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Dec. 28, 2012 at 6:27 PM
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Holiday device activations set record

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Digital devices were under a lot of Christmas trees this year as a record 17.5 million Apple or Android devices were activated Christmas Day, a report says.

App analytics platform Flurry said the total was more than 2 1/2 times the 6.8 million activations on Christmas Day last year and more than four times the average of 4 million activations per day from Dec. 1-20, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

Flurry, which tracks more than 260,000 apps, says it is able to detect more than 90 percent of new iOS and Android device activations each day.

More tablets were than smartphones activated on Christmas, Flurry said, with Apple and Android tablets accounting for 51 percent of the day's activations.

That's in contrast to normal days when smartphones account for 80 percent of activations, Flurry said.

App downloads also saw a Christmas Day spike with more than 328 million apps downloaded, compared to 155 million a day average from Dec. 1-20, it said.

Active fault may close Japan nuclear plant

TOKYO, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Japan's nuclear watchdog says it will recommend shutting down a power plant in Fukui Prefecture if a geologic fault under the facility proves to be active.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority said Thursday it would require Kansai Electric Power Co., operator of the Oi nuclear plant, to close it down if the fault beneath key equipment is found to be active, Asahi Shimbun reported.

The government's nuclear safety standards stipulate no key component of a nuclear plant should be installed directly above an active fault.

Japan's new coalition government, which took office Wednesday, said it would decide within three years whether operations could resume at Japan's 50 nuclear reactors.

NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said that timeline is too short for safety screenings to be completed for all 50 reactors.

"We cannot enter safety screenings (that should precede a restart) if it is officially decided that (an active) fault runs directly beneath a nuclear reactor building," Tanaka said.

He acknowledged a report on the Oi plant has yet to be published and a formal conclusion has yet to be reached.

Fossil forest yields ancient life clues

CHATHAM ISLANDS, New Zealand, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- A 100-million-year-old fossil forest on an island east of New Zealand has provided clues about ancient life close to the South Pole, researchers say.

Researchers from Monash University in Australia reported the discovery of large trees, early flowering plants, seed cones and rare insects preserved in a rock formation in the Chatham Islands.

The fossils are the first evidence of life close to the South Pole during the Cretaceous period, 145 million to 65 million years ago, a time researchers say was a period of extreme greenhouse conditions on Earth.

"One hundred million years ago, the Earth was in the grip of a greenhouse effect -- a planet of extreme heat with minimal ice (except in the high altitudes) and sea levels of up to 200 meters (650 feet) higher than today," Monash paleontologists Professor Stillwell said.

Many southern continents including New Zealand, Australia, Antarctica and South America were still mostly joined together in the Cretaceous period as part of the ancient southern landmass of Gondwana.

"Rainforests inhabited by dinosaurs existed in sub-polar latitudes and polar ecosystems were adapted to long months of winter darkness and summer daylight," Stillwell said.

The discovery was made in one of the most remote fossil locations in the Southern Hemisphere, more than 500 miles east of New Zealand.

"Never before have we had evidence about what life existed near the South Pole 90 to 100 million years, or the conditions that life on land experienced," Stillwell said.

System will let smartphone control car

SEOUL, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- South Korean car maker Hyundai says it's working on a system to allow a driver's smartphone to control many of an automobile's systems.

Using an NFC (near field communications) smartphone, drivers could lock and unlock a car's doors by tapping their phone on an NFC tag on the door, and once inside, the smartphone could be placed in a center console to activate a driver's user profile, with settings such as preferred seating position and specific radio station preferences, TG Daily reported Friday.

Users will be able to stream their own music and phone contacts to a touch screen display in the car, Hyundai said, which can then interact with a phone's navigation and multimedia apps.

The center console will wirelessly charge the phone, in a system similar to one Toyota will be offering in its 2013 Avalon.

The technology, which could do away with the need for car keys, is a prototype concept not scheduled for production until 2015, Hyundai said.

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