The most dangerous WiFi device: $22,000 sniper rifle that aims itself.


If there’s one thing that is comforting about the existence of sniper rifles that can pick off a target from a great distance away, it’s that a human has to operate it. A human, with all our flaws, all of our weaknesses, precise physical requirements, and questionable attention span, is the thing that has to point and shoot the gun. Humans aren’t perfect, which is a comforting thought when you find yourself being hunted by one, but what if the human that just thrust you into his own version of The Most Dangerous Game employed the help of a WiFi-enabled sniper rile that can aim itself and livestream the results?

Developed by Tracking Point, the gun can aim up to 1,200 yards away, which is more than half a mile away. The gun comes equipped with a laser range finder, wind speed sensors, ballistics computer, unit to measure inertia, a compass, and a networked tracking engine. Similarly to a standard gun, Tracking Point’s rifle is a simple point-and-click interface, except this gun doesn’t allow you to click unless you’re pointing the right way. That means you won’t miss your target, conveniently glancing off some nearby tin cans, alerting your victim to your presence. Instead, the gun will just shoot when it knows you’ll hit your mark.

The user just has to point the gun’s laser at the target, and it’ll shoot when the laser hits the mark.

The gun actually streams the action to an iPad Mini — which comes packaged with the gun — so, presumably, you can bring your kills into the digital age, and perhaps even get some Likes on Facebook.

TrackingPoint refers to the rifle as a PGF, a precision-guided firearm. Considering the gun won’t let you make a bad shot — which in turn provides something of a safe of trial-and-error method that amateurs could use — the rifle is password-protected in order to provide some amount of safety. The password doesn’t prevent the gun from shooting, so any trained marksman could still nail a distant deer, but the password would prevent an unskilled shooter from suddenly having a gun that can aim at you over a mile away.

The first batch of TrackingPoint’s PGFs were recently delivered to early-adopting customers, so you can now being living in fear that someone who can barely hold a gun can shoot the phone out of your hand from half a mile away.




Captured in silken netting and sticky hairs.

The great ecological success of spiders is often substantiated by the evolution of silk and webs. Biologists of the Kiel University and the University of Bern now found an alternative adaptation to hunting prey: hairy adhesive pads, so called scopulae. The scientists published their results in the May issue of the scientific journal PLoS One.
“More than half of all described spider species have abandoned building webs. They seize their prey directly and have to be able to hold and control the struggling prey without getting hurt themselves”, explains Jonas Wolff, PhD student in the working group ‘Functional Morphology and Biomechanics’. But how do these spiders manage to capture their prey, Wolff and his coworkers Professor Stanislav Gorb, Kiel, and Professor Wolfgang Nentwig, Bern, wondered. In order to find out, they turned their attention to the hairy pads, that grow on the legs of hunting spiders. These pads consist of specialized hairs (setae), which split into numerous branches. With these the setae can cling to surfaces very closely, which is necessary to exploit intermolecular adhesive forces.

„Until now, scientists assumed that the spiders mainly use those sticky pads for climbing on smooth surfaces. The earlier hypothesis that the adhesive pads are important for prey retention received scant attention. Our results show, that abandon web building occurred independently for several times. Interestingly, it was often accompanied by the evolution of similar adhesive pads. Specialized foot pads, which enable the spider to climb steep smooth surfaces such as window panes, are further developments derived from the prey capture apparatus”, Wolff explains. “These results give us entirely new insights on the evolution of spiders.”

Original publication:
Wolff, J. O., Nentwig, W. and Gorb, S. N. The great silk alternative: Multiple co-evolution of web loss and sticky hairs in spiders. PLoS ONE, In Press.

Apologize and Benefit from These 3 Positive Effects.


If I could go back in time to visit my younger self, I’d scold him for hours. I was a jerk in elementary school. I was a kid with too much ego and too much praises from those around me. Unfortunately, I didn’t see I was dealing with other people’s feelings.

