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Prince William Officially Launches Earthshot, the Nobel of Environmental Prizes

Climate
Prince William Officially Launches Earthshot, the Nobel of Environmental Prizes
Britain's Prince William officially announced the launch of a $65 million-dollar prize to solve some of the climate crisis' most urgent challenges. WPA Pool / Pool / Getty Images

Britain's Prince William officially announced the launch of a $65 million-dollar prize to solve some of the climate crisis' most urgent challenges, CNN reported.


Thursday's news added details to Prince William's original announcement of the Earthshot prize at the end of 2019, including the prize amount.

Starting in 2021, the Earthshot will award five prizes worth $1.3 million every year for the next decade. The prize's five "earthshot" categories cover protecting and restoring nature, improving air quality, reviving oceans, reducing waste and addressing climate change, CNN reported.

Prince William, who is second in line to the throne, said the prizes are available to anyone in the world with a creative solution in the aforementioned categories. Earthshot's website shares that the prize is open to "scientists, activists, economists, community projects, leaders, governments, banks, businesses, cities, and countries."

"There are wonderful people doing incredible things around the world, all within small communities everywhere," Prince William told CNN. "If one of them might have an amazing idea, we can scale that up, we can use that to really tackle some issues."

Prince William told BBC that he would like to continue his father's legacy of campaigning for environmental issues. "I feel right now it's my responsibility," he said.

While the formal announcement of the Earthshot prize came Thursday, Prince William has been developing it for the past two years. He and the Earthshot Prize Council will pick the winners.

The Earthshot Prize Council includes Sir David Attenborough, Chinese businessman Jack Ma, soccer player Dani Alves, Queen Rania of Jordan, Cate Blanchett and Shakira, among others, according to the Earthshot Prize Council webpage.

The Earthshot prize is funded by various individuals and organizations, including the WWF, Greenpeace, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and the Aga Khan Development Network, CNBC reported.

Nominations open on November 1.

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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