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



It's the sign of a successful car launch: Dealers add blatant markups to the sticker price, charging thousands of dollars extra because buyer demand exceeds supply, and dealers have the only supply.

Now it's happening to the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, the range-extended electric car that went on sale in December and has generated huge public interest.

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TPM recently reported that DARPA, the Department of Defense's agency that develops new technologies for future military use, has been laying the ground work to send humans five light-years into space to visit the stars. "How can they top themselves after announcing that?" you might be wondering.

Two words: "Cyber Camouflage." How about another two words? "Robotic Hummingbirds." These are just two of the hundreds of projects DARPA has included in their 2012 unclassified budget request. Barack Obama's 2012 budget proposal requests $2.9 billion in funding for DARPA, including $270 million in sensor technology, $61 million to machine intelligence, and $107 million for "Classified DARPA Programs."

Here's quick run-down of some of DARPA's proposals:

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He knew pop culture: "What is The Simpsons." He knew British history: "Who is John Milton." He knew medicine: "What is narcolepsy." He knew world languages: "What is ancient Greek." And though his US geography skills were a little shaky, IBM's supercomputing trivia machine named Watson easily bested his human opponents at the end of a two-game exhibition series of the quiz show Jeopardy!.

After two games of play, the final score for the series was $77,147 for Watson, $24,000 for Ken Jennings, and $21,600 for Brad Rutter. Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter had both previously mademultimillion-dollar runs on Jeopardy!.

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Earlier this month, NASA's Kepler mission announced that it had discovered the first crop of Earth-sized planets orbiting stars other than our own sun. Five of those Earth-sized planets orbit stars similar to our own sun and have orbits that make it possible to have a range of surface temperatures similar to the range on Earth.

But how will we one day reach these next potential outposts for human life? The solar system's nearest stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri, sits 4.5 light years away. Voyager I, currently the farthest human-made object outside our solar system, will have to travel for another 50,000 years before it enters the neighborhood of the stars.

But worry not, space enthusiast, because DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is already making plans for future interstellar travel.

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An IBM supercomputer named Watson is tied for first place after the airing last night of the first of three exhibition episodes of the popular quiz show game Jeopardy!. Facing Jeopardy!'s two most successful contestants, Watson was tied for first place with $5,000 dollars at the end of the first episode. Ken Jennings, famous for his 2004, 75-game Jeopardy! run, was trailing in third with $2,000.

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There's a giant planet right here, hiding in our Solar System. One that nobody has ever seen, even while it is four times larger than Jupiter and has rings and moons orbiting it. At least, that's what two astrophysicists say.
The name of the planet is Tyche. The scientists are John Matese and Daniel Whitmire, from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. According to them, this colossus is hiding in the Oort Cloud--the asteroid beehive that forms the outer shell of our home system, one light-year in radius. They claim that data already captured by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer proves its existence. It only needs to be analyzed... over the next two years.

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The U.S. Air Force's Space Fence program moved into its second phase last week when Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Company received contracts to develop a radar system to track orbital debris circling the earth. Orbital debris threatens the thousands of expensive and delicate satellites that enable communication, perform scientific research, and engage in military operations.

As TPM reported, the Space Fence project will be comprised of two to three radar stations placed throughout the world. Using the powerful radar arrays, the installations will help to automatically monitor the thousands of pieces of space debris that can travel as fast as 17,000 mph.

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The Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior this week announced the first-ever inter-agency plan to rapidly develop massive offshore wind farms. The plan is designed to encourage private industry to develop offshore wind farms -- and to produce enough energy to contribute to the Administration's goal of generating 80% of the nation's electricity from clean sources by 2035. If the plans come to fruition, the United States could see thousands of square nautical miles of ocean off the coast of the eastern United States developed into wind farms in the coming decade.

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White House officials are calling the president's State of the Union plan for widespread wireless broadband coverage "win-win-win" for its potential to reduce the deficit, create a comprehensive public safety network and connect the country via broadband.

The president traveled to freezing Marquette, Michigan Thursday to unveil details of the Wireless Innovation and Infrastructure Initiative before an invited crowd on the campus of Northern Michigan University.

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