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Matt’s Favorites: Super Bowl Tech From NASA, Purple Lava And Much More

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sulfur flames

So how’s everybody doing the Monday morning after the big game? A few sore heads this morning, I’m sure, after America’s big party. Just remember next time: three aspirin and as much water as you can keep down right before bed is a reasonably effective hangover preventer. And now — quietly, I promise, and no bright lights — the latest in tech news.

* Boy, did I ever get a look at all the cool ways you can watch the Olympics starting this weekend through Comcast’s Xfinity service. Details coming in Wednesday’s edition, but the basics: 1,700 hours of coverage. (That’s 70 days. Longer than the Olympics of course, but that’s because there are plenty of days with a bunch of things going on at the same time.) Any screen. Anywhere.

* NASA and the Super Bowl may not be two things you’d normally put in the same sentence, but Sunday’s big game wouldn’t be the same without innovative spinoff technologies from space exploration. From helmets to headsets to the communications satellites that allows fans to watch around the world, NASA’s legacy can be found throughout the Super Bowl Sunday experience. Here’s a look at some of the NASA’s space technology spinoffs (and some pop culture, too) that have found their way into Super Bowl.

* It may look like a scene from another planet or some high-tech Hollywood special effects – but this volcano venting bright blue flames is a real, rarely-seen phenomenon of nature. Photographer Olivier Grunewald captured it in the stunning picture above of the Kawah Ijen volcano in Indonesia, first published in National Geographic. The glowing, electric-blue flames are caused by combustion of sulfuric gases.

* Dating sites like Match and Ok Cupid have great mobile apps, but as the saying goes, “variety is the spice of life.” In honor of Valentine’s Day, approaching a week from Friday, we’re rounding up some lesser-known apps for finding love and planning dates.

* Golly, what a shock. It looks like building huge freaking cities in the middle of a freaking desert wasn’t such a hot idea. Here’s a look at Lake Mead, which is rapidly shrinking, and is forecast to fall another 20 feet this year.

* Usernames and passwords of some of Yahoo’s email customers have been stolen and used to gather personal information about people those Yahoo mail users have recently corresponded with, the company said. Yahoo didn’t say how many accounts have been affected.  Yahoo is the second-largest email service worldwide, after Google’s Gmail, according to the research firm comScore. There are 273 million Yahoo mail accounts worldwide, including 81 million in the U.S.

* Check out this extended video (see below) from Felix Baumgartner’s amazing space jump in October 2012, when he leaped from 128,097 feet for a duration of 9 minutes and 3 seconds (the freefall portion of the jump lasted 4 minutes and 19 seconds). During the descent, he went supersonic for a few seconds, hitting upward of 800 mph. But not before he got his first unobstructed view of the planet the first time he stepped outside his capsule and said, memorably, “That’s the world out there.”

* Next week in Germany, representatives of all mankind’s space-faring nations will get together in a room to begin coordinating efforts to prevent the end of the world by asteroid impact … or at least to figure out how to identify and prevent really big space rocks from smacking us around like that meteor that hit Russia last year.

* We’re going back…to the future! A full 30 years after the original “Back to the Future” film debuted, the time-traveling adventure is set to return, this time as a musical. Director Robert Zemeckis and screenwriter Bob Gale, who created the original films, will team up with British theater director Jamie Lloyd to write the book for the new production, Variety reported on Friday.

* If you’re not annoyed by seeing an ad for J. Crew, Adidas, Target, or Best Buy when you wake up your smartphone, a new app called Slidejoy could lop some money off your monthly phone bill. The app, which is set to launch Monday, shows an ad from these and some other advertisers on an Android phone‘s lock screen, said Robert Seo, chief executive of the company. The app adapts to a person’s preferences, locations, behaviors, and usage times to “curate a more profitable and relevant user experience,” he said, and promises that the ads will be “beautiful.” In return, the company will pay you.

* AT&T is showing it can get aggressive with pricing too. The Dallas-based telecommunications company unveiled a new series of family plans designed to entice new users and keep existing ones on its service. The savings — which come only to customers who sign up for monthly installment program Next; bring their own device; or purchase it outright — escalate as more members join in. The plan launched Sunday.

* On the streets of Rome’s centuries-old center, finding a spot for even the itsy-bitsiest Italian microcar can take a very, very long time. As a result, drivers often get creative with their parking jobs, clogging Rome’s already cramped streets and alleyways. At long last, though, the authorities believe they’ve found a solution for Rome’s parking problem — one that merges the tattling of Mussolini-style fascism with 21st century technology. Basically, they’ve asked residents to post photos of bad parking jobs to Twitter.

* A Maine teen suffered minor burns after her iPhone apparently burst into flames in her back pocket. 

* Google is taking aggressive steps to combat what it says is the No. 1 complaint in its Chrome browser: having your settings hijacked. The company first took measures to address the problem in August when it introduced a “reset browser settings” button on the Settings page in Chrome, but that wasn’t enough to fix things. Now, Chrome will ask Windows users automatically via a pop-up if you want to reset your settings when it detects that they might’ve been changed without your permission. It will disable all extensions, themes, and Chrome Apps you have installed. It won’t uninstall them, so you can still go back and manually reactivate them one at a time if you want. The more aggressive reaction to unauthorized setting changes comes in response to what Linus Upson, vice president of engineering for Chrome, described in a blog post as “especially pernicious” hijackers who leave behind hidden processes that are designed to hijack your browser again after a short time.

* All signs point to Apple aiming to make a splash in mobile medical health. The tech giant’s so-called iWatch is said to be deep in development, with a heavy focus on mobile health and fitness tracking. And it’s also been said that the long-rumored product could be announced by the end of this year. Adding to the rumor mill’s churn: Prominent Apple executives, including Senior Vice President of Operations Jeff Williams and Vice President of Software Technology Budd Tribble, met with the Food and Drug Administration last month, according to the association’s public calendar. The news was first reported Friday by The New York Times. The subject of the meeting, per the calendar, was “mobile medical applications.” The Times also said, citing unnamed sources, that Kevin Lynch, the company’s vice president of technology, is involved in creating software for the watch, and that SVP of Technology Bob Mansfield has also been looking at health-related tech to connect to the iPhone.

* Google may have the best-known driverless vehicles, but the US Army surely has the largest. Defense industry heavyweight Lockheed Martin said Thursday that testing has wrapped up on a series of advanced tests in the Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System (AMAS) program for the US Army and US Marine Corps. The testing, Lockheed said, showed that fully autonomous convoys can operate in urban environments and with a mixture of vehicle types.

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