Here’s the latest action:
1)Google’s hires astronaut, funds algae-in-space research
2) Google slowly but surely moves apps to work offline
3) AdaptiveBlue makes its “Smart Links” smarter
4) YieldBuild wants to improve the placement and color of text ads
5) Technology to let machines drive cars is six to eight years away
6) Network Physics dies, sells assets to Opnet Technologies
7) Facebook sued for messaging
8) Visto declares it wants to go public for fourth year in a row
9) NBC Universal has pulled it channel from YouTube, with Hulu on way

astronaut.jpgGoogle’s hires astronaut, funds more space research — Google has really pulled out the stops on its space exploration ventures. It has committed almost $3 million a year to support 15 researchers at NASA/Ames, including Jonathan Trent, who is trying to figure out how to capture methane emitted by algae in the South Bay and turn it into a sustainable energy source. The thinking is the algae can be used to sustain human habitats on the moon or Mars, and be clean too, according to the Mercury News, which carries the latest details. Google digitizing NASA’s historic documents and images, and working with the space agency to add a “disaster response” layer to Google Earth that would quickly incorporate fresh satellite images of an area after a disaster, such as an earthquake. Google has even hired astronaut Ed Lu (image left), a veteran of three NASA space missions to manage Google’s space competition. (Image courtesy of Patrick Tehlan)

Google slowly but surely moves apps to work offline — It is using Google Gears to make Google’s blog software, Blogger, work offline. There’s a YouTube demo of it here. Google Reader is already offline, and Gmail and Docs should come soon. (Sidenote: VentureBeat’s writers have been using Google Docs to edit stories, and we’ve been having serious problems with Google Docs lately. It’s not showing edits as they’re updated, leaving one writer with one version and another writer with another — leaving our editing process in tatters on more than one occasion. Hope they get the online basics fixed first, before the carried away with the off-line version)

AdaptiveBlue makes its “Smart Links” smarter — Bloggers can now add a line of code to their site, and AdaptiveBlue‘s technology will automatically take links to supported sites (Amazon, IMBD,, Yahoo! Finance and more) and make them dynamic. Clicking on a Smart Link to the book, Love in the Time of Cholera, for example, will bring up a window with a short summary of the book, links to stores, reviews, and the Wikipedia entry on the author. A Smart Link to a stock offers a summary of its performance, links to Google Finance, CNN Money and SEC filings. You previously had to create Smart Links manually, and this new feature reduces that significant barrier to adoption.

YieldBuild wants to improve the placement and color of text ads — The company’s technology automatically tweaks the format of text ads based on their performance. It is similar to the Rubicon Project, which automatically places ads from the ad networks that deliver the most revenue. However, the Rubicon Project works with both display and text ads and its network-matching is a more robust technology. It’s not hard to imagine Rubicon replicating YieldBuild’s functions but it is hard to imagine it going the other way around.

Technology to let machines drive cars is six to eight years away — That’s the prediction of Sebastian Thrun, a Stanford computer professor, who leads the Stanford Racing Team in this year’s DARPA Urban Challenge, and knows as much as anyone about how well machines can drive cars. He talks about technology that will keep the “car much better in the lane, can brake much, much earlier in a much more regulated way. That would conceivably allow us to increase the packaging density of cars by a factor of two or three. Say it’s two, so at 16 percent occupied, just cut the space between cars in half, all of a sudden you’ve doubled the capacity of the U.S. highway system. That’ll sustain us for another 30 years with the current traffic loads given that the population is increasing and using more highway space.”

Network Physics dies, sells assets to Opnet Technologies — The publicly traded Opnet has paid $10 million in cash to buy the assets of the Mountain View, Calif. Network Physics, which was backed with more than $51 million in eight years from VantagePoint Venture Partners, Sofinnova Ventures, SunAmerica Ventures, Lucent Venture Partners, Intel Capital, Trinity Ventures and Palomar Ventures. Network Physics sells an application performance management appliance.

Facebook sued for messaging — Facebook is being sued by an Indiana woman who alleges Facebook profited from its members sending thousands of unauthorized text messages to her mobile phone and other phones of others that previously belonged to other people. The messages allegedly included explicit language and unsettling remarks, and resulted in charges of 10 cents per message on her phone bill.

Wireless-email company Visto declares it wants to go public for fourth year in a row— This is quite remarkable. Why did it take this publication take so long to call it out?


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