Scientists have announced that they are 99.99 percent sure they’ve discovered the sub-atomic particle known as the Higgs boson. Often referred to as the “God particle”, the Higgs boson is an integral part of what scientists call The Standard Model of particle physics, a set of rules that lay out the fundamental building blocks of the universe. Think of it like a puzzle with a missing piece. You can see where the missing piece goes and you think you can imagine what it looks like but you can’t actually see the full picture until you’ve found it. Until now, the Higgs boson was just a theory. It was that missing puzzle piece. If it’s shown to exist, it will prove our understanding of the basic universe correct. Confirming the existence of the particle will take a considerable amount of time, but scientists are optimistic that our knowledge of the universe and its pieces is about to take a big step forward.
According to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, its subscribers watched more than one billion hours of programming in June. One billion hours of Netflix programming averages out to about 80 minutes per subscriber per day. Though numbers for cable networks have not been reported for last month, it’s likely that Netflix has them all beat. This marks the first time that the streaming service has performed better than traditional cable networks since it first allowed users to “watch now” in 2007. This is very good news for Netflix. In the past couple of years it has put a big push behind its instant watch service. It’s tried to brand itself as a place not just to watch your old favorites but as a place for new content too, with one original series available now and several more to come in 2013, including a series by David Fincher and new episodes of the cult favorite Arrested Development.
Ever wish the crime-prediction technology in the movie Minority Report was real? We’re on our way. One police precinct in Los Angeles tested software that was twice as good as humans at predicting where burglaries and car break-ins might happen. The software, built by a start-up company called PredPol, told the police where they should focus their patrols. Those areas experienced a 25 percent drop in burglaries and break-ins. The program makes its decisions based on previous crime reports and sociological studies and is able to detect patterns over time. It then produces maps for each patrol shift, suggesting where crimes might occur. It may be science or it may be luck, but there’s one thing is for sure: the software reduces the time officers spend on bureaucratic procedures, and helps them spend more time on the street fighting crime. Officers noticed that simply having a vehicle in the vicinity made potential perpetrators far less likely to commit a crime.
According to unnamed sources, Apple is planning the biggest overhaul of iTunes since its debut in 2003. The changes are expected by the end of the year and are intended to improve ease of access across all Apple devices, by integrating more closely with iCloud. The new iTunes will also make it easier to share media between users. The past few years have brought huge changes to media ownership and sharing. Where Apple was once rulued, services like Pandora, Spotify and Amazon Prime have soared in popularity, by offering streaming media for free or at a very low cost. iTunes has also been criticized in the past for organizing files poorly; where it once only had to organize music, iTunes now has to deal with television, movies, podcasts, books and apps. I say it’s about time. If Apple is going to force its customers into a service, they’d better keep it fresh.
Verizon’s New Share Everything plan is now available. It will allow you to share data across up to ten devices: like smartphones, tablets and netbooks. The monthly cost is made up of two parts: a line charge for each device, and a data charge that everything will share. Get it? It’s the Share Everything plan. Unlimited talk, and txt messaging are free under the plan and data is included up to 10 Gigabytes. If you go over your data allotment, you will pay $10 for each additional 2 Gigabytes. How much data is a Gigabyte? Great question. How many gigabytes will you use? Another great question. If you like to watch lots of movies in HD on your smartphone and your tablet, and you like to listen to Pandora all day, you may want to pay attention to the first couple of bills. I was suspicious at first, but I did the math and, if I switched, my bill would come out about the same.
As expected, Google made some big announcements during the opening of its annual developer conference yesterday. First things first: now available for pre-order is the Nexus 7 tablet, a device running the brand new Android 4.1 Operating System, better known as Jelly Bean. The quad-core tablet has a seven-inch screen with a 1280×800 HD display and is available for 199 bucks directly from the Google Play store. Jelly Bean promises to improve performance and includes a new predictive keyboard, better voice search and enhancements to the notification system. It will also come with a feature called Google Now, which provides information based on your personal tastes and current location. Stuck in traffic? Google Now will figure out how you commute to work and give you a faster route. The OS update will also be available on the Galaxy Nexus, Xoom and Nexus S next month.
Bet you didn’t think e-commerce sites knew or cared what kind of computer you use. You thought wrong. In a story published yesterday, the Wall Street Journal said it found that the travel website Orbitz has started steering Mac users towards pricier hotels, based on data that says they spend more on accommodations. Orbitz has found that Mac users spend 20 to 30 more dollars a night than PC users and the Mac users are 40% more likely to book a four or five star hotel. Marketers have always wanted to know as much about you as possible and that’s no different in the digital age. They simply have a new set of tools to use when identifying and measuring your behavior. The practice may seem a little unfair, but it’s likely to become more common as online retailers fight for business. If you don’t like it, here’s a simple fix: next time you’re on Orbtiz, sort by price
After weeks of rumors, Microsoft confirmed that it purchased Yammer for $1.2 billion dollars. That’s billion with a “B.” Yammer is a social networking site for business users, that currently has about five million users over 200,000 companies. Think of it as Facebook for your business. It’s a place where users can sign in to post short messages, share links, create events, and do other cool stuff. The main difference between Yammer and open social networks like Facebook, is that you can restrict Yammer users to people inside your company. If you’ve used it, you know how valuable real time social communication inside an organization can be. Over time, you can expect Yammer to be integrated into Microsoft’s Office Suite, SharePoint, Office 365, Dynamics and Skype. Although some analysts think Microsoft paid too much, and waited too long to enter the social sphere, Yammer looks like a good acquisition and it should help Microsoft enhance many of its business products.
More legal trouble for Facebook. Last year, five Facebook users filed a lawsuit against the social networking site over the company’s “Sponsored Stories”. “Sponsored Stories” are ads that appear in newsfeeds and can include the names, photos and likes of your friends without consent. The verdict became public last week and the users were victorious. Users will now be able to opt out of Sponsored Stories and Facebook has promised to communicate better about what’s being used in the ads. It’s a victory for privacy advocates who have been making a huge push for users to have more power over their personal information. The settlement is not permanent though; under the agreement the changes only have to be followed for two years and Facebook will likely do whatever it can to get back to the old system. According to one estimate, Facebook could lose over 103 million dollars in revenue because of the ruling. That may not sound like much, but a few million here and a few million there can start to add up to real money!
Twitter had a rough day yesterday. For many users, the tweetosphere worked only intermittently throughout the day and for others, well, they were nary a tweet. Now, logging into Twitter and seeing a temporary fail whale isn’t uncommon, but large scale service outages like this one are rare. When they do occur, they shine light on a serious problem. One of the highest purposes of Twitter is that it enables the real time distribution of news about events that are important to specific communities of interest, but not large enough to be covered by traditional media like TV, Radio, and Wire Services. When Twitter fails, it shuts off thousands of dedicated, live news feeds to literally millions of people. So instead of asking why Twitter crashed, let’s ask ourselves the following: as we become more dependent on technology, should we spend some quality time crafting ways to protect ourselves against single points of failure?