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Matt’s Favorites: Weird Tech, North Korea Missile Facts, Russian Mars Probe Found, Psy’s Next, And Much More

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North Korean Missile

So what’s the latest in the wonderful world of science and tech? I’m oh so glad you asked…

* First, the five strangest tech stories of last week, courtesy of CBS News.

* Hey, kids! Here are some fun facts about North Korea’s missile arsenal. And not just that most of their names end in “dong,” hee hee.

* Russian space enthusiasts poring through photos from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have spotted what looks like the remains of the Soviet Mars 3 lander that arrived at the Red Planet in 1971. The ill-fated probe transmitted from the surface for just 14.5 seconds before going dark for unknown reasons.

* Is this the shape of tomorrow’s aircraft? It’s cool and distinctive, that’s for sure. Scroll to the bottom for the best picture.

* Psy’s sequel video to the hyper-uber-gigantic “Gangnam Style” landed on YouTube Sunday, and as of this writing it’s garnered only a paltry 7 million viewings or so, with about 350,000 thumbs up and 38,000 thumbs down. It’s tough being an international sensation.

* I don’t blame Hugo Weaving one bit. Ya gotta pay the bills. And it’s cool to see Agent Smith again, even if it is in a GE ad.

* A tiny ocean ocean-going craft, little more than a raft called “Kon-Tiki,” captured the world’s imagination more than half a century ago. And now a new film is reminding us of how much its voyage taught us — about the mysterious ways of the sea, and about the equally mysterious determination of man.

* In New York City eyes tend to gaze upward. But these days — or rather, these years — there’s an equally stunning sight looking down, way down. Up to 80 feet (or eight stories) below ground, workers are blasting their way through bedrock, building the first new Manhattan subway line in more than 80 years.

* North Korea has denied involvement in a cyberattack that shut down nearly 50,000 computers and servers at South Korean broadcasters and banks last month.

* Researchers have created a working kidney that’s able to produce urine when transplanted into a rat, according to a new study.

* The maker of the BlackBerry said Friday that it wants U.S. and Canadian regulators to investigate a “false and misleading” report by a financial analyst that claims the company’s new smartphone is being returned in unusually high numbers.

* The start of spring brings blooming flowers, balmier temperatures and something else not so pleasant: the threat of tornadoes. Here are four things you need to know about tornadoes and tornado season.

* On Monday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether to invalidate a Utah company’s patents on two genes associated with breast cancer. But the legal challenge, spearheaded by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation, could have much broader implications. A decision could invalidate thousands of patents and free medical researchers and clinicians to practice medicine without interference from the patent system.

* It’s a bird, it’s a plane… no, it’s a plane that looks like a bird, a surveillance drone designed to look like a hawk.

* Solar electric power isn’t just for houses. Apparently, it’s also for spacecraft.

* Scientists have had a basic understanding of how life first popped up on Earth for a while. The so-called “primordial soup” was sitting around, stagnant but containing the basic building blocks of life. Then magic happened and we ended up with life. It’s that “magic” that has been the sticking point for scientists, but new research from a team
of scientists at the University of Leeds has started to shed light on the mystery, explaining just how objects from space might have kindled the reaction that sparked life on Earth.  (Huh. I always just figured it was black monoliths.)

* For scientists studying summer sea ice in the Arctic, it’s not a question of “if” there will be nearly ice-free summers, but “when.” And two scientists say that “when” is sooner than many thought — before 2050 and possibly within the next decade or two.

* Why are PC sales down? Well, among other reasons, because I use a six year old desktop and a four year old desktop and a three year old laptop — and the occasional hiccup aside, they all still do everything I need a computer to do. Here’s an expert version of what I said.

* If you have a WordPress blog (like this one), be warned — it’s under attack. We all are, apparently.

* A monkey partially paralyzed by a spinal cord injury was able to control its arm using an external link between its brain and spinal cord, a new study shows.

* That weird green rock found in Morocco might not be a chunk of Mercury after all — it might be a chunk of the asteroid belt. (From the color of it, though, I’d stay away from it if I was from the planet Krypton.)

* The U.S. and China have agreed to form a working group on cybersecurity, after a recent volley of cyberspying accusations from both sides. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced from Beijing that the two countries will ramp up action on cybersecurity, Reuters reported.

* A tech trade group whose guiding lights include executives from Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo sent a letter to Congress this week in support of CISPA — the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act — proposed cybersecurity legislation that’s raised privacy concerns among groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union.

* The U.S. Department of Justice has given its blessing to Google’s sale of the Motorola Home set-top business to Arris Group for $2.35 billion. Announced Friday, the department’s approval was the last regulatory hurdle that the deal faced.

* Google has reportedly proposed an overhaul of how it displays search results in Europe to allay concerns that the Web giant is abusing its dominant position in the market. The search behemoth, which was put under the European antitrust spotlight in 2010 after rivals lodged allegations of anticompetitive behavior, submitted a package of concessions with the European Union last week but its details remain under wraps.

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