Dazzling aurora borealis could reach the lower 48 this week

Here's to hoping for clear skies. A stunning show of colorful aurora borealis, or northern lights, is forecast for Thursday and Friday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center. And, what's more, they could be seen as far south as Washington, Illinois, Michigan, and even down the Rockies to Colorado.

"The CME [coronal mass ejection] is forecast to set off G3 (Strong) Geomagnetic Storm activity through January 9 and 10," NOAA wrote on its prediction center site on Wednesday. "Aurora watchers should be ready."

The glimmering cloud-like lights … Read more

'Eyes-Free Yoga' turns Kinect into teacher for the blind

As anyone who has attempted a bakasana knows, perfecting certain yoga poses takes time, and watching an instructor twist and bend into position can help a lot.

The blind or sight-impaired, however, don't have the advantage of being able to see a teacher's movements.

Enter Eyes-Free Yoga, a software program out of the University of Washington that works with the cameras in Microsoft's Kinect motion sensor device to track users' position and offer spoken feedback in real time. "Rotate your shoulders left," it might say. "Lean sideways toward your left," "Bend your right leg further," or "Bring your arms closer to your head." … Read more

Amazon's Bezos finalizes purchase of Washington Post

Amazon CEO and co-founder Jeff Bezos' purchase of the Washington Post is now final. According to the Associated Press, all of the I's have been dotted and the T's have been crossed and the newspaper is now officially under Bezos' ownership.

The Amazon CEO entered into an agreement with the Washington Post Co. in August to buy its newspaper publishing businesses for $250 million, including its flagship newspaper after decades of family ownership. Bezos bought the business as an individual entity, not through Amazon.com.

In a memo to Post employees shortly after the announcement, Bezos said he … Read more

Do soldiers get too attached to battlefield robots?

Deploying robots in dangerous or combat situations can save the lives of human soldiers. The bots can be used for reconnaissance, scouting, search and rescue, detection, even defusing bombs, with the idea being that losing a robot is a far more acceptable outcome than losing a human soldier.

But some soldiers, researcher Julie Carpenter has discovered, develop strong emotional bonds with their mechanized helpers, to the point of experiencing frustration, anger, and grief when the robots are destroyed on the battlefield -- and even holding funerals. … Read more

Feds' $4.35B for dairy and eggs is cracked, say cloud experts

Whenever friends tell me they can solve my problems, I am skeptical.

Somehow, they don't quite know the in-and-outs of my life and the people who creep into it.

So please take the following information and dip it into a bag of salt-and-vinegar chips, especially as it comes from people I don't even know -- and neither, I suspect, do you.

I have just been contacted by a no-doubt very fine, if cloudy, company to say it can solve the government budget crisis.

I always thought the whole point of budgets was to create crisis.

But anyway, thank … Read more

Washington Post drops paywall in wake of DC shooting

The Washington Post has dropped its paywall for readers seeking more information about the shootings Monday morning in the Washington Navy Yard, a military facility near Capitol Hill. At least 13 people were killed in the shooting, including a gunman, according to police.

A blue banner on the front door of the Post's Web site reads "Full access to washingtonpost.com is currently available without charge."

It's not the first time that a major publication has decided to remove a paywall in an effort to give more readers access to information in the wake of a … Read more

Bezos to Post: You too can be like Amazon, in 3 simple steps

Jeff Bezos, the man who made Amazon the Walmart of the Internet, says the same guiding principles behind his e-commerce giant will well serve his latest investment, The Washington Post.

"We've had three big ideas at Amazon that we've stuck with for 18 years, and they're the reason we're successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient," he told Paul Farhi in an interview with the newspaper. "If you replace 'customer' with 'reader,' that approach, that point of view, can be successful at The Post, too."

His first interview since agreeing to buy the Post's publishing side for $250 millionRead more

Uber battles D.C. regulators over the size of its cars

Just as Uber got its UberX taxi service up and running in Washington, D.C., it's now being shut down. Why? Because its cars are too small.

UberX is the car-sharing app's answer to taxicabs. The service is low cost and charges by the minute or mile, like a taxi, but doesn't use a meter. The cars UberX uses are also smaller, such as the Prius and Toyota Camry -- and that's where the rub is.

The D.C. Taxi Commission (DCTC) passed new regulations this week that only allow for the use of larger sedans … Read more

Jeff Bezos' big bets: From Washington Post to candle holders

The sale of The Washington Post to tech heavyweight Jeff Bezos came as a surprise on Monday for many reasons, not the least of which is that he has never spent so much on any individual venture.

Bezos, who is most well-known as the CEO and co-founder of Amazon, also owns an investment firm called Bezos Expeditions. The firm manages Bezos' various investments, of which there have been many. The group also oversees various philanthropic projects, including an effort to recover the F-1 rocket engines from Apollo 11 from the bottom of the ocean, and restore them for public display. … Read more

Will Bezos disrupt the news industry with the Washington Post?

Jeff Bezos is using 1 percent of his personal fortune of about $25 billion to buy a newspaper. This is the Bezos of Amazon, who remade the retail industry over the last two decades and leads a company whose stock went from $80 to $300 over the last five years with nary a profit.

This bodes well for the staff of the venerable Washington Post, which suffered layoffs, buyouts, and a talent drain as the Internet disrupted the newspaper business. A Bezos regime could mean that the paper will be less concerned about profitability and more focused on becoming the … Read more