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And the World's Greenest Car Is ...

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And the World's Greenest Car Is ...

There's a reason why this plug-in hybrid is described as "the most progressive sports car." The BMW i8 was presented with the 2015 World Green Car Award at the New York International Auto Show, repeating the automaker's win last year with their purely electric BMW i3.

The BMW i8 has been presented with this year's World Green Car Award. The futuristic sports car is the first plug-in hybrid vehicle manufactured by the German automaker. Photo Credit: BMW

The international jury recognized the car for its plug-in hybrid drive technology, its lightweight construction as well as its avant-garde design.

With its scissor doors, low ground clearance and (optional) laser headlights, the i8 is every bit the futuristic Hot Wheel. The car claims to go from 0 to 60 in about 4.5 seconds, achieves more than 56 mpg for everyday commuting when the battery is fully charged and has an overall fuel consumption that's about 50 percent better than conventionally powered sports cars.

At a starting price of $135,700, the luxury vehicle is not for everyone. To satisfy the eco-minded driver, the i8's battery can be charged at a conventional power outlet, at a charging station or while driving.

The car has three different driving modes: its default setting will determine the most efficient balance between fuel and electric power; sport mode combines fuel and power for the best performance; and its eDrive mode goes on electric power alone for up to 22 miles. Chris Knapman of the UK's Telegraph Cars noted in a review that when driving the car with battery power exclusively, the i8 releases 49g/km (about 0.17lbs/m) in CO2 emissions. "Despite all of its technology, the i8 is as user-friendly as a Toyota Prius," Knapman noted.

The i8 can be charged with a BMW i Wallbox Pure or Pro, which can be mounted on the house or garage wall. With the Wallbox Pro, the BMW i8 can be charged to 80 percent of its full capacity in less than two hours. Photo Credit: BMW

According to a press release, to qualify for the World Green Car Award, the vehicle had to be all-new or substantially revised and at least 10 units had to be sold or leased in a major market between Jan. 1, 2014 and May 31, 2015. Also taken into consideration were tailpipe emissions, fuel consumption and use of a major advanced power plant technology aimed specifically at increasing the vehicle's environmental responsibility.

Because of the complex nature of "green" technologies, five experts from around the world were tasked with extensively reviewing all documentation and specs with each green car award candidate. Seventy-five World Car Awards jurors then voted for the best green car based on the experts' recommendations.

"The BMW i8 gasoline hybrid looks so cool, it should be the icon for all 'green' cars," one of the experts said of the machine. "The i8 adds so much enjoyment to a sensible lifestyle that it needs to be recognized as a great green car."

The BMW i8 was chosen from an initial entry list of 10 new vehicles from all over the world. A short list of this year's finalists also included the Mercedes-Benz S 500 Plug-In Hybrid and the Volkswagen Golf GTE.

“I am delighted to accept this award on behalf of the team in Munich," said Dr. Ian Robertson, head of Sales and Marketing and member of the Board of Management at BMW. “The BMW i8 represents the future with its unique lightweight construction and unrivaled connectivity. To win this award for the second year in a row shows that our BMW products are truly leading the world.”

Check out how this modern yet sustainable sports car moves:

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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