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Australian Prime Minister Ousted Over Climate Policy

Politics

Conservative lawmaker Scott Morrison has forced out Malcolm Turnbull as Australian prime minister, the third time the country's leader has sunk over climate policy in the past decade, and the seventh since 1997, according to Australia's ABC News.

An internal Liberal party row started when Turnbull proposed modest emissions targets for the country's energy sector. He dropped the plans Monday after pressure from the party's right-wing faction, but that led to a narrowly defeated leadership challenge from Peter Dutton on Tuesday, then a final ousting from Morrison on Friday.


The former prime minister said Friday at a press conference that climate change has become an ideological matter for the Liberal-National coalition government.

"I think the truth is that the coalition finds it very hard to get agreement on anything to do with emissions," Turnbull said, as quoted by Climate Change News.

Australia is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, with relentless drought, deadly wildfires and devastating bleaching at the iconic Great Barrier Reef. At the same time, Australia is one of the world's largest coal exporters, accounting for 37 percent of global exports.

"Emissions issues and climate policy issues have the same problem within the coalition of bitterly entrenched views that are more ideological views than views based, as I say, on engineering and economics," Turnbull continued. "As for what the future holds in terms of energy policy, again you'll have to talk to Scott about that."

Morrison, Turnbull's former treasurer, pledged Friday to "heal our party." As the new prime minister, he has placed Australia's "economic and national security" and the nation's epic drought as major priorities, calling it "our most urgent and pressing need right now," the Guardian reported.

The new deputy Josh Frydenberg was the former environment and energy minster and developed the Turnbull government's climate policy.

However, Morrison once famously brought a lump of coal to the Australian parliament in 2017 and listed its benefits to the economy.

"This is coal, it was dug up by men and women who work and live in the electorates of those who sit opposite," Morrison roared. "There is no word for coal-phobia technically, Mr. Speaker, but it is that malady that affects those opposite [Labor], and it is that malady that is affecting the towns and jobs and, indeed, this country, because of their pathological, ideological opposition to coal being an important part of our sustainable and more certain energy future."

Australia's coal industry was pleased with the election results.

"Scott Morrison knows what makes regional Queensland tick, and he understands the importance of our most valuable industries—like resources," Queensland Resources Council CEO Ian Macfarlane said, published on the website World Coal. "In recent times, we've seen him make several visits to some of our resources heartlands in Central and North Queensland. And we know he's a fan of the coal industry, which he proved on the floor of Parliament."

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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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