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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Science And The Allure Of 'Nothing But'

Dec 16, 2012
Originally published on December 17, 2012 6:03 pm

Science has yet to produce any robust theory of how neural activity gives rise to thought, feeling, emotion, personality, conscious experience.

Indeed, at the present time, we don't even have a good sketch of what such a brain-based theory would look like.

This not a controversial claim.

And yet it counts as one of the dogmas of our time that, in Francis Crick's words, you are your brain.

This proposition — that personality, thought, feeling, our very consciousness, are nothing but modes of neural activity — is not something we have learned, or discovered. At best, it is an article of faith.

I suspect it may also be a straitjacket that stands in the way of real understanding.

The thought that you are your brain is a little like the thought that your automobile is its engine. There's a grain of truth here, to be sure. The engine is critical for the working of the vehicle. No engine, no working automobile. At the same time, I think it is clear, it would be plain silly to suggest that the car just is the engine, or that the performance of the car — how it handles, what it is like to drive — is fixed by the engine alone. How well would your car drive without a steering wheel, or with no seats or no breaks?

Once you start to think about it, you realize that your car's performance depends on its whole, integrated design.

But we realize more than that. What makes the design effective, if it is effective, is that it allows the car to integrate appropriately with the environment. The car requires gas and oil and water to run, and it will only run if environmental circumstances are just right. It won't drive under water, for example. To understand your car, we need to look to the way that whole vehicle is situated in an appropriate environment.

No matter what is going on inside the car, it won't drive if the streets are flooded!

And so with the brain! You are not your brain. You are a brain, in a body, situated in an environment, an environment that includes other people, artifacts, as well as mere physical stuff. And when you are living, then you are in continuous interaction and transaction with the surrounding world.

The really interesting question is: how could one ever have failed to realize this? Why would we ever come up with the idea that a person is a brain?

I suspect this is a species of magical thinking, alive and well among us. (Among us! We materialist naturalist level-headed lovers of science!)

It is hard not to be struck that it is scientists who find themselves relying on what may be a conception of the self that is no more naturalistic than the belief in an immortal soul.

Or maybe it is a fetish. A fetish for a style of pretend explanation. We — all of us — thrill to appeal to the powerful "nothing but," as in, you are nothing but a collection of neurons, and this table you sit at is nothing but a congeries of particles separated by vast regions of space.

But these Nothing Buts are nothing but an empty gesture.

So the question is: why do we find just this gesture so very alluring? What does this tell us about ourselves?


You can keep up with more of what Alva Noë is thinking on Facebook and on Twitter: @alvanoe

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