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Photographer Spencer Lowell, on assignment for WSJ, visited a float building company as they were putting the finishing touches on their floats for Tuesday's 124th Rose Parade. Take a look at a time-lapse video and some more of his photos from inside the warehouse.

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Fifty one years ago this week, a microwave transmission from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California was received at Bell Laboratories in Homdel, New Jersey, after bouncing off a giant silver balloon floating in space. It was Echo calling – our first passive space satellite, capable of relaying a message from one point on Earth to another.

It also provided the astronomical reference points needed to locate the city of Moscow more accurately than ever before, bringing the world one crucial step closer to all out nuclear war.

“If it works, it will be the first time voice has traveled from the Earth, up to a man-made moon, and back to earth again,” intones the narrator in NASA’s documentary about Echo, produced that year (see below). The film begins with the feel of a Twilight Zone episode, and doesn’t veer far. Which makes total sense, given just how sci-fi the satellite was.

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The Second Copernican Revolution: Our Changing View of Our Place in the Universe

Abstract: Five hundred years ago, Copernicus advanced the theory that the Earth was not the center of the Solar System. That theory revolutionized our understanding of the Universe. It was initially met with great opposition because of what it meant about our own significance. Today there is a second Copernican revolution underway that will once again alter our significance. Advances in technologies and techniques are enabling the detection, observation and study of Earth-like planets around other stars. And several deep-space missions are currently exploring potentially-habitable worlds within our Solar System as possible abodes for life beyond the Earth. As one such mission, the two intrepid robotic explorers, Spirit and Opportunity, have been exploring the surface of Mars for evidence of past habitable environments that could have supported life. The rovers have traversed great plains, climbed mountains, descended into deep craters and survived rover-killing dust storms and frigid winters. Both rovers have found clues that Mars was once Earth-like with a potential for life. Soon they will be joined by another larger, more capable rover on the surface. Within the next few years, we may be poised to answering that central question, "Are we alone in the Universe?" Speaker Info: John L. Callas, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., has been project manager of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover project since March 2006. Previously, as science manager and then <b>...</b>

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Adhesive Games is looking for a talented ENGINEER to join our growing team here in Los Angeles, California. We need someone to help take our current project HAWKEN to new and exciting heights. This is a permanent position and would require working from our studio in the Pasadena area.

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A youth wasted on video games unexpectedly paid off for me in an assignment to profile the old dogs behind the newest gaming company: Innovative Leisure. Operating under the theory that the 99-cent download is the new quarter drop, a team of programmers from the original video game company, Atari, have reunited to make a new generation of games for the iPad. TIME gathered these self-described “grizzled old farts” together in the Supercade, a private museum in Pasadena, Calif., to photograph them alongside some of their greatest hits from the Golden Age of video games, including Asteroids, Battlezone, and Missile Command. Gone are their rockstar days of Friday beer bashes and weekend-long “gamestorming” retreats on the California coast, complete with naked hot-tub parties, fat doobies, food fights and broken furniture. Yet they retain every ounce of their countercultural creativity, as well as a youthful enthusiasm for inventing new games, new mechanisms of gameplay—possibly even new genres. Seamus Blackley, the owner of Supercade and the impresario behind the new company, calls them “the Jedi Council of video-game design.”

Gregg Segal is a photographer based in Los Angeles and shoots regularly for TIME. Most recently, LightBox featured Segal’s work on Civil War Re-enactors. You can see more of his work here.

Adam Fisher is freelance writer for TIME, Wired, the New York Times magazine, and Men’s Journal.

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As 2011 draws to a close, Framework looks back on an eventful, tumultuous year, documented by the photojournalists of the Los Angeles Times.

It was a year marked by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan; the Arab Spring in North Africa and the Middle East, with rebel uprisings and hard-fought battles resulting in the fall of Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, and the capture and death of Libya’s Moammar Kadafi; and the humanitarian crisis of continued famine in Africa.

2011 also saw the somber 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks of 2001; the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement; the royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in London and their subsequent Southland visit; and the involuntary manslaughter trial, conviction and sentencing of Michael Jackson’s personal physician.

Carmageddon in Los Angeles, anticipated with dire predictions of monumental gridlock, turned out to be not so disruptive after all.

Almost nine years after the invasion of Iraq, the war was declared officially over with the withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops and their return home — in time for the holidays, no less.

As always, the worlds of entertainment, sports and celebrity are part of the gallery, adding a light, colorful touch to a memorable year.

Enjoy the look back with us, and have a wonderful 2012.

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2011 was a year of global tumult, marked by widespread social and political uprisings, economic crises, and a great deal more. We saw the fall of multiple dictators, welcomed a new country (South Sudan), witnessed our planet's population grow to 7 billion, and watched in horror as Japan was struck by a devastating earthquake, a tsunami, and a nuclear disaster. From the Arab Spring to Los Indignados to Occupy Wall Street, citizens around the world took to the streets in massive numbers, protesting against governments and financial institutions, risking arrest, injury, and in some cases their lives. Collected here is Part 1 of a three-part photo summary of the last year, covering 2011's first several months. Be sure to also see Part 2, and Part 3 of the series - totaling 120 images in all. [40 photos + 1 more]

A wave approaches Miyako City from the Heigawa estuary in Iwate Prefecture after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck the area March 11, 2011. The earthquake, the most powerful ever known to have hit Japan, combined with the massive tsunami, claimed more than 15,800 lives, devastated many eastern coastline communities, and triggered a nuclear catastrophe at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station. (Reuters/Mainichi Shimbun)

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Rebecca Flaig of Goochland, Va., left, and Ryan Jung of Richmond hold their umbrellas aloft as part of the World AIDS Day event on Brown’s Island in Richmond, Va. on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011. A sea of red umbrellas, in the form of a giant red ribbon, were displayed. A man holds a poster featuring [...]

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THROWING STONES: A Palestinian child threw stones toward Israeli border guards during clashes in Shuafat, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, Thursday. (Ahmad Gharabli/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

A ROUGH PATCH: A statue of Umm Kulthum, a deceased Egyptian singer, wore an eye patch Thursday. Someone placed the patch there to symbolize protesters wounded in clashes with security forces during recent protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square before parliamentary elections. (Nasser Nasser/Associated Press)

A MIGHTY WIND: Keith Curo looked at a damaged Shell gas station in Pasadena, Calif., Thursday. Some of the worst winds in years blasted through California overnight, gusting up to 97 mph, toppling trees and knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of people. (Bret Hartman/Associated Press)

UP, THEN DOWN: A trader worked on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Thursday. Stocks fell following reports that Germany would continue to oppose common euro-zone debt and after comments by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on the crisis enveloping Europe. (Jin Lee/Bloomberg)

SWEPT AWAY: Workers at a Canon manufacturing factory swept the ground outside their workplace in Ayutthaya Province, Thailand, Thursday. Manufacturing is resuming in Thailand as floodwaters have receded. (Rachen Sageamsak/Xinhua/Zuma Press)

BILLOWING BLACK SMOKE: Firefighters worked to extinguish a fire at United Bank Limited in downtown Islamabad, Pakistan, Thursday. According to local reports, the blaze started due to an electrical short circuit. (Khaqan Khawer/European Pressphoto Agency)

FIRESIDE: Supporters of South Ossetian presidential candidate Alla Dzhioyeva warmed themselves near a fire during a rally in Tskhinvali, Georgia, Thursday. A court threw out results that had the candidate leading and barred her from competing in a new election in March. (Eduard Korniyenko/Reuters)

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