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Technology

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Government regulators have approved a new generation of genetically engineered corn and soybeans. They're the latest weapon in an arms race between farmers and weeds, and the government's green light is provoking angry opposition from environmentalists.

In April, residents of Louisa County, Va., were shocked to learn of a sexting "ring" among the town's teenagers. When Hanna Rosin asked teens from Louisa County High School how many people they knew who had sexted, a lot of them replied: "Everyone." But what was originally characterized in the media as an organized criminal affair was soon revealed to be widespread teen behavior.

"I think we as a culture don't know whether to be utterly alarmed by sexting, or think of it as a normal part of teenage sexual experimentation," Rosin tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

Weekly Innovation: Your New Pet Robot

Oct 15, 2014

Remember "Weebo," the floating robot from Robin Williams' 1997 movie Flubber? A cute yellow bot that lived with Williams' absent-minded professor character, "she" was a loveable gadget that seemed far-fetched at the time. But fast-forward 17 years and Weebo is a whole lot closer to fact than fiction.

HBO has built a robust and popular online presence over the past couple of years with its app, HBO GO. But to get it — as is the case with many streaming services that offer television over the Internet — you've needed a cable subscription. In other words, HBO GO was an add-on for people who already had HBO, not an alternative way of getting shows for people who didn't.

A group of hackers, allegedly from Russia, found a fundamental flaw in Microsoft Windows and exploited it to spy on Western governments, NATO, European energy companies and an academic organization in the United States.

That's according to new research from iSight Partners, a Dallas-based cybersecurity firm.

Since her birth in 1900, Anna Stoehr has seen dramatic shifts in technology. But when the Minnesota woman tried recently to create a Facebook account, she hit a snag. The service's software couldn't handle her advanced age of 113 years old. So she fudged it a bit, and said she was 99.

To put Stoehr's age in context, we'll remind you: She was born three years before the Wright brothers conducted their historic first flight of an airplane in North Carolina.

What can get lost in a flurry of news about Dropbox and Snapchat getting hacked is that the companies themselves deny they were hacked at all.

We've come a long way in the information age. We know how to put data on the cloud. We hold mobile devices that can carry as much music as a record store. We've figured out how to send photos to friends with lightning speed — and make them self-destruct after 10 seconds. And yet we haven't quite figured out passwords.

Modern Family writer Megan Ganz, Grantland writer Rembert Browne and Rookie Mag founder Tavi Gevinson recall their most embarrassing monikers for our New Boom series.

We also want to hear your embarrassing screen names. Share them on Twitter with #NewBoom and we'll add them here.

This story is part of the New Boom series on millennials in America.

Millennials are spending — and giving away their cash — a lot differently than previous generations, and that's changing the game for giving, and for the charities that depend on it.

Scott Harrison's group, Charity: Water, is a prime example. Harrison's story starts in New York's hottest nightclubs, promoting the proverbial "models and bottles."

A carnivorous plant has inspired an invention that may turn out to be a medical lifesaver.

Nepenthes, also known as tropical pitcher plants or monkey cups, produce a superslippery surface that causes unfortunate insects that climb into the plant to slide to their doom.

Scientists at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering wondered if they could find a way to mimic that surface to solve a problem in medicine.

The holiday season is approaching, a time for sales and Santa and, now, credit card data breaches.

Though cyberthieves have stolen millions of card numbers this year, shoppers are heading into the heavy-spending season with no new credit safeguards in place.

When you hear about a data breach, Bryan Sartin is one of the guys who go in to investigate.

"I've seen my own personal information in those lots of stolen data many, many, many, many, many times," Sartin says.

Our tech coverage this week was bookended by stories about women. We started with a look back at the forgotten females who pioneered computer programming and ended with the controversy about a certain tech CEO's insensitive remarks on women asking for raises. Oh, and Hewlett-Packard called it splitsville.

For about a month, Kmart says, its stores' checkout registers were "compromised by malicious software that stole customer credit and debit card information."

The company, owned by Sears, says it removed the malware from its system after it was discovered Thursday. It announced the exposure late Friday, saying that no personal data or PIN numbers were lost.

