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Tech wrap: UNCG birth simulator; melted Fukushima fule; Softbank counts on AI; over 1/2 HIV patients taking AIDS drugs; moon dust sells for $1.8M

Bulldog Bulletin

Jul, 21 2017, 12:59 PM

In today's Bulldog wrapup of science, technology and life science news:

The details:

The University of North Carolina-Greensboro's nursing school has unveiled its new high-tech, full-body childbirth simulator.

The News & Record of Greensboro reports the School of Nursing gave professors a glimpse of the mannequin SimMom on Wednesday. The model is designed as a teaching tool to provide UNCG nursing students with realistic experience with labor and delivery.

The molded plastic female mannequin comes with a simulated 6-pound newborn, the placenta and an umbilical cord, and can simulate routine births and births with complications. The wireless mannequin is produced by Laerdal, a Norwegian medical equipment maker, and accepts medications, an IV and a catheter, and a patient monitor shows its vital signs.

UNCG previously used an older simulation model, but bought the first model off Laerdal's assembly line, a $45,000 upgrade.

An underwater robot captured images of solidified lava-like rocks Friday inside a damaged reactor at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, spotting for the first time what is believed to be nuclear fuel that melted six years ago.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the robot found large amounts of lava-like debris apparently containing fuel that had flowed out of the core into the primary containment vessel of the Unit 3 reactor at Fukushima. The plant was destroyed by a massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

Cameras mounted on the robot showed extensive damage caused by the core meltdown, with fuel debris mixed with broken reactor parts, suggesting the difficult challenges ahead in the decades-long decommissioning of the destroyed plant.

Experts have said the fuel melted and much of it fell to the chamber's bottom and is now covered by radioactive water as deep as 6 meters (20 feet). The fuel, during meltdown, also likely melted its casing and other metal structures inside the reactor, forming rocks as it cooled.

TEPCO spokesman Takahiro Kimoto said it was the first time a robot camera has captured what is believed to be the melted fuel.

"That debris has apparently fallen from somewhere higher above. We believe it is highly likely to be melted fuel or something mixed with it," Kimoto said. He said it would take time to analyze which portions of the rocks were fuel.

Masayoshi Son, chief executive of SoftBank Group Corp., says artificial intelligence combined with data gathered by billions of sensors will bring on an "information revolution," that will benefit people more than the 19th Century Industrial Revolution.

Son, Japan's richest person, told Softbank customers and partners gathered at a Tokyo hotel on Thursday that he believes massive data will help treat cancer, deliver accident-free driving and grow safer food.

SoftBank, the first carrier to offer the Apple iPhone in Japan, has bought leading British semiconductor company ARM, and its acquisition of U.S. robotics pioneer Boston Dynamics, announced last month, is undergoing regulatory approval. Its investments have included Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba and Yahoo Japan.

Son set up a private fund last year for global investments in the technology sector, called Vision Fund, with the potential to grow to as much as $100 billion. He has won praise from President Donald Trump for promising to invest $50 billion in U.S. startups to create 50,000 jobs.

This week Softbank announced it will invest in Encored, a U.S. company specializing in IoT technology in the energy sector.

During a nearly three hour presentation, Son, introduced some of the ventures he is partnering, including OneWeb, whose founder and chairman Greg Wyler wants to offer affordable internet access for everyone using satellites instead of underground cables.

Son also brought on stage Spot, a four-legged robot that can climb steps and dance. Other robots will be able to carry heavy loads, said Marc Raibert, Boston Dynamics chief executive.

"Marc, we are going to change the world together," Son said on stage.

For the first time in the global AIDS epidemic that has spanned four decades and killed 35 million people, more than half of all those infected with HIV are on drugs to treat the virus, the United Nations said in a report released Thursday.

AIDS deaths are also now close to half of what they were in 2005, according to the U.N. AIDS agency, although those figures are based on estimates and not actual counts from countries.

Experts applauded the progress, but questioned if the billions spent in the past two decades should have brought more impressive results. The U.N. report was released in Paris where an AIDS meeting begins this weekend.

"When you think about the money that's been spent on AIDS, it could have been better," said Sophie Harman, a senior lecturer in global health politics at Queen Mary University in London.

She said more resources might have gone to strengthening health systems in poor countries.

"The real test will come in five to 10 years once the funding goes down," Harman said, warning that some countries might not be able to sustain the U.N.-funded AIDS programs on their own.

The Trump administration has proposed a 31 percent cut in contributions to the U.N. starting in October.

According to the report , about 19.5 million people with HIV were taking AIDS drugs in 2016, compared to 17.1 million the previous year.

A bag containing traces of moon dust sold for $1.8 million at an auction on Thursday following a galactic court battle.

The collection bag, used by astronaut Neil Armstrong during the first manned mission to the moon in 1969, was sold at a Sotheby's auction of items related to space voyages. The buyer declined to be identified. The pre-sale estimate was $2 million to $4 million.

The artifact from the Apollo 11 mission had been misidentified and sold at an online government auction, and NASA had fought to get it back. But in December a federal judge ruled that it legally belonged to a Chicago-area woman who bought it in 2015 for $995.

Sotheby's declined to identify the seller. However, details of the 2015 purchase were made public during the court case.

Investigators unknowingly hit the moon mother lode in 2003 while searching the garage of a man later convicted of stealing and selling museum artifacts, including some that were on loan from NASA.

The 12-by-8½-inch (30-by-20-centimeter) bag was misidentified and sold at an online government auction.

Nancy Carlson, of Inverness, Illinois, got an ordinary-looking bag made of white Beta cloth and polyester with rubberized nylon and a brass zipper.





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