The Boston Citgo sign, all 3,600 square LED feet of which has served as the backdrop to Red Sox games since 1965, is now officially a "pending landmark."

Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dalí spent much of the 1940s in the U.S., avoiding World War II and its aftermath. He was a well-known fixture on the art scene in Monterey, Calif. — and that's where the largest collection of Dalí's work on the West Coast is now open to the public.

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The middle of summer is when the surprises in publishing turn up. I'm talking about those quietly commanding books that publishers tend to put out now, because fall and winter are focused on big books by established authors. Which brings us to The Dream Life of Astronauts, by Patrick Ryan, a very funny and touching collection of nine short stories that take place in the 1960s and '70s around Cape Canaveral, Fla.

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.


Does Working From Home Work? It Helps If You Like Your Teammates

Feb 27, 2013

Many of the articles about Marissa Mayer's decision to ban working from home at Yahoo eventually get around to mentioning that she recently added a nursery to her office.

But this is really not a women's issue. I don't think we should talk about it that way.

Men with families often get a free ride in these debates — and working women without kids often feel they are unfairly saddled with baggage that has nothing to do with their lives.

The real question — the one that matters — for Mayer as a new CEO of a struggling company and anyone with a stake in creating more flexible workplaces is this: Does working from home work?

I clearly have a conflict of interest on this one.

I work 20 paces down the hall from my bedroom. I commute in my slippers. I report to the office about 6:30 a.m. and right now it's 10 p.m. and I am still here, though it is not as if I've been working the whole day.

A colleague recently asked me if I sleep. I do, sometimes right in the middle of the day.

I also routinely sneak off and go for a run — or play ultimate Frisbee. (Don't laugh. In Silicon Valley it might be more useful than golf.) When my daughters come home from school I'm here — I might be working, but I can take a break for violin practice or math homework or to get a hug.

And I can write this because I am productive. And — so far — at least the folks at NPR have liked my work. It works for me because, in the end, the hours balance out — and I am in control of my time.

But we don't have to rely on my anecdotal experience. There are large bodies of research that address whether working from home works.

"Most creative people work best by alternating periods of collaborations and synergy with uninterrupted time to think things through," said Joan Williams, the founding director of the Center for WorkLife Law at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

In a Stanford study published just this week, a researcher conducted a large-scale test of call center workers in China. One group was randomly assigned to work at home. The other remained in the office. Researchers found working from home led to a 13 percent increase in productivity. There were fewer breaks and sick days — and home-based workers answered more calls per minute.

But what if a job entails more than pumping out the information economy's version of a widget? What if you've been hired to design new products? What if your work is collaborative and creative? What if — as is so frequently the case — in order to succeed you need to become part of a dynamic team?

Alex "Sandy" Pentland is a computer scientist and a serial entrepreneur. Now at MIT's Media Lab, Pentland studies what it takes to build great teams. In an article last year for the Harvard Business Review he wrote, "the best predictors of productivity were a team's energy and engagement outside formal meetings."

Pentland examined innovation teams at tech companies, post-op units in hospitals, and — yes — call center teams.

He tagged team members with electronic badges that monitored body language, tone of voice, whom they talked to and for how long. It turns out how team members communicate in social settings is the best predictor of a team's success. "Not only that, but [it's] as significant as all the other factors — individual intelligence, personality, skill, and the substance of discussions — combined."

Basically Pentland's research boils down to this: It really helps to like the people you work with.

Pentland even advised one desperate call center manager to allow entire teams of dysfunctional workers to begin taking coffee breaks together. They got to know each other and productivity surged.

Now, this likely is what Mayer had in mind at Yahoo when she banned working from home. She, no doubt, hopes to create an innovative culture — an infectious excitement that spreads from one Yahoo — as the company's employees are called — to the next.

And it may be tough to create that kind of dynamic when all your employees' interactions are on conference calls. But it is not impossible.

At NPR I have scores of incredible colleagues — all of whom are just an email or a phone call away. When we talk — more often than not — I am leaning forward, smiling. They are bright and creative and I enjoy their virtual company. Often when we hang up I have something worth thinking about.

Turns out that is its own formula for success — wherever you happen to work.

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