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How Social Entrepreneurship Can Change the World

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How Social Entrepreneurship Can Change the World

Sean Gogolin is a graduating senior at Bowling Green State University. There he studies Environmental Policy & Analysis, and looks to further his education in earning an Masters in Public Policy after graduation. Prior to his involvement with EcoWatch, he worked with Sierra Club last summer in Washington, DC.

Social Entrepreneurship—a simple, productive concept, yet some how shrouded in ambiguity and a general lack of understanding. The practice can be defined as combining a social cause with a business savvy intuition—taking business techniques to pressing social issues. And the best part, social entrepreneurs can still generate profit. Unlike a cause group or non-profit, social entrepreneurs are not heavily bound by funding restrictions. The sky is in fact, the limit. With the success that TOMS and Warby Parker have seen, social entrepreneurship has proven to be successful when aptly applied. This brings me to environmentalism.

social entrepreneurship has proven to be successful when aptly applied. Photo credit: Shutterstock

One major flaw of the environmental movement is its inability to garner support from the private sector. In a world where environmental regulations are often pitted against business profits, imagine an economy where those two forces are working harmoniously. Social entrepreneurship offers that chance.

Bill Drayton, the father of social entrepreneurship defines the concept as “business with a cause.” In a world where developers and entrepreneurs possess more power than ever, we are thriving off of technological innovation. Instead of examining simply how to make money, leaders are devising ways to both make money and to serve the public. Simon Sinek, an English author best known for the development of the concept, “Start with Why” and the “golden circle,” argues that the working class is no longer fulfilled by their work because we no longer interact with, and help others. Sinek believes that the idea behind the business should not be to generate profits, but to capitalize on an idea. Apple has done this with its “Think Different” campaign—they think differently from other companies, but they happen to make great computers.

Moving forward, the environmental movement must look for new ways to incorporate these principles. The Millennials, as a generation, have a tremendous opportunity to do so. We must deconstruct the battle of environment vs. business, and create new business models with a “Why” reinforcing them. Combine the agility of business with the commitment of environmentalism—coming together to form sustainability driven social entrepreneurship practices.

This call to action by no means excuses the federal government, although it does seek to bypass its latency and gridlock. However, in a world where record-breaking droughts in the west, and brutal winters in the northeast have become the norm, we must look to our most powerful instruments to drive change and spur innovation.

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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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