So what’s the most wonderful and wacky news from the ever-expanding universe of science and technology news? I’ve got the newest and coolest for you right heah!
* For the many millions of iPhone and iPad users in the world, Wednesday was a big day: You can upgrade to iOS7, the newest version of Apple’s mobile operating system. This is no minor update, either. While the iPhone’s OS has had incremental upgrades every year since its inception, this is the year that it gets a major makeover.
* In a critical test flight for NASA’s space station program, an Orbital Sciences Corp. Antares rocket making only its second flight blasted off from the Virginia coast Wednesday, lofting an unmanned cargo ship on its maiden flight to the international lab complex.
* In another private sector launch, a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket boosted a $900 million military communications satellite into orbit early Wednesday, the third in a series of high-speed, state-of-the-art relay stations shared by the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
* And speaking of private spaceflight, how about a crowd-researched effort to send a manned mission to Jupiter’s ice moon Europa, thought to be one of the best places in the Solar System for simple extraterrestrial life to develop?
* And the Pentagon is looking for a few good space planes. They need to be fast, they need to be cheap, and they need to be reusable — on a one-day pit stop, no less. That’s the word from DARPA, the Defense Department’s no-idea-is-too-far-out shop, which has just launched the Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program.
* In other news, Google is now tackling the problem of death. No, really.
* BlackBerry hasn’t thrown in the towel yet. The company on Wednesday introduced the BlackBerry Z30, a new model that features a 5-inch display, stereo speakers, a bigger battery and the latest version of its BlackBerry 10 operating system.
* Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted Wednesday that the social network and its competitors are suffering in the perception department after stories of the National Security Agency’s various spying initiatives, starting with Prism, came to light. Gee, ya think?!
* A Facebook “Like” is the equivalent of free speech protected by the First Amendment, a federal court of appeals ruled Wednesday. In the case, which is still ongoing, Bobby Bland and five of his co-workers in the Sheriff’s Department in Hampton, Va., are suing their former employer, Sheriff B.J. Roberts, for wrongful termination. One of the plaintiffs, Daniel Carter, said that he was fired for liking the page of a candidate running against Roberts in the 2009 election.
* Former NFL player Brian Holloway learned on Twitter that his house in upstate New York was being used by hundreds of teens for an unauthorized party and used their tweets to identify those he thinks are responsible for $20,000 in damage. Holloway was at his home in Florida at the time. A “very large investigation” into the party is under way, a spokeswoman for the Rensselaer County Sheriff’s Office told the Associated Press, but no arrests have yet been made.
* Reuters has canceled its upcoming bells-and-whistles Web site project, which it has been working on for more than two years. The news wire service announced Wednesday that it decided to cancel “Reuters Next” to focus on adding more video and photography to its existing Web sites and creating more local-language sites.
* Verizon, along with other telecoms, offers an official “no comment” on the legality of NSA phone spying. But one of its execs has something to say — on that and on “grandstanding” by Internet firms.
* If you ever wondered who had the world’s largest “Star Wars” collection, Guinness has cleared up any uncertainty. Among its other geeky grantees, Guinness granted official world-record status to Rancho Obi-Wan, longtime Lucasfilm employee Steve Sansweet’s Petaluma, Calif., collection of “Star Wars” memorabilia.
* When disaster strikes, the Red Cross helps real people in need, and thanks to a new SimCity add-on, the organization can simultaneously help virtual citizens, too.
* Staples and RadioShack have removed Amazon’s temporary storage lockers from their brick-and-mortar stores, Bloomberg reported Wednesday. The stores added the lockers to their sites last year but have decided that housing a competitor’s storage units wasn’t a good idea.
* Deep within the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s, tau proteins huddle together and get all tangled up, while bits and pieces of another protein called amyloid beta form plaques. These are telltale signs of the development of the disease, but they’ve proved tricky to spy on. Now, researchers are hoping that their newly-developed class of imaging agents that affords them a clear view of these tau protein aggregates will shed light on the progression of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases in living patients.
* Those ruminating about the record-breaking potential of Grand Theft Auto V sales can stop now. Publisher Take-Two Interactive announced Wednesday that the game grossed an astounding $800 million in just 24 hours. Those numbers mark the highest first-day retail sales of any title in Take-Two’s history, and the game has yet to reach markets in Japan and Brazil. GTA V also happens to be the most expensive game ever made, with a combined development and marketing budget of $265 million, which it’s just made back three times over.