What else is new and cool? Check out these gems:

* Not in the least bit cool: Facing a lengthy prison term for, among other things, making academic papers freely avaiable that their authors are now releasing, online activist and programmer Aaron Swartz commited suicide over the weekend. Here’s the straight CBS News story,  and here’s a Yahoo analysis. And here’s news of an online protest in conjunction with the death.

* An Australian brushfire threatens a major telescope. (Scroll down a bit for the spectacular photograph.)

* Here’s a fascinating overview of the latest about 3-D printing.

* Here’s one last look at the International CES that I unfortunately missed. If anyone wants to sponsor next year’s trip (hey, it could be the “‘Insert Your Company’s Name Here’ report from CES”), well, let’s talk.

* And Oracle Corp. says it will get around to fixing that gaping security hole in Java “soon.” Gee, that’s reassuring.

* In news of the rich and famous, Meg Whitman made $17.4 million last year for her efforts at turning around the fortunes of Hewlett-Packard. h

* Astronomers have found signs of the chemical precursors of life in a star-forming cloud around 1,000 light-years distant.

* And unchecked economic growth in China has its costs — air pollution that’s off the charts, currently gracing Beijing.

* The Obama administration has officially shot down a public petition to build a Death Star. Paul Shawcross, an administration adviser on science and space, said a Death Star would cost an estimated $850 quadrillion to build, at a time when the White House is working to reduce the federal budget. Besides, Shawcross says, the Obama administration “does not support blowing up planets.”

*  More realistically from space, a really cool video from U.S. probes before they were intentionally crashed into the moon.

* Vietnam’s Communist Party admits hiring shill bloggers to burnish its international image.

* China orders all new homes to be built with fiber optic connections.


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