Weekly tech news roundup for July 24

Chrisper: the DNA editing tool that will blow your mind
I listed to a Radiolab podcast last weekend about Crisper-Cas9 that blew me away. The dawning realization that we are living the life promised in science fiction and can edit the human genome cheaply, easily, and accurately using a technique called Crisper? Well, it was a “wow” moment. Now this week, Wired offers up a “longread” about Crisper. I’m taking it as a sign you should know about it too. I highly recommend you take some time to either read the story or listen to the podcast if you don’t know anything about this technology. I really think it’ll wow you too…and possibly scare you at the same time. Either way, it’s completely fascinating.

grammarlyWrite gooder on Facebook, Gmail, and more
There is a new extension for Firefox and Chrome that will catch more than 250 spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes when you’re out and about on the interweb. Just like in popular programs like Word, Grammarly shows you spelling mistakes in red, and grammar errors in green. Head to the Chrome Web Store to find it for that browser. If you really want to be extra accurate, you can also subscribe to their premium service and gain checks against an additional 150+ grammar points, and also detects plagiarism and makes citation suggestions.

Replace rocket boosters with microwaves?
Humans have always gotten to space using heavy and expensive rocket boosters to build enough thrust to break out of Earth’s gravity. But what if we could us a different technology….like microwaves. Escape Dynamics is trying to make it happen. Engadget reports they’re proposing creating a space craft with a heat shield designed to absorb and use energy from ground-based microwave emitters. An electromagnetic motor would then take the energy to superheat an on-board fuel supply such as hydrogen or helium. Escape Dynamics says they’ve tested this idea with success in the lab, but whether the logistics of something like this is scalable remains to be seen. Still, it’s an interesting idea!

New earth-like planet discovered
Called Kepler-452b, this newly spotted planet sits in what is called a “habitable zone” of its own sun-like star, just like Earth does in our own solar system. It’s in that jjjusssstttt right distance—not too close, not too far—where there could be water. And, the planet has almost the same year (385 days), twice the gravity, and is older than Earth by 1.5 billion years. It’s also 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus, so we’re not going to visit any time soon.

History of the universe in less than 9 minutes
After learning about Earth’s older cousin, you may be pondering the origins of the universe. Well, rock star astrophysicist Niel deGrasse Tyson can help you with that. Here’s a 8:29 minute video that explains it all…thanks in part to some great illustration work.

Ashley Madison website hacked and you should care
This week there was a HUGE hack of the adult website aimed at people looking to cheat on their spouses. The information from 37 million people was taken and now they’re being threatened with the release of their profiles and, what I will politely call, “interests.” Even though you’re not one of those 37 million, you should care. As The Verge pointed out, the hack shows how careful you need to be about giving out your personal information. Ashley Madison was built as just a regular-old website—no privacy controls were in place…even though users clearly assumed there were. Don’t assume. Be safe.

Revisit your past trips on Google Maps
Google announced a new feature gradually rolling out to Google Maps users—a way to revisit the places you’ve gone. It’s called Your Timeline and, according to Google, is “a useful way to remember and view the places you’ve been on a given day, month or year.” And, if you use Google Photos, it’ll pull in photos from your trip so you get visuals too. You can delete trips you don’t want to keep and Your Timeline is private. This feature is coming to both Android and desktop Google Maps users.

Hackers take control of Jeep Cherokee, 1.4 million cars recalled
Wired published a piece this week of the author’s experience of being in a Jeep when it was hacked. Fortunately, he knew it was going to happen as he volunteered to be a guinea pig. But, it’s no hypothetical, just-for-a-story problem. In this test the hackers used a known technique called a “zero-day exploit” to target the Jeep and take control. Wired says the “software lets hackers send commands through the Jeep’s entertainment system to its dashboard functions, steering, brakes, and transmission, all from a laptop that may be across the country.” The exploit works on any Chrysler vehicle with an 8.4-inch touchscreen in-car entertainment system. As a result, Fiat Chysler is recalling the vehicles (here’s the list) for a safety recall in the form of a USB device owners use to upgrade the vehicle software. It should be noted, there are no known cases of this hack actually being used in the real world, but they’re not taking any chances.


About Missy Kellor

Missy works on the Corporate Communications team and reports stories to TDS employees and customers. This is right up her alley because she’s an extrovert and also a big fan of research (really, she’ll look up just about anything that strikes her interest). Missy is a native of Madison, Wis. with an undergraduate in Anthropology and a master’s degree in Life Sciences Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her interest in the Internet as a mass media shaped her work towards a PhD in Journalism and Mass Communications. She’s also worked as an editorial assistant, copywriter, and production artist. In her off hours, Missy is a crafter, Pinterest addict, reader, wife, and mom of two kids.

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