So what’s new and thrilling in the wonderful, ever changing world of high technology? Here’s what I found on yet another gorgeous spring evening…
* First of all, what the heck got into you Wednesday, O Michigan technology community? The day’s news started slowly but the trickle became a torrent by afternoon. I got enough news to produce two Tech Reports. I won’t run more than 20 items in a day because I figure nobody’s got more than that much journalistic stamina, so if you sent me something and it isn’t here yet, it probably will be Friday or Monday.
* Keep an eye on the sky the next time you’re at a concert — a cold beer might be coming your way. It’s been announced that attendees of South Africa’s OppiKoppi music festival will be able to order beer that comes delivered on an octocopter drone.
* First Florida and now Texas — a giant African land snail has been spotted in a second state. The snail was seen by a woman in Houston and no one knows where it went or how it got there. According to NBC Houston affiliate KPRC, this is the first known sighting of giant snails in the area. These mollusks can grow to be as large as a rat and are very destructive to their surroundings. They can eat through thick plaster walls, and especially enjoy stucco because it adds calcium to their shells.
* Huge numbers of people on Earth are keen to leave the planet forever and seek a new life homesteading on Mars. about 78,000 people have applied to become Red Planet colonists with the nonprofit organization Mars One since its application process opened on April 22, officials announced this week. Mars One aims to land four people on the Red Planet in 2023 as the vanguard of a permanent colony, with more astronauts arriving every two years thereafter.
* R.I.P., U.S. Constitution: The U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI believe they don’t need a search warrant to review Americans’ e-mails, Facebook chats, Twitter direct messages, and other private files, according to internal documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union and provided to CNet.
* On a much more fun note, if you think William Shatner is the only Star Trek star to play pitchman, you’re dead wrong. Here’s an entertaining list of the rest of ’em.
* Speaking of fun, here’s a Web site that shows you the Earth’s surprisingly active recent history of meteor strikes.
* CNet also finds lots of cool tech in the new Jeep Cherokee. If it’s anything like the Ram 1500 I just drove on the Tech Tour, yeah, there’s plenty.
* Word has it that Google Maps may be doing a substantial revamp to its interface. According to Google Operating System, a site that gives unofficial news and tips about Google, the Web giant is said to be rolling out an update that takes away sidebars and navigational buttons and concentrates more on one big interactive map.
Lockheed Martin’s ADAM laser weapon wants to step up its game. In a series of tests in March and April, the prototype directed-energy system destroyed eight small-caliber rocket targets in flight at a range of approximately 1.5 kilometers (0.9 mile), Lockheed said Wednesday. The defense contractor described the targets as “free-flying Qassam-like rockets,” making reference to the simple but deadly projectiles developed by the military arm of the Palestinian group Hamas.
* Scientists announced Tuesday that they discovered a new species of black bass that resides in the southeastern United States. The bass was uncovered by researchers at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Researchers believe that the newly discovered fish only lives in the coastal river systems in Alabama and along the western Florida panhandle, including the Choctawhatchee River.
* British physicist Stephen Hawking has dropped plans to attend a major international conference in Israel in June, citing his belief that he should respect a Palestinian call to boycott contacts with Israeli academics. The University of Cambridge released a statement Wednesday indicating that Hawking had told the Israelis last week that he would not be attending “based on advice from Palestinian academics that he should respect the boycott.”
* The iPhone could one day come with buttons and controls that blend right into the background, effectively making them invisible. Apple was granted a patent on Tuesday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a patent dubbed “Disappearing button or slider,” Patently Apple reports. The document describes how various controls on the iPhone and other devices would normally stay hidden and fully appear only when needed.
* On Wednesday, a federal judge denied (PDF) a motion in a criminal case that sought to suppress evidence gathered as the result of a stingray, a device that can create a false cellphone tower signal. The use of a stingray allows authorities to determine a particular mobile phone’s precise location.
* GET TO BED TONIGHT! Sleep deprivation is a significant hidden factor in lowering the achievement of school pupils, according to researchers carrying out international education tests. It is a particular problem in more affluent countries, with sleep experts linking it to the use of mobile phones and computers in bedrooms late at night.
* The Cold War is over, and the Air Force people stuck babysitting nuclear missiles 100 feet underground in Godforsaken, North Dakota know it; the glamour in the Air Force is back to flying airplanes. So maybe it’s not surprising that there’s been a falloff in the abilities of the airmen and -women stuck in said missile silos. Still, this is scary. And yet, we can’t turn this task over to machines. Nuh-uh. Not even if you call it “Skynet” out of a sense of irony. Maybe we need to shorten the rotations and give them the occasional chance to fly something fun. Or get rid of some of the missiles and trust our deterrence to the Navy’s “boomer” submarines…
* Speaking of nuclear missiles, wouldn’t it be nice if North Korea’s alleged long range missiles were fakes? Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t.
* It’s not exactly big news that some high schools overly idolize their sports teams. But this is a new low. In Wichita, Kan., the senior class president got suspended for tweeting criticism of his high school’s sports programs. That’s it. No profanity. No threats. What’s the matter with Kansas, indeed.
* The huge, hot mess of cosmic gas that feeds the colossal black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy may be getting “cooked” before being devoured, a scientists say. Before its retirement earlier this year, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Herschel Space Observatory found that clouds of molecular gas near the galaxy’s center are much hotter than expected, possibly due to the gigantic black hole at the Milky Way’s heart.
* Internet registrar Name.com on Wednesday revealed it was hit by a security breach. The company sent an email to its customers informing them that their usernames, email addresses, passwords, and credit card account information “may have been accessed by unauthorized individuals.”