Matt’s Favorites: Private Space Launch Scrubbed, Coral Reef Gets Busy, And Much More
So what’s the latest from the wonderful worlds of science and technology for your Thanksgiving Eve Eve? Well, let’s take a look…
* First, a reminder — your Technology Report will not be published Thursday and Friday so your humble narrator can enjoy the holiday with family and friends. After Wednesday, you will indeed still get a cheery greeting in your inbox Thursday and Friday — but that’ll be it, a cheery greeting.
* Also, here are links to the Tech Report home page and Tech Report Page Two, where you will find much worthwhile news. Not to mention our latest report on Michigan’s tech-related events and meetings, tech-related HR notices (a bunch from higher education today, interestingly), and tech-related awards and certifications.
* Launch of an upgraded SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a commercial communications satellite was delayed Monday by unexplained snags late in the countdown. Company officials said the next launch opportunity is Thursday, assuming engineers can resolve the technical issues and the Thanksgiving Day weather cooperates.
* Meanwhile, it was a successful launch for a Russian unmanned supply ship headed for the International Space Station.
* And speaking of space, most of us will never have the chance to float about in the International Space Station and look down on the blue globe and swirling clouds of the Earth below. We mostly settle for stunning photographs. Soon, we’ll be able to settle for near-real-time streaming video online. The Canadian company UrtheCast is installing two cameras on the ISS this week. Once in operation, they will live-stream high-def footage of the Earth through UrtheCast’s Web platform. Basic accounts for taking a peek at the views will be free.
* There’s no classy way to put this — the Great Barrier Reef coral is spawning. Yes, I’m offering you a link to coral porn.
* The skeleton of a baby dinosaur has been unearthed in Canada. It’s an incredibly rare find because the skeleton is complete and intact. The critter was just 3 years old and 5 feet long when it wandered into a river and drowned 70 million years or so ago. (Personally I think it looks like the alien in Alien and its sequels.)
* Astronomers and amateur stargazers alike are looking to the skies this week in hopes of spotting a rare cosmic display from Comet ISON. The moment of truth comes Thanksgiving Day. The sun-grazing comet, now thought to be less than a mile wide, will either burn up and shatter, victim of the sun’s incredible power, or endure and quite possibly put on one fabulous celestial show. Here’s a viewing guide from CNet.
* For your Christmas gift giving pleasure, here’s a CNet look at the best tablets out there for under $250.
* Want a better camera on your Android device? Google does, too. For that reason, the company has overhauled the mobile OS’s plumbing. Google has built deep into Android support for two higher-end photography features — raw image formats and burst mode — and could expose those features so that programmers could tap into them, the company said.
* After months of rumors, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer confirmed Monday that she has signed up TV icon Katie Couric to play the role of “global” anchor for the Internet giant. In her blog post, Mayer said that Couric, along with other recent media hires including David Pogue, Matt Bai, and Megan Liberman, will pioneer a “new chapter of digital journalism.” That’s an ambitious undertaking. But for Yahoo and Couric, pioneering a new chapter of digital journalism won’t be about embracing new forms of interactive storytelling and funding news bureaus around the globe. It’s about competing with traditional television and for advertising dollars.
* Intel may have given up on developing its own Web TV service, but that doesn’t mean it is going to give it away. The chip giant is asking about $500 million for the delayed service, according to a Bloomberg report that cites unidentified sources with knowledge of the process. Intel is reportedly looking to wrap up the sale before the end of the year.
*Rumors have been flying around since the weekend that Comcast is looking to buy Time Warner Cable outright or as part of a deal with Charter Communications. While such a deal would likely be heavily scrutinized by regulators, it still may have a chance of passing muster if the companies are willing to make some serious concessions to appease policy makers.
* ZTE appears to be looking to drop the price of smartwatches by making its own low-cost version of the wearable gadget. The Chinese tech company plans to unveil a smartwatch in the beginning of next year, according to The Wall Street Journal. This gadget will be similar to other smartwatches already on the market, like Samsung’s Galaxy Gear, but designed for a more money-conscious crowd.
* What if you could play the game Cooking Mama and virtually taste the dishes you make? Or watch “Iron Chef” (still the best cooking competition ever on TV) and taste the dishes alongside the judges? Nimesha Ranasinghe and his team at the National University of Singapore have built what they call the Digital Taste Simulator, an electrode that sits on the tip of the user’s tongue and re-creates flavors.
* More Xbox One buyers are complaining that their disc drives are faulty. Microsoft says the issue affects just a very small number of people.
* Move over, graphene. “Stanene” — a single layer of tin atoms — could be the world’s first material to conduct electricity with 100 percent efficiency at the temperatures that computer chips operate, according to a team of theoretical physicists led by researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University.
* Here’s an interesting column about the New York Times’ slow but increasingly successful transition to digital media.
* And from Slashdot, holy moly: The BBC is reporting that an investigation into a UK-based Amazon facility has uncovered conditions that experts believe foster mental illness. At the root of the problem seems to be unreasonable performance expectations combined with a fundamentally dehumanizing environment.