Pardon me while I say something that might not be entirely popular: Software updates are pretty awesome. Maybe not so much for game consoles, but, I digress because the Curiosity rover recently received a patch that improved the autofocus of its "ChemCam" telescope. Over the air. On Mars. Before the update, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory would take nine pictures of a subject (each at a different focus) to get one usable close-up image of any of the Red Planet's rocks and soils, and send them back home. Same goes for any sample analyses the laser was doing. The problem is that for those analyses to be anywhere remotely useful, the telescope projecting said laser needs to be in focus and the workaround in place wasn't very efficient.

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We've seen a handful of neat ways to visualize big data and make it useful, and the folks behind Unreal Engine, Epic Games, think virtual reality is the next step for that. Currently a half-dozen international teams are taking part in the Big Data VR Challenge, and hope their expertise with games and VR will help 'em "find new ways to manipulate and interrogate" the massive amounts of info generated by science studies. As of now, projects include putting together a digital edition of one of medical history's largest collections of patient consultations (some 80,000 participants) from the 16th and 17th century and a cohort study of kids born between 1991 and 1992.

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Tom Cruise NASA Website

In the early 2000s, Tom Cruise was working on movies like Mission Impossible II, Minority Report and The Last Samurai. However, when he wasn't busy playing a lead role, he also had a penchant for telling the world's biggest space agency how it could make its website better. That's according to former NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe, who was told to update the agency's 2002 site because it took visitors "three clicks to oblivion."

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UK Space Agency's Rocket Science

If we're ever to inhabit other planets in our solar system, we must first make sure that we can grow our own food in order to survive. While space scientists have been experimenting with this for decades, the UK Space Agency, with help from the Royal Horticultural Society, is calling on Britain's kids to help it understand more about growing food on different worlds. Rocket Science, as it's known, will involve sending two kilograms of rocket seeds to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of British astronaut Tim Peake's six-month Principa mission.

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Afghanistan Poppy Harvest

Sugar is basically ubiquitous and it looks like it could be used to make morphine, which is a refined form of heroin. Recent research shows that a genetically modified strain of yeast, when exposed to sugar, could be used to ferment the opioid. Yes, essentially, you could homebrew your own scag. I know what you're thinking: "This sounds like madness." But there's some proof behind it. Researchers from the University of California Berkeley and Concordia University in Canada presented an almost complete means to turn glucose to morphine, while scientists from the University of Calgary supplied the missing piece that completes the process. The idea wasn't to flood the streets with home-made heroin. No, the plan is much more noble than that: to produce "cheaper, less addictive, safer and more-effective" painkillers, according to Nature.

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All kinds of personal-sized, eco-minded rides have been popping up on the market ready to propel us through the streets. Whether it's for a quick commute or a casual cruise, these electric rideables help save time and fossil fuels. Not only do they get you from point A to point B quickly, but they're also fun to ride... and you won't sweat up a storm along the way. But which one is right for you? Below, we take a look at all the bikes, scooters, skateboards and everything else in between to serve up some useful personal transport suggestions. You never know, there might be a pair of RocketSkates in your future.

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There's so much power packed into tiny action cams today, that it's easier than ever to embed them in your everyday life, often with wild results. Heck, a daily commute in New York is rife with enough craziness worth capturing. Whatever your adventure, Sony's new Action Cam is up to the task pulling in 4K footage at 100mbps for smooth results. It packs the necessary splash-proofing and Steady Shot Image Stabilization to handle rough rides, offers 170-degree ultra-wide angle views and includes GPS data so you can trace the journey. Film makers have been testing the boundaries of its performance at Sony's Never Before Seen page if you're curious, but one lucky Engadget reader this week will soon be able add their own story to the mix. Sony has given us one of its 4K Action Cams along with a 64GB microSDXC card to store all that new footage. As always, just head on down to the Rafflecopter widget below for up to three chances at winning.

Winner: congratulations to Frank D. of Ocala, FL!