There was a person that I often picked on as a child. He was the new kid and I still remember his first day

The poor guy sat at the table where my friends and I were and he tried to introduce himself, hoping to make some new friends. I reached for his paper and ripped it up. We were only five years old.

Another memory that I am not so proud of was when my friends and I chased him around school. I think we were trying to beat him up. He was screaming my teacher’s name and she laughed it off because she thought we were just playing a game.

If I recall correctly, we did some pretty awful things to him and they weren’t in jest either. I don’t know where that guy is, but I really want to apologize and give him a hug. I hope he turned out ok.

Right now, I’m looking for him on Facebook. I do this every year at least once, not out of guilt, but because it’s the right thing to do. Maybe it’ll make his day to receive an apology from one of his former tormentors.

There are other people I want to apologize to as well. Actually, there have been a handful of people I’ve apologized to after a long time has passed.

For example, I used to be very close friends with a girl that one of my closest friends was dating. She and I were like brothers and sisters, but she had her flaws that often got under my skin. We got in an argument over something stupid and I regrettably called her “stupid.”

I didn’t say those exact words, but I definitely alluded to it.

She was heartbroken because I was her friend and this cut deep. We stopped talking for over a year because of that one argument. Understandably, she didn’t invite me to her graduation.

Then this past year, she re-added me on Facebook after she had deleted. I saw her online and so I initiated contact.

I told her I was sorry I had ruined our friendship and she told me “It’s never too late to apologize.” That was all.

Even though we weren’t as close anymore, I am very glad I apologized. Maybe she has a lot of things that are ruining her contentment. There’s a possibility that my small gesture and pride swallowing made a difference in her life.

Perhaps it gave her a huge smile.

It really is never too late to apologize. For me, the most difficult part of the process is swallowing my pride, regardless of whose “fault” it is.

I have a huge ego and that much is obvious to me. Saying “I’m sorry,” isn’t an easy task. Although it is difficult, I know it can mean a lot.

There are many positive effects that the act of apologizing can have.

1. An apology shows you’re thinking of them

People often feel invisible, forgotten, and alone. Just the simple act of apologizing can be a gift for the other person. They feel like they are seen and that someone at least cares how they feel.

It also shows how much you’ve grown since the infliction of the injury. Swallowing your pride can be difficult if you’re someone like me. Most people don’t apologize, so don’t be most people.

Show them they are not forgotten. Show them that you are sorry for what you’ve done.

2. You can rebuild a broken friendship

This may not have been the case for the friend I apologized to, but there’s the chance of rebuilding a broken friend through an apology. Be mindful that this takes effort from you and the other person.

It’s terrible to lose a true friend. What’s even worse is if it’s over something incredibly small. The potential memories and happiness you two could have given each other, all erased.

It won’t be the same for a while, but if both parties put in the effort, the friendship can be nurtured back to health and perhaps even become stronger than ever before

Fix it because it is never too late to apologize and make amends.

3. Allows you to reflect upon your growth

A lot of people think of apologizing as weak and foolish. It’s something best left to the movies or to a pushover.

Those people would be wrong.

I used to think exactly like that too so I completely understand, but I’ve changed. If you go from the previously mentioned school of thought to one that’s accepting of vulnerability, you are able to see how far you’ve come and how much you’ve grown as a person.

It takes a lot to be able to say, “I’m sorry.” Prove to yourself how powerful you are and say it with sincerity.

Source: Purpose fairy

Researchers build curved insect-sized artificial compound eye.

A team of European researchers working at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland has created an artificial compound eye that is comparable to those in insects such as the fruit fly. In their paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team describes how they overcame the problem of accurately aligning photoreceptors and other optical components on a curved surface by using stacked layers of microelectronics.

