GeekSpeak for 2012-09-29

Science: The Party Pooper

Robots driving cars in California, Androids getting remotely wiped, vehicle dashboard fonts, and more on this special pledge drive episode of Geek Speak.

Transmuting Waste and Worries Away

“Alchemists of old yearned for the philosopher stone, a substance of magical quality that would allow them to transmute other elements into gold. Nowadays, it would be even more valuable to have this mythical device, since its transmuting power could be harnessed to transform long lasting nuclear waste, if not into gold, then at least into less dangerous isotopes.”

Put down that Helium!

“The coming scarcity of the noble gas Helium has been the topic of a few media articles recently, for example the one by John Timmer from Ars Technica (who also was of great help during my preparation of the interview below). The basic idea comes from Robert Richardson who got the 1996 Physics Nobel for discovering suprafluidity in, yes, Helium. His lecture at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting attracted a great deal of attention, precisely because no one really had ever heard of that problem.”

Robot cars now officially legal in California

“At a signing ceremony at the Google headquarters on Tuesday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law state legislation that officially makes the Golden State the second in the nation to legalize and regulate autonomous cars.”

Drive the Model S Electric Car Anywhere in the Country on Pure Sunlight for Free

“Tesla Motors today unveiled its highly anticipated Supercharger network. Constructed in secret, Tesla revealed the locations of the first six Supercharger stations, which will allow the Model S to travel long distances with ultra fast charging throughout California, parts of Nevada and Arizona.”

Rent-to-own PCs surreptitiously captured users' most intimate moments

“Seven rent-to-own companies and a software developer have settled federal charges that they used spyware to monitor the locations, passwords, and other intimate details of more than 420,000 customers who leased computers.”

No Thyme to Waste: Clean Energy Clock Runs on Dirt, Water

“This unique clock promises to run on completely free energy – no batteries or outlets required. The Soil Clock from Dutch designer Marieke Staps uses the natural metabolism of biological life to power its display, requiring only the periodic addition of water.”

Computer game lets you run a presidential campaign

Stardock Entertainment created a game called “The Political Machine 2012” which allows players to choose which candidate to represent in the 2012 election, and make decisions about how to run their campaign.

Major banks hit with biggest cyberattacks in history

Since Sept. 19, the websites of Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank and PNC Bank; have all suffered day-long slowdowns and been sporadically unreachable for many customers due to cyberattacks.

Tim Cook apologizes for Apple's new Maps app

Apple chief executive Tim Cook apologized for the company’s new Maps application in a letter posted to the company’s Web site on Friday.

Facebook Gifts: Send presents to friends over your social network

Facebook is rolling out a feature to selected US cities this week, that will let users give presents from their network profiles. Not just the virtual kind like the ill-fated “Deals” program (closed after 4 months), but real physical goods from FB partners.

Researcher says security defect puts Galaxy S III and some other cell phones using Android OS at risk

Security researcher Ravi Borgaonkar posted on his blog that certain cellphones using Google’s Android operating system are at risk of being disabled or wiped clean of their data, including contacts, music and photos because of a security flaw.

Calif. governor signs bills banning employers, colleges from demanding access to social media

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a pair of privacy bills making it illegal for employers and colleges to demand access to social media accounts.

Computer game lets you run a presidential campaign

Stardock Entertainment created a game called “The Political Machine 2012” which allows players to choose which candidate to represent in the 2012 election, and make decisions about how to run their campaign.

Major banks hit with biggest cyberattacks in history

Since Sept. 19, the websites of Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank and PNC Bank; have all suffered day-long slowdowns and been sporadically unreachable for many customers due to cyberattacks.

Tim Cook apologizes for Apple's new Maps app

Apple chief executive Tim Cook apologized for the company’s new Maps application in a letter posted to the company’s Web site on Friday.

Facebook Gifts: Send presents to friends over your social network

Facebook is rolling out a feature to selected US cities this week, that will let users give presents from their network profiles. Not just the virtual kind like the ill-fated “Deals” program (closed after 4 months), but real physical goods from FB partners.

Researcher says security defect puts Galaxy S III and some other cell phones using Android OS at risk

Security researcher Ravi Borgaonkar posted on his blog that certain cellphones using Google’s Android operating system are at risk of being disabled or wiped clean of their data, including contacts, music and photos because of a security flaw.

Calif. governor signs bills banning employers, colleges from demanding access to social media

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a pair of privacy bills making it illegal for employers and colleges to demand access to social media accounts.