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You may have done the spring clean around the house, but have you organized your digital media, too? Installing the Plex Media Server software can help centralize all your scattered music, movie and photo files into one place and serve them up wherever you go. You can access that content using the Plex app, which is available for mobile, smart TVs, set top boxes, streaming devices and game consoles, and it's easy to share with friends, too. To help one lucky Engadget reader enjoy the full Plex experience this week, the company has provided an Xbox One and a Chromecast, along with a Lifetime Plex Pass for total access and premium features. There's also a $100 Amazon music gift card in the prize bundle to celebrate the recent update of Plex Music. Gracenote and Vevo are onboard to help build automatic playlists, provide mood-based soundtracks, match your collection with over 140,000 music videos and deliver extra helpings of metadata. Just head down to the Rafflecopter widget below for up to two chances at winning this powerful multi-media package.

Winner: congratulations to Brian W. of Mammoth Lakes, CA!

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We've seen the submarine that NASA wants to explore Saturn's moon Titan with, but compared to what the aeronautics outfit's looking at for icy climes like Jupiter's Europa it's downright pedestrian. The wormy-looking contraption up above is actually considered a type of amphibious rover and it's pretty different from the Deep-SCINI we've seen previously. Because there aren't exactly electrical outlets anywhere aside from Earth and relying on solar power might not always be feasible, it has to use alternative means for energy. In this case, NASA says antenna on the soft robot's back would draw energy from "locally changing magnetic fields."

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Carbon dioxide emissions from a power plant

Good news: the hole in the ozone layer is shrinking. Bad news: worldwide levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide has reached another terrifying milestone. First up, NASA's Goddard Space Center is promoting a scientific paper from December that claims that Earth's ozone layer is gently beginning to repair itself. With data from the agency's AURA satellite, scientists believe that the hole in the ozone, which currently measures 12 million square miles, will drop below that figure by around 2040.

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Lithium ion batteries are practically ubiquitous; they power everything from laptops and cell phones to cameras and tablets. But before they can start providing the juice for bigger and more demanding applications, research about their failure needs to happen. That's where the fine folks at University College London come in -- they've used 3D-and-thermal imaging to track exactly what happens when the power cells overheat, inside and out. As you can see in the GIF above, the results aren't pretty. After cranking the heat on a pair of the batteries to 250+ degrees Celsius (482 degrees Fahrenheit) and keeping an eye on them with the aforementioned techniques, researchers witnessed one of the batteries blow its top. Prior to that happening, during what's known as "thermal runaway," the core collapsed.

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It's been a long and hard road for NASA's Messenger Probe as it studied the surface of Mercury for the last four years. That journey, however, will come to an end today, after NASA announced that the craft will crash land into the planet at around 3:30pm ET today. The vehicle was the first that managed to make it to Mercury, and has been in service for more than a decade -- far longer than administrators had ever expected it to last. In fact, the project was only meant to last for a year, but canny fuel-saving measures managed to quadruple its lifespan.

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A blocked blood vessel can be pretty nasty, and the two most common treatments involve wedging it open or transplanting another vessel from elsewhere in your body. Scientists in Vienna think they may have a slightly more elegant solution to the latter, having developed a method of replacing blocked vessels with artificial ones. The clever part here is that the synthetic polymer that the prostheses are made of encourages the body to grow a real vessel in its place. In one trial on a rat, it took less than six months before the artificial material had broken down and been replaced with a brand new blood vessel.

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Tesla Model S P85D and Dodge Charger Hellcat Drag Race

Tesla's Model S P85D is quick. Or is it fast? Can it be both? Ever since Elon Musk unveiled the company's speediest car ever, it's become the fashionable thing to take the P85D to a drag strip and pit it against some old-school gas-powered muscle. Motor Trend did the same, choosing the all-American Dodge Charger Hellcat (the world's fastest sedan) as the Model S' opponent. Now, it's not the first time that these cars have gone head-to-head over a quarter mile, but when they first met, the 707-horsepower Hellcat had such a dismal run that it needed an official rematch with a better driver behind the wheel. There's a handy explanation on the difference between being fast and being quick at the beginning of the video, but if you just want the action, simply hit the play button below. As for the outcome... well, that'd be spoiling it, but let's just say that things could have been different if the strip was longer.

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Biosure HIV Self Test Kit

Although sexual health has become less of a taboo subject, ensuring that people get tested for STDs remains a big issue. The NHS now offers DIY kits for those worried they might have caught something from a partner and don't want to get tested by a doctor, but home HIV screening has not been possible -- at least until today. Britain's first legally-approved HIV test is now on sale, promising 99.7 percent accuracy from three months after a person suspects they may have been exposed to the infection. It requires a drop of blood and can provide a clear result in around 15 minutes.

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