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

New Superhero, 3,200 Years Old, Turns Air Into Wood Superfast

Dec 4, 2012

This is for you, Martina Navratilova, for you, Nolan Ryan, for you, Methuselah, for you, Jimmy Carter, and for all of you reading this if you're on the "wrong" side of 50 but still pumping. This week, we've got ourselves a role model, a poster boy for robust old age.

Actually, it's a poster tree: Sequoiadendron giganteum, the giant sequoia. And thanks to Professor Steve Sillett and his team at Humboldt State University, here's what we now know: these trees do more growing when they're older than when they're younger. The older they get, it seems, the faster they grow.

Let me say that again: Giant sequoias grow faster later in life than earlier in life.

The evidence?

This 3,200 year old tree, which has a name (it's on that little sign in front of it): "The President."

"The President" is the second most massive tree ever measured: it's 27 feet wide at the bottom and 247 feet tall. It has an enormous trunk that branches into four great limbs, each one, says science writer David Quammen, "as big as a sizeable tree," and hanging off in all directions looking for sunshine are its almost two billion leaves. So it's big. But it's getting bigger at a rate that will surprise tree scholars (and lumber companies), who've long assumed that trees, like most living things, slow down as they age.

Air-Sucking Youngsters

Young trees, we thought, suck in great gulps of CO2 and then, with a series of chemical tricks, turn that air into wood, adding bulk to the trunk, thickening the branches, spitting out the oxygen, and they keep at it for years, fighting for sunshine, until, if they're lucky, they end up taller than their neighbors, so at last they can relax, and eventually, slow their growth rate, weaken and die. That's what we'd call a normal tree cycle. But giant sequoias, apparently, do it differently.

What Professor Sillett found was at the age of 3,200, this particular tree, is adding wood at a greater rate than its younger neighbors. He knows because he has measured closely, "inch by inch" says Quammen in his new National Geographic story. Sillett's finding contradicts years of lumber company wisdom that champions "short rotation forestry" — the principle that young trees (between 8 and 20 years old) produce the most wood. Well, now we have an exception.

An exceptional exception, actually, because these trees, as they age, develop a momentum that's almost athletic.

Ain't No Stoppin Me Now

Says Quammen: fire doesn't hurt them because their bark is flame resistant; wind doesn't hurt them because they are too strong to blow over; wood chewing beetles don't hurt them because the trunk's so big; diseases don't hurt them because they have strong chemical defenses, and most miraculous of all, people don't hurt them because lumber companies don't like giant sequoias. They don't make profitable lumber. Their trunks are so brittle, when they hit the ground, they shatter into pieces, which makes for shingles and fence posts, but not for high priced construction wood.

So here's an oldster — way up in years — that's worth more alive than dead. Put that on our poster!

And maybe most impressive, says Professor Sillett, is this: that unlike giant redwoods (also massive, even taller, and maybe also geriatrically active) these trees live in a wintry zone. For six months a year, they are exposed to heavy snow, the soil below is frosty or frozen, and they can't grow. So they do what they do, adding more new wood per year than perhaps even giant redwoods — in half the time! At 3,000 years plus, they are sprinters.

Which is why — now that we know all this — I think we should change this giant sequoia's name. It shouldn't be "The President" anymore. That was good when it was just massive and stately. But now that we've learned what it can do, what it's doing, I think it needs a makeover. How about Hulk Hogan? Or Billie Jean King? That feels better. Because it fits.


I've written about Steve Sillett's tree explorations before, in a post called The World's Tallest Tree is Hiding Somewhere in California. David Quammen, whose National Geographic cover story I'm cribbing here, is a Radiolab regular. His newest book, Spillover, tells stories about virus and bacteria hunters who work hard to keep 7 billion humans safe from the many quadrillions of little, deadly pathogens that lurk in the birds, bats, pigs, insects and monkeys around us.

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