In the tech world, a lot happens in a week. So much news goes on, in fact, that it’s almost impossible for mere mortals with real lives to keep track of everything. That’s why we’ve compiled a quick and dirty list of the top 10 tech stories from this week. Everything from Facebook’s data on coming out on social media to Apple’s surprising patent loss — it’s all here.
As a platform of purported self expression, Facebook has taken considerable heat from certain communities about how they can or cannot represent themselves online. But despite recent controversy, the social media giant pointed out in a blog post that a record number of Americans have “come out” on Facebook, and it emphasized the data as evidence of a national shift towards the acceptance of different sexual orientations. “Over the past year, approximately 800,000 Americans updated their profile to express a same-gender attraction or custom gender,” wrote researchers Bogdon State and Nils Wernerfelt. “Not only has the total number of Americans who have come out on Facebook risen dramatically, but so has the number coming out each day.” The recent post, published in honor of National Coming Out Day (Oct. 11) and #SpiritDay (Oct. 15), highlights three major trends that academics have noted over the last year.
The U.S. government is not currently seeking legislation demanding access to users’ encrypted data, according to a new report by Reuters. However, White House officials remain in talks with the likes of Google, Apple, and Facebook to prevent “malicious actors” from avoiding detection and threatening national security through the use of closed networks. “We are actively engaged with private companies to ensure they understand the public safety and national security risks that result from malicious actors’ use of their encrypted products and services,” White House spokesman Mark Stroh told Reuters. “However, the administration is not seeking legislation at this time.”
Reverse engineering has rarely looked as cool as it does now, with the achievement by scientists of the partial reconstruction of a rat brain out of nothing more than a computer. That’s right — no organic matter was harmed in the making of this brain (except for maybe the billions of human brain cells expended on this incredible project). After a decade of work, the Blue Brain Project of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne claims, in a paper published in Cell, that it has created 31,000 virtual neurons comprised of 207 individual neuron subtypes. While the entire rat brain is estimated to have some 21 million neurons, even this tiny portion of the organ has scientists agog with the new realm of possibilities this latest discovery unlocks.
While some tech-related firms are finding ways to resolve their patent-related disputes out of court rather than entering into long, drawn-out legal battles, some evidently feel they have a strong enough case to see it through to the end. Take, for example, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), which protects the University of Wisconsin’s intellectual rights and patents. It just won a case against the mighty Apple – a company with plenty of experience when it comes to patent-related court action – for infringement of one of its processor patents. The tech giant may have to cough up a whopping $862 million in damages after a Madison, Wisconsin jury decided the company’s A7, A8, and A8X processors – found in recent versions of the iPhone, as well as several iPad models – violate a patent for improving chip efficiency, Reuters reported Tuesday.
Those of a nervous disposition will be best off skipping Airbnb’s latest offer. However, if you’re a fearless type who can get excited about the idea of spending a night underground with six million dead people, then read on. The room-rental startup this week posted details of a special Halloween contest where the prize is an overnight stay in Paris’s famous catacombs, dubbed “the world’s largest grave.” Open to couples and friends, the contest’s two winners will be given a “real bed” for the night and, well, very little else. “On Halloween night … satisfy your thirst for adventure in the sprawling network of skulls and bones,” the company, doing its best to sell the contest, says on its website.
Next page: 5 more tech stories you might have missed this week