Vision in humans is achieved by two single-lens eyes and works well for fine discrimination of objects. Most other members of the animal kingdom, however, rely on compound eyes—where each eye has multiple lenses. Such eyes don’t provide the degree of clarity of single-lens eyes, but they do offer a larger field of view and quick response times to movement. Scientists looking to replicate the nearly instant response times of flies and other insects as well as their ability to see most of the world around them (without having to turn their heads) have been trying to create artificial compound eyes. While there has been much progress made by many researchers in this area, there have remained two sticking points: creating the eyes of the right size and with an accurate wrapping design. In this new effort, the Swiss team appears to have made significant progress in both areas.

In insects, the eye surface is made up of a mosaic of very small optical units known collectively as the ommatidia. To create a tiny artificial compound eye, the researchers set out to duplicate the ommatidia of fruit flies and other arthropod species. Their version consists of three layers: an outer layer of lenses, a middle layer of light sensors, and an inner layer circuit board made flexible by using a stacked cut design. The result, which the team calls the CurvACE, is an artificial compound eye with a 180 degree field of view and that is small enough to sit on a nickel.

The CurvACE operates at 150 frames per second and is able to operate in either high- or low-light environments. The next step for researchers will be embedding the eye (likely as a pair) in tiny flying robots. The team notes that their new technology may have other applications as well. They suggest “smart clothes” as one example, which could change shape as a person moves to improve comfort. Another potential application would be as security sensors or even as a means for providing texture recognition for artificial skin.

In most animal species, vision is mediated by compound eyes, which offer lower resolution than vertebrate single-lens eyes, but significantly larger fields of view with negligible distortion and spherical aberration, as well as high temporal resolution in a tiny package. Compound eyes are ideally suited for fast panoramic motion perception. Engineering a miniature artificial compound eye is challenging because it requires accurate alignment of photoreceptive and optical components on a curved surface. Here, we describe a unique design method for biomimetic compound eyes featuring a panoramic, undistorted field of view in a very thin package. The design consists of three planar layers of separately produced arrays, namely, a microlens array, a neuromorphic photodetector array, and a flexible printed circuit board that are stacked, cut, and curved to produce a mechanically flexible imager. Following this method, we have prototyped and characterized an artificial compound eye bearing a hemispherical field of view with embedded and programmable low-power signal processing, high temporal resolution, and local adaptation to illumination. The prototyped artificial compound eye possesses several characteristics similar to the eye of the fruit fly Drosophila and other arthropod species. This design method opens up additional vistas for a broad range of applications in which wide field motion detection is at a premium, such as collision-free navigation of terrestrial and aerospace vehicles, and for the experimental testing of insect vision theories.


Project page:




Foods That Power Up Your Spring.

Story at-a-glance

  • The foods you eat can make or break your energy levels, which is why overhauling your diet can lead to profound changes in your quality of life.
  • Artichokes, spinach, asparagus, walnuts, eggs, wild salmon, berries and garlic are examples of foods that can help you to optimize your physical and mental health.
  • Four bonus superfoods – sprouts, fermented vegetables, bone broth and coconut oil – are also discussed

Spring is naturally a season of new beginnings, making it an ideal time to make healthful changes to your lifestyle.

Your diet is a prime place to start, as about 80 percent of your ability to reduce excess body fat is determined by what you eat. But even beyond weight loss, the foods you eat can make or break your energy levels, which is why overhauling your diet can lead to profound changes in your quality of life.

Do you want to spring out of bed in the morning charged up about the day that is about to unfold? Are you longing for the seemingly endless energy you had as a child?

