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Matt’s Favorites: Engineering Society of Detroit Rocks, Space Tourism Coming Soon, And Much More

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What’s the newest and coolest from the ever-expanding world of high technology? Let’s start your Friday off with some fun, some head-scratchers and some uh-ohs…

* First of all, I want to sincerely thank the Engineering Society of Detroit for their graciousness in giving me a Distinguished Service Award at their annual awards banquet Thursday night. I’ve told a lot of jokes about my unworthiness for this award, but the ESD folks assure me they really appreciate the (relatively few, honestly) hours I devote to being Master of Ceremonies at some of the ESD’s wonderful youth events — the Future City competition for middle school students being the biggest — and the efforts of this newsletter and blog in promoting the science and technology scene in Michigan. Thank you, thank you, thank you. The big winner Thursday, winning the Horace H. Rackham Humanitarian Award, was Edsel B. Ford II, who gave an inspiring speech about community service, focused mostly on Horace and Mary Rackham, and how they turned their windfall from an initial investment in Ford Motor Co. — about $200 million in today’s dollars — into a lifetime of giving and community improvement. Would that all of us as blessed as the Rackhams behaved the same way. For a list of the other winners, look here and here.

* I sure hope this guy’s right: Space architect John Spencer has a grand vision for the future of space travel — one with luxury space yachts and hotels, and dune buggy racing on the moon. It’s all going to happen in the “not too distant future,” the founder of the Space Tourism Society told CNET recently.

* From a tiny fossil bone found in the frozen Yukon, scientists have deciphered the genetic code of an ancient horse about 700,000 years old — nearly 10 times older than any other animal that has had its genome mapped.

* New research pinpoints the current location of NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft: It’s still in our solar system. Since last summer, the long-running spacecraft has been exploring uncharted territory where the effects of interstellar space, or the space between stars, can be felt. Scientists don’t know how thick this newfound region in the solar system is or how much farther Voyager 1 has to travel to break to the other side.

* Climate change predictions paint a bleak picture for much of the world’s flora and fauna: Species that can’t keep up with a warming world will be pushed toward extinction unless conservation efforts can save them, the thinking goes. But a new study warns that many of the creatures most vulnerable to climate change are not currently considered conservation priorities.

* What I want to know is, just how close is this zoo to the nearest toxic waste sites?

* Steve Ballmer, who’s appearing in Troy today, gave a speech about Microsoft products at a conference Thursday that produced this less than stellar review.

* Want to play a game of “guess who?” A newly disclosed top secret document lauds the National Security Agency’s “productive” and long-standing surveillance “partnership” with a pair of telecommunications providers — that permitted tapping into their fiber links — but without naming names. This is where things get interesting for clue sleuths.

* Google appears to be boosting both its wearable tech and its gaming status. According to The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), the tech giant is working on developing both a video game console and a smartwatch that could run on Android.

* Federal investigators reportedly suspect a former high-ranking Pentagon figure of leaking classified information about Stuxnet, a computer virus that the U.S. is widely believed to have used to cripple a nuclear enrichment facility in Iran in 2010. Retired Marine Gen. James “Hoss” Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has been informed that he is under investigation as the source of leaks to the media regarding the sophisticated virus, according to an NBC News report that cited “legal sources.” Reportedly created by the U.S. and Israel, the highly destructive worm was designed to infect Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility.

* Apple Maps has improved by leaps and bounds since its shaky launch late last year, but that doesn’t mean the app is completely bogey-free. In a series called “iOS Map Glitches,” Peder Norrby, founder of computer graphics company Trapcode, has collected some of the most interesting Apple Maps blunders he can find.

* Verizon hits 500 LTE markets, and is “substantially complete” with its 4G rollout. Analysts say Verizon may be the leader in breadth of coverage, but it’s no longer the fastest network. That doesn’t matter as much, says Verizon Wireless’ network exec.

* Here’s a look at the Delphi Vehicle Diagnostics system, which keeps track of your car’s location and fuel level, and sends alerts for maintenance issues. Users can access data on the Web or through a smartphone app.

* Check out this use of virtual reality: A treatment for social anxiety.

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