Feeling down? Let computer-generated emotions help

Smiling (even when it's a forced grin) can reduce stress and improve your mood, recent research indicates. But do you still get those boosts with a computer-generated smile?

Building on the idea that physiological changes can generate psychological ones, Japanese researchers have developed a setup that creates "computer-generated emotion by letting people recognize pseudo-generated facial expressions as changes to their own facial expressions."

In other words, the "Emotion Evoking System" can make it look like that reflection of yourself you see in the mirror is smiling or frowning when you're not, thus potentially altering your mood when you take a gander at the looking glass. … Read more

Sun's giant coronal mass ejection captured on film

As expected, the sun expelled a mega coronal mass ejection, giving observers one heck of a light show.

On Sunday night at 11:24 p.m. PT, the CME shot out of the sun's northwest limb (around active region 1794) at about 715 miles per second, or about 2,574,000 miles per hour. NASA considers that rate "a fairly fast speed" for this event.… Read more

Comic-Con 2013: Interview with the Predator

SAN DIEGO -- I was too scared to watch "The Predator" when I was younger, and now having met the beast up close and personal, all of my traumatic childhood memories have suddenly resurfaced. Trying to avoid a mental collapse in the middle of the Comic-Con 2013 show floor, I refocused my energy on the impressive Predator 3D booth and went through the process of getting my head printed onto an action figure.

PayPal makes man $92 quadrillion richer (temporarily)

PayPal has something of an unpolished image.

No other brand name occurs more often -- and with greater promises of danger, danger -- in my spam folder.

But it's good to know that the PayPal service can be useful and even uplifting.

Please imagine, for example, how giddy Pennsylvania PR executive Chris Reynolds must have felt when PayPal made him $92 quadrillion richer -- $92,233,720,368,547,800 richer to be precise.

At least that's what his June e-mail statement told him. … Read more

Microsoft announces minor updates to Windows Phone 8

Windows Phone 8 users will soon see a slight update offered for their operating system.

Microsoft on Thursday announced update 8.0.10327.77, which includes several minor fixes and updates. Among the updates is the ability to more easily select and download music from Xbox Music, as well as listen to FM radio from the Music+Videos hub. A new Data Sense feature will be bundled with the update, allowing users to see how much data they've used.

Other than that, there isn't much to write home about -- the remaining enhancements are just fixes for Skype, … Read more

NASA serves up first glance at solar system's comet-like tail

While Earth spins around the sun at around 67,000 mph, the sun rotates around the Milky Way galaxy at a zippy 140 miles per second. With such a massive force moving through space, there's bound to be a trail of cosmic dust following behind, but it's always been a mystery -- until now. For the first time, scientists have combined the observations of NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) satellite and mapped the solar system's tail, but the length remains unclear.

Capturing the tail, which is composed of solar wind plasma and magnetic field, required three years of observation based upon data from IBEX's powerful energetic neutral atom imaging system. As neutral atoms (and other particles) from other parts of the galaxy flow through our solar system, those atoms eventually collide with faster charged particles -- usually carried by solar winds -- and exchange an electron.… Read more

Before the battlefield: Making the Army's Abrams tank

LIMA, Ohio -- If you were planning an American manufacturing plant for essential military equipment in the early 1940s, you probably wanted to keep it far from the coasts, where the facilities would be most vulnerable to attack.

That was the thinking that led U.S. military decision makers to think of this small western Ohio town as the location for a tank manufacturing plant in 1941. That, and the fact that it is close to the deep-water port of Toledo, Ohio, as well as easy rail and highway access.

Indeed, in 1941, the Army opened the Lima Tank Depot … Read more

The 404 1,299: Where we disrupt your transmission (podcast)

Leaked from today's 404 episode:

- Did Florida just ban all smartphones and laptops?

- Google interns are terrorizing their neighbors at a San Jose apartment complex.

- We interrupt this program to warn that the Emergency Alert System is hackable.

- Tumblr hugs its stuffed animals in support of a lost best friend.… Read more

Android's Jelly Bean surpasses Gingerbread for the first time

Android's Jelly Bean operating system has finally toppled the older and uber-popular Gingerbread. According to Android usage data that Google released Monday, Jelly Bean now has 37.9 percent adoption and Gingerbread has 34.1 percent.

This is an increase of 4.9 percentage points for Jelly Bean since last month. In June, Jelly Bean had 33 percent usage and Gingerbread had 36.5 percent. The new data reflects usage from the 14-day period ending on July 8.

While Jelly Bean is now the most popular OS for Android, users are still split between versions 4.1 and 4.… Read more

BMW 135is: The most 'BMW' of them all? (CNET On Cars, Episode 21)


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I remember when the first BMW 320i hit U.S. shores when I was in high school. It forever changed my idea of what a sporty car could and should be, and did the same for much of the world's car-buying public. Today's 1 Series is the nearest thing to the 320i, and I approached it that way when we got our hands on a 135is on the road and on the track. Turns out it may be BMW'… Read more