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.

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A Valentine From An Atheist To A Religious Scholar

Feb 12, 2013

Sometimes the debate between atheism and religion can be enlightening, showing us how both of these different approaches dive deeply into the currents of human experience. Sometimes, however, it can be deeply depressing, devolving into hard lines and acrimony. As an atheist, I often find myself exasperated with what I call "strident atheism."

People in this vein seem intent on ignoring the long narrative of human spiritual endeavor. They often reduce it to histories of ignorance and intolerance. Believers in strident atheism convince themselves that it's OK to ignore the scholarship on the long and ancient history of human spiritual endeavor. And that brings me to my Valentine.

Karen Armstrong, I love you.

I love Karen Armstrong for the breadth of her writing. From the history of the three great monotheistic religions to nuanced accounts of Buddhism and Hinduism to an incisive account of myth and its role in the evolution of human culture, her curiosity emerges as a kind of infectious fire. Armstrong burns to understand all forms of aspiration to the sacred, seeing it as a fundamental human need. Its this overarching perspective that makes her the perfect guide to spirituality for the novice, open-minded atheist.

Many strident atheists dismiss the domains of spiritual endeavor without digging deeper. In their ranks, you will often find folks who have never read William James, Rudolf Otto, Emile Durkheim, Mircea Eliade or Wendy Doniger. Failing to explore these domains is like rejecting all of physics after spending 20 minutes in an intro class. Religion is more than fundamentalism and what Karen Armstrong provides is an engaged account of the long view, the long history of humanity's sometimes stumbling, sometimes horrific, sometimes transcendent attempt to engage with this persistent sense that there is more to life than day-to-day survival.

Armstrong has been criticized for shallowness and for skipping over the subtleties that formal scholarship would reveal. I am sure some of that criticism is true. I can see that she is, indeed, often painting in broad strokes. But like a good science writer, she is opening doors into the history of ideas and experience that we can all follow.

There is another reason I, a scientist, love Karen Armstrong. All of her writings are illuminated by a deep and resonant compassion. As a scientist I am always interested in universals, things that are always true. Armstrong, who founded the wonderful Charter for Compassion, is interested in the same thing when it comes to human behavior as an expression of spiritual longing. Compassion, she tells us, must always come first, must always be the first concern of a religious life. I am not religious but I could not agree more.

Thank you Ms. Armstrong. Will you be my Valentine?


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