The nine foods that follow are among the best to help you achieve these goals and, even more so, may help you gain improved mood, focus and performance in virtually all aspects of your life.1

9 Foods to “Power Up” Your Life

1. Artichokes

These often-overlooked vegetables are rich in magnesium, a mineral found in more than 300 different enzymes in your body, which are responsible for:

Creation of ATP (adenosine triphospate), the energy molecules of your body Proper formation of bones and teeth Relaxation of blood vessels
Action of your heart muscle Promotion of proper bowel function Regulation of blood sugar levels

An estimated 80 percent of Americans is deficient in this important mineral, making magnesium-rich artichokes a veritable superfood. Additionally, artichokes are loaded with antioxidants. Out of over 100 foods tested, artichokes ranked fourth and were found to contain more antioxidants per serving than even blueberries, spinach and broccoli.2

2. Spinach

Spinach not only contains iron, which plays an essential role in energy, but also contains compounds that increase the efficiency of mitochondria, which are like little ‘powerhouses’ in your cells that supply most of your energy. Spinach is also rich in many other vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function, including niacin, zinc, fiber, vitamins A, C, E and K, thiamin, B6, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium and more.

3. Walnuts

Walnuts are a good source of tryptophan, an amino acid necessary for your body’s production of the feel-good chemical serotonin. Walnuts are also good sources of plant-based omega-3 fats, natural phytosterols and antioxidants, and may help reduce not only the risk of prostate cancer, but breast cancer as well. Be sure and soak your nuts, though, as that will help decrease the phytic acid and other “anti-nutrients,” which will limit their nutritional value.

4. Asparagus

As a rich source of folate, a B vitamin that helps your body make dopamine, serotonin and norephinephrine, asparagus is a “feel-good” veggie that may support your mood. Asparagus is also high in glutathione, an important anti-carcinogen, and contains rutin, which protects small blood vessels from rupturing and may protect against radiation. Asparagus is also a good source of vitamins A, C and E, B-complex vitamins, potassium and zinc.

5. Wild Salmon

Salmon contains omega-3 fats like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which may help protect your skin from UV-induced damage, helping to protect against wrinkles and sagging, as well as give your skin added hydration. Along with helping your skin, research suggests that eating oily fish once or twice a week may increase your lifespan by more than two years, and reduce your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 35 percent.3

If you want to maximize the health benefits from fish, you want to steer clear of farmed fish, particularly farmed salmon, and even more specifically genetically engineered farmed salmon. Unfortunately, as much as 70 to 80 percent of the fish marked “wild” is actually farmed. This includes restaurants, where 90-95 percent of salmon is farmed, yet may be inaccurately listed on the menu as “wild.”

So how can you tell whether a salmon is wild or farm-raised? The flesh of wild sockeye salmon is bright red, courtesy of its natural astaxanthin content. It’s also very lean, so the fat marks, those white stripes you see in the meat, are very thin. If the fish is pale pink with wide fat marks, the salmon is farmed. Avoid Atlantic salmon, as typically salmon labeled “Atlantic Salmon” currently comes from fish farms.

The two designations you want to look for are: “Alaskan salmon,” and “sockeye salmon,” as Alaskan sockeye is not allowed to be farmed. So canned salmon labeled “Alaskan Salmon” is a good bet, and if you find sockeye salmon, it’s bound to be wild. Again, you can tell sockeye salmon from other salmon by its color; its flesh is bright red opposed to pink, courtesy of its superior astaxanthin content. Sockeye salmon actually has one of the highest concentrations of the antioxidant astaxanthin of any food.

6. Strawberries

The antioxidants in strawberries can also help your skin repair damage caused by pollution and UV rays. Along with high amounts of vitamin C, which has been found to help lessen wrinkles and skin dryness, strawberries contain flavonoids known as anthocyanins, which are antioxidants that give the fruits their red color. Anthocyanins are known to benefit the endothelial lining of the circulatory system, possibly preventing plaque buildup in arteries as well as promoting healthy blood pressure.

Due to its fructose content, fruit should be consumed in moderation, especially if you’re overweight or have heart disease, cancer or type 2 diabetes.

