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Do the Benefits of Automation Outweigh the Drawbacks?

The Automate 2013 trade show kicked off last week in Chicago, and some have used the occasion to debate the benefits of automation, as robotic technology is increasingly being used in new industries like food processing and consumer electronics. Many express concern that a growing reliance on robotics will have worrying implications for workers, while others have said that factory automation will, in fact, strengthen the workforce. The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) said that factory automation will create up to 3.5 million jobs around the world by 2020, adding that automation is a way for the US to compete with industries around the globe.

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Would You Wear a Pair of "Smart Glasses?"

At this year's Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas, Vuzix Smart Glasses won top honors in the Wireless Handset Accessories category. The technology, worn like ordinary glasses, features a built-in electronic display, allowing users to check email, watch movies, record video in real time, and load apps that communicate with smartphones or tablets. Google also has recently begun Project Glass, an initiative to develop an augmented reality head-mounted display (HMD).

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Should NASA Consider Capturing a Small Asteroid or Comet for Mining Purposes?

This week's Question comes from INSIDER reader Ed Xavier Gonzalez: Should NASA Consider Capturing a Small Asteroid or Comet for Mining Purposes?

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Will We Discover "Earth's Twin" This Year?

NASA's Kepler Space Telescope has found more than 2,300 potential planets since its March 2009 launch. Although astronomers have found a number of exoplanets that share one or two key traits with our planet, including size or inferred surface temperature, a true "alien Earth" has yet to be discovered. Scientists have claimed that Earth's twin will be discovered at some point in 2013.

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If You Could Afford the $750 Million Ticket, Would You Take the Trip?

This week's Question: Using existing hardware as well as specifically designed spacesuits and landers, a new space company called Golden Spike hopes to offer private trips to the Moon before 2020.

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Will Curiosity Identify Signs of Life on the Red Planet?

When John Grotzinger, project scientist for the Mars Curiosity rover, stated that a recent discovery could be "earthshaking ... one for the history books," many speculated that the rover had discovered organic material, which could indicate life on Mars. NASA has since said that these kinds of rumors are incorrect.

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Will We Be a "Spacefaring Nation?"

NASA's Chief Technologist Mason Peck delivered the keynote address, "Technology and the Future," at the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Fall Symposium in Hampton, Virginia. The speech showed that Peck envisions a "spacefaring nation" where our relationship with spacecraft, space hardware, or data from space is as strong as our current relationship with the Internet, smartphones, and personal computers. He believes that the new relationship could boil down to "killer apps," space tourism, or space medicine. Identification of this type of app is "close," according to Peck. Will our relationship with spacecraft soon be as strong as today's technologies like the Internet and smartphones?

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