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.

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

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.

NPR Politics presents the Lunchbox List: our favorite campaign news and stories curated from NPR and around the Web in digestible bites (100 words or less!). Look for it every weekday afternoon from now until the conventions.

Convention Countdown

The Republican National Convention is in 4 days in Cleveland.

The Democratic National Convention is in 11 days in Philadelphia.

NASA has released the first picture of Jupiter taken since the Juno spacecraft went into orbit around the planet on July 4.

The picture was taken on July 10. Juno was 2.7 million miles from Jupiter at the time. The color image shows some of the atmospheric features of the planet, including the giant red spot. You can also see three of Jupiter's moons in the picture: Io, Europa and Ganymede.

The Senate is set to approve a bill intended to change the way police and health care workers treat people struggling with opioid addictions.

My husband and I once took great pleasure in preparing meals from scratch. We made pizza dough and sauce. We baked bread. We churned ice cream.

Then we became parents.

Now there are some weeks when pre-chopped vegetables and a rotisserie chicken are the only things between us and five nights of Chipotle.

Parents are busy. For some of us, figuring out how to get dinner on the table is a daily struggle. So I reached out to food experts, parents and nutritionists for help. Here is some of their (and my) best advice for making weeknight meals happen.

"O Canada," the national anthem of our neighbors up north, comes in two official versions — English and French. They share a melody, but differ in meaning.

Let the record show: neither version of those lyrics contains the phrase "all lives matter."

But at the 2016 All-Star Game, the song got an unexpected edit.

At Petco Park in San Diego, one member of the Canadian singing group The Tenors — by himself, according to the other members of the group — revised the anthem.

School's out, and a lot of parents are getting through the long summer days with extra helpings of digital devices.

How should we feel about that?

Police in Baton Rouge say they have arrested three people who stole guns with the goal of killing police officers. They are still looking for a fourth suspect in the alleged plot, NPR's Greg Allen reports.

"Police say the thefts were at a Baton Rouge pawn shop early Saturday morning," Greg says. "One person was arrested at the scene. Since then, two others have been arrested and six of the eight stolen handguns have been recovered. Police are still looking for one other man."

A 13-year-old boy is among those arrested, Greg says.


How Rare Is The Earth?

Oct 31, 2012

Now that we are fairly sure that there are many Earth-like planets in our galactic neighborhood, the time is ripe (or almost so) to wonder whether these new worlds do indeed have a high probability of hosting new forms of life.

Currently, the best data on the existence of other planets comes from NASA's remarkable Kepler satellite, which has been mapping a swath of the sky comprising some 150,000 stars. The mission identifies planets using something called planetary "transit": a planet passing in front of a star slightly dims its brightness. (Here is a beautiful video of the recent transit of Venus in front of our Sun seen from multiple perspectives.

Timing how long it takes for the planet to pass in front of the star (by tracking the dip in its brightness) and how long it takes for the planet to repeat this (the planet's orbital period) and the amount of dimming, it is possible to use the star's mass and Kepler's third law of planetary motion to obtain the planet's size and mass, and, knowing the temperature of the star, the planet's approximate surface temperature.

With this, Kepler scientists estimate that around 5 percent of planets in our galaxy have masses similar to Earth's and, possibly, are within the habitable zone of their stars, meaning that if they hold water it has a high chance of being liquid.

Since there are about 200 billion stars in our galaxy alone, Kepler estimates that there should be about 10 billion Earth-size planets. Not bad, especially if we assume that to be Earth-size and within a habitable zone is all it takes for life to take hold in an alien world. In practice, however, the situation is much more subtle, since it depends on what life is and how it appears in a planet, as well as on the planet's detailed geological history.

Here on Earth life appeared some 3,5 billion years ago. Claims that it may have been here as far back as 3,8 billion years ago remain tentative. For about the first three billion years, terrestrial life was mostly in the form of unicellular creatures. Earth was an "amoeba" planet (Cyanobacteria, really). Only when Earth's atmosphere became oxygenated — and that because these unicellular creatures "discovered" photosynthesis — did more sophisticated multicellular organisms appear.

This remarkable change at a planetary scale — orchestrated by unicellular beings — did something else that allowed complex life to thrive on Earth's surface. A protective layer of ozone formed as solar ultraviolet radiation hit the atmospheric oxygen. And as we know, without this shield we would be in serious trouble. We owe a lot to those little critters.

Apart from its unusual atmosphere, Earth's heavy, single moon acts to stabilize our planet's axial tilt. Earth is like a wobbling top, spinning about the vertical at an inclination of 23.5 degrees. This tilt is responsible for the seasons and for the thermal regulation of our planet. Without our heavy moon, the angle would vary wildly, and the weather would be much worse and more erratic than it's been recently. Complex life would find it very hard to evolve and survive here.

Add to this Earth's magnetic field — which also shields us from lethal solar and cosmic radiation — and plate tectonics — the slow drift of continental plates about the planet's surface that functions as a thermostat and regulates the circulation of CO2 — and we see that there is much more to our water-rich planet than its mass and orbital properties.

The results from Kepler's mission are encouraging and exciting! We have the privilege of confirming the existence of countless other worlds out there, a speculation at least as old as philosophy. Based on these findings, we should indeed conclude that other worlds would host some kind of simple life.

But taken all at once, as Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee argued in their Rare Earth (and as I did in my A Tear at the Edge of Creation), Earth and its ability to host complex multicellular life (not to say anything of intelligent multicellular life, a whole different ball game!) will probably remain a rare phenomenon in this and other galaxies.

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

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