Techaways – The week’s best bits in 4 bites

We might be missing out on alien contact by mining cryptocurrencies

Source: Getty Images

Most Earthlings would be quite thrilled to discover alien life, but sadly, we might miss out on their messages – thanks to cryptocurrencies.

SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), which leads the planet in looking for signs of cosmic communication, is having its work seriously undermined by the lack of graphics processing units (GPUs).

Turns out GPUs are great for mining non-Bitcoin cryptocurrencies, and so many people are joining the fad that there’s currently a worldwide shortage of the tech.

Bad news for SETI, but if a Hawaii science team is right, and aliens could use their messages to hide malicious code, it might not be a bad thing that ET is stuck on hold.

Facebook ignores experts’ warning and rolls out Android app for six-year-olds

Source: Getty Images

Okay, so the headline’s a little misleading – Messenger Kids is for children six and above. And Facebook has only ignored the advice of the experts it hasn’t paid off.

So that’s fine, then.

But most of the experts who haven’t received funding from Zuckerberg’s Panopticon think that the new app will lead to a more miserable childhood for many, and have told Facebook so in no uncertain terms.

The girls and boys of Menlo Park are keen to get kids hooked on their brand, as you currently need to be 13 to join Fakebook. Also, the platform is increasingly being rejected by younger people, and Messenger Kids is no doubt a ploy to help reverse that trend.

Why are so many people receiving unexpected “gifts” from Amazon?

Source:  Sarah Rogers/The Daily Beast

All across North America, a post-modern Santa Claus is showering unsuspecting households with unexpected (and mostly unwanted) gifts – and no one really knows why.  

A woman who would prefer to be known only as “Nikki” got a $25 vibrator, headphones, and a Bluetooth cord in multiple deliveries. Retirees Kelly and Mike Gallivan are the lucky recipients of over 25 mystery packages, none of which they ordered. Meanwhile, multiple Canadian students are receiving everything from wireless headphones to lights bulbs, and – yes – sex toys.

What’s going on? Some researchers are convinced that it’s a scam to increase products’ online ratings – but Amazon says it doubts that theory. Clearly someone has far too much time – and money – on their hands.

Single atom snapped with ordinary camera

Source: David Nadlinger / University of Oxford

This image, a tiny pale blue dot, could be pretty underwhelming if you didn’t know what the subject actually was.

In fact, it’s a single strontium atom, and despite being just 215 billionths of a millimeter across, Oxford University PhD student David Nadlinger has managed to capture it on film – with the help of some laser illumination.

His efforts with a standard DSLR camera earned his picture, titled: “Single Atom in an Ion Trap” a prestigious UK science photography prize.

Trapping atoms is something Nadlinger does every day as part of his research into quantum computing, but it’s a worldwide first to catch one – on film.


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