Matt’s Favorites: Twitter IPO, Freaky Asteroid, Scientific Whiz, And Much More

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This is a diagram of the structure seen around an active asteroid designated P/2013 P5. The Hubble Space Telescope photographed six finger-like dust tails in September 2013. One interpretation is that the asteroid's rotation rate has been increased to the point where dust is falling off the surface along the equator and escaping into space. The pressure of sunlight then sweeps the dust into long tails.  NASA photo.

This is a diagram of the structure seen around an active asteroid designated P/2013 P5. The Hubble Space Telescope photographed six finger-like dust tails in September 2013. One interpretation is that the asteroid’s rotation rate has been increased to the point where dust is falling off the surface along the equator and escaping into space. The pressure of sunlight then sweeps the dust into long tails. NASA photo.

So what’s the latest on a crisp fall Friday? Glad you asked… here’s some crunchy tech news goodness.

* First of all, here are links to the Tech Report home page and Tech Report Page Two, as well as our latest reports on client wins from Michigan’s tech-related companies and HR notices from the state’s tech-related companies and institutions.

* Here’s a selection of tweets and photos from Twitter’s hugely successful first day on the stock market.

* NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope recently captured images of what astronomers are calling a “weird and freakish object.” They say it looks like a rotating lawn sprinkler. Spotted in the asteroid belt, asteroid P/2013 P5 has six “comet-like” dust tails that resemble the spokes of a wheel. This type of object has never been seen before.

* As News dot com notes, men pride themselves on their sense of direction, except when it comes to the bathroom. Now, a group of fluid dynamics engineers at the aptly named Splash Lab at Brigham Young University is out with a study on urinal dynamics. The researchers used a simulated urine stream and, captured how it reacted on video, and came up with suggestions to keep the mess to a minimum. Suggestion No. 1 — sit down. Yeah, that’s not gonna happen. Other suggestions include aiming for a vertical surface, avoiding the water, getting closer, and aiming at a sideways or downward angle. And hey, if you can’t believe you’re hearing this story, I can’t believe I’m reporting it.

* Meet Microsoft’s new anime ‘it’ girl, the illustrated babe the fanboys will be looking for girls that dress up like at comic cons.

* African elephants suffer from a condition similar to post-traumatic stress disorder, a new study shows. Some of today’s elephants are still feeling the effects of mass killings that occurred decades ago.

The sky put on a show for residents of several western states Wednesday night and early Thursday, as meteors that looked like fireballs produced bright flashes. The National Weather Service told CBS Los Angeles station KCBS-TV a South Taurid meteor shower is under way. South Taurids are known for their dramatic fireballs.

* Speaking of sky shows, there are high hopes for Comet ISON, which will pass the sun this month and could put on a spectacular show in the sky in the process. The comet, making its virgin journey around our star from the Oort Cloud right now, could be one of the brightest comets to be observed from Earth in many decades, if not longer, or perhaps ever. Or, ISON could melt down, break apart, and fizzle away into darkness at any moment as it comes ever closer to grazing the surface of our friendly neighborhood massive fireball.

* And a new study suggests we should expect an asteroid strike every decade or two. And one scientist warns that the last asteroid to pass by us wasn’t even noticed until it had gone.

* If you’re getting tired of waiting for “Star Wars Episode VII,” you’re going to have wait a bit longer — two years, one month, and 11 days, to be precise. In a statement Thursday afternoon, Disney and Lucasfilm said that “Episode VII,” which will be directed by J.J. Abrams, will open in theaters Dec. 18, 2015.

* Speaking of sci-fi films, the very misunderstood “Starship Troopers” is finally getting the respect it deserves. IT’S A PARODY, PEOPLE. It’s a sendup of militarism as much as “Robocop” was a sendup of privatization.

* Oh no! The building housing the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine has suffered a serious fire. Dang.

* “Back to the Future”‘s flying DeLorean never made it to your driveway, but one man has spent the better part of his life and fortune trying to turn science fiction into reality. Paul Moller told CBS News’ John Blackstone that he first started thinking about building a flying car when he was a child.

* The deadly radioactive element polonium first hit the headlines when it was used to kill KGB agent-turned-Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006. Scientists at Switzerland’s Institute of Radiation Physics said Thursday they’ve found evidence thatPalestinian leader Yasser Arafat was deliberately poisoned with polonium though they don’t know if it ultimately killed him in 2004.

* AT&T has a contract with the CIA to provide the agency with data on certain phone calls, according to a report by The New York Times. Citing information from unnamed government officials, Times said on Thursday that AT&T receives more than $10 million a year from the Central Intelligence Agency in exchange for providing customer phone records used to help track down potential terrorists. The CIA gives AT&T the phone numbers of suspected terrorists in other countries, according to the Times. In return, AT&T culls through its database for any call records that could identify the associates of those suspects.

* Technology is bringing the reality of having Jetson-like helpers in everyday life ever closer. Before we know it, there will be robots ringing up our groceries at the supermarket and washing the dishes before they pile up in the sink. But there’s one hold-up: how does a robot know when it is handling a sharp knife, rather than a dull dinner plate or a fragile carton of eggs? Cornell University scientists may have an answer. 

* It’s not just the federal government intercepting your communications. It could be a nosy relative or jealous partner. Among five individuals added this week to the FBI’s list of most wanted cybercriminals is a former San Diego college student who developed an $89 program dubbed “Loverspy” and “Email PI.” Sold online from his apartment, the program was advertised as a way to catch a cheating lover by sending the person an electronic greeting card that, if opened, would install malicious software that captured emails and instant messages, or even spy on the person through their webcam.

* The FBI shut down The Silk Road – what it calls “the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet” – five weeks ago. The website was selling drugs and other illegal goods. But, now, the website may be finding new life.

* A Russian Soyuz booster carrying a crew of three and an Olympic torch, the centerpiece of an out-of-this-world relay heralding the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, streaked into orbit Wednesday, docking with the International Space Station early Thursday after a four-orbit rendezvous.

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