So what’s the latest and greatest for a U.P. Friday? Check out these stories from all over the Intertubes that are, well, Superior…
* First, here’s your daily linkage to your Tech Report home page, the Tech Report Page Two (trust me, it contains much fascinatin’ news), as well as the link to our latest reports on tech-related events coming up, and tech-related awards and certifications.
* Scientists in the former Soviet republic of Georgia have found an ancient human skull — estimated at 1.8 million years old — that may rewrite the history of humanity.
* You know how you get a song in your head and you can’t quit thinking about it, and you can hear every detail? Yeah. Whales, too.
* Microsoft released its long-awaited Windows 8.1 upgrade as a free download Thursday. It addresses some of the gripes people have had with Windows 8, the dramatically different operating system that attempts to bridge the divide between smartphones, tablets and PCs.
* The meteor that exploded over the Urals region of Russia in February was a violent reminder that our planet exists in a cosmic shooting gallery. Now, astronomers are focusing on these mysterious small and possibly dangerous objects in the hope of understanding what they are made of and what kind of threat they pose in the future.
* The largest star ever discovered may give scientists a better sense of how massive, dying stars seed the universe with the ingredients for rocky planets and even life. W26 is about 1,500 times wider than the sun, making it the biggest known star in the universe. The red supergiant star is nearing the end of its life and will eventually explode as a supernova, researchers said.
* YouTube is still the king of Internet video, but AOL’s takeover of Adap.tv last month is making it the richest in that kingdom. In ComScore’s Web video rankings for September, AOL topped Google as the property with the most video ads watched last month, with 3.7 billion views compared to the YouTube parent’s 3.2 billion.
* Whales are common along the coast of California. Blue whales, finback whales, grey whales, and humpback whales are commonly spotted along whale-watching trips. But Stejneger’s beaked whales? Those are a rare find in the area — and so, when one washed ashore Tuesday night in Venice Beach, it caught everyone off guard.
* The rumors are amping up ahead of next week’s Apple product introduction event. Here’s an overview.
* The latest data from NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover will allow researchers to more accurately identify the origins of meteorites when they fall to Earth. Scientists already refer to many meteorites as Martian meteorites, but they never had definitive proof of origin. The new measurement of argon gas in the red planet’s atmosphere confirms their assessment. The measurement showed that the ratio of argon-36 to argon-38 (two argon isotopes found throughout the solar system) is skewed heavier in Mars’ atmosphere.
* And holy cow, what a beautiful view of Saturn, from an unusual angle.
* In interview with New York Times, former NSA contractor Snowden says there’s no way his cache of classified documents fell into hands of Russians or Chinese. He also details his motivations.
* After a subpar showing during the second quarter, search giant Google returns to beating Wall Street’s predicted targets with a 37 percent jump in profit.
* One of Apple’s broad patents covering touch-screen technology has been upheld by the US Patent and Trademark Office, a decision that could have a serious impact on cases involving Google and Samsung. After invalidating US Patent No. 7,479,949 last December, the office issued a re-examination certificate (see below) reaffirming all 20 claims included in the patent, according to a filing last month spotted by Foss Patents. The patent, referred to by many as “the Steve Jobs patent,” covers a “touch-screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics.”
* Grand Theft Auto V’s record-breaking billion-dollar plus run last month made the video game industry’s health a front and center topic, putting both the game’s now-standard controversial content and the role of video games as an influential entertainment medium up for debate in media outlets small and large. And NPD Group’s recent round of sales stats proves that even one title, albeit one that cost nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to make, can jump-start an entire market.
* Some of tech’s heavy hitters — Apple, Google, Facebook — slide down the rankings for the 25 highest-paying companies for software engineers, according to a new Glassdoor survey.
* Brain scans may reveal signs of autism, which could eventually aid in early intervention therapies, according to new research.
* Who bought James Bond’s movie Lotus car-submarine? Well, who could be more perfect than SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk?
* Verizon confirmed on Thursday that its joint venture with the cable companies is no more. CFO Fran Shammo, speaking to investors on a conference call, briefly mentioned that the company had terminated its partnership with the cable companies — Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Bright House Networks — which was originally created to build integrated services using its wireless network and cable Internet and television services.
* Every night since humans first evolved, we have made what might be considered a baffling, dangerous mistake. Despite the once-prevalent threat of being eaten by predators, and the loss of valuable time for gathering food, accumulating wealth, or having sex, we go to sleep. Scientists have long speculated and argued about why we devote roughly a third of our lives to sleep, but with little concrete data to support any particular theory. Now, new evidence has refreshed a long-held hypothesis: During sleep, the brain cleans itself.