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Matt's Favorites: LTU Enrollment, Cloudy Canyon, SpaceX Finally Succeeds, And Much More

So what's the latest from the uber cool worlds of science and technology on what might be our last day above 50 degrees for a while? Pull up those leg warmers, kids, let's dive in to the late fall fun...

*First, here are links to the Tech Report home page and Tech Report Page Two, where you will find much worthwhile news. Not to mention our latest reports on tech-related upcoming events in Michigan, and tech-related awards and certifications.

* Our friends at Lawrence Tech would like me to remind you that students can register now for spring semester classes that begin Monday, Jan. 13 Lawrence Technological University. Day, evening, weekend and online options are available, including many fast-track certificate programs in growing career fields. Lawrence Tech has associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs that can lead to careers in areas such as robotics engineering, biomedical engineering and computer science. Call (800) CALL-LTU, ext. 1, or visit to find out about registration. For additional information, contact or (248) 204-3160.

* Visitors to the Grand Canyon witnessed a rare sight this week: the canyon was overflowing with dense fog. Called an inversion, it started last week.  "We are currently experiencing an after Thanksgiving treat. No, it's not more pumpkin pie. It's a once in a lifetime, outstanding, crazy, amazing, mind blowing inversion. Enjoy," the National Park Service posted on the Grand Canyon National Park's Facebook page.

* Running more than a week late because of technical snags, including a dramatic Thanksgiving Day launchpad abort, SpaceX successfully launched an upgraded Falcon 9 rocket carrying a communications satellite Tuesday, the opening salvo in a closely watched bid to win a share of the commercial launch market with low-cost assembly-line boosters.

You'll soon be able to see the Earth from space any time of day -- no spacesuit required. Two cameras -- one high-def, one medium-resolution -- will start streaming near-real-time footage from the International Space Station in early 2014. Operated by the Vancouver-based company UrtheCast, the cameras will be mounted on the outside of the station. Anyone with Internet access will be able to log onto the website and view the world as the astronauts see it.

* Americans racked up their biggest online spending day in history on Cyber Monday, forking over $1.735 billion to Internet retailers, an 18 percent jump over a year ago. And it wasn't just on Monday. According to ComScore, Americans spent $23.9 billion online during the first 32 days of the November-December holiday season, up 8 percent over last year. Those big gains may have come at the expense of merchants who were hoping to cash in during Black Friday and the weekend following Thanksgiving. According to the National Retail Federation, shoppers spent $1.7 billion less during that period than they did a year ago.

* It's not just your imagination. The brains of men and women really are wired differently.

* Seattle football fans erupted in cheers so raucous early in the Monday night match-up against the New Orleans Saints that their jumping up and down registered as a minor earthquake, local media reported. reports that computer scientists have developed malware capable of establishing communications between devices that don't have active network connections. Using the built-in microphones and speakers found on PCs, German reserachers created malware that uses inaudible audio signals to transmit small amounts of data over covert channels at distances of nearly 65 feet. The software was detailed in the Journal of Communications. The research comes after the recent disclosure of mysterious malware that used high-frequency signals to hurdle between non-connected devices.

* Using the Hubble Space Telescope's powerful Wide Field Camera 3, which is capable of peering at exoplanets trillions of miles away, two teams of scientists have found faint signatures of water in the atmospheres of five planets outside our solar system. Finding habitability is next. And speaking of exoplanets, here's something I sure never thought I'd see: Direct photographic images of exoplanets.

* Hewlett-Packard is looking to drum up tablet sales with the rollout of four new devices, which went on sale quietly on Monday. The new lineup includes the HP Slate7 Plus, the HP Slate7 Extreme, the HP Slate8 Pro, and the HP Slate10 HD. Equipped with Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, the tablets are all listed as available with the exception of the Slate7 Extreme, which currently is out of stock. Prices range from $150 to $330.

* Italy's Mount Etna volcano is putting on an impressive display this week, spewing lava into the night sky in an explosion of fire and ash. A new southeast crater has opened on the volcano and the latest eruption appeared to be from multiple fissures.

* You may one day be able to unlock your iPhone based just on your good looks. Awarded to Apple on Tuesday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a patent called "Personal computing device control using face detection and recognition" envisions a method to access your iPhone and other devices based on facial detection and recognition. As such, your face would act as a password, allowing only you to answer a phone call and perform other tasks.

* Sony Corp. said on Tuesday that global sales of its PlayStation 4 game console exceeded 2.1 million units worldwide as of Dec. 1. Sony launched the PS4 in the United States and Canada in mid-November, a week before Microsoft's Xbox One console hit stores.

* Look alive, selfie. There's another word of the year that's not all about you. While Oxford University Press, the British publisher of the Oxford dictionaries, declared those little smartphone self-portraits its winner last month, the folks at Merriam-Webster announced "science" the winner on Tuesday.

* Scientists plumbing the Pacific Ocean off the Hawaii coast have discovered a Second World War era Japanese submarine, a technological marvel that had been preparing to attack the Panama Canal before being scuttled by U.S. forces, CBC reported. The 400-foot-long "Sen-Toku" class vessel — among the largest pre-nuclear submarines ever built — was found in August off the southwest coast of Oahu and had been missing since 1946, scientists at the University of Hawaii at Manoa said. The I-400 and its sister ship, the I-401, which was found off Oahu in 2005, were able to travel one and a half times around the world without refuelling and could hold up to three folding-wing bombers that could be launched minutes after resurfacing, the scientists said.

* Google's annual Flu Trends metric was wildly off last year. But scientists were able to leverage the company's data to design a far more successful system.

* Scientists have been toying for years with creating tiny implants and nanorobots that could carry drugs to certain diseased cells. It is about as targeted as therapy can get, but at this point it's all a bit futuristic. Within the confines of petri dishes, researchers are still tinkering. A new study is the first to demonstrate that a nanorobot, which the researchers are calling a DNA nanocage, can both encapsulate and release a biomolecule without degrading the cage itself -- and at a size small enough to keep the drugs trapped until they reach the end target.

Apple Inc. has acquired social media search and analytics startup Topsy, an unusual purchase for a hardware-focused company that has made few forays into social networking. Apple confirmed the acquisition but would not say why it bought the company, which specializes in analyzing Twitter data and providing insights into current sentiment on a variety of topics. The Wall Street Journal, which reported the news earlier, cited people familiar with the deal as saying Apple paid over $200 million.

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