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

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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The Obama administration announced on Tuesday a six-year, $53-billion-dollar project to expand high-speed rail service in the United States -- promising trains reaching 250mph. The budget request is in addition to $8 billion already allocated in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Even so, those billions are a drop in the bucket compared to the investment European and Asian countries have been making to their rail networks for decades.

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As NASA's space shuttle program comes closer to its long-scheduled termination later this year, concern is growing in Florida and around the country about the future of the massive workforce currently employed both directly and indirectly by the program.

Brevard County -- the central Florida home of the Kennedy Space Center, the famous Cape Canaveral launchpad and ten of thousands of highly trained and specialized aerospace workers -- is bracing itself for the worst. Many fear the impending end of the shuttle program will bring about a repeat of the economic devastation of 1975, when NASA abruptly cancelled the Apollo program; everything from rocket science to real estate was impacted, practically overnight.

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The Department of Defense's agency in charge of advanced research and design is looking for new designers to work on the next generation of military vehicles. But the DoD is not directly recruiting from MIT, Carnegie Mellon or the nations' other top computer science and engineering schools. Instead they're looking to you, America, to help with the next generation of military design.

Last week, The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced a competition to help design an experimental combat-support vehicle. DARPA is looking for a design for a four-wheeled vehicle that can either transport four passengers or three passengers laying-down for evacuations.

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