What’s the latest from the wonderful, wacky worlds of science and technology on a crisp fall Monday, now that we’ve hopefully moved the last of summer’s heat and humidity down south where it belongs? Glad you asked… here we go!
* The next Mars mission will launch as planned, despite the government shutdown, according to the mission director. The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission has been in the works for 10 years. It is set to launch on Nov. 18. That date seemed threatened by the government shutdown. But last week, Bruce Jakosky, the mission’s lead investigator, received word that the mission would move forward as planned.
* Yet another reason to rethink that move to California — it’s tarantula mating season. Yikes.
* The World Solar Challenge is under way in Australia, including the University of Michigan.
* No, this is not parody: Google wants to patent the process of splitting a restaurant bill.
* And this isn’t a lie either: The Pinocchio lizard was thought to be extinct for 50 years, but has been rediscovered in the cloud forests of Ecuador. After searching for the long-nosed animal for three years, a team of photographers and researchers found the lizard recently in a stretch of pristine cloud forest in the northwest part of the country, said Alejandro Arteaga, a co-founder of the educational and ecotourism company Tropical Herping, which conducted the search for the lizard.
* Okay, something else for the bucket list: Space Camp for grownups.
* And here’s a crazy scary weird robot that can run a four minute mile autonomously. I definitely do not want this thing chasing me.
* Wow: Our great and good friends the Chinese employ more than two million people in their continuing efforts to monitor and censor the Internet.
* Well, modern brain imaging techniques weren’t around in Einstein’s day, but scientists have used pictures of the great thinker’s brain to do a secondhand study. And they found Einstein’s brain was unusually well connected between its two hemispheres. Add that to earlier findings that parts of his brain were very large and intricately folded, and you may have some clues as to the reason for his gifts.
* Here’s a nifty design of a home designed to survive a tornado. Hello, Joplin, Mo. Build these.
* A giant squid, whose oversized eyes and gargantuan blob of a body make it look more mythical than real beast, washed ashore Oct. 1 at La Arena beach in the Spanish community of Cantabria. The beast measures some 30 feet (9 meters) in length and weighs a whopping 400 pounds (180 kilograms); and according to news reports, it is a specimen of Architeuthis dux, the largest invertebrate (animals without backbones) on Earth.
* Science and art are usually distinct fields, but when they combine, the results can be incredible. Swiss photographer and scientist Fabian Oefner uses photography to capture natural phenomena in spectacular images. Watch Oefner’s June TED talk on “psychedelic science” here (the talk just went online), and click through our gallery to see examples of his photographs.
* A bankrupt electronics retailer appears to have gotten caught up in the investor fervor for Twitter. Shares of Tweeter Home Entertainment Group Inc. rose as high as 15 cents Friday. That’s up 1,400 percent from Thursday’s closing price of 1 cent. And trading volume skyrocketed to 14.4 million shares. Over the past year, the daily average was about 29,000, according to FactSet. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Wall Street’s industry regulator, said the shares were halted Friday afternoon because of a misunderstanding related to the “possible initial public offering of an unrelated security.” What could have gotten investors so confused? Tweeter trades over the counter, under the “TWTRQ” symbol. Twitter on Thursday offered investors details about its highly anticipated IPO and proposed the stock symbol “TWTR.”
* A federal judge in San Francisco has postponed the bail hearing for a man charged as the mastermind of Silk Road, an encrypted website where users could shop for drugs like heroin and LSD anonymously. Ross Ulbricht appeared in court on Friday in shackles and red prison clothes. His attorney, public defender Brandon LeBlanc, said the case was complex. He requested the hearing be pushed back.
* Diesel pollution snuffs out floral odors, interfering with honeybees’ ability to find and pollinate flowers, new research suggests.
* Braving perilous river rapids in Suriname’s rainforest, international scientists found six frogs and 11 fish that are among 60 creatures that may be new species, a tropical ecologist with a U.S.-based conservation group said
* You don’t want to go flying into the future in yesterday’s helicopters. That’s the gist of several projects under way at the Pentagon, which is looking ahead several decades toward future fleets of helicopters — or more broadly, rotorcraft — and working now to lay the plans for getting there.
* A BlackBerry shareholder has filed a lawsuit against the struggling handset maker and two of its executives, alleging they made false and misleading statements about the company’s financial health and the prospects for BlackBerry 10. In a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in Manhattan, investor Marvin Pearlstein alleges the company misled investors last year by saying BlackBerry was “progressing on its financial and operational commitments” and that the previews of its BlackBerry 10 smartphone platform had been well received by developers.