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Facebook to Power Data Center With Wind

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Facebook to Power Data Center With Wind

The world's largest social network has joined the likes of Google and Apple as the latest tech company to use renewable energy to power a data center.

Facebook announced today that its Altoona, IA data center will be fully powered by wind by early 2015 when construction is complete and the center is operational. The power will come from a 138 megawatt wind farm in Wellsburg, IA to be built by MidAmerican Energy in 2014.

The company, which has more than 1 billion users, said the wind farm will offer more than enough capacity to power the Iowa data center, which will be Facebook's fourth.

The under-construction site of Facebook's new data center, to open in 2015. Photo credit: Facebook

"Since our Altoona data center will be based on the latest Open Compute Project designs, we expect that it will join our data centers in Oregon, North Carolina, and Sweden as some of the most advanced, efficient and sustainable data centers in the world," the company wrote in its announcement. 

The company transferred the energy rights from RPM Access to MidAmerican earlier this year. Though RPM is closer to Altoona, MidAmerican was already the local utility for the area.

A rendering of the anticipated view of the wind farm that will power Facebook's Iowa data center when construction is complete. Photo credit: Facebook

"The project brings additional investment and jobs to the region, and in effect it makes it possible, on an annualized basis, for 100 percent of our energy needs to be met entirely with one of Iowa’s most abundant renewable resources. We are committed to reaching 25 percent clean and renewable energy in our global data center mix in 2015, and we will continue to work with utilities and other partners on supply options for our other data centers."

MidAmerican in May said it planned on adding 1,050 MW of wind generation in Iowa by the end of 2015. It added 407 MW to its portfolio in 2012.

Visit EcoWatch’s SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS page for more related news on this topic.

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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