Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 1:27 pm
The daily lowdown on books, publishing and the occasional author behaving badly.
For a public library to expect to survive today, it must begin to take crucial cues from coffee shops. At least, that's the key recommendation offered by a much-anticipated report on British public libraries, which is set to be released Thursday.
Let me set the stage a little: A movie called "The Imitation Game" will be released nationwide Christmas day, the latest of several attempts to tell the story of Alan Turing. That story is so big, it can only be told in little pieces.
The piece most people focus on is Turing's work as the single most important code breaker in World War 2, the man who built a machine that broke apart the deeply encrypted Nazi code, and then gave the Allies an advantage that they were forced to conceal.
Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 12:41 pm
Signs of water currents and sediments are seen in the latest photos NASA's Curiosity rover sent home from Mars, the space agency said Monday. The images suggest "ancient Mars maintained a climate that could have produced long-lasting lakes," NASA says.
In the huge Gale Crater where Curiosity has been exploring, the water and sediment flow might have been massive enough to build a mountain — the 3-mile-high Mount Sharp — NASA researchers say. But they acknowledge that they're still working to solve the mystery of how the mountain formed in a crater.
Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 12:32 pm
Ralph H. Baer, the man widely acknowledged as the "father of home video games" for his pioneering work in electronics and television engineering, died on Saturday at his home in Manchester, N.H. He was 92.
Originally published on Thu December 4, 2014 9:11 pm
When Ronaldo Mouchawar was working in a Boston engineering firm he dreamed of moving back to the Arab world. Born and raised in Aleppo, Syria, he had come to the U.S. to study, then got a high-paying job, but he believed he "owed something" to his home region.
It turned out his ticket back was a smart idea at the right time.
Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 2:03 pm
The search for the massive star explosions called supernovae is about to get a big boost. Astronomers at Caltech in Pasadena are building a new camera that will let them survey the entire night sky in three nights.
The problem with looking for supernovae is you can't really be sure when and where to look for them. Most telescope cameras can only capture a small patch of sky at a time. But the new camera, to be mounted on a telescope at the Palomar Observatory, has a much larger field of view.
Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 8:48 pm
Saying it wants to build "a safer Twitter," the company is announcing changes to two areas: how it handles harassment and the tools that let users block people who've sent abusive messages. One woman who has experienced such abuse calls the change "a big step up."
Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 5:55 pm
Since Tim Cook has been CEO of Apple, the company's market capitalization (or the value of its outstanding shares) has increased by more than $300 billion. On Nov. 26, it reached its highest level yet, almost $698 billion.
Numerically, this is a feat. Quartz says, "In nominal terms no company has ever been as big as Apple." Of course, Quartz goes on to say that, adjusted for inflation, Microsoft was bigger at its 1990s peak.
Originally published on Mon December 1, 2014 8:17 am
The U.S. Supreme Court is tackling a question of increasing importance in the age of social media and the Internet: What constitutes a threat on Facebook?
Anthony Elonis was convicted of making threats against his estranged wife, and an FBI agent. After his wife left him, taking the couple's two children with her, Elonis began posting about her on his Facebook page.
There's one way to love ya, but a thousand ways to kill ya,
And I'm not going to rest until your body is a mess,
Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 2:46 pm
All of us are familiar with the sound a smartphone makes when an email or text has arrived. Our somewhat Pavlovian response is to pick up the device, see who the message is from and read it.
In Germany, a growing number of these emails come from the boss contacting employees after work. That's not healthy, say experts on work-related stress, including psychologist Gerdamarie Schmitz in Berlin, who is feeling the technological encroachment herself.
Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 12:18 pm
The Internet radio service Pandora made its name by creating personalized stations using tools such as "like" and "dislike" buttons for listeners. But a deal between Pandora and a group of record labels has raised concerns that the company is favoring certain songs over others because it's paying the musicians behind those songs a smaller royalty.
When Pandora emerged a decade ago, its big selling point over traditional radio was that it created a station just for you, as the company's Eric Bieschke told NPR last year.
Originally published on Tue November 18, 2014 9:39 am
The popular ride-service company Uber is in damage control mode after a senior vice president expressed interest in unveiling details about the private lives of journalists in retaliation for unflattering coverage of Uber's business practices.
What if you had the ability to read the emotions, the thoughts, the concerns of your city in real time, at any time? What if you could then use that information to help your community -- to build stronger policies, and foster better relationships with those around you?
Let's play a game. I'm going to name five things and you tell me what they are - "An Unnecessary Woman," "All the Light We Cannot See," "Redeployment," "Station Eleven," "Lila." They are the five fiction finalists for this year's National Book Award which will be given out this week. Don't feel bad if you didn't get the answer - I wouldn't have either. My connection to the nominees begins and ends with having picked up one of the five books from a table at - of all places - Whole Foods.
We live in amazing times. But where did all this stuff come from? And by stuff, I mean computers and the internet, and all the amazing platforms like Wikipedia, that exist on the internet. There are many answers to those questions. A common theme is, people who were very good at math. But that includes a woman, crippled by measles, living in the nineteenth century as the daughter of one of the most famous poets of all time, and a man living a hidden homosexual life in an era when that was a criminal offense, leading a team of code-breakers in England during WW2. Those were two of the most famous innovators investigated by Walter Isaacson.
One of the biggest American myths is limitlessness. You'd think by now we'd understand our own limitations but the American myth - and you can hear it on Rush Limbaugh every day - is one where the horizon goes on forever and more growth is always possible and any failure from Vietnam to the 2008 crash that we've ever had is just a case of failing to fully exert our exceptional American qualities.
Massachusetts Health Connector Ex. Dir. Jean Yang ( second from right) is joined by officials at Caring Health Center in Springfield to promote the upcoming open enrollment for the state's new online health insurance exchange
Originally published on Mon November 10, 2014 6:21 pm
Open enrollment at the Massachusetts health insurance exchange begins this week. State officials say there is a new – and functioning – website that people can use if they need to purchase insurance.
The Massachusetts Health Connector will launch the new online health insurance marketplace on Nov. 15th. Thousands of people across the state who have Health Connector coverage now, or were placed in temporary plans over the last year, will have to use the new website to submit an application if they want to remain insured.
Originally published on Tue November 11, 2014 10:12 am
Humans have never landed anything on a comet's surface. That may change tomorrow.
The European Space Agency's Rosetta mission is poised to send out a small probe to land on a comet known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Rosetta spent 10 years chasing the comet before arriving in August.
Microsoft — a company most associated with Word documents and Excel spreadsheets — is getting a makeover.
Under new leadership, the software developer is analyzing vast troves of data about its users to create social tools for the workplace. They've got the goods — just think of all those Office emails that bind us together — but the question is, will customers want to cozy up socially with Microsoft, on and off the job?
Originally published on Mon November 10, 2014 5:16 pm
The United States Postal Service is the latest victim of a wide-scale online data breach.
A USPS spokesman told NPR today that more than 800,000 employees may have been affected. In a statement, USPS said "names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, addresses, beginning and end dates of employment, emergency contact information" may have been compromised.
Originally published on Thu November 6, 2014 6:03 pm
With the fall season come littered leaves, new television lineups and the sport that can't stop stirring up controversy: football.
Rough tackles and concussions worry many parents. And no wonder. Research cited by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons suggests that more than a third of college football players have had one concussion and 20 percent have had more than one.