Tech 2.0 for Friday, September 6, 2013
An unmanned rocket is scheduled to blast off late Friday night from Virginia with a robotic explorer that will study the lunar atmosphere and dust. Called LADEE, the moon-orbiting craft will measure the thin lunar atmosphere. Scientists want to learn the composition of the moon's ever-so-delicate atmosphere and how it might change over time. Another puzzle: whether dust actually levitates from the lunar surface. Unlike the quick three-day Apollo flights to the moon, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, will take a full month to get there. An Air Force Minotaur rocket, built by Orbital Sciences Corp., is providing the ride from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. It's the first moonshot from Virginia.
Samsung says that the new versions of its Galaxy Note smartphone and tablet, along with its new smartwatch, will go on sale in the U.S. next month. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and US Cellular all will carry the Galaxy Note 3 smartphone. Some of the cellular carriers will also sell the Galaxy Gear smartwatch. Major retailers including Best Buy, Amazon.com, RadioShack and Wal-Mart also will carry the smartphone and smartwatch. AT&T says it will sell the phone for $299.99 with a new two-year agreement, or for $35 a month under its AT&T Next installment plan. It will begin shipping orders on Oct. 1. T-Mobile says it plans to sell the smartphone for $199.99 down with 24 monthly payments of $21. It's also selling the smartwatch for $299.99.
The National Security Agency has secretly been unraveling encryption technology used worldwide to keep information safe on the Internet. A new report by The New York Times, Britain's Guardian newspaper and the website ProPublica describes how the NSA invested billions of dollars since 2000 to make nearly everyone's secrets available for government consumption. It says the agency built powerful supercomputers to break encryption codes. The revelations stem from documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden earlier this year. Those same documents this summer showed an effort by the U.S. government to gather and analyze all sorts of electronic data. The revelations prompted a debate about the proper balance between civil liberties and security. President Barack Obama called the debate "healthy for our democracy" but criticized the leaks.
The Mormon church's family history research center has signed a new agreement with Ancestry.com in a project to make 1 billion new genealogical records available to the public. Family Search signed a five-year, $60 million deal with the Provo-based private company. Family Search is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' nonprofit organization dedicated to the research of family history. The plan is for the two entities to work together to dig into the deep genealogical vaults of the Mormon church to digitize and index up to 1 billion new records that allow people around the world to research their family trees. The two sides have worked together before, with millions of records already available to users on both ends.