Science & Technology

What's Facebook's Secret? Company Tells All Today

Jan 15, 2013
Andrew Feinberg

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Facebook's mystery "press event" on Tuesday could reveal a more robust search feature that would intensify the competition between the social networking giant and its rival Google Inc.

Facebook is holding the event at 10 a.m. (1 p.m. EST) at its Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters. The company has not said what it plans to announce. Last week, it invited bloggers and journalists to "come see what we're building."

The company probably won't be showing off a new office building -unless it decided to make its invitation very literal.

Days after the Department of Homeland Security said computer users should remove the latest versions of its Java software, Oracle Corp. says it has fixed the flaw, in a new update released Monday. As we reported Friday, hacking groups included the Java 7 vulnerability in new "exploit kits" this year.

He was 14 when he co-authored RSS and later helped found the company that would become the social media website Reddit. Internet activist Aaron Swartz was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment, authorities said Saturday. He was 26.

Update at 7:42 p.m.: Swartz To Be Remembered For 'Technological Virtuosity':

'Make Me' Asian App Sparks Online Backlash

Jan 12, 2013

Tens of thousands of people have downloaded two apps from the Google Play Store that are sparking accusations of racism.

The "Make me Asian" and "Make me Indian" apps allow Android smartphone users to take a picture and superimpose characteristics the developer thinks relate to those ethnic groups. An online petition is urging Google to remove the apps from its store.

The Make me Asian app manipulates pictures to give the subject yellow-tinged skin, narrow eyes, a conical rice-paddy hat and a Fu Manchu mustache taken from a fictional Chinese villain.

If you've gotten the "Death Spiral" email that's apparently been arriving in many inboxes, here's the verdict from two major, nonpartisan fact checkers:

It is NOT true, as the email claims, that in 11 states there are more people on welfare than there are working.

The debunkers: both PolitiFact.com and FactCheck.org.

Millions of computer users who run the most recent versions of Oracle's Java software should disable the product owing to security flaws, says the cybersecurity section of the Department of Homeland Security. The agency says, "Web browsers using the Java 7 plug-in are at high risk."

According to the EPA, more than 2.5 million tons of electronic waste, or e-waste, is produced each year in the U.S. Derek Markham, a contributing writer for Treehugger.com, discusses the global impacts, and why you should think twice before discarding your old cell phone.

Once upon a time, there was one screen that TV broadcasters needed to fill. These days, it's all about the two-screen experience.

People have been watching television with their laptops, smartphones and tablets in hand for a while now. But this year, big business tried harder than ever to bring television to a second screen.

Gadget Watch: Samsung shows bendable phone screen

Jan 10, 2013
Jen Consalvo / Tech Cocktail

LAS VEGAS (AP) - By showing off a phone with a flexible screen, Samsung is hinting at a day when we might fold up our large phone or tablet screens as if they were maps.

The Korean electronics company provided a glimpse of such a device at a keynote speech Wednesday at the International CES gadget show in Las Vegas. It's an annual showcase of the latest TVs, computers and other consumer-electronic devices.

Apple's Schiller: A cheaper iPhone? Um, no

Jan 10, 2013

Yesterday, reports circulated about Apple possibly releasing a less expensive iPhone. Today, Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said there's no truth in those reports.

Google's Schmidt Urges Internet Openness in North Korea

Jan 10, 2013
Jolie O'Dell / Flickr

BEIJING (AP) -- Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said Thursday it's up to North Korea to shed its self-imposed isolation and allow its citizens to use the Internet and connect with the outside world, or risk remaining way behind other countries.

Schmidt was returning from a private trip to North Korea with former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson that was not sanctioned by the U.S. government and has been criticized for appearing to boost Pyongyang's profile after its widely condemned rocket launch put a satellite into space last month.

Apple Still Casts a Long Shadow Over CES

Jan 10, 2013

For a company that hasn’t attended CES since 1992, Apple dominates the show.

Report: Apple may build less expensive iPhone

Jan 10, 2013
Matthew Pearce / Flickr

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Apple is trying to decide whether it makes sense to offer a cheaper iPhone as it tries to boost sales in less-affluent countries and reclaim some of the market share lost to cheaper phones running Google's Android software, according to a published report.

Wednesday's report in The Wall Street Journal speculated that Apple could lower the iPhone's price by equipping the device with an exterior that costs less than the aluminum housing on current models.

Are You Eating Too Fast? Ask Your Fork

Jan 7, 2013

What's the coolest new gadget at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week? It's too soon to tell. But I have an early favorite for the title of oddest new gadget: the HAPIfork and HAPIspoon. They may sound like characters from a nursery rhyme, but this fork and spoon connect to the Internet and can monitor and record how you eat.

