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Matt’s Favorites: Cockroach Evolution, Google Street View Hits Galapagos, China A Nation Of Hackers, And More

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Google Galapagos
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So what’s fantastic, weird and wacky in the world of high technology? Sit down and take a deep breath, and enjoy the wonderfulness…

* First, a bit of housekeeping: Your WWJ Technology Report will not be published Monday in observance of the Memorial Day holiday. Go on out and celebrate your freedom — but remember those who made providing it their personal responsibility. We’ll be back bright and early Tuesday morning.

* Remember those bug treatments that mixed poisons like arsenic with sweet stuff like corn syrup? Wonder why you can’t find them any more? Well, it’s amazing. In the late 1980s, a killer product stopped working. Mystified researchers tested and discarded theory after theory until they finally hit on the explanation: In a remarkably rapid display of evolution at work, many of the cockroaches had lost their sweet tooth, rejecting the corn syrup meant to attract them. In as little as five years, the sugar-rejecting trait had become so widespread that the bait had been rendered useless.

* Few have explored the remote volcanic islands of the Galapagos archipelago, an otherworldly landscape inhabited by the world’s largest tortoises and other fantastical creatures that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Soon it will take only the click of a mouse or finger swipe on a tablet to explore some of the Galapagos Islands’ most remote areas, surrounding waters and unique creatures, because Mountain View, Calif.,-based Google sent hikers to the Galapagos with Street View gear called “trekkers,” 42-pound computer and camera backpacks.

*China has been cited as allegedly hacking into U.S. government and corporate networks for years now. Generally, the thinking has been that the government is the only entity in the country actively hacking. But a new report seems to indicate that’s not even close to the truth. The News York Times on Thursday released a report on hacking across China. The Times found that not only does hacking occur at the highest levels of the government, but that everyone on down from local law enforcement officials to company owners to criminals are using their hacking techniques to take aim at citizens. Companies have even sprung up with the sole purpose of locating “anyone who spreads a rumor on the Internet.”

* In the wake of the colossal tornado that rampaged through 17 miles of central Oklahoma, plans for storm-chasing UAVs are taking on new significance. Students at Oklahoma State University have been working on “storm-penetrating air vehicles” that could help cope with deadly tornadoes. The aircraft are “designed to penetrate thunderstorms, including the supercells that spawn tornadoes” to gather data used to predict storms and warn people about them, the university said.

*”Jenny from the Block” wants the block to buy Verizon phones from her. Singer and actress Jennifer Lopez on Wednesday announced she’s opening a chain of 15 cellphone stores and a website under the Viva Movil brand. The aim is to sell Verizon phones and services to Latinos.

* Microsoft will finally deliver a Kinect sensor for Windows sometime next year. The company announced Thursday that the Kinect for Windows sensor will use the same set of technologies key to the new Kinect sensor for the Xbox One, both of which will allow people to issue commands using voice and gestures.

* Mailbox, the popular e-mail app snapped up by Dropbox earlier this year, has redesigned its app for the iPad. The new app, which currently only works with Gmail accounts, has the same functions as the old app. It lets users organize their e-mail using swipe motions with the ultimate goal of reaching “inbox zero.”

*The first draft of the World Wide Web has gone missing, with perhaps one of the only copies of the very first Web site floating around the world’s drawers or attics on a floppy disk somewhere. Tim Berners-Lee wrote the first version of the very first Web page back in 1990 as a way for scientists to share information at CERN — the European nuclear physics lab and particle accelerator site on the border of Switzerland and France. But it wasn’t until 1992 that he actually saved a copy of that early CERN page. Someone out there could have a missing copy of the world’s first Web site from 1990. Have you checked your old floppies lately?

* Google is in the process of acquiring Makani Power, a startup building power-generating cable-tethered flying wings, and is incorporating the technology within its Google X “moonshots” division.

*Lenovo seems to be the only top PC vendor bucking the trend of sour sales. The Hong Kong-based company today reported record results for its fiscal year that ended March 31. For the year, Lenovo captured sales of $34 billion, a 15 percent increase from the prior year. Earnings hit $635 million, up 34 percent. And its PC shipments grew by 10.2 percent, compared with an overall industry drop of 8.1 percent.

*The solar-powered Solar Impulse plane has set a world’s record, and its journey across America still has a few more legs to go. Flying the second and longest leg of the journey, pilot Andre Borschberg landed the plane in Dallas/Fort Worth on Thursday, achieving a record for the longest distance flown by a solar-powered aircraft. The 1,541 kilometers (957 miles or 832 nautical miles) beat the previous record of 1,116 kilometers (602 nautical miles) held by Borschberg when he flew the Solar Impulse from Switzerland to Spain in May 2012.

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