So what’s the latest, greatest and coolest stuff from the marvelous world of high technology? Well, kids, pull up that virtual beach chair and let’s check it out…
* Yes, as a matter of fact, I have been on vacation since the Fourth of July. Through a fortuitous accident of the calendar, I wangled the longest vacation I’ve had since 2000. It was also my first vacation as a complete empty nester since 1989. So what did the lovely Susan and I do? Go see our kids. Well, it was also a whole lot more than that — beautiful Frankfort on Lake Michigan for fireworks on the beach, then across the amazing Upper Peninsula through Wisconsin to Grand Rapids, Minn., to meet our son, who’s doing field work on his master’s degree in hydrology, then down with him to Minneapolis for a few days exploring the Twin Cities, then down to Chicago for a few days exploring the Windy City with our daughter, who lives there now, then home. A great trip, a fun experience, and yes, as a matter of fact, toward the end, I did miss working for all of you. So now I’m glad to be back!
* As the Detroit Free Press noted, watch Compuware Corp. this week. The standstill agreement between Michigan’s largest tech company and the New York investment fund that wanted to buy it is coming to an end, so who knows what might happen next. Hopefully not a buyout and a breakup and a loss of hometown jobs, but that’s what these funds do in the name of economic efficiency.
* Launching stuff into space is an expensive business, but what if we were able to miniaturize an entire spacecraft into the size of a loaf of bread? According to a pair of engineers from the University of Michigan who have just begun a Kickstarter campaign to get their concept funded, an armada of tiny low-cost probes could be sent on interplanetary missions to destinations we can currently only dream about.
* So all that stuff about space weather attacking the Earth? Yeah, it can really happen. In fact, if this 1859 event occurred again today, it would be an utter catastrophe to anything electronic, which means pretty much all of modern civilization.
* A private spaceflight company with ambitious plans for lunar tourism is being courted by both Texas and Florida. So somebody’s taking this seriously…
* It’s crazy enough we’ve seen pictures of actual planets orbiting suns not our own, but now scientists have also figured out the color of one of them. For all the disappointment in how the space program is doing, there remain really cool discoveries in space science.
* A powerful new magnet to replace existing ones in the world’s largest atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider, just passed its first test with flying colors. The magnet, which allows the massive particle collider to study two to three times more proton collisions, could help unveil the mysterious properties of the newly discovered Higgs boson, an elementary particle that is thought to explain how all other particles get their mass.
* If you thought the Terminator movies were terrifying, you may not want to take a look at the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s newest humanoid robot. ATLAS, as the robot is called, has stats that would intimidate most professional football players. He weighs a whopping 330 pounds and is six-foot-two. The machine also has 28 hydraulically actuated joints and two sets of hands. Much like a person, ATLAS is capable of many natural human movements.
* Sez here that many earthquakes are caused by fossil fuel extraction from the earth.
* And here’s an alternative take on the Microsoft tenure of one Steve Ballmer, Detroit native.
* Apple has gone on a hiring spree for its iWatch effort, suggesting it needs additional expertise to address design issues, The Financial Times reported Sunday. The gadget maker has been “aggressively” hiring new employees in recent weeks to work on development of the wearable computing device, suggesting the project involves a “hard engineering problems that they’ve not been able to solve,” sources familiar with the matter told the newspaper.
* Here’s a photo gallery of something I’ve always loved and something I swear I’d buy if I ever got stupid rich: Goodyear’s next-generation blimps. Always thought that would be an amazing way to travel.
* Microsoft cut the prices on its Surface RT tablets on Sunday by as much as 30 percent as the company tries to boost lackluster sales of the in-house tablets. The software giant’s entry-level 32GB model without a touch keyboard was reduced from $499 to $349, while the 64GB model’s price was also reduced by $150, now selling for $499, a price cut of 25 percent. (Full disclosure dept.: I bought one at the $299 sale price the day the Microsoft store opened in Troy. Absolutely love it, when I can wrest it out of the hands of my wife.)
* And it looks like more trouble for the airliner I still want to ride mostly because of its larger windows, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
* Scientists are using new techniques to describe what may be going on inside black holes. Not a pleasant place.
* Microsoft has been more cooperative with the National Security Agency (NSA) than originally thought, according to a report by the Guardian. The British newspaper, which broke the story about a government surveillance program called PRISM, is revealing more details from the trove of documents it obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
* Brick-and-mortar audio and home theater shops have been on the wane, but Northcoast Audio in small, remote Eureka, Calif., is bucking the trend.
* A woman with Lou Gehrig’s disease paints using software that lets her control digital brushes with brainwaves. Now, thanks to a crowdfunding push, she’s realizing her dream to exhibit her work.
* Amar G. Bose wore two very distinct hats, he founded the Bose Corporation in 1964, and was a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor until 2001. He died on Friday at age 83. Bose was a visionary, an electrical and sound engineer, and he devoted his life to investigating our psychological and physiological responses to sound.