Technology Weekly Roundup 2/21/14 (and 2/14/14)

MacRumors

Apple

Investor Carl Icahn abandons Apple share buyback effort (BBC)

Comcast

Comcast to buy Time Warner Cable for $45.2 effort (BBC)

Gaming

‘Flappy Bird’ Removed from App Store by Developer (MacRumors)

Google

Google Hopes Its Roadshows Will Help Normalize Glass (TechCrunch)

ATAP Project Tango (Google)

HTC

HTC admits it took its ‘eyes off the ball’ in neglecting low-end phones (Engadget)

General

Wundercar is bringing Lyft-style ridesharing to Europe (The Next Web)

Science Weekly Roundup 2/21/14 (and 2/14/14)

Universe Today

Universe Today

Astronomy

Largest solar system moon detailed in geologic map (Astronomy.com)

Mars Rover Heads Uphill After Solving ‘Doughnut’ Riddle (NASA)

Are we alone in the Universe? (BBC Future)

Liquid Water on Mars? (Yahoo)

Set of NanoRacks CubeSats Deployed From International Space Station (NASA)

How NASA Prints Trees (TechCrunch)

Anthropology

Modern Genes Reveal 100 Major Population Shifts In Human History (Popular Science)

Ancient statue of Greek god Apollo discovered in Gaza strip (The Verge)

Biology

US grants patent for disgraced scientist’s fraudulent cloning research (The Verge)

Energy

Nuclear Fusion Achieves Energy Gain (TechSci)

Why People Resist the Notion of Climate Change (Universe Today)

Physics

A computer made a math proof the size of Wikipedia, and humans can’t check it (The Verge)

Neutrino beam ‘major physics experiment’ (BBC Future)

General

Spellbound Valentines: DIY Art from 3D Printed Sound (Bioinformatics/Wolfram Blog)

Nuclear Fusion Achieves Energy Gain

Popular Science

Popular Science

For the first time, scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in Livermore, California have successfully produced more energy with a fusion reaction than was used to start it.

Fusion is the process that hydrogen nuclei undergo inside of stars due to the intense heat and pressure found there; if fusion reactions could be mastered for commercial use, the technique would be incredibly efficient and entirely renewable, providing us with enough energy to sustain our current usage for billions of years. Scientists have been trying for decades to create a self-sustaining fusion reaction with an overall gain in energy, a process called ignition.

NIF is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration and has been in operation since 2009. The facility describes how its laser-driven approach begins on its website:

A weak laser pulse—about 1 billionth of a joule—is created, split, and carried on optical fibers to 48 preamplifiers that increase the pulse’s energy by a factor of 10 billion, to a few joules. The 48 beams are then split into four beams each for injection into the 192 main laser amplifier beamlines.

From there, the 192 laser beams are split into quads of 2×2 arrays and pass through a final optics assembly, where they are converted from infrared to ultraviolet light and aimed at a gold chamber, which converts the lasers’ energy into X-rays. Four of these pulses squeeze a small fuel pellet containing deuterium and tritium (isotopes of hydrogen), causing the pellet to implode and undergo fusion. By the time the process has completed, the original lasers have traveled 1500 meters over the course of 1.5 microseconds.

Though NIF researchers have successfully achieved an energy gain by adjusting the laser setup to hit the gold chamber in three pulses, heating it faster, there are still a few roadblocks ahead. While their experiment, which produced 15 kJ of energy, used 10kJ of fuel, the laser setup itself, the total energy input was around 2 MJ (yes, megajoules). Much of the energy is lost along the way in the conversion of light, so the team still has a long way to go, but this is an important milestone on the road toward ignition.

Even if the team does reach its goal of ignition, there are still engineering issues that need to be resolved to make it a practical energy source: creating the fuel and setting up the lasers is a burdensome process and the intense laser blasts degrade the machine too quickly for long-term commercial use.

