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

It's definitely not "Armageddon." But an asteroid measuring 150 feet in diameter with a mass of 130,000 metric tons will make the closest pass of Earth for an object of its size on February 15, 2013, traveling about 17,450 miles-per-hour (4.8 miles-per-second), NASA noted on Thursday.

The asteroid's pass will be a "record predicted close approach for a known object of this size," said Donald Yeomans, manager of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Near-Earth Object Programs Office, in a press conference streamed live on NASA's website on Thursday.

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Defense Distributed, the Austin, Texas-based project by 24-year-old law student Cody Wilson and several others to develop 3D printed firearms and firearm components, or "Wiki Weapons," on Thursday posted a new video online showing a successful test firing of a new 3D printed high-capacity (30-round) automatic rifle (ArmaLite, or AR) magazine, named "Cuomo," after New York State's gun-control supporting governor Andrew Cuomo.

New York recently passed a law banning all magazines in excess of 7 rounds (except for law enforcement use), the nation's toughest magazine regulation.

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Just in time for an extremely variable winter storm forecast for the Northeast this weekend, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Wednesday announced a new smartphone app that lets users report on winter precipitation in the area and view a map of the U.S. showing all the reports made by fellow users across the country.

The app is called "mPING" (short for mobile Precipitation Identification Near the Ground project) and is available for free for Apple's iPhone and devices running Google's Android software.

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Nokia's digital maps and location services, recently rebranded "Here," are getting more traction from a division of the world's largest automaker: Toyota Motor Europe. Nokia announced in late January that Toyota would be offering the mobile company's local search feature in new cars sold in Europe, Russia and the Middle East beginning early 2014.

Specifically, Nokia's Local Search For Automotive will be included as part of one of multiple in-dash touchscreen navigation options available in Toyota's "Touch & Go" information system.

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Updated 5:28 p.m. EST, Tuesday, February 5

Dell on Tuesday announced that it would be going private in a $24.4 billion buyback deal financed in part by founder and CEO Michael Dell and Silver Lake Partners, with a $2 billion loan from Microsoft.

The move will allow the Texas-based PC maker more flexibility in its operations, as it does not have to be accountable to public shareholders and is under less pressure to meet quarterly analyst expectations, as consumer tech analyst Ross Rubin of Reticle Research explained to TPM in a phone interview.

"It makes it easier for them [Dell] to do longer term investments," Rubin said, suggesting one example may be Dell's project Ophelia, a USB-stick-sized minicomputer, sans display, that runs Google Android and can be plugged into a generic flat-panel monitor or TV set. Ophelia is capable of running full desktop PC software from the cloud, according to a report from Quartz. That product isn't on sale yet but Dell aims to price it at $50, according to Quartz.

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The animated GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) is a now-familiar sight on popular websites from Tumblr to Buzzfeed, used to illustrate news events, funny moments, emotional responses, pornography and everything in between.

But on Friday, a new search engine dedicated solely to the animated GIF launched. "Giphy" drew 30,000 visitors over the course of the weekend, according to its creators.

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Rockets capable of both vertical takeoff and landing aren't only a goal for Elon Musk's SpaceX.

Another, lesser-known private rocketry company, Masten Space Systems, on Friday revealed it had finished planned flight tests of one of its reusable rocket prototypes, a 730-pound craft called "Xombie" ahead of schedule, and announced an open call to fly scientific cargo aboard the craft through the end of February, for discounted prices.

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The U.S. Federal Trade Commission announced a slew of measures to address mobile app privacy concerns on Friday, on the heels of a long-anticipated resignation of FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, who will end his four-year-term as the head of the agency on February 15.

The agency announced it had fined Path, a cult hit social networking app for iPhone and Android, to the tune of $800,000 for allegedly violating children's privacy. On top of that, the FTC released a new report urging Apple, Google, Microsoft, Blackberry and Amazon to add stricter requirements for privacy disclosures of apps accepted into their relative mobile app stores, and to be more transparent with consumers about their app review processes.

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The ongoing competition to create the best digital world map took an interesting turn on Thursday with the release of a new mapping editor for OpenStreetMap, a free crowdsourced competitor to Google Maps and Nokia's Here Maps.

Called "iD," the editing software was developed by MapBox, a D.C.-based startup company that uses OpenStreetMap's data to power custom digital maps and mapmaking software used by other major companies and organizations including Foursquare, NPR and Greenpeace, among many others.

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