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.

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A Pledge To Science? That's Something Congress Should Consider

Dec 11, 2012
Originally published on December 11, 2012 2:21 pm

It was a simple question and all it required was a simple answer.

How old is the Earth?

When GQ magazine put the question to Marco Rubio, United States senator from Florida, he balked. "I'm not a scientist, man", he replied. "I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that's a dispute amongst theologians." Digging in deeper, he went on to say, "At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all."

It's hard to know what Senator Rubio really thinks about science and its answers (he recently backed off from his original tortured answer). What is certain however is the lack of scientific uncertainty concerning the Earth's age. It's 4.54 billion years old, give or take. If, like the Dude, you are into the whole brevity thing, you — or Marco Rubio — would be perfectly fine saying the Earth is about 5 billion years old.

There are so many lines of evidence pointing to this long-established truth that I need not waste your time on them here. Rubio's initial punt, however, raises a deeply troubling issue that demands serious consideration. It's a shadow that has been hovering over the intersection of science and politics for some time now: the willingness to treat basic, foundational scientific facts as if they where talking points for partisan debate. This shifty relationship with science is truly a threat to our country's future well being. Pondering the problem I got to thinking: what if politicians took a pledge to accept the scientific consensus on the big questions?

Many folks have heard about Grover Norquist's Taxpayer Protection Pledge. The TPP has been signed by 270 congressmen and senators, binding them to never, ever, ever raise taxes.

If taxes are important enough for a pledge, then science and technology, the engines of our economic competitiveness, should be worth one as well. If you accept that point, the next question becomes what would a Pledge For Science look like? Science is not a religion or a political dogma and the point here is not to demand that everyone adhere to what spills forth from the latest journal articles. That would be crazy. If we are to prosper as a nation then our pledge must be to the process of science as well as its established understandings.

With those needs in mind, here is one suggestion for what a pledge to science might look like:

Given the unique role science has played in American history — securing our prosperity, ensuring our defense and allowing us to push back the frontiers of knowledge in ways which will echo through future generations — I ___________________, representative/senator of the State of ___________________ pledge my support to the great American enterprise in science and technology.

In particular I pledge to make no statements in flagrant contradiction to the foundational principles of basic science, nor will I support others who make such statements. Understanding the importance of science to the next generation of Americans, I pledge to uphold the integrity of basic scientific research and take no actions to undermine the broadest public education in empirically verifiable scientific truths. I further acknowledge that such education must include an understanding of the methods science deploys in its investigations, as well as the limits of those methods.

In making this pledge I affirm that an absolute respect for both science and a personal commitment to divinity (in whichever form) are not incompatible.

Note that nothing in this pledge demands politicians be committed to scientists on issues of policy. Acknowledging climate change is real (and created by human activity) is a scientific issue. Deciding what to do about it is a policy issue. It's up to politicians of all stripes to decide how to respond climate change. Pretending the scientific consensus doesn't exist, however, does not constitute a policy.

Insisting on education about the methods of science and its limits keeps our feet to the flame. Simple admonitions to "trust us, we're scientists" will never work long term. Scientific literacy must now be recognized as fundamental to the health of a functioning democracy.

The last line of the pledge is critical and keeps the pledge from devolving into a battle over atheism vs. creationism. As the Catholic Church has demonstrated, there is no need to set up a false dichotomy between religion and something like evolution or the age of the Earth.

So what do you think?

What would you want in a national Pledge For Science? How would you balance out the need to keep politicians from waffling on scientific issues as diverse as evolution, climate change and vaccines while separating out issues of research from issues of policy? Should a pledge only speak to foundational issues? How would it address issues still at the hazy edges of our current realm of knowledge?

Whatever form it might take, asking our leaders to uphold the underpinnings of our nation's scientific and technological leadership in the world seems like a good idea. Maybe a pledge would begin to walk us back from the edge of the intellectual abyss we seem to be skirting with our political dialog.

Standing up for science should be a no-brainer for us. We are a nation that has shown, many times, how much we value the endless possibilities flowing from the pursuit of knowledge, not the least of which include a lasting peace and a generous prosperity for everyone.


You can keep up with more of what Adam Frank is thinking on Facebook and on Twitter: @AdamFrank4

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