If all of the above issues can be solved, the world certainly has a brighter energy future ahead than would otherwise be the case.

Microsoft Names Satya Nadella New CEO

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Microsoft

Late last year, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that he would be leaving the company in the next 12 months, as soon as a replacement is found. This week, Microsoft announced who that replacement will be: Satya Nadella. India-born Nadella joined Microsoft in 1992 after a brief stint at Sun Microsystems and had risen to become the head of cloud and enterprise before the announcement.

After Ballmer’s resignation, there was speculation as to who would succeed Ballmer as the third CEO of the software giant: some outsiders such as Nokia CEO Stephen Elop and Ford CEO Alan Mulally were considered as likely candidates.

Microsoft also announced that founder Bill Gates will be leaving the Board of Directors and become an advisor to Nadella, which may lead to more direct influence over the company’s future roadmap. One thing is for sure, though: Gates will not return to the company full-time. He made this clear in 2008 when he took a less active role to focus on his philanthropic efforts, eight years after stepping down from his position as CEO.

Technology Weekly Roundup 2/7/14

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Microsoft

Apple

Apple Patents Autocorrect Review System, Language Auto-Detect For Mobile Messaging (TechCrunch)

Flagship San Francisco Apple Store Approved by Planning Commission (MacRumors)

Tim Cook Says Apple Working on ‘Some Really Great Stuff’ in New Product Categories (MacRumors)

Microsoft

Microsoft Names Satya Nadella New CEO (TechSci)

Ctrl, Alt, Nadella: can Microsoft’s new CEO reboot the software giant? (The Verge)

Windows 8.1 Update 1 now rumored to arrive in April (The Verge)

Samsung

Samsung could reveal Galaxy S5 at event later this month (The Verge)

Sony

Sony cutting 5,000 jobs, reverts forecast to loss (The Verge)

Sony quits the PC business to focus on mobile (The Verge)

General

The Questions That Computers Can Never Answer (Wired)

Ex-Googlers announce Beep, a Pandora-enabled WiFi controller for streaming music to any speaker (The Next Web)

KnowRoaming’s international sticker SIMs begin shipping to backers today (Engadget)

Science Weekly Roundup 2/7/14

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Centre for Astrophysics Research, University of Hertfordshire

Astronomy

Lunar law row hots up as NASA enters private moon rush (New Scientist)
Olympic Torch Completes Longest Relay in History (YouTube/NASA)
Surprise! Brown Dwarf Star Has Dusty Skies, Appearing Strangely Red (Universe Today/Royal Astronomy Society)
Universe’s 10 Greatest Unsolved Mysteries (YouTube/Hybrid Librarian)

Biology

Bill Nye debates creationist at Kentucky museum (Circa)

Medicine

Bionic hand lets wearer feel what they’re holding (The Verge)

Nature

Amazon ‘exhales’ more carbon dioxide in dry years (Futurity)

General

Seeing science: The year’s best visualizations (Ars Technica)

The 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies—As Chosen By Scientists (Popular Mechanics)

Technology Weekly Roundup 1/31/14

Engadget

Engadget

General

Blink and you missed the tech stuff in the State of the Union address (9to5Mac)

Computer-Based Math Continues to Gain Momentum (Wolfram Blog)

This kit lets you build a musical instrument from just about anything (Engadget)

Design Patents Deserve a Closer Look and Reform, Too (Re/code)

Apple

iWatch + iOS 8: Apple sets out to redefine mobile health, fitness tracking (9to5Mac)

Speculation and circumstantial evidence points toward possibility of Apple using solar in upcoming products (9to5Mac)

Analyst Skeptical About Imminent Launch for 12.9-Inch ‘iPad Pro’ (MacRumors)

Google

Lenovo buys Motorola: the latest news on Google’s big sale (The Verge)

Google demos five minigames for Glass using voice and motion control (The Verge)

Google finishes up 2013 on a high note, Motorola on a low one (Engadget)