While some important customer information seems to have been protected, the breach could still allow criminals to make counterfeit versions of the exposed credit cards.

Twitter filed a lawsuit against the federal government this week over First Amendment rights, marking the latest round in a battle between tech companies and the government over how much they can reveal about government requests for their user information.

On Thursday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said it is good karma in some instances when women do not ask for a raise. His comments stirred a heated debate about pay equality. Nadella was talking to president of Harvey Mudd College and Microsoft director Maria Klawe at a conference panel. Melissa Block talks to Klawe about Nadella's comments and the reaction that followed.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's comments on women asking for raises triggered an instant backlash, but they also raise more questions about the tech industry's male-dominated culture and spotlight the challenges women in tech face.

Weekly Innovation: This Drone Fits In Your Pocket

Oct 9, 2014

The narrative around drones is that they are killing machines. Unmanned tools of war that the government uses to avoid putting boots on the ground in conflict zones around the world.

Sometimes a fetus can't make it into the birth canal. Both mother and child are at risk. If you were looking to fix the problem, you probably wouldn't call up an Argentine car mechanic.

But maybe you should.

Flinging birds at pigs and moving jelly beans around a little screen are not human instincts. Game designers create the urge to do those things for hours at a time.

"From the way the games are designed to help us start playing the game, to the way they keep us coming back to the game, to how they involve our friends in the game — all of these things have underpinnings in consumer psychology," says game consultant Nir Eyal.

The FBI and other law enforcement agencies are up in arms about new technology now available from Apple and soon to be released by Google.

The software encrypts the data on smartphones and other mobile devices so that not even the companies themselves will be able to access the information.

Editor's Note: In an earlier version of this story, we had two videos of encounters with the police. They contained graphic language and violence, so we've removed them from the story. If you still want to see them, we've included links.

The Nobel Prize in physics was awarded Tuesday to three Japanese-born researchers for their work on the blue light-emitting diode, or LED.

And there's never been a better time to put their Nobel-prize winning discovery right in your own home. LED light bulbs, which use blue LEDs, are coming of age, and the price is dropping fast. You can pick them up for less than $10 each.

If you love movies, give yourself the next five minutes to watch this video.

Every Frame a Painting is a series of explorations on films and film technique by Tony Zhou, a San Francisco based filmmaker and editor. In each "video essay," Zhou unpacks the cinematic craft with humor and insight.

A trio of scientists, two from Japan and one from the U.S., will share the Nobel Prize in physics for the invention of blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which led to a new, environmentally friendly light source.

Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano of Japan and U.S. scientist Shuji Nakamura were selected by the committee of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to share the 8 million Swedish kronor ($1.1 million) prize.

Nobelprize.org says:

Sure, using tablets and computers can have upsides for children. They can provide, education for one, or just plain old entertainment value.

But we know there are downsides, too. NPR reported just last week on a study indicating screen time can negatively affect children's ability to read people's emotions.

The story of how the digital age came to be involves a cast of more than 40 people, ranging from a 19th century English countess to California hippies. In his new book, The Innovators, Walter Isaacson profiles many of those characters, focusing on how their collaborations helped bring us into the digital age.

Mikko Hyppönen is a "white hat" hacker — one of the good guys. Since Edward Snowden's revelations about the NSA's widespread surveillance, he has become a leading critic of the agency's programs. Hyppönen says we shouldn't be willing to relinquish our privacy, but rather demand it from our government.

Hyppönen was featured on the TED Radio Hour episode The End Of Privacy and answer listener's questions about his work.

Computer giant Hewlett-Packard, a stalwart through decades of shifts in America's technology landscape, is dividing itself into two companies in its most drastic attempt yet to adjust to new markets.

The ailing company that was founded 75 years ago in a Palo Alto garage was synonymous with Silicon Valley.

If your image of a computer programmer is a young man, there's a good reason: It's true. Recently, many big tech companies revealed how few of their female employees worked in programming and technical jobs. Google had some of the highest rates: 17 percent of its technical staff is female.

It wasn't always this way. Decades ago, it was women who pioneered computer programming — but too often, that's a part of history that even the smartest people don't know.

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