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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Recreating The Universe In The Lab

Dec 5, 2012

The study of cosmology, the branch of the physical sciences that investigates the universe and its properties, presents quite a practical challenge: contrary to most other sciences, where different samples can be probed and analyzed directly, it's impossible to experiment with different universes in the lab.

We have our own example, this vast expanse of space and matter we live in, and that's it. So, to make sense of the cosmos, we study what's in it — the different types of matter and their properties such as temperature, density and pressure, and how it's distributed in space. To that we add observations on the size of the universe and how it evolved in time, and so on — and from this collected information try to come up with plausible explanations that describe what we see.

Some physicists, such as MIT's Edward Farhi, Alan Guth and Jemal Guven have even considered whether it would be possible to create baby universes in the laboratory. [The technical reference is Nuclear Physics B 339, 417 (1990).] The idea is to shrink a chunk of matter to incredibly high densities, forcing it to become a black hole. Occasionally, the authors speculated, this ball of matter could branch off to create a baby universe inside the black hole. Amazingly, this branch could grow up to a large size without interfering with the lab so that the cosmic Dr. Frankenstein wouldn't destroy himself and the rest of civilization. (Very roughly, think of it as a tunnel dug into the ground and away from observers at the surface.) Others, like the late cosmologist Edward Harrison, speculated that a super-advanced civilization created our own universe in a lab. This would explain why our Universe is conducive to life and so on.

But let's steer back to more palpable reality. There are serious questions concerning the viability of making baby universes in the lab, in spite of how cool the idea sounds.

Scientists use two ways to study the universe: we collect information directly, observing every object that we can such as galaxies, stars, clusters of galaxies, black holes, cosmic ray particles, etc. And we can simulate the universe in the lab: we may not be able to create a universe in the lab, but we can recreate parts of its history. There are two kinds of "labs" to do this: particle colliders such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland, where the Higgs boson was discovered in July; and in computer simulations that examine how chunks of matter and radiation behave under the laws of gravity (and possibly other forms of interactions such as electromagnetic if there are charged particles or magnetic fields present.) Today, let's stay with particle accelerators.

How to simulate the cosmic past in a particle accelerator? Recall that, according to the Big Bang model, in the early stages of its history our universe was very hot and dense: the matter that we see today in galaxies and stars was dissociated into its most basic constituents, electrons, quarks, and other elementary particles. (Quarks are the components of the familiar protons and neutrons.) From oranges to atoms to protons, every chunk of matter is held together by attractive forces; earlier on in the cosmic history the heat and density was such that these bonds broke down and particles were free to move about. Whenever quarks tried to get together to make a proton, collisions with other particles would interfere. As a result, protons formed at about one millionth of a second after the "bang," when the universe had cooled enough to allow quarks to get together, while the first hydrogen atoms (a proton and an electron) only formed at about 400,000 years after the "bang."

When scientists at the LHC make protons move almost at the speed of light and then collide them against other protons (or heavy atoms and other fixed "targets"), the energies of the collisions are so high that they reproduce, for fractions of a second, the conditions prevalent in the young cosmos. This way, physicists are essentially traveling back in time to study the cosmic infancy in a controlled fashion. The study of the very small informs the study of the very large.

Some recent results from collisions of protons with heavy atoms found very strange results. Identical particles that travel away from the collision point in opposite directions do so in mirror-like paths, as if keeping their connections even at large spatial separation: it is as if they "know" where their partner is going. This effect, quite possibly the same mysterious entanglement observed in quantum systems such as in pairs of photons and atoms, had never been observed in the much more violent particle collisions with heavy atoms.

Could this kind of behavior have played a role in the early universe? One of the greatest joys in scientific research is to be surprised by nature. And here we have a pretty big one, coming from the study of the smallest bits of matter, which may force us to rethink a thing or two about the physical properties of the cosmos.


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

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