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Are Dangerous Bomb Trains Rolling Through Your City?

Energy
Are Dangerous Bomb Trains Rolling Through Your City?

This week in Heimdal, North Dakota another "bomb train" derailed and exploded. These dangerous trains carrying crude-oil fracked in the Bakken Shale are rolling through the backyards of America, across rivers and streams and into major cities like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Albany, New York.

Our Video of the Week from documentary filmmaker Jon Bowermaster exposes the daily threat that many Americans are now living with as the oil and gas industry continues its desperate and dangerous expansion of extreme fossil fuel development in America.

You can see if dangerous bomb trains are rolling through your town here.

Lee's from Pittsburgh, so we looked them up first. Pittsburgh was the first city in the world to ban fracking and many of the most passionate fractivists on Earth come from Western Pennsylvania.

Pittsburgh has bomb trains coming in and out on all sides.

The red is 0.5 Mile U.S. Department of Transportation Evacuation Zone for Oil Train Derailments and the yellow is 1.0 Mile U.S. Department of Transportation Potential Impact Zone in Case of Oil Train Fire.

It's a terrifying map to look at.

We've been looking at a lot of maps recently. Maps of bomb train routes. Maps of proposed pipelines and other infrastructure projects like LNG ports and gas-fired power plants. Maps of fracking wells and areas where fracking earthquakes are popping up like crazy.

Looking at all these maps, We see each community that has been put on the fossil fuel chopping block and think about the people we know who are now forced to live their lives in these danger zones. Looking at map after map, we can also see the bigger picture of fossil fuel domination as it expands across our country, a dangerous web of pipelines and train tracks that connect fracking well pads to the rest of the world, threatening us all.

Seeing the bigger picture is a powerful thing. That's why were starting a new series on our blog: Map of the Week. Our first post has a bunch of startling maps that show how these bomb trains may be running right through your town.

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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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