British Queen Praises Young Climate Activists in Christmas Speech
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II praised young climate change activists during her Christmas speech broadcast Wednesday.
"The challenges many people face today may be different to those once faced by my generation, but I have been struck by how new generations have brought a similar sense of purpose to issues such as protecting our environment and our climate," the queen said.
Her words followed a discussion of the 75th anniversary of D-Day celebrated this June.
"I well remember the look of concern on my father's face. He knew the secret D-Day plans but could of course share that burden with no one," she recalled. The queen was a teenager during World War II and, after she turned 18 in 1944, she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service, a women's auxiliary branch of the army, according to TIME. She was the first female member of the royal family to be "a full-time active member in the women's service," The Associated Press reported at the time.
2019 has been a big year for the youth climate movement. "Climate strike" won Collins Dictionary's Word of the Year and Greta Thunberg, who helped launch the movement when she began a one-student strike in front of Swedish parliament in August 2018, was chosen as TIME Magazine's Person of the Year. In September, a week of global climate strikes drew more than seven million participants, making the week one of the largest global protests in history.
The British queen's praise for the young activists contrasts with the responses of other world leaders. U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly mocked Thunberg, most recently lashing out when she won Person of the Year, HuffPost reported.
"So ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!" he tweeted at the time.
Brazil's right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro called Thunberg a "brat" earlier this month, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison criticized climate strikers for skipping school in November of last year. Former UK Prime Minister Theresa May also argued that young activists should stay in school, The Independent reported in February.
Her son Prince Charles has also championed environmental causes for decades despite mockery from the tabloid press, Reuters reported.
The theme of the queen's Christmas speech was "small steps." It began with a reference to the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing and Neil Armstrong's famous comment that he was taking a small step for man and a giant leap for mankind.
"It's worth remembering that it is often the small steps, not the giant leaps, that bring about the most lasting change," the queen concluded.
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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