Matt’s Favorites: Quicken Loans Volunteers, Hacking A Smart Home, Heat = Violence, And More

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So what’s the wildest and woolliest from the amazing world of high tech? Check out these dandies…

* Kudos to Quicken Loans, the Detroit-based Internet mortgage lender, which will have 1,200 employees out volunteering Friday and Saturday as part of Arise Detroit’s Neighborhoods Day. They’ve partnered with charities called Life Remodeled and Handyman Ministries to help board up vacant houses, remove blight, paint and create beauty to transform 48 blocks of Detroit’s North End neighborhood into a clean, safe, and livable area.

* Smart home technologies make it possible to control lights, heating systems, security cameras and even deadbolt locks remotely, but some may find that the cost of convenience is too high. Hacking into homes controlled by a networked system is the focus of several briefings at the Black Hat conference, an annual meeting of cybersecurity professionals going on this week in Las Vegas.

* A review from CNet finds the new Google-Motorola Moto X is no fire-breathing mobile monster. Instead it’s a nimble, compact handset that targets ordinary phone users with advanced abilities. Backed by its corporate parent Google, the Moto X boasts many of the skills its new Verizon Droids flaunt, plus a few slick extras. Better yet they’re all crammed into a highly customizable design built for maximum comfort.

* Yet another reason to stay up here in the North Woods: A massive new study finds that aggressive acts like committing violent crimes and waging war become more likely in hot, dry weather. Researchers analyzed 60 studies on historic empire collapses, recent wars, violent crime rates in the United States, lab simulations that tested police decisions on when to shoot and even cases where pitchers threw deliberately at batters in baseball. They found a common thread over centuries: Hot, dry weather means more violence.

* Speaking of Google, now you can use Google’s Street View to take a peek into the Airbus A380, a massive and luxurious new aircraft. Neon lights and fully stocked bar included.

* Touted for years, Terrafugia’s long-awaited flying car offered its first public performance on Wednesday at the EAA AirVenture air show in OshKosh, Wis. And CNET Road Trip has proof that it’s for real.

* Eating lunch outside the office will relax you – but it may also hinder your job performance, according to new research.  Scientists at Humboldt University in Berlin say that eating at a restaurant with a friend reduces “cognitive control and error monitoring.” By contrast, workers who ate alone at their desk had no such adverse effects.

* If the obesity epidemic weren’t clue enough, new estimates about U.S. media-viewing habits underscore that Americans are a lazy bunch. And it may be music to the ears of of pay-TV providers. Average time spent with digital media per day will surpass TV-viewing time for the first time this year, researcher eMarketer estimated in a report Thursday.

* Amazon is getting all Pinterest-like with ‘Amazon Collections,’ a new feature that lets users add items to shopping wish lists and follow others with similar tastes and interests.

* Twitter, meanwhile, has made over its Web search to return photos and accounts in search results, the information network announced Thursday.

* The U.S. International Trade Commission needs a little more time to make a final decision on whether or not Samsung infringed on Apple’s patents. In a note Thursday evening, the ITC said it would deliver that decision by Friday, Aug. 9.

* A new tweak in Netflix lets families split up viewing profiles. The video-streaming site reintroduced a feature letting households individualize their viewing habits on the site, so parents don’t get recommendations for “Snow White” and kids don’t get suggestions to watch “Se7en.”

* The Queen of England was expected to urge Britons to pray and remain united and resolute in the event of the “madness” of nuclear war, newly released papers from 1983 show. The script for a hypothetical, never-recorded broadcast at the outset of World War III has the monarch describing the threat to the “brave country” as “greater” than any other in history.

* In case you were wondering, it’s probably not a good idea to Google pressure cookers and backpacks the same day. But how’d the feds know what these folks were Googling? Hmmmmm.

* The European Space Agency’s Mars Express — an orbiter studying the interior, subsurface, and surface of the planet Mars — has recently returned new images that suggest craters found throughout the planet’s landscape were once filled with water and sediments, long since drained, and left a barren planetary desert with just hints to its wet past.

* I’d almost think this is satire, but apparently it’s serious: iGrow ain’t your momma’s Chia Pet. In fact, it’s a high-tech hair growth system in the form of a laser-light helmet. And while it’s been in the works for a few years, it’s now the proud recipient of approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

* We’re not quite at the stage where we can communicate brain to brain with our fellow humans, but we may be on our way to communicating with other species. Or at least controlling them, thanks to a new, non-invasive interface developed by scientists at Harvard Medical School. A team led by Seung-Schik Yoo, an assistant professor of radiology, has created a brain-to-brain interface  that allows a human controller to move a portion of a rat’s body just by thinking about it, all without invasive surgical implants.

* From Slashdot: Researchers in Hong Kong have found a beneficial new use for the electronic waste from discarded cell phones, computers, and other gadgets. Ground up into a powder, printed circuit boards from these products could sponge up another type of pollution — toxic heavy metals in water.

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