Tech Roundup: Solar Impulse, Purchases on Google & More

[A recurring feature on the latest in Science & Technology.]

Facebook's next big step - convert brand pages into online stores:
Facebook, you know, has a very simple mantra - "If we don't create the thing that kills Facebook, someone else will." The social network hence has been hard at work living up to it, progressively adding more and more features, making it not only a place to socialise with friends, but also to discover and share content. Now it wants you to shop inside it as well. According to latest reports, the company is said to be testing mini ecommerce sites (aka virtual storefronts) within brand pages as a means to directly sell products without even having to leave the Facebookian universe. Game-changing, pretty much (it will be interesting to see how paid/organic reach plays out)!

In other news:
  • Polar bears finding it more and more difficult to adapt to warmer conditions; found to be starving during such periods as seals become rarer.
  • Paleontologists discover well-preserved fossils of a new winged but flightless dinosaur species Zhenyuanlong in north-east China (a velociraptor ancestor in short), raising questions about evolutionary function of feathers.
  • Experimental solar-powered aircraft project Solar Impulse suffers a setback after its batteries experience thermal damage during its flight from Japan to Hawaii; historic circumnavigation attempt that began at Abu Dhabi in March to be resumed next year.
  • News consumption via Facebook and Twitter rising as users increasingly use the social networks to discover news stories; Twitter unveils Project Lightning to cover breaking news as they unfold to both logged-in and logged-out users on a variety of platforms (Breaking News, watch out!).
  • Ross Ulbricht, founder of online illegal drug marketplace the Silk Road, has been sentenced to life in prison in the US.
  • Popular (and legally challenged) ride-sharing startup Uber buys Microsoft Bing's mapping assets, its second acquisition after deCarta back in March.
  • Google Patents Search becomes the latest to get a Material Design makeover.
  • Samsung begins to test its mobile payments service Samsung Pay in Korea ahead of Note 5 launch.
  • Microsoft launches Cortana personal assistant for Android as part of its continued efforts to win users for its services on rival platforms.
  • Microblogging service Twitter hit by buyout hoax; stock price goes for a wild ride.
  • Google launches "Purchases on Google," adds buy buttons for easy purchases from mobile ads through deep linking.
  • Yahoo! quietly drops a new video texting app for iOS; live only on Hong Kong App Store.
  • Apple gives its iPod line a paint job and updates Touch's innards with a 64-bit chip, a motion co-processor and a 8 MP rear camera.