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.


No Fists, Gentlemen, Just Necks. The Ali & Frazier Of The Giraffe World

Jan 18, 2013
Originally published on January 18, 2013 10:18 am

We're in Tanzania on safari, when two stately looking giraffes walk into view, looking thoughtful, gentle, as giraffes do, and all of a sudden one of them drops way low and swings his whole neck and head into his buddy's legs, hard, so hard the other giraffe gives off a little cry and then, wham, slams him back, and then the two of them are slamming, parting, clinging, pushing (Are they comparing necks? Looks that way ... ) just like boxers. It doesn't seem like either gets hurt, but wow! I didn't know giraffes do this. I looked it up. It's called "necking."

So what's going on? There's no lady giraffe in this scene (though I guess there could be one lingering nearby.) These two aren't females because they both have male "ossicones" — those hard, bony things you find on giraffe heads. On guys they're bald. On gals they're furry. Slamming onto your legs, they must hurt. So here we have two males, not fighting for keeps, but kind of measuring each other. It looks like they are trying to establish dominance, so the winner can later tour the neighborhood and have his pick of the harem.

For a little while, two scientists got a lot of attention when they proposed that these fights were the main reason giraffes have long necks. In a 1996 study, zoologists Robert Simmons and Lue Scheepers challenged the traditional explanation that giraffes born with longer necks could better feed themselves and therefore reproduce more successfully. There are other ways to evolve long necks, they said, proposing what has become known as the "Necks for Sex" theory.

Necks For Sex

Simmons and Scheepers claimed the giraffes in the wild don't do that much reaching for food in high places. They find most of their meals lower down, nearer the ground. Combat, they felt, was a better way to predict which giraffes passed their genes into the future. The stronger, bigger-necked males, they believed, would mate more often, producing more and more bigger-necked baby giraffes. Females would develop long necks as a side effect, and if this went on long enough, then, Thock! Bam! Clump! You get a modern giraffe.

Necks for Sex sounds like a plausible explainer, but according to Brian Switek (who is the reason I'm writing this story; he's fascinated by big animals, and I devour his blog Laelaps), it now seems Necks for Sex may be wrong.

Brian wrote how a second group of scientists went back into the field, took another look, and found that giraffes in the wild do indeed eat food that's high up (and sometimes low down), and long necks do give individuals a feeding advantage. And now this month there's a new paper by much the same group that says it's likely these necking bouts are not always related to copulation, sometimes it's just a king-of-the-mountain thing, and that "males with the longest and most massive necks don't always win these contests."

Ah, well. I don't mind that these neck slams may not be evolutionarily important, that they're more like prize fights, what feisty young giraffes do when they're feeling strong and combative. But it's extra-nice to know that not infrequently, the bruiser loses, and the skinny guy wins.

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