Scientists say the sun is now in an active period, creating more space weather that could interfere with the satellites we depend on for TV, cellphones and weather forecasts. From member station KQED, Lauren Sommer reports that researchers are taking advantage of the weather to learn more about the Earth's magnetic field.
In what has been described as a revenge plot, Eric Williams and his wife are charged with the murders of a Kaufman County district attorney, his wife and an assistant prosecutor. Williams is already in custody for allegedly making a terroristic threat.
The man who tried to sell his coveted Google Glass on eBay, to the dismay of fellow devotees, says he figured he had the right to do it.
The seller, who goes by raenblow on the Internet auction site and by Ed in real life, took the listing down this week after bidders offered more than $95,000 for a device he didn't even own yet.
Ed, 26, wouldn't give his last name because he's "sick of being harassed by Google enthusiasts."
He says he didn't think the $95,000 bid was real, but he wanted to sell his glasses to pay off student loans.
Google Glass is an Internet-ready gadget that a select group of users will wear like a pair of glasses. A few early adopters have already picked up their glasses from Google headquarters, and a few thousand more will receive a pair later this spring.
Ed says he was part of a group that won the #IfIHadGlass Twitter competition. Google asked candidates to tweet innovative ideas for ways to use the technology. The winners, who the company calls Explorers, still have to pay $1,500 for the right to be an early user.
Ed says he pitched the idea of sending photos to his marketing clients while working from the road.
"I assumed that if I pay $1,500 and they give me something, it would be mine to do whatever I wanted with. Apparently that is not the case," he says.
Google would not comment for this story, but the company confirmed that the terms of service for the Explorers prohibit reselling, loaning or transferring the glasses to another person. The company can deactivate a device if someone else uses it.
Ed says he did not know about the rules because he hadn't yet picked up his glasses or paid for them. When he learned of the rules he says, "I took down the auction voluntarily."
The auction prompted a wave of disgust from other Explorers who felt the attempted sale violated the spirit of Google's competition.
Kevin Dietze, a student at Georgia Institute of Technology, posted a link to the auction on a chat group for Glass Explorers. He says this wasn't the first time he'd seen a Google Glass for sale. He purposefully wanted to sabotage this one by getting people to artificially inflate the price.
"The reason why I posted it in the first place was to prevent the auction from completing," Dietz says. "The whole idea of being a part of the Explorer program is not about getting Google Glass or turning a profit. It's about being on the cutting edge and this person clearly doesn't care about that."
Another Glass enthusiast, Jim McNelis of San Francisco, says he was bothered by "someone who thinks they should make over a year's salary because they were picked in a competition on Twitter."
McNelis was among a smaller group chosen last year to receive the new product. He says he picked up his Google Glass at the company's headquarters Tuesday. McNelis put the device on his face and used it to do an interview through his cell phone with Marketplace.
He explained the experience this way: "Visually, I am looking in the lens and I can see the call has been going on for 46 seconds."
It's this type of technology that Google has a real interest in protecting, says Angela McIntyre with the tech research firm Gartner. Especially so early in the test phase, she says competitors would be willing to pay a lot of money to take a peek at the technology inside.
"There's a lot of hype around Google Glass and many people would love to get their hands on one," she says. "Even if it's deactivated once you resell it."
Mike Henderson knows trucks. He’s president of a company called Smart Truck, and he had a problem.
"Trucks," he says, "are fairly unaerodynamic devices. Half their fuel goes to defeating aerodynamic drag.”
But he needed to make his clients’ semi-trailers more fuel efficient to comply with California law -- and fast. Trouble was, calculating airflow is crazy complicated.
There are all kinds of vortices. "Almost every piece of a truck produces wake and they mix with other wakes," Henderson says. "It would take over a week to do a single calculation" to see how a single part would interact with a whole truck.
And he’d need to do hundreds of calculations.
So Henderson did what a growing number of businesses are doing: He managed to get access to a supercomputer. Not just any supercomputer, but "the most powerful computer in the world for open science," according to Suzy Tichenor at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Titan, as the $100 million supercomputer is known, is nearly the size of a football field.
"It clocks in at about 27 petaflops, which is the equivalent of 27 quadrillion calculations or operations a second," Tichenor says. A quadrillion is a million billion. "It’s a big boy."