The HAPI utensils measure how long your meals last, how long you pause between each bite and how many mouthfuls of food you consume.

It's a year-end tradition to cobble together a list of the most important advances in science. But, truth be told, many ideas that change the world don't tend to spring from these flashy moments of discovery. Our view of nature — and our technology — often evolve from a sequence of more subtle advances.

Even so, chances are good that this year's list-makers will choose the discovery of the Higgs boson as the most important discovery of 2012.

It is the end of a calendar year and that time when the media makes lists. Best of the year, worst of the year and the, ever fun, predictions for the New Year. The 2013 tech predictions are already in and our Jesse Feiler is here to help us handicap the future.

Science And The Allure Of 'Nothing But'

Dec 16, 2012

Science has yet to produce any robust theory of how neural activity gives rise to thought, feeling, emotion, personality, conscious experience.

Indeed, at the present time, we don't even have a good sketch of what such a brain-based theory would look like.

This not a controversial claim.

And yet it counts as one of the dogmas of our time that, in Francis Crick's words, you are your brain.

Developers of smartphone and tablet apps aimed at children have done little in the past year to give parents "the information they need to determine what data is being collected from their children, how it is being shared, or who will have access to it," the Federal Trade Commission reports.

A hacker associated with the collective Anonymous has been convicted in Britain today for attacks against the websites of PayPal, Mastercard and Visa.

Christopher Weatherhead was found guilty following the guilty pleas of three others — Jake Birchall, Ashley Rhodes and Peter Gibson. If you remember, the four were arrested for orchestrating denial of service attacks against the companies because they had stopped processing payments for WikiLeaks.



Could there be yet another computer chip manufacturer looking to build in Upstate New York? Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Dave Lucas explores the possibility.

Half of all U.S. adults now have a mobile connection to the web through either a smartphone or tablet, significantly more than a year ago, and this has major implications for how news will be consumed and paid for, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center's Project. We’ll go behind the numbers this morning with Jesse Feiler.

How much of a "public relations disaster" has Apple's new mapping software been?

Big enough that the famously proud company has apologized — and suggested that users can turn to arch rival Google Maps instead.

In a message "to our customers" posted this morning, CEO Tim Cook says:

Apple sold more than 5 million iPhones this weekend, the company said in a press release. That surpasses the initial sales of the previous version.

As Bloomberg news reports, demand for the new phone quickly exceeded the initial supply, but some analysts expected bigger sales.

They report:

With the release this week of Apple’s iPhone 5, the Pew Research Center reports 45% of American adults own smartphones. They are particularly popular with young adults and those living in relatively higher income households; 66% of those ages 18-29 own smartphones, and 68% of those living in households earning $75,000 also own them. Duh, right?

Our tech guru Jesse Feiler says there is more to the story.

Arctic sea ice has melted dramatically this summer, smashing the previous record. The Arctic has warmed dramatically compared with the rest of the planet, and scientists say that's what's driving this loss of ice.

To be sure, ice on the Arctic Ocean always melts in the summer. Historically, about half of it is gone by mid-September. But this year, three-fourths of the ice has melted away, setting a dramatic new benchmark.

It was the absence of feathers that got conservation biologist Thor Hanson thinking about the significance of them. Hanson was in Kenya studying the feeding habits of vultures, and he noticed the advantages that vultures had relative to other birds because of their bare, featherless heads.

"Having lost their feathers allows [vultures] to remain much cleaner and more free from bacteria and parasites and disease," Hanson tells Fresh Air contributor Dave Davies.

Jesse joins us to talk about technology use at the national political conventions.

It didn't go far, but the NASA rover Curiosity has taken its first test drive on Mars.

"This is how I roll," NASA writes (speaking for Curiosity) with a photo it has released showing the rover's first tracks. "Forward 3 meters, 90 [degree] turn, then back. Electric slide, anyone?"

"We have a fully functioning mobility system," NASA engineer Matt Heverly just told reporters. He said Curiosity ended up moving about 4 1/2 meters during today's test. It also did a full revolution going forward, backed up and did another revolution.

Transcript

FLORA LICHTMAN, HOST:

An experimental aircraft that designers hoped would hit 3,600 mph in a test flight over the Pacific on Tuesday "suffered a control failure" and failed in its attempt to go hypersonic, The Associated Press writes.

Its report follows earlier word from Wired magazine's Danger Room blog that it had been told by an "insider familiar with the test" that:

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