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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Want to Find Aliens? Look For Their Detritus

Mar 5, 2013

From science fiction movies, we all know how it happens. Astronomers working with huge telescopes detect an object at the edge of the solar system. It's coming our way and it's moving fast. Working feverishly, they apply the latest image-enhancement techniques, revealing super-sharp pictures of interstellar garbage.

No, wait. That's not how the movies work.

The astronomers get images of vast interstellar starships, right? That is how we first detect the aliens. We see their starships, not garbage. Well, in real life, it's more likely that our first evidence of intelligent life in space will come from detecting their radio waste.

The idea of receiving "unintentional" waste signals from an extraterrestrial intelligence goes back a ways. More than 30 years ago Woody Sullivan, one of my professors at the University of Washington, looked at radio leakage from the Earth and how it would appear to distant aliens.

The idea was simple. The Earth, or perhaps any planet inhabited by a technologically adept species, is constantly leaking "waste" radio signals into space that could be detected from quite a ways out in the galaxy. From TV broadcasts to powerful military radar, radio energy meant for some other purpose escapes into space as waste. By analyzing the properties of our own waste radio signal, Sullivan found that an eavesdropping race could develop a relatively substantial account our civilization on Earth.

Since that time, other researchers have taken up the idea of alien waste and its visibility. Given news that a team of billionaires are drawing up plans to mine the asteroids, a recent study by astronomers Duncan Forgan and Martin Elvis seems of particular importance.

Their topic? "Extrasolar Asteroid Mining as Forensic Evidence For Extraterrestrial Intelligence."

Yup. You read that right. Forgan and Elvis are looking at mining tailings as possible evidence of high-tech cultures in space. Now, before you laugh too loudly, consider our own culture's mining waste. We have, after all, leveled whole mountains in search of coal, tar-sands and gold. Space-faring civilizations will likely be doing the same resource-harvesting in space. But things would get a whole lot messier in space.

Forgan and Elvis's basic premise rests with a fundamental problem of doing anything destructive in space. Debris doesn't just sit there. It spreads out as each pebble and dust grain goes wandering off on its own trajectory. That means, if you are chewing up asteroids to the tune of billions of tons a year (or much more) to harvest metals, you will also be left with dusty debris that spreads out to form a ring or disk.

Using infrared telescopes we can already observe such "debris disks." But these are associated with newly formed planetary systems (collisions between asteroids and planetary embryos are the source of the dust). Forgan and Elvis wanted to see if a debris disk formed by purposeful asteroid mining would be detectable and if its observed properties could point to exactly that purpose.

Their answer? Yes and No. As they put it:

For TAM to be detectable, it must be prolific and industrial-scale, producing a large amount of debris and disrupting the system significantly to be detected.

The big problem, they found, will be distinguishing between natural and asteroid-mining-debris disks. Detection was, however, theoretically possible. That's very cool. But whether Forgan and Elvis are right about the disks in particular is of less importance than what may be a broader point about technological civilizations.

Or, put another way, by their crap you shall know them!


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