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Senate Votes 98-1 That Climate Change Is Not a Hoax, But...

Climate
Senate Votes 98-1 That Climate Change Is Not a Hoax, But...

The Senate on Wednesday voted that “climate change is real and is not a hoax” in an amendment by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to the Keystone XL pipeline bill. The “hoax” amendment passed 98-1, with only Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker voting “no.”

"Today the Senate voted to approve my resolution stating that climate change is real and not a hoax," said Sen. Whitehouse. "This resolution marks a historic shift for many of my Republican colleagues. While a number of Republicans have long acknowledged that climate change is real, including Senator Graham who spoke once again today, many others either denied the science or refused to discuss it. I was glad to see almost every Republican, including Senator Inhofe, acknowledge the reality of climate change today, and I hope this means we can move on to discussing not just whether climate change is real, but what we should do about it."

The Senate’s leading climate denier, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), made it clear that though he believes climate change is not a hoax, he doesn’t believe humans are the primary driver. He said for the record that, "climate has always changed" and that it's "arrogant" to think humankind can change climate.

Watch here as Ed Schultz on MSNBC's The Ed Show, discusses Inhofe's position and talks with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT):

In a second vote yesterday, Republicans rejected an amendment from Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) that stated, “climate change is real and human activity significantly contributes to climate change.” The amendment was blocked in a 50-49 vote, short of the 60 that was needed for approval.

“Global warming is real, but the fact that are our highest governing body has just voted to deny humans are causing it is unreal,” said Environment America’s Anna Aurilio. “It’s dumbfounding that senate leaders are ignoring the truth on catastrophic climate change to push the agenda of big polluters. Americans are concerned about climate change and they want to do something about it. It’s staggering that so many senators are so out of touch with the environmental values we share across our country.”

Five Republican Senators broke party lines and voted for Sen. Schatz’s amendment, including Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), Lamar Alexander (Tennessee), Mark Kirk (Illinois), Susan Collins (Maine) and Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire).

“Today, the U.S. Senate voted on an amendment recognizing a simple scientific fact: human activity significantly contributes to climate change. The vote exposed 50 Senators who side with polluters over the health and welfare of the American people," said campaign director of Forecast the Facts, Brant Olson.

"Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that the earth is warming and human activity is the cause. There are no national or major scientific institutions anywhere in the world that dispute the causes of climate change. Nearly 200 institutions worldwide, including the U.S. Navy and the Pentagon, have issued public statements emphasizing the threats of man-made climate change. History will not look kindly upon those who voted to ignore the facts at a moment when we could be taking action, and neither will voters in 2016. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul just made their presidential bids a lot harder, and voters are not going to want a climate change denier in the Oval Office,” said Olson.

This vote comes on the heels of President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday where he said, “No challenge—no challenge—poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change. 2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does—14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.”

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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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