So what’s the coolest cool from the world of science and technology on this decidedly cool and downright autumnal Friday? Hop on the tech train and let’s go!
* Orbital Sciences’ Minotaur 5 rocket blasted into space last Friday to kick off a much-hyped journey to the moon, but it is an Earthly creature that’s stealing all of the limelight. NASA captured the Minotaur 5′s liftoff in a striking photograph that included smoke, fire, drama… and a frog. It appears that a local frog was alarmed by the rocket launch and jumped at the moment the photo was shot.
* Farther out in space, an innovation on the camera of the Mars rover Curiosity could lead to self-guided robots on the surface of other planets — probes that can figure out what’s interesting scientifically by themselves.
* And farther out, NASA has identified three potential asteroids it could lasso into orbits around the moon.
* Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer says the Internet company now has over 800 million worldwide users, a 20 percent increase since she was lured away from Google 15 months ago to steer a turnaround. And she says the company is getting 12,000 job applicants a month.
* Consumers looking to pick up either of the two new iPhones can save a bit of cash via Walmart. The company announced Thursday that it will sell the 16GB iPhone 5C for $79, or $20 off the full retail price, and the 16GB iPhone 5S for $189, a savings of $10 off the full price. Those prices require the standard two-year contract with the carrier of your choice.
* Four upcoming Chrome OS devices — announced Thursday at the Intel Developer Forum — will run Intel’s Haswell processor and be available later this year from Acer, Asus, HP, and Toshiba.
* Also, Google’s new Moto X ad mercilessly mocks the iPhone 5C.
* And here’s a look at the Texas plant where the Moto X gets assembled. An American smartphone, perish the thought.
* Michael Dell, alongside his fellow investor Silver Lake Partners, has secured the required votes on Thursday to go private with the company he co-founded. Dell’s shareholders cast their ballots this morning on whether they should sell off their shares to Michael Dell and watch the computer maker go private, and as expected, they voted in favor of the deal. Under the terms of the deal, Michael Dell and Silver Lake will commence a $25 billion buyout of all the remaining shares the investors do not own. The sum is made up of a sale price of $13.75 per share, as well as a 13-cent special dividend. Dell initially offered $13.65 per share.
* A temporary problem with the United Airlines Web site allowed some zero fares Thursday.
* CBS Corp. and Amazon.com are keeping their mutual admiration society going for another season of “Under the Dome,” the serial drama that the broadcaster was able to produce at unusually high production values for a summer program thanks to lucrative licensing to Amazon and international markets. That ”Under the Dome” was returning was already known. That Amazon will continue with the same kind of licensing deal — one that gives it exclusive domain for the online streaming of the episodes only four days after they air — is new. But it’s no shock, given how much CBS has touted Amazon’s role in “Under the Dome” for making it as successful as it has been.
* Cheapskate exclusive! The Francois et Mimi Trois Plus is an orb-shaped dynamo of a portable Bluetooth speaker, available in your choice of colors, for a mere $14.95 at Amazon. Mais oui!
* As a slew of new tablets were announced over the last few days, data shows that tablet shipments will soon surpass those of personal computers. A report by research firm IDC predicts that for the first time more tablets will be shipped in the fourth quarter of 2013 than PC shipments; and, by 2015, annual tablet shipments will top PC shipments.
* In the Atlantic, writer Laura Dimon tells us that mass psychogenic illness, historically known as “mass hysteria,” is making a comeback — and it appears that social media is a new vector for its spread.
* RIP Ray Dolby, American audio pioneer, dead at 80. Thanks for relieving all that hiss.
* Researchers accidentally discovered the world’s thinnest sheet of glass, just two atoms thick. Their chance finding — now immortalized in the 2014 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records, out this week — gives scientists a glimpse into the puzzling properties of glass, which behaves like both a solid and a liquid.
* The new Star Wars films, we’re told, will be ‘origin stories’ of major characters.