Bike Ride Begins to Build Resistance Against Keystone XL Pipeline
Renewable energy advocate Tom Weis kicked off a six-state tour of resistance against TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline proposal Oct. 13 by literally drawing a line in the sand at the US/Canada border. Over the next 10 weeks, Weis will pedal the 1,700-mile proposed pipeline route to amplify the voices of middle Americans fighting this foreign pipeline invasion.
Keystone XL threatens to contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer—the fresh drinking water supply of nearly 2 million people and source of one-third of America’s farmland irrigation water—by pumping up to 830,000 barrels a day of tar sands sludge from Alberta to oil refineries in Texas. Despite a corrupt environmental review process, the Obama White House is inclined to approve TransCanada’s presidential permit on national interest grounds, with a decision expected before the end of the year.
Weis was one of 1,253 people arrested outside the White House this summer for protesting against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. He is now headed to the front lines of this impending confrontation in support of the farmers, ranchers and tribal communities in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas who are defying TransCanada.
A recent study by Cornell University concluded that Keystone XL may destroy more jobs than it creates. TransCanada’s pipeline is also projected to raise gasoline and diesel fuel prices in the Midwest by 10 to 20 cents per gallon.
“Letting a foreign corporation use eminent domain to ram a toxic tar sands pipeline through America’s breadbasket is not in our national interest,” Weis said. Likening the protests against Keystone XL to the growing Wall Street protests, he said, “We’re seeing the American people rise up against corporate interests that are running our democracy into the ground.”
Earth Policy Institute President Lester Brown stated, “One of the gravest climate threats to a world already on the edge is the exploitation of Alberta’s tar sands. One of the bravest responses is Tom Weis’ six-state heartland ride to block Keystone XL.”
“President Obama is either with the American people on this or he’s with the oil lobby,” Weis concluded. “It’s choice time.”
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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.
"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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In 'Road Map for a More Sustainable Future,' NY Regulator Tells Banks to Consider Climate Risks in Planning
By Brett Wilkins
Regulators in New York state announced Thursday that banks and other financial services companies are expected to plan and prepare for risks posed by the climate crisis.
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A NASA spacecraft has successfully collected a sample from the Bennu asteroid more than 200 million miles away from Earth. The samples were safely stored and will be preserved for scientists to study after the spacecraft drops them over the Utah desert in 2023, according to the Associated Press (AP).
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