Matt’s Favorites: Smartphone Kill Switch Debate, Comet ISON Shows Off, And Much More

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Comet ISON

So what’s the latest on this fine fall Wednesday? Well, let’s take a look at the wonderful worlds of science and technology…

* First of all, here are links to the Tech Report home page and Tech Report Page Two, where you will find much worthwhile news, as well as our latest report on tech-related meetings and events in Michigan.

* There’s a hidden battle over stolen smartphones. Last year, more than 1.5 million Americans had their devices taken, and New York City saw a 40 percent jump in smartphone thefts. There is a solution, known in the industry as a “kill switch.” But, as CBS News senior correspondent and FBI insider John Miller reported on “CBS This Morning,” that idea has been met with some heavy resistance.

* A dazzling new image captures Comet ISON blazing up as it heads toward its highly anticipated close encounter with the sun next week. The photo, taken with the Trappist national telescope at the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, shows Comet ISON streaking through space in the early hours of Nov. 15, a brilliant blue cloud of material surrounding its core.

* Google unveiled its Glass Development Kit on Tuesday at a Glass hackathon, inviting developers to create new applications for its wearable technology.

* Our great and good friends the Chinese are clamping down on Internet freedom even further.

* Samsung on Tuesday argued that Apple deserves a low amount of additional damages for patent infringement because Apple’s patents are “very narrow” and people buy Samsung’s devices for their differences from the iPhone.

* So much for the stereotype of the four-eyed nerd with a calculator for a heart. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates struggled to fight back tears as he told shareholders Tuesday that the company has met with “a lot” of CEO candidates in its hunt to find a replacement chief executive for the outgoing Steve Ballmer. “It’s a complex role to fill,” Gates said, adding that both he and his lifelong friend and business associate Ballmer “share a commitment” to securing the right CEO to lead the company, choking up momentarily.

* Verizon Wireless is hoping to shake up the retail experience. Verizon COO Marni Walden on Tuesday unveiled its first “destination” store in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. The enhanced store is designed to provide education, support, and hands-on demonstrations of wireless products and services. She also said the company would be converting its chain of 1,700 retail locations into “smart stores” that act as a smaller version of its destination stores.

* Twitter users no longer can send direct messages to those folks who don’t follow them. The folks over at The Next Web and some Twitter users have found that the check box under user settings that allowed them to receive direct messages from those they don’t follow has been removed. The change essentially turns Twitter back to its old functionality, which required that a direct-message recipient be following the sender for it to be successfully transmitted.

* When the word nerds at the Oxford English Dictionaries sat down to consider which word commanded enough prominence during the course of 2013 to be named the official word of the year, the choice was obvious. In an unusual unanimous decision, the group awarded the honor to two syllables which, when combined in a particular order, best describe the paradoxical nexus of narcissism and shared social experience known as the “selfie.”

* Oh joy! Rapture! A Monty Python reunion! (Well, minus the late Graham Chapman, of course.)

* Here’s a fascinating tale about how historians have preserved early drafts of the Gettysburg Address, delivered by President Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago Tuesday.

* A San Francisco Bay Area man wants Google Maps to remove an aerial image that shows the body of his 14-year-old son, who was shot and killed in 2009. Jose Barrera told KTVU-TV over the weekend that he became aware of the image of his son Kevin earlier in the week. He said he wants Google Inc. to take down the image out of respect for his son.

* Two dinosaur skeletons will go on the auction block in New York City on Tuesday, but the sale of such a rare find is dividing the scientific community. At the center of the debate are two fossilized skeletons, known as “The Dueling Dinosaurs.” The nearly complete remains are of a large plant eater and a smaller meat eater. They were found locked together, leading some to believe they perished after a violent death match 68 million years ago.

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