charge of the nuclear suitcase.

He will also deliver a short speech, inspect the Kremlin presidential guard and host a lavish reception featuring only Russian food and drink.

Although he has remained Russia's supreme leader for the past four years as prime minister, Putin will take back the formal reins of power he ceded to his ally Dmitry Medvedev in 2008 after eight years as president.

He is returning with his authority weakened by months of protests that have polarized Russia and left him facing a battle to reassert himself or risk being sidelined by the powerful business and political elites whose backing is vital.

Riot police detained at least 22 protesters when a crowd of about 40 people started shouting "Russia without Putin" near two exclusive hotels 500 meters from the Kremlin on Monday, a Reuters witness said. Bystanders shouted "Shame" as they did so.

"This shows that Putin is scared of dissatisfied citizens. Although there are not so many of us, there are not so few either," said 18-year-old student Pavel Kopilkov. Learn More...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Healthy Weight Loss May Also Cut Your Cancer Risk

TUESDAY, May 1 (HealthDay News) -- Moderate weight loss reduces levels of inflammation that have been tied to certain cancers, at least in postmenopausal women, a new study suggests.

According to the findings, older women who lost at least 5 percent of their body weight through diet alone or diet plus exercise showed significant reductions in key inflammatory blood markers such as C-reactive protein and interleukin-6.

In addition to risk for heart disease, elevated levels of these markers have also been associated with increased risk for several cancers, including breast, colon, lung and endometrial cancer.

The findings appear May 1 in the journal Cancer Research.

"Our findings support weight loss through calorie reduction and increased exercise as a means for reducing inflammatory biomarkers and thereby potentially reducing cancer risk in overweight and obese postmenopausal women," said researchers led by Dr. Anne McTiernan, director of the Prevention Center at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle.

Aiming to lose 10 percent of their body weight, the women were either placed on a calorie-restricted diet, asked to participate in moderate-to vigorous-aerobic exercise for 45 minutes a day for five days a week, or told to do both.