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Matt’s Favorites: Chinese Defense Hack, Climate Change In Photographs, ISS Crew Blasts Off, Dolphin-Assisted Childbirth, And More

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Missing glacier
(credit: istock) Technology Report
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What’s new and thrilling and maybe even a little disturbing around the high-tech universe? So glad you asked. Here goes…

* Chinese cyberspies are believed to have compromised the designs for more than two dozen major weapons systems, as the Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima reported. The gravity of that breach becomes more clear when you understand exactly which designs were apparently hacked — and how big a role some of these weapons play in U.S. defense.

* For Ned LeBlond and Jonathan Byers, what might seem like a spring hike into the Rockies is actually a journey to help people actually see what is meant by climate change. They scale mountain ranges from North to South America, locating exactly where historic photos were taken. Then they retake the scene from that same vantage point. “This project gives us a visual way to see a glacier, a snowfield that used to exist 50 to 100 years ago that’s no longer there,” Byers says.

* A Russian Soyuz rocket blasted off Tuesday and thundered into orbit carrying a veteran cosmonaut, NASA’s sixth female station resident and a rookie Italian test pilot on a fast-track six-hour flight to the International Space Station.

* From water birth to hypnosis, the natural-childbirth movement has tried a variety of innovative methods to accommodate women who are uninterested in a medically assisted birth procedure. But critics are now saying the natural-childbirth movement has completely jumped the shark — or, in this case, the dolphin. Dolphin-assisted childbirth is an option that some expectant parents are embracing, claiming it is a more natural, relaxing way to deliver a baby.

* Online currency company Liberty Reserve has been shut down following charges that it laundered more than $6 billion over the past several years and became a “bank of choice for the criminal underworld,” The New York Times reported Tuesday. An indictment, filed today by U.S. prosecutors in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, accused Liberty Reserve of establishing its digital currency exchange to launder money, resulting in 55 million laundering transactions for at least a million people.

* System administrator and photographer Jared Earle took some amazing photos of the recent supermoon, and he’s willing to share his secrets with the world. He didn’t have to break into an observatory or fly his camera to the edges of space. In true MacGyver fashion, he only required an iPhone and a telescope to pull off the photo shoot.

* Much like Steve Jobs and Apple’s original iPhone, cybersecurity specialist Dan Roelker and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency have a vision for executing cyberwarfare that “just works.” According to Wired, DARPA, which originally helped to create the Internet, is now looking at ways to manage the battlefield our networks have evolved into that is as intuitive as a game of “Angry Birds.”

* An asteroid more than 1 1/2 miles long will zoom past Earth this week from a far-off distance. The big rock called Asteroid 1998 QE2 will make its closest approach Friday at about 4:59 p.m. Eastern time. NASA says the space rock “will sail serenely past Earth” at a safe distance of 3.6 million miles, or 15 times the distance between Earth and the moon. You won’t be able to see it without a powerful telescope. (But if something this size hit the Earth? Yeah, pretty much global disaster.)

* The European Union’s antitrust chief said Tuesday that Google will have to offer more changes to the way it displays search results to settle a pending case. The period to examine Google’s proposals has been extended by one month and his office will ask Google with “almost 100 percent” certainty in June to do yet more, Joaquin Almunia told the European Parliament.

*  Jeremy Hammond, a self-described anarchist and “hacktivist” from Chicago, pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges he illegally accessed computers systems of law enforcement agencies and government contractors. Prosecutors had alleged the cyber-attacks were carried out by Anonymous, the loosely organized worldwide hacking group that stole confidential information, defaced websites and temporarily put some victims out of business. Hammond was caught last year with the help of Hector Xavier Monsegur, a famous hacker known as Sabu who later helped law enforcement infiltrate Anonymous.

* Samsung could take the wraps off the Galaxy S IV Mini at a launch event scheduled for Thursday, June 20. Citing “a person with knowledge of the matter,” The Wall Street Journal said Tuesday that the S IV Mini will likely be one of several new products taking the stage at next month’s event in London.

* It’s not the same as turning lead into gold, but scientists at the Illinois-based Argonne National Laboratory and the Japan Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute/SPring-8 have developed a method for turning cement into a liquid metal semiconductor. The process sounds like a mad scientist’s invention. It involves equipment like an aerodynamic levitator and a carbon dioxide laser beam.

* Share price plummets may mean a lot on Wall Street, but Tim Cook brushed off the vagaries in the company’s stock as an indication that Apple is losing its edge over the competition. In an appearance at the D11 Conference, Apple’s CEO brushed aside suggestions that Samsung’s growing strength or the surging popularity of Android suggests a deeper problem for Apple.

* Twitter has won a battle in its war against spam. The microblogging service settled a lawsuit on Tuesday with marketing software company TweetAdder, in which the agreement was clearly in favor of Twitter. The terms of the settlement were filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

* Robot! Fetch me a beer! Yes, robots can actually carry out that order. Now, they can even anticipate where to pour your beverage of choice. Cornell University’s Personal Robotics Lab has trained a PR2 robot from Willow Garage to figure out where and when to pour beer, as well as perform other actions that require anticipation.

* There’s a new vending machine on the UC Berkeley campus, but it’ll be of no use to students during a midnight snack attack. The Dreambox is a 3D-printing vending machine, the first of its kind. Conceived and created by three Berkeley graduates, the machine is intended to democratize 3D printing, making it available to the masses.

* New data returned from the Hubble space telescope has revealed the most high-resolution images ever captured of Messier 57. The dramatic nebula, widely known as the Ring Nebula, is shown in intricate detail, revealing a structure that until now had been just theory.

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