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Matt’s Favorites: Musical Robots At LTU, Tech Effect Of Detroit Bankruptcy, And Much More

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mattroush Matt Roush
Matt Roush joined WWJ Newsradio 950 in September 2001 to spearhead the...
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SOUTHFIELD (WWJ) — What else is new and cool in high tech? Well, let’s have a couple of local semi-demi-quasi-pseudo-neo-tech-related items first, shall we? And then we shall tip our toes in the Intertubes…

* I was lucky enough to spend part of my Friday afternoon hanging out with a bunch of really smart high school kids who were participating in Lawrence Technological University’s first-ever robotics and music camp. These dozen or so kids built robots and designed software that played music — both electronic music and physical instruments. The results can be seen in the video above.

* Well, I didn’t get that many responses to my request for reader responses on the tech impact of Detroit’s bankruptcy, but the response of Geri Hames, president of Plymouth-based Spartan Technology Resources was pretty typcial, and actually agreed with me: “I don’t think it will have much impact on tech development in the city,” Hames said in an email. “Most (if not all) of what has happened in the tech corridors has happened through private ventures with little (or no) involvement from the city.” And she said she hopes the bankruptcy is “a wake-up call for everyone involved in politics. Voters are fed up with paying their taxes only to have them squandered by corrupt politicians who don’t care about their constituents.” Indeed, despite the city’s financial crisis, Detroit was recently chosen No. 5 on the 2012 list of fastest growing tech cities according to tech job site Dice.com. It was No. 1 on the same list in 2011. And Dan Gilbert is still buying downtown buildings, we’re about to get multibillion dollar projects in the city like a new bridge to Canada and the M-1 Rail project, major food retailers are building new stores inside the city limits — and even Corporate Real Estate magazine named Wayne County Economic Development as one of the nation’s top-performing economic development organizations citing 10,582 new jobs and $2.2 billion in capital investment in Detroit in 2012. (Thanks to the Michigan Business and Professional Association for that hopeful list of reminders that not all is lost. And to MBPA president Jennifer Kluge for this quote: “The business community long ago committed to re-developing the city of Detroit. With the city’s path forward is no longer in doubt; now public officials must follow the direction of the court and finally address long-simmering financial issues which means that private sector leaders can proceed with their plans knowing that the city’s financial issues are being addressed.” She praised the city’s spirit — as well as its bottom-line resources like reasonably priced talent and real estate. There’s plenty of blame to go around, and my heart goes out to the city’s pensioners and I hope the haircut they have to take is as little as possible… but the only way to fix this city is to grow it again.

* The dog days of summer are here, and with them, a certain ennui seems to have washed over the tech world. But as July becomes August, things will begin to kick into high gear. The big dogs of the tech industry — Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and a host of others — know that the all-important fourth quarter is when shoppers get serious.

* A vulnerability on SIM cards used in some mobile phones could allow malware infection and surveillance, a security researcher warns.

* Reports on social-networking and microblogging sites may signal security trouble for Apple. Apple’s Dev Center, the member’s only area for paid developers, has been down for about two days, for no given reason. Rumblings across social networks and developer forums point to concern that Apple may have suffered a security breach.

* At Microsoft, meanwhile, all Friday did was wipe out more than $32 billion in stock value. Yikes.

* Now here’s something I’ve always wanted to do — go behind the scenes with a Goodyear blimp crew.

* Brittany Wenger was just in 7th grade when she wrote a computer program that mimics how the human brain makes decisions – something called an artificial neural network. Her first application: how the brain thinks when playing soccer. Five years later, she’d developed a focus that was a bit more sophisticated: using her artificial neural network to try to help fight breast cancer and leukemia.

* A landmark federal study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, shows no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site, the Department of Energy told The Associated Press.

*  The sands of time might soon bury the sands of Tatooine. Sand dunes blowing over the Tunisian desert are poised to cover a famous “Star Wars” film set that served as the backdrop for numerous scenes in “The Phantom Menace.” More than a dozen buildings, real and mocked up, still stand on the site of the fictional Mos Espa, where the young Anakin Skywalker grew up. But a team of scientists reports that mounds of wind-swept sand have made contact with some of the Mos Espa buildings, threatening to damage a popular geek landmark and tourist destination.

* Snooty the manatee was born when Harry S. Truman was president, Columbia records had just released its 33 1/3 LP format, and people were still talking about how the NBC television network had broadcast Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in its entirety. Life in America, of course, has changed. But Snooty is still around, entertaining visitors, munching on lettuce and swimming silently in his tank at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton.

* A heavyweight Navy communications satellite was boosted into space by a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket Friday, the second in a series of five relay stations that will act like orbital cell phone towers in a globe-spanning $5 billion network.

* Ultrafast internet speeds that most Canadian city dwellers can only dream of will soon be available to all 8,500 residents in a rural Alberta community for as little as $57 a month, thanks to a project by the town’s non-profit economic development foundation.

* “The folks at Bezos Expeditions have confirmed that faintly visible serial numbers on one of the large engine components they lifted from three miles below the ocean’s surface match the serial number of F-1 engine F-6044, which flew in the center position on Saturn V number SA-506 — Apollo 11.

* The heat wave that pushed temperatures into the 90s last week had millions of people cranking up their air conditioners, straining the limits of utility companies across the Northeast. Some areas suffered through power interruptions that lasted for hours. A company called Eos Energy Storage is working on new technology that could offer a solution in the near future. It’s developed a battery system that can store large amounts of energy so it’s available when utilities need it most, during periods of peak demand.

* A team of Israeli archaeologists believes it has discovered the ruins of a palace belonging to the biblical King David, but other Israeli experts dispute the claim. Archaeologists from Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Israel’s Antiquities Authority said their find, a large fortified complex west of Jerusalem at a site called Khirbet Qeiyafa , is the first palace of the biblical king ever to be discovered.

* Here’s a profile of Linus Pauling, who convinced Americans they needed to take vitamins.

* And the Wall Street Journal, of all places, takes a look at the increasing high-tech militarization of America’s police force. It’s sure not Officer Dan walking the beat any more.

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