It's So Hot in LA That Even 'All-Weather' Fields Are Melting
Extreme heat this summer has led to roads and shoes melting and now "all-weather" fields too. Five high schools with all-weather fields in Los Angeles are being forced to replace their fields because they keep melting. The turf is being replaced because of "defective materials," an LA district official told The Los Angeles Times, but California's record heat certainly has not helped.
Five LAUSD high schools are forced to replace melting all-weather fields http://t.co/YwrTHgP0J2
— eric sondheimer (@latsondheimer) August 31, 2015
Synthetic turf has become very popular in the last decade as a way to save money in water and maintenance costs, but installation costs can be very high—nearly $2 million, according to The Los Angeles Times. Not only are the installation costs high, but parents and school officials have also raised concerns about the health impacts of synthetic turf on children, including the risk of cancer. In response to these concerns, LA schools are phasing out materials from recycled tires on its turf fields.
The pellets used in this instance were a type of plastic known as TPE, which were supposed to withstand heat up to 180 degrees, but in tests had melted at 140 degrees. LA hasn't seen air temperatures get quite that high, but "synthetic fields absorb heat, resulting in surface temperatures much higher than measured in the surrounding air," explains The LA Times.
"Pellets were melting big time," said former football coach Jim McElroy at Diego Rivera high school. "It looked like a bunch of gum all over the place."
It's going to cost between $500,000 and $800,000 to replace the synthetic fields, for which the school district hopes to be reimbursed by the manufacturers. The school district told The LA Times it plans to continue to use the synthetic turf because "it has partners willing to share the cost and upkeep" and "more games can be played on synthetic fields than grass fields, which can be quickly worn out by weather and use."
It's not just LA, either. Record heat is scorching high school fields around the country. One Texas high school athlete's cleats (pictured in the Tweet above) melted during practice a few weeks ago in the Lone Star state. And people from around the country have been complaining on Twitter that it's so hot, they feel like their shoes are about to melt.
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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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