Matt’s Favorites: Embrace The Zuck, China Succeeds At First Soft Moon Landing In 37 Years, And Much More

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China's moon probe transmitted this image just before its successful soft landing over the weekend.

China’s moon probe transmitted this image just before its successful soft landing over the weekend.

So, are you all dug out yet? Has the city (or county, or township) finally plowed you out? Well, good. So now you can check out all these fascinatin’ science and technology news bits…

* First, here are links to the Tech Report home page and Tech Report Page Two, where you will find much worthwhile news. And here are our latest reports on tech-related HR notices from Michigan and tech-related awards and certifications involving Michigan folks.

* Also, I neglected to code last Friday’s Matt’s Favorites column so that it would be included in Friday morning’s newsletter. Sigh. There’s tons of cool stuff in there that took me well over an hour to find, so just in case you’re curious, here’s a link to it.

* And a bit of a distant early warning: The final day of your WWJ Technology Report for 2013 will be Friday, Dec. 20. We will resume publication on Monday, Jan. 6.

* Embrace The Zuck Dept.: Mark Zuckerberg helped organize the Breakthrough Prize in Sciences to recognize excellence in research aimed at curing intractable diseases and extending human life. Zuckerberg spoke with CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy about the prize, as well as his commitment to privacy in the wake of increased government surveillance.

* An unmanned Chinese spacecraft, carrying a suite of instruments and a small rover named Yutu, or “Jade Rabbit,” settled to an on-target touchdown on the moon Saturday, the first such lunar landing in 37 years and a major achievement for the ambitious Chinese space program. Sunday, the lander started beaming back cool pictures from the moon. Looks just like it did when we Americans left it. You know, when we used to do cool stuff like that.

* Speaking of space, some cool photos on the evolution of the spacesuit.

* The NSA gives unprecedented access to CBS’ 60 Minutes to the agency’s HQ and, for the first time, explains what it does and what it says it doesn’t do: spy on Americans.

* Twitter Inc. was forced to nix a change to its “block” feature last week after attracting a wave of protest from users who said the new policy empowered perpetrators of online abuse. The humbling reversal on one of the most sensitive policy issues facing the social network came as Twitter encountered user revolt for the first time as a public company.

* Here’s an up close and personal look at Ford’s self-driving Fusion plug-in hybrid, which the automaker is developing with the University of Michigan and State Farm insurance.

* Say bye-bye to incandescent lightbulbs, a breakthrough technology 130 YEARS AGO.

* Time magazine’s Washington bureau chief, Michael Scherer, got a phone call from a telemarketer who almost sounded like a real person. Almost. The pauses and inflection were just a little bit, um, robotic. So Scherer asked, and the, um, person laughed it off. And the fun began (with other Time reporters joining in). Check it out. Really, it’s way more amusing than Siri. But it also gives you pause. Are we actually this close to some sort of Stepford Wives and Westworld-ish dystopia?

* France was outraged, outraged at the NSA spying disclosures. But the New York Times reports that what it’s doing is even worse. (Or better, depending on your feelings about surveillance of possible bad guys.)

* Here’s a look at how America’s decrepit power grid could be fixed up. (Curious it doesn’t mention Novi’s ITC Holdings, which is the only publicly traded owner of high voltage interstate power lines.)

New technology is being tested that could be a solution to the headache of airlines losing your luggage.  It’s a smart bag that users can track right from their smartphones, called the Bag2Go. After announcing the product in June, Airbus is testing the technology this travel season.  The bag was developed in partnership with a luggage manufacturer and the telecom company T-Systems.

* Google has acquired Boston Dynamics, maker of CheetahBigDogWildCat and other nature-inspired robots. Google confirmed the acquisition in a Saturday New York Times report, which also broke the story earlier in December aboutformer Android chief Andy Rubin leading a robotics push at Google.

* IBM’s cooperation with a National Security Agency surveillance program caused sales in China to “abruptly halt” and the company’s stock price to decline, a shareholder lawsuit claims. In a complaint filed last week in Manhattan federal court, the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Pension and Relief Fund accuses the company of defrauding investors by concealing its involvement in the agency’s PRISM program led to a dramatic drop in sales in China. The program, which was revealed in classified documents leaked to the press by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, allowed the agency to collect and process foreign intelligence that passed through servers belonging to US tech companies.

* My favorite curmudgeon, Lewis Black, hilariously bemoans the failures of modern technology in this clip. He was promised a car that folds up into a briefcase, like George Jetson’s. But all he gets is a twerking 3-D printed robot.

* Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer issued an apology Friday evening to Yahoo Mail users for the e-mail service’s prolonged, multiday outage. “This has been a very frustrating week for our users and we are very sorry,” wrote Mayer, on the company’s official Tumblr blog. “Unfortunately, the outage was much more complex than it seemed at first, which is why it’s taking us several days to resolve the compounding issues,” she continued.

* Just 15 months after launching, mobile dating app Tinder has already made 500 million matches, Chief Marketing Officer and Co-Founder Justin Mateen told CNET at the service’s headquarters in West Hollywood on Friday. Launched last September out of media conglomerate IAC’s Hatch Labs, Tinder is a smartphone app for meeting new people, dates in particular, with the swipe of a finger. Swipe right on a photo to like someone and if he or she does the same, then you’re a match and the two of you can start chatting. Otherwise swipe the other way to move on to an endless stream of potentially more appealing mates.

* The NSA officer in charge of assessing the damage done by the Edward Snowden leaks says that, under the right conditions, he would consider a deal with the fugitive in return for the documents he has not leaked yet. But the Army general who heads the NSA says he would not consider any deal for Snowden, who’s been charged with espionage for stealing maybe the most potentially damaging trove of national secrets in US history.

* Sprint may try its luck in a potential merger with T-Mobile next year, according to The Wall Street Journal. Citing unnamed sources, the paper said Sprint is working on a possible bid for T-Mobile for the first half of next year. The deal could be worth more than $20 billion.

* The BBC reports that ‘Google’s former top patent lawyer has been put in charge of America’s patent and trademark office.

* NASA announced Friday that it will lease its historic launch pad, the Launch Complex 39A, to SpaceX Technologies. Negotiations between the two parties are still ongoing. The launch pad 39A is one of the two huge launch facilities that were designed for the Apollo launches in the 1960s. After the program, it was then modified to accommodate launches for other lunar mission spacecrafts and other satellites. According to Space.com, the space agency had chosen between two privately owned spaceflight firms who had their own motivations in getting the Pad 39A lease contract—SpaceX and Blue Origin.

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