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

Could Nate Silver Predict How Good Your Pumpkin Pie Will Be?

Nov 19, 2012
Originally published on November 26, 2012 1:55 pm

We've been hearing a lot recently about how algorithms can predict just about anything. They find long-lost friends on Facebook and guess which books we'll buy next on Amazon. Algorithms hit the big time this month, when New York Times blogger Nate Silver used mathematical models and statistics to correctly forecast the outcome of every state in the presidential election.

So what about food? Could these same math whizzes help us bake a better pumpkin pie or mix up a tastier batch of sweet potatoes this Thanksgiving? Lada Adamic, a computer scientist at the University of Michigan and Facebook, thinks it just might be possible.

Like Silver, Adamic loves big data sets and statistics. And at Facebook, she uses them to predict how memes spread on social networks and viral marketing influences decisions.

But Adamic is also an aspiring cook. So she and her team have come up with an algorithm to guess how successful a recipe will turn out. And the math works surprisingly well. It predicts with nearly 80 percent accuracy how many stars your mother's cranberry recipe will receive on allrecipes.com. Plus, it can recommend ingredient replacements to make your pie crust and potatoes more healthful.

She and her team took nearly 50,000 recipes and 2 million reviews from allrecipes.com and then hacked up an algorithm to extract out all the ingredients, cooking methods and nutritional profiles. With just these items, her algorithm could predict the recipe's rating with an accuracy of about 70 percent.

But the magic happened when Adamic built a "social network" for the ingredients. She looked at how often two ingredients appear in the same recipes. Those that frequently show up together — milk and butter, nutmeg and cinnamon, basil and rosemary — sit close to each other in the network, but those that rarely appear in the same dish, such as coconut and parsley, are far from each other.

Physicists at Harvard University performed a similar network analysis on ingredients' flavors, but Adamic took it a step further and integrated the data into a recipe prediction program.

Adamic's network analysis boosted the accuracy of her recipe recommendations by about 10 percent. But it also revealed a treasure-trove of information about the way Americans mix and match ingredients, which ones we like to leave out or throw in extra.

"The networks tell us about the flexibility of recipes, which ingredients are frequently swapped or modified," Adamic tells The Salt.

Spices and herbs are superflexible. We tend to add more than a recipe requests. Same goes for flavor enhancers, like soy sauce, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce, as well as savory toppings, like mushrooms, bacon and cheese. On the flip side, we often cut back on fats, sugars and salt in dishes.

What about ingredient substitutions? Adamic created a network for that, too.

Her algorithm analyzed reviewers' recommendations for customizing recipes, such as "I replaced the butter in the frosting by sour cream, just to soothe my conscience about all the fatty calories" and "This is a great recipe, but using fresh tomatoes only adds a few minutes to the prep time." Then the mathematics stitched together little clusters or communities of interchangeable foods and spices.

The result is a list of recipe replacements more comprehensive and scientifically accurate than anything you'll find in the Joy of Cooking or online.

"One of the top things was substituting applesauce for vegetable oil," Adamic says. "We thought that this was ridiculous, but then we learned it was a basic health food trick."

Well-seasoned cooks have these substitution tricks at their fingertips, but for others, like Adamic, it's more challenging to experiment with recipes or customize them for flavor and nutritional profiles.

"I was having trouble moving beyond literally reading the recipe and then following it exactly," Adamic says. Then she remembered what she does best — write algorithms to analyze large amounts of information.

"In general, I just believe in data," she says. "There's all these recipes out there. So maybe we can just look at the data and automatically figure out how flexible the recipes are. Now I feel more comfortable using spices more freely."

Adamic hasn't had time to put her predictions and ingredient replacements into handy tables or charts on a website. But you can read more about how she built them on the arXiv.org.

So can these algorithms tell us what we should pick up at the grocery store this week to increase our chances of making the best turkey stuffing or pumpkin pie?

"I won't promise that," she says. "But if you give me two recipes with similar ingredients, I can tell you which one will be better."

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