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Matt’s Favorites: Cicadas, Netflix, Cool Satellites and More

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(credit: istock) Technology Report
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What’s the latest and greatest from the wonderful, wacky world of science and technology? Sit back and relax, this will hurt less than watching the Red Wings last night…

*  Everything has its season, everything has its time. And for cicadas, the time is now. After living underground on the East Coast for 17 years, the insects — billions of them — are about to resurface. They’ll be making plenty of noise … and love.

* In the wake of disappointment and confusion caused by Netflix’s “streamaggedon” movie purge, the rental service has made changes to its API that will make it harder for third-party tools to determine when titles will expire.

* NASA’s $600 million Kepler Space Telescope, a leading player in the hunt for Earth-like planets orbiting sun-like stars, has been sidelined by problems with stabilizing gyroscopic reaction wheels needed to hold the spacecraft and its 95-megapixel camera precisely on target, NASA managers said Wednesday.

* Speaking of cool satellites, a vivid new image provided by the European Southern Observatory captured what appears to be a fiery ribbon flowing throughout the Orion constellation. The image was taken in a wavelength of light that the human eye can’t see.

* Researchers have found that changes in the Earth’s climate have significantly impacted the world’s tallest mountain. In a new study, scientists conclude that the glaciers in the Mount Everest region have shrunk by 13 percent in the last 50 years. They also found that the snowline in the area has shifted up by 590 feet.

* The first humans to live on Mars might not identify as astronauts, but farmers. To establish a sustainable settlement on Earth’s solar system neighbor, space travelers will have to learn how to grow food on Mars — a job that could turn out to be one of the most vital, challenging and labor-intensive tasks at hand, experts say.

* Google CEO Larry Page said on his Google Plus profile that he has a problem with his vocal cords that makes it difficult for him to speak and breathe occasionally. However, the executive emphasized that he’s fit enough to keep running the Internet’s most influential company. The explanation that the 40-year-old posted Tuesday on his Google Plus profile cleared up a mystery hanging over him since he lost his voice a year ago, causing him to miss Google Inc.’s annual shareholders meeting in June and a conference call to discuss the company’s quarterly earnings in July.

*Google says it has rebuilt Google Maps for the Web with a new version that’s more immersive and social. The new version takes a page from Google’s mobile efforts by putting the search box inside the map and making use of cards — Google’s take on interactive information widgets.

* And finally in Google news, Google beats Apple to the punch of a streaming music service. (Well, okay, a bit more. Here’s CNet News.com’s Google I/O Roundup.)

* Apple will reportedly be the subject of a Senate hearing next week into U.S. companies’ offshore tax practices.

* Syria’s Internet connection is up and running again. Content delivery network Akamai revealed the Internet’s return to life in the country, tweeting that traffic over its network to Syria started to flow again at about 15:30 UTC (11:30 a.m. Eastern time) Wednesday. An image tweeted by Akamai showed Syrian traffic climbing up to within reach of its normal level.

*A new rifle goes on sale on Wednesday, and it’s not like any other. It uses lasers and computers to make shooters very accurate. A startup gun company in Texas developed the rifle, which is so effective that some in the shooting community say it should not be sold to the public.

* Scientists say they have, for the first time, cloned human embryos capable of producing embryonic stem cells. The accomplishment is a long-sought step toward harnessing the potential power of embryonic stem cells to treat many human diseases. But the work also raises a host of ethical concerns.

* And here’s a guy who says, look, if you want real AI, let’s build a computer modeled on the human brain, with all 85 billion neurons.

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