What’s the latest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics? Glad you asked…
* Some of the country’s top research institutions, including the University of Michigan, have combined to launch a massive online archive. The Digital Public Library of America began beta testing Thursday, promising a site with millions of materials ranging from images of George Washington to footage of Freedom Riders during the civil rights era. Directors of the digital library, first conceived in 2010, include officials from Harvard University and the University of Michigan and a former executive at Google Inc. Government support includes the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. (Thanks to ol’ Salon.com Table Talk pal Maia for the heads-up on this one. And man, I still miss Table Talk. A cooler message board there never was.)
* I hesitate to run anything breaking on the Boston Marathon bombing because this story seems to shift to much from moment to moment, but here goes… The FBI has undertaken what is law enforcement’s highest-profile effort at crowdsourcing to date: asking for help identifying two suspects linked to the bombing.
* NASA’s Kepler probe is closing in on Earth-like planets — not too big, not too small, and in the ‘Goldilocks zone’ of distance from their suns, where it’s not too hot and not too cold. (Send me if you please to Kepler 62f, just 1.4 times the size of Earth, and which orbits its star, smaller and dimmer than the Sun, in 267 days. My fair cancer-prone skin would dig the redder sun, and shorter seasons sound like fun, too.)
* A controversial cybersecurity bill that would let private companies, like Facebook, Google and Twitter, share information with the federal government without a warrant is one step closer to becoming a law. “This is not a surveillance bill,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who authored the bill, said during the floor debate. Opponents of the bill say it is a threat to the privacy of Internet users. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) says CISPA is problematic because it does not require private sector firms to remove personal information before sharing it with the government.
* A hacker who pleaded guilty last year to taking part in an extensive computer breach of Sony Pictures Entertainment was sentenced on Thursday in Los Angeles to a year in prison, followed by home detention, federal prosecutors said. Cody Kretsinger, a LulzSec hacker who used the online moniker “Recursion,” pleaded guilty in April 2012 to one count each of conspiracy and unauthorized impairment of a protected computer as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.
* For the second time in the past three years, YouTube has beaten Viacom in a long-running copyright infringement case that accused the video-sharing site of turning a blind eye to illegally uploaded videos.
* Twitter is tapping new hire Simon Rogers, previously a data journalist at the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper, to be its first-ever “data editor,” a position created to uncover fascinating stories as told by tweets in aggregate. “What I’m good at is explaining data, simplifying it and making it accessible,” Rogers, a 15-year veteran of the Guardian, said in an interview with O’Reilly Media.
* Here’s a cool list of headphone and portable sound reviews for grads.
* Harrison Ford appears with Jimmy Kimmel. He agrees to take questions from the audience, but demands that none be about “Star Wars.” Trouble ensues. Was this a thinly veiled promotion for the new “Star Wars” movie? Do Wookiees go to the toilet outdoors?
* A researcher who used to work in digital television has just led a team of Columbia University engineers to win the Sage Bionetworks / DREAM Breast Cancer Prognosis Challenge. Dimitris Anastassiou, who is now a systems biologist (meaning he investigates interactions within biological systems), reports in the April 17 issue of Science Translational Medicine that his team’s winning computation model is extremely predictive of breast cancer survival.
* What would happen if you could take “The A-Team” and “Storm Chasers” and put them together in a blender? You’d get something like Tornado Junkies. As their name suggests, this trio of young men are crazy about tornadoes. So crazy they think they can build a tornado-proof van. Yes, this $5,000 Kickstarter project wants your money to build an armor-plated Ford to carry these Des Moines dudes down Tornado Alley chasing twisters.
* You meet someone, there’s chemistry, and then come the introductory questions: What’s your name? Come here often? Are you my cousin? In Iceland, a country with a population of just 320,000 where most everyone is distantly related, inadvertently kissing cousins is a real risk. A new smartphone app is on hand to help Icelanders avoid accidental incest. The app lets users “bump” phones, and emits a warning alarm if they are closely related.
* Ethnographer Rebekah Rousi took hundreds of elevator rides in Adelaide, Australia and determined in a resulting study that there was definitely a “clear social order” to how people decided where to stand, and whether they used the different features of the elevator or just kept to themselves. There was also a clear split between males and females. The pecking order: Senior men in the back, junior men in the middle, ladies in the front. But isn’t that just, um, you know, polite? Like opening a door for a woman?
* Ah, the coelacanth, the living fossil fish. Now, scientists have decoded the DNA of the fish, gaining new insights into how today’s mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds evolved from a fish ancestor. As for the coelacanth, it hasn’t changed much from its ancestors of even 300 million years ago, researchers said.
* Legislation giving states the power to compel retailers outside their borders to collect online sales taxes, a touchy subject for Internet merchants, is likely to move forward in the Senate next week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday filed a motion in support of the measure. Currently, states rely on consumers to self-report, to which consumers reply, “Hahahahahhahaa.”
* Google Inc.’s core Internet business grew net revenue 23 percent in the first quarter to a better-than-expected $9.99 billion as the company’s search advertising business continued to show strength. Shares of Google, which reached an all-time high of $844 in March, were up 2 percent to $783.08 in afterhours trading on Thursday,
* Microsoft Corp Chief Financial Officer Peter Klein is leaving at the end of June after 3-1/2 years in the post, as the world’s biggest software company struggles with sharply declining personal computer sales and a lukewarm reception for the new Windows 8 operating system.
* BYD Co, one of the better known Chinese brands thanks to a stake held by billionaire U.S. investor Warren Buffett, may stop making conventional gasoline-fuelled cars within two years and focus on ‘new energy’ battery models as part of a “re-birth plan” to arrest a slump in sales.
* Finally, here’s the latest iWatch rumor roundup.