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Thousands of Australian Students Strike Over Climate Change Inaction

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Thousands of Australian Students Strike Over Climate Change Inaction
Australian students gather in Sydney as part of a national school strike for climate action. SAEED KHAN / AFP / Getty Images

Thousands of Australian students defied their country's Prime Minister Friday when they walked out of school to protest insufficient government action on climate change.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had criticized the planned School Strike 4 Climate Action protests on Monday.


"Each day I send my kids to school and I know other members' kids should also go to school but we do not support our schools being turned into parliaments," Morrison said, The Guardian reported. "What we want is more learning in schools and less activism in schools."

But the students showed Morrison exactly what they thought of his opinion, both by gathering in Australia's capital cities and 20 regional centers en masse on Friday, as The Guardian further reported, and by responding directly in some of their signs.

"Why should we go to school if you won't listen to the educated?" one sign shared by Environment Victoria on Twitter read.

Organizers told The Sydney Morning Herald that Morrison's words actually brought more students out into the streets.

"Numbers through the website since Monday have almost doubled," one campaigner said. "Sign-ups have grown significantly. We have had a flood of media."

Trent, a parent of an eight-year-old protester interviewed by Australia's ABC, said the students' education was actually driving their activism.

"I heard students today at the rally talking about the IPCC report, talking about the 700 odd days until emissions can peak before we exceed 1.5 degrees," he said. "These are kids that actually understand the science in a way that I think most of parliamentarians don't."

The students want the government to stop investing in fossil fuel projects like the controversial Adani coal mine and move towards 100 percent renewable energy.

The Australian government, however, has said it will continue to exploit its coal reserves even after the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report called on world leaders to phase out coal by 2050 in order to keep warming to only 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Morrison has said Australia will meet its pledge under the Paris agreement to lower greenhouse gas emissions to 28 percent of 2005 levels by 2030, but the most recent IPCC report found global emissions must actually fall to 45 percent of 2010 levels by that date. The most recent UN Emissions Gap Report found that Australia had made no improvements to its climate policy since last year, BBC News reported.

The Australian students were inspired by Swedish student Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old activist who launched a similar protest movement in her country. Thunberg, in turn, took to Twitter to wish the Australian students well.

The Australian movement was spearheaded by two 14-year-olds in the state of Victoria, Milou Albrect and Harriet O'Shea Carre.

"The climate change emergency is something we have been thinking about for a long time," O'Shea Carre told BBC News. "We wrote letters and did different things but they never seemed to make a difference. Really, education, is our only power. By sacrificing that [on Friday], it's making a big point."

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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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