Labs and businesses – even small businesses like Henderson’s -- can apply to use it. It’s free if they make some of their results public, thereby fulfilling Oak Ridge’s goal of promoting advancement in science and engineering. Henderson was able to test prototype trucks that existed only inside the computer before going to the trouble of making real parts. His team saw air movements that would’ve been invisible in a wind tunnel.
"It probably got us to market a year faster than we would have had we not used it," he says, adding that he improved trucks’ fuel efficiency by 14 percent by adding special airfoils.
Tichenor says other businesses have been banging down the door for a crack at Titan. The number of applicants has risen 20 percent in the past year.
"We’ve definitely seen a growth in the number of companies that are applying because modeling and simulation allows you to accelerate the research and development process dramatically," she says.
That includes auto companies which would rather not build a hundred different cars just to crash them all, insurance companies modeling how fires spread and biotech companies too.
Not only have firms been applying to use government supercomputers, they’ve been buying up their own.
"The market has been growing at a rate we’ve never seen before," says Earl Joseph with international market research company IDC. The company has been tracking the computer industry for two decades. Joseph says a medium size supercomputer costs $10 million, but they’ve been selling like hotcakes even through the recession.
"Supercomputers grew 65 percent in 2009 alone, last year sales grew another 29 percent. You’re not seeing those growths in any other sector right now," he says.
There are a few reasons supercomputers are now a $5.5 billion industry. "The questions, the problems that users are looking to solve are becoming more and more complex," says Barry Bolding at supercomputer producer Cray, which made Titan. Demand for Cray’s computers has increased five-fold over the past five years.
BP, for example, has an array of seismic sonar devices the size of Manhattan. Processing the echoing sound waves to suss out the contours of oil and gas deposits beneath the ocean floor is an immense computational task. Another factor: Computers have become faster by incorporating processors known as GPUs that were developed for the gaming industry.
Earl Joseph, at IDC, says the next milestone in supercomputing will be something called an "exascale machine," a thousand times faster than Titan.
"The biggest problem right now is the electrical bill," he says. "To build that big of a computer you almost need a nuclear power plant right next to it." The annual electricity bill could run anywhere from $30 million to $50 million.
He says someone will probably figure a way around that though, as governments and companies alike run a supercharged race to build computers that are ever more super.
The planets orbiting far-off stars are close to Earth-sized and are a distance from their suns that makes their surfaces neither too hot nor too cold. Since launching in 2009, the Kepler telescope has identified more than 100 planets.
Older people are much more likely than youngsters to be killed crossing the street, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And men are more likely to be killed than women, regardless of age.
The National Weather Service says the system is threatening to bring severe weather from the Tennessee Valley all the way to the Gulf Coast, tonight. It will move east Friday.
Bipartisan bonhomie broke out Thursday afternoon when four Democratic and four Republican senators made a case for their comprehensive immigration overhaul proposal. "America is an idea; nobody owns it," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. "We've got to create order out of chaos."
According to the New York Times, officials are considering higher fines for people who do it, calling it "street defacement." The fine now stands at $50, but could jump to $250.
Parking in the Big Apple is already big business, says lawyer Larry Berezin. He runs the website NewYorkParkingTicket.com, which is dedicated to defending parking violators.
"Parking in New York City generates about $600 million in revenue and there's about nine million parking tickets issued a year," Berezin says.
Tickets are overseen by the Department of Finance, so New York has an incentive to keep that revenue flowing. As Berezin puts it, it's not about justice.
However, there are ways to effectively contest one of NYC's 99 parking violations.
"The mistake many New Yorkers make is that they fight it emotionally," Berezin says.
For example, hollering, "How dare you issue me a ticket?! I was just dropping my Aunt Tilly. She's 94 years old, and I got out of my car and walked across the street."
You can stop temporarily and let Aunt Tilly out at the curb, Berezin says, but you can't walk her across the street. "She's on her own. She lives in New York City... she's okay."
For a guide to deciphering New York City's complex parking signs, see the presentation here.
We asked you on Twitter what your parking and driving pet peeves were, and boy were you vocal. Add your own by commenting below or tweeting us @MarketplaceAPM.
[View the story "What are your driving and parking pet peeves?" on Storify]
Jokes were not on funny guy Ray Magliozzi's mind Thursday when he talked with WBUR. Instead, the Car Talk co-host wanted to focus on the acts of bravery and selflessness at the scene of Monday's bombings.