Two quick bits of news worth noting, one with civilization-saving implications, the other with life-saving implications. First up, today's meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington revealed that NASA's Kepler Mission has yielded its first major discoveries: five, previously unknown planets all within a close enough range to their respective stars to, in theory, sustain Earth-like conditions for life. The five discovered today - named Kepler 4b, 5b, 6b, 7b, and 8b - are in all probability too large and too hot to sustain life as we know it (the coolest of the 5 is still hot enough to melt gold), but their discovery, which was confirmed by ground observations, is proof that the Kepler telescope and method work:
"It's gratifying to see the first Kepler discoveries rolling off the assembly line," says Jon Morse, director of the Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "We expected Jupiter-size planets in short orbits to be the first planets Kepler could detect. It's only a matter of time before more Kepler observations lead to smaller planets with longer period orbits, coming closer and closer to the discovery of the first Earth analog."
If you'd like to know more about the mission and how it works, hop on over to NASA's site for further details.
And in other, entirely unrelated news, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, AKA DARPA, AKA the agency that will one day build Iron Man, has proposed a challenge to build a flying car codenamed the Transformer (TX), "The goal of the TX will be to build a flying vehicle that will let military personnel avoid water, difficult terrain, and road obstructions as well as IED and ambush threats by driving and flying when necessary. "
So, if you happen to have a vault of money sitting idly by, feel free to round up a group of world class engineers and gift the world with the flying automobiles sci-fi has been promising us for years.