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New Buycott App Makes Voting with Your Dollar Easier Than Ever

Climate
New Buycott App Makes Voting with Your Dollar Easier Than Ever

EcoWatch

Voting with your dollar has never been easier.

"Have you ever wondered whether the money you spend ends up funding causes you oppose?" Thanks to the new Buycott app, you can organize your consumer spending to support causes you care about, and oppose those that you don't—all by using your smart phone.

The program encourages you to join campaigns organized around goals that you share and issues you care about, then commit to actively supporting the companies on your side of the issue, while avoiding those that oppose your position, according to the developer's website. Buycott offers a variety of contact data for companies and brands, so you can easily inform them of your decision to support or avoid their products.

Using the app, consumers can scan the barcode of any product and Buycott will show the ownership structure of that product, tracing it all the way back to its parent company with an interactive family tree diagram. It will then cross-check the product owners against the companies and brands included in the campaigns you've joined, in order to tell you if the scanned product conflicts with one of your campaign commitments.

For example, if you belong to the Demand GMO Labeling campaign on Buycott, when you scan the items in your grocery cart, it will tell you whether those products were made by one of the 36 corporations that donated more than $150,000 to oppose the mandatory labeling of genetically modified food.

Users can also create new campaigns through Buycott's website. Each campaign must have a goal and a list of companies that it aims to either support or avoid (buycott or boycott).

According to the website, while Buycott has a rich knowledge base of corporations and products, if you scan a barcode that the app doesn't recognize, it will seek information on what it is and who owns it. If it can't determine the owner of the product, it will ask you for help in identifying the product name, brand name and company name. Users will also be able to add contact and background information for existing companies and vote on the accuracy of information that's already been added. The most active users will have the ability contribute more types of data to the Buycott database.

Buycott was featured yesterday in an article on Forbes, explaining that the app is the work of Ivan Pardo, a 26-year-old freelance programmer based in Los Angeles, who spent the last 16 months developing Buycott.

“I don’t want to push any single point of view with the app,” said Pardo in the article. “For me, it was critical to allow users to create campaigns because I don’t think its Buycott’s role to tell people what to buy. We simply want to provide a platform that empowers consumers to make well-informed purchasing decisions.”

Buycott provides some timely and much-needed information to consumers who understand what it means to vote with their dollar.

The mobile application Buycott is now available to download onto iPhone, iPad and Android phones through iTunes and Google Play, respectively.

 

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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.

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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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