When the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union last month, the seaside town of Port Talbot in Wales eagerly went along with the move. Brexit was approved by some 57 percent of the town's residents.

Now some of them are wondering if they made the wrong decision.

The June 23 Brexit vote has raised questions about the fate of the troubled Port Talbot Works, Britain's largest surviving steel plant — a huge, steam-belching facility that has long been the town's biggest employer.

Solar Impulse 2 has landed in Cairo, completing the penultimate leg of its attempt to circumnavigate the globe using only the power of the sun.

The trip over the Mediterranean included a breathtaking flyover of the Pyramids. Check it out:

President Obama is challenging Americans to have an honest and open-hearted conversation about race and law enforcement. But even as he sits down at the White House with police and civil rights activists, Obama is mindful of the limits of that approach.

"I've seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change," the president said Tuesday at a memorial service for five law officers killed last week in Dallas. "I've seen how inadequate my own words have been."

Mice watching Orson Welles movies may help scientists explain human consciousness.

At least that's one premise of the Allen Brain Observatory, which launched Wednesday and lets anyone with an Internet connection study a mouse brain as it responds to visual information.

The FBI says it is giving up on the D.B. Cooper investigation, 45 years after the mysterious hijacker parachuted into the night with $200,000 in a briefcase, becoming an instant folk figure.

"Following one of the longest and most exhaustive investigations in our history," the FBI's Ayn Dietrich-Williams said in a statement, "the FBI redirected resources allocated to the D.B. Cooper case in order to focus on other investigative priorities."

This is the first in a series of essays concerning our collective future. The goal is to bring forth some of the main issues humanity faces today, as we move forward to uncertain times. In an effort to be as thorough as possible, we will consider two kinds of threats: those due to natural disasters and those that are man-made. The idea is to expose some of the dangers and possible mechanisms that have been proposed to deal with these issues. My intention is not to offer a detailed analysis for each threat — but to invite reflection and, hopefully, action.

Alabama authorities say a home burglary suspect has died after police used a stun gun on the man.  Birmingham police say he resisted officers who found him in a house wrapped in what looked like material from the air conditioner duct work.  The Lewisburg Road homeowner called police Tuesday about glass breaking and someone yelling and growling in his basement.  Police reportedly entered the dwelling and used a stun gun several times on a white suspect before handcuffing him.  Investigators say the man was "extremely irritated" throughout and didn't obey verbal commands.

It can be hard to distinguish among the men wearing grey suits and regulation haircuts on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. But David Margolis always brought a splash of color.

It wasn't his lovably disheveled wardrobe, or his Elvis ring, but something else: the force of his flamboyant personality. Margolis, a graduate of Harvard Law School, didn't want to fit in with the crowd. He wanted to stand out.

Montgomery Education Foundation's Brain Forest Summer Learning Academy was spotlighted Wednesday at Carver High School.  The academic-enrichment program is for rising 4th, 5th, and 6th graders in the Montgomery Public School system.  Community Program Director Dillion Nettles, says the program aims to prevent learning loss during summer months.  To find out how your child can participate in next summer's program visit Montgomery-ed.org

A police officer is free on bond after being arrested following a rash of road-sign thefts in southeast Alabama.  Brantley Police Chief Titus Averett says officer Jeremy Ray Walker of Glenwood is on paid leave following his arrest in Pike County.  The 30-year-old Walker is charged with receiving stolen property.  Lt. Troy Johnson of the Pike County Sheriff's Office says an investigation began after someone reported that Walker was selling road signs from Crenshaw County.  Investigators contacted the county engineer and learned signs had been reported stolen from several roads.

Pages

Astrotheology: Do Gods Need To Be Supernatural?

Nov 28, 2012
Originally published on December 5, 2012 11:08 am

Call it the ponderous effect of the holidays, but today I'd like to share some reflections on our search for meaning.

Humans are limited beings. We are also creative and innovative, and by the diligent application of reason and, in different but complementary ways, by exercising our artistic expression, we manage to amplify our understanding of the world and of ourselves.

One place where the sciences and the arts come together is to function as exploratory tools for extending our worldview, probing the unknown. As a result of our excursions, we often land in unexpected corners of reality. A theorem and a poem are meditations on the possible, be it the very concrete or the fictional. Our imagination uses all the resources it has to give meaning to existence.

Maybe that's why the theologian and public intellectual Reinhold Niebuhr once wrote that "Man is his most vexing problem." Our philosophies, our sciences and religions are attempts to comprehend who we are in spite of our shortsightedness, of the limited ways that we see and understand what's going on.

In this search, it's no surprise that religious belief works as a compass to so many people. How to explain the origin of the universe? Or of life? Or why life ends? How to explain why we have minds capable of reflecting about these kinds of complex questions? Or how the brain, taken as a bunch of neurons and synapses, manages to engender us with a sense of self? Of course, these questions are now part of cutting-edge scientific research. We live in a peculiar time, when what once was the province of religion is now part of science's daily goings-on.

We still can't answer these questions. So they keep haunting and inspiring us, which is a good thing.

One of our big dilemmas is, perhaps, the angst that comes from our ability to contemplate the nature of the divine while knowing that we will never become divine. We can easily imagine perfection, the absence of pain, immortality. But excluding musings in fiction and expectations in faith, we can't transcend our material reality, our spatial and time boundaries. Or can we?

Considering that modern science has been around for only some 400 years (if we count its beginnings from the time of Kepler and Galileo), and realizing how much we have accomplished in such a short time, imagine what we could do in another 1,000 years? Or 10,000 years if, of course, we don't self-destruct before then? We can already manipulate genes, creating new foods and creatures, and cure a whole new spectrum of illnesses. Extrapolating the current pace of technological advance to the future, some futurists are convinced that within a few decades we will get to such a deep stage of hybridization with machines that we will not be able to pull apart from them anymore. (Try being without your cell phone or computer for a week, for example.)

If these predictions come through, and it seems to me that they already are, soon we will be a new species, beyond human.

Imagine, then, that in some corner of the galaxy, other intelligent creatures also discovered some version of science. But they did so, say, a million years before us, which, in cosmic time, is not much. These creatures would now be machine-hybrids, completely different from what they once were. As Arthur C. Clarke once wrote, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," a theme myself and co-blogger Adam have been focusing on these past few weeks.

Perhaps "they" are only information, free-floating in coded energy fields spread across space. Perhaps they have, much beyond anything we can presently contemplate, the power to create life, choosing its properties at will. They could, for example, have created us, or some of our ancestors, as part of an experiment in their version of evolutionary genetics, or as a test bed in a study of the relation between intelligence and morality. They could, perhaps, be observing us, as we observe animals in a zoo or a laboratory. These entities, immaterial but living as self-sustaining bundles of information, could have been our creators. Would they be gods, even if not supernatural?


You can keep up with more of what Marcelo is thinking on Facebook and Twitter: @mgleiser

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.