TechMan: Google, robotics gobbler

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The New York Times reports that Google said Friday that it had bought Boston Dynamics, designer of mobile research robots for the Pentagon.

The company, based in Waltham, Mass., has gained an international reputation for machines named BigDog, Cheetah, WildCat and Atlas that walk with an uncanny sense of balance and run faster than the fastest humans.

It is the eighth robotics company that Google has acquired in the past half-year. Google's robotic efforts are being led by Andy Rubin, the executive who spearheaded the development of Android, the world's most widely used smartphone software.

China reaches the moon: China on Saturday made the world's first soft landing of a space probe on the moon in nearly four decades, state media said. Video footage showed the probe's rover rolling onto the lunar surface.

The unmanned Chang'e 3 lander, named after a mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, touched down on Earth's nearest neighbor following a 12-minute landing process.

The probe carried a six-wheeled moon rover called Yutu, or "Jade Rabbit," the goddess' pet in the myth. China plans to put an astronaut on the moon.

Flickr photo flood: Imaging Resources reports that the British Library has released more than a million images taken from the pages of 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century books onto Flickr Commons for anyone to use, remix and repurpose.

Microsoft digitized the books and then gave them to the library.

The images include maps, geological diagrams, illustrations, comical satire, illuminated and decorative letters, landscapes and paintings.

The library is studying ways to organize and identify the images. They can be seen at

Rant: The Federal Communications Commission voted last week to allow cellular phone calls during airplane flights. But the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said his department will consider banning in-flight calls.

"Over the past few weeks, we have heard of concerns raised by airlines, travelers, flight attendants, members of Congress and others who are all troubled over the idea of passengers talking on cellphones in flight -- and I am concerned about this possibility as well," Mr. Foxx said, according to Reuters. Normally Techman is in favor of making technology available everywhere, but not in this case.

Can you imagine being trapped on a long flight next to someone who continually yaps to friends and relatives about every inane and mundane detail of their life?

Bots rule the Web: reports on a study by Incapsula that suggests 61.5 percent of all website traffic is now generated by bots, a 21 percent rise over last year.

Some of these automated software tools are malicious, stealing data or posting ads for scams in comment sections.

But the biggest growth was in "good" bots, used by search engines to index website content, to provide feedback about how a site is performing, and to help the Internet Archive preserve content before it is deleted.

Website of the week: reports on the dark side of modern consumerism -- and the latest scams, rip-offs, hot deals and freebies. Readers tell about their experiences with absurdities of consumer culture and the site suggests ways for them to fight back.

Quote of the week: "Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops." -- Kurt Vonnegut, "Slaughterhouse-Five"

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