So what’s the latest and greatest in science and tech for your Friday Eve? Well, let’s get it started in here…
* Amazon unveiled updates to its flagship tablet computer line with two Kindle Fire HDX devices that are lighter, faster and include on-demand tech support around the clock.
* Tornado Alley may be on the grow. A new study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that the risk of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes could spread from the Great Plains into the entire eastern United States in a warming world.
* Well, that didn’t take long: Los Angeles school officials have halted home use of iPads after nearly 300 students at Roosevelt High made quick work of hacking through security so they could surf the Web and access social media sites.
* The vast 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill damaged the tiny animals that live on the sea floor for about 57 square miles around the blown-out BP oil well, with severe damage in about nine square miles of that area, says a researcher from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Pollution and damage to animal life was severe nearly two miles from the wellhead and identifiable more than 10 miles away, Paul Montagna wrote in a report published Tuesday in the online journal PLOS One.
* Hit a target at 1,000 yards? No problem. Tracking Point’s computer-enabled rifles let novices shoot moving targets at extreme distances with near 100 percent accuracy. The new era of firearms is upon us.
* A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying two cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut blasted off from Kazakhstan Wednesday and raced into orbit for an abbreviated six-hour flight to the International Space Station. Soyuz TMA-10M commander Oleg Kotov, a space station veteran, rookie flight engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy and first-time NASA flier Michael Hopkins lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:58:50 p.m. EDT Wednesday (GMT-4; 2:58 a.m. Thursday local time).
* A team of researchers found new evidence that a terrestrial algae just might be able to survive the physical strains of space travel, a discovery that may support the possibility that panspermia, the concept that microbial life is everywhere in the universe and can spread between planets, could potentially occur.
* Sudan has been cut off from the Internet Wednesday afternoon, amid riots in the capital city of Khartoum after fuel subsidies were cut. A graph of Internet activity reveals a complete outage of all connection in the country.
* The Internet has become so entwined in their lives that many Americans might have trouble coping without it. But a new survey found that some 15 percent of Americans — about 1 in 7 — don’t use the Internet at all. Most of them prefer it that way.
* Microsoft may not get its first Surface Mini tablet out the door until spring 2014, CNet says — which is looking like the same time when its Windows variants may get a refresh, sources say.
* And in case you haven’t seen it, here are Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake mocking #toomanydamnhashtags.
* Four years ago, Zac Vawter lost his lower right leg in a motorcycle accident. After years in a regular prosthetic leg, he’s been testing the first one controlled by brainwaves. “I seamlessly walk up a set of stairs and just go up foot over foot up the stairs, like you do,” Vawter said, “whereas with my normal prosthetic I have to drag it behind me as I go up the stairs.”
* NASA’s Chandra Observatory recently captured images of an incredibly dense galaxy about 54 million light years from Earth. Astronomers say it is the most crowded galaxy in our part of the universe. It was first discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope.
* In the cool gadget dept., this smart water bottle alerts you when it’s time to hydrate. The BluFit on Indiegogo is a water bottle with a brain and its own app aimed at keeping people well hydrated.
* It sounds simple to track a patient outside of office visits. But the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation found the idea genius. Jeffrey Brenner, a doctor and founder of the organization that dispatches medical professionals to the doors of the desperately poor residents of Camden, N.J., was named Wednesday as one of 24 to receive a $625,000 “genius grant” from the foundation.
* Apple’s iPhone 5S won’t be the only flagship handset featuring a gold finish. Samsung’s Middle East division announced on Wednesday via Facebook and Twitter it would introduce new Galaxy S4 smartphones in Gold Pink and Gold Brown. The pink and brown phones come with a gold-colored backplate and feature the same design and internal components as the Galaxy S4.
* Researchers may have just scratched the surface of a major new dinosaur site nearly inside the Arctic Circle. This past summer, they discovered thousands of fossilized dinosaur footprints, large and small, along the rocky banks of Alaska’s Yukon River.