How Cutting-Edge Technology & Science Are Powering The Future TPM Idealab

The solar system's innermost planet got its first ever photo close up this week, as NASA's "Mercury Messenger" probe began broadcasting images back to Earth. The spacecraft entered Mercury's orbit on March 17th, where it will stay for at least the next year, snapping shots of the surface for study back home.

Check out some of the stunning photos in our slideshow.

A foreign national was indicted yesterday for allegedly illegally importing an unmanned spy plane into the U.S., and then trying to resell it on eBay.

According to a press release from the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement service, Henson Chua of the Philippines was indicted and charged by a grand jury in Tampa with violating the Arms Export Control Act and smuggling. Chua is accused of importing an RQ-11B "Raven" Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) from the Philippines into the U.S., which is listed on the U.S. Munitions List as a defensive item, "without having first obtained from the U.S. Department of State a license or written authorization." He then "aided and abetted the attempted export" of the same UAV.

U.S. arms code prohibits people from buying and selling defense equipment without permission from the government, primarily to prevent people from selling U.S.-manufactured equipment to foreign governments. But Chua managed to reverse the process.

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The federal government has launched a publicly accessible URL shortener in collaboration with popular short URL site bit.ly. Called 1.usa.gov, the URL shortener automatically creates a short address for any .gov or .mil URL entered into bit.ly, j.mp or a government portal.

Integrated functionality is expected to be announced shortly for mobile platforms and popular Twitter applications like TweetDeck and Seesmic.

A URL shortener accessible only to federal employees, go.usa.gov was launched in 2010. While any member of the general public can access go.usa.gov links, only federal employees may create links with the service. 1.usa.gov, however, is publicly accessible; anyone who uses bit.ly can create a 1.usa.gov shortlink.

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When an entire generation of computer users first poked our doe-eyed faces onto a young internet, many of us were greeted with a single, encompassing, monolithic face peering back: the AOL Home Screen. To call it a young internet isn't even fair--it was a mature, thriving AOL. It was ubiquitous, it was powerful, it was everything--and it ended up destroying itself, too flawed by design to last. And someone's trying to rebuild the Death Star.

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Since the Japan earthquake hit, it seems like the story surrounding the Fukushima Nuclear Power plant has changed every 10 minutes, making it tough to keep up on the latest developments. Luckily there's no shortage of informed individuals and organizations keeping track of what's going on.

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A truck carrying 8,000 gallons of printer ink flipped over on an interstate in Peabody, Massachusetts this morning, resulting in what must be the most colorful car crash in history. No one was injured, so feel free to enjoy the aftermath with child-like glee.

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Spring is near! The sun is shining, the weather is warming and holy what the mothercakes, gas is four dollars a gallon right now?! And what mister newscaster? It's going to get more expensive? Geez! This is getting out of hand. We all would appreciate saving some money on gas. Here's how.

Fill Up at Cheaper Gas Stations

Filed in: duh. But, seriously, filling up at cheaper gas stations, no matter how minuscule the difference, saves you money in the long run. And it's not hard to find the cheap stations! Start with GasBuddy, a free app on both Android and iPhone, that maps out nearby gas stations and uses user uploaded prices to tell you where you can get the most bang for your buck. It's the most comprehensive gas price resource around, making sure to tell you when prices were updated, which is crucial given how volatile gas prices can be. But! It's good to have backup apps for gas prices, like Cheap Gas for Android and iPhone, because unfortunately there isn't an official database for an app to tap into. The more crowdsourced apps you have, the better.

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The United States Army is now using smartphones to train missile crews. New Patriot Missile crew members, as part of their training, will hone their skills in a specialized iPhone application suite when not engaging in standard in-classroom and in-field operations.

Virginia's C2 Technologies has been commissioned to produce seven Patriot Missile iPhone training applications. The first application, which handles launch station march order and emplacement (pictured), is now available to troops. The other six applications are scheduled to be completed this summer.

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The White House is pushing a new initiative that will strong-arm many agencies into adopting cloud computing. Proponents of the plan say that the move will enhance productivity and help keep budgets low in an era of austerity. Critics of the plan fear that government agencies who adopt cloud computing will put themselves at risk for security lapses.

Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra gave a presentation aimed at encouraging government agencies to adopt cloud computing at an Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association panel discussion on February 25. According to Kundra, "We want to make sure the shift is disruptive. ... We want the federal government to move away from asset ownership and shift to service provisioning."

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