7. Eggs

Eggs are one of the best dietary sources of choline. Choline helps keep your cell membranes functioning properly, plays a role in nerve communications, prevents the buildup of homocysteine in your blood (elevated levels are linked to heart disease) and reduces chronic inflammation. Choline is also needed for your body to make the brain chemical acetylcholine, which is involved in storing memories. In pregnant women, choline plays an equally, if not more, important role, helping to prevent certain birth defects, such as spina bifida, and playing a role in brain development.

8. Blueberries

Wild blueberries are high in anthocyanin and other antioxidants, and are known to guard against Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases. Blueberries improved learning capacity and motor skills among aged rats in animal studies. Berries of all sorts are also excellent sources of vitamin C, carotenes, zinc, potassium, iron, calcium and magnesium; they’re high in fiber and low in sugar.

9. Spring Garlic

Spring garlic, which is milder and sweeter than garlic grown later in the season, is a wonderful superfood to include in your diet. The component of garlic, allicin, which causes the familiar strong smell and flavor, is actually an extremely effective antioxidant. As allicin digests in your body it produces sulfenic acid, a compound that reacts faster with dangerous free radicals than any other known compound. It may also stimulate satiety in your brain, helping to keep you from overeating.

The best way to eat garlic is to take a whole, fresh clove, chop it, smash it or press it, wait a few minutes for the conversion to occur, and then eat it. If you use jarred, powdered, or dried garlic, you won’t get all the benefits fresh garlic has to offer.

Four Bonus Superfoods to Include in Your Diet

If you’re interested in revamping your diet to one that will support optimal physical, mental and emotional health, mynutrition plan is a powerful place to start. I have simplified the plan into three phases: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. Success comes in steps, and this program is designed to allow you to make your journey to optimal health in a step-by-step manner.

With this plan, you’ll learn how to use whole foods to your body’s advantage, using sometimes ancient culinary traditions to help you stay healthy in the modern world. Along these lines, here are four “traditional” superfoods that are often overlooked, yet deserve to be a part of virtually everyone’s diet:

  1. Sprouts: Sprouts are another superfood that can contain up to 100 times more enzymes than raw fruits and vegetables, which allows you to get more nutrition from the foods you eat. When seeds are sprouted, often the protein and fiber content increases, as does the content of vitamins and essential fatty acids. Minerals such as calcium and magnesium also become more bioavailable.

Sprouts are incredibly easy and inexpensive to grow at home, making them a nutritional powerhouse that virtually everyone can enjoy. I used to grow sprouts in Ball jars over 10 years ago but now I am strongly convinced that growing them in soil is far easier and produces far more nutritious and abundant food. It is also less time consuming. I am in the process of compiling detailed videos to explain this process for future articles but you can see some of my preliminary sprouting photos now.

I plan on providing a very comprehensive detailed step-by-step guide on how to sprout later this year. There are so many details to get in a row and optimize that I want to make sure I give you the best instructions possible. So I’m doing loads of testing right now to get it right.

  1. Fermented vegetables: Almost everyone has damaged gut flora these days, unless you’re part of the minority that eats a strict organic whole foods diet and avoids antibiotics. Fermented vegetables are one of the most palatable fermented foods that can provide you with a robust dose of beneficial bacteria, which are critically important for optimal physical and mental health. Additionally, fermented foods are very potent detoxifiers, capable of drawing out a wide range of toxins and heavy metals, including some pesticides.
  2. Bone broth: Simmering leftover bones over low heat for an entire day will create one of the most nutritious and healing foods there is. You can use this broth for soups, stews, or drink it straight. The “skin” that forms on the top is the best part. It contains valuable nutrients, such as sulfur, along with healthful fats, so just stir it back into the broth.
  3. Coconut oil: Fifty percent of the fat content in coconut oil is a fat rarely found in nature called lauric acid that your body converts into monolaurin, which has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-protozoa properties. Coconut oil is about two-thirds medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which produce a whole host of health benefits, including stimulating your metabolism. MCFA’s are also immediately converted to energy — a function usually served in the diet by simple carbohydrates — making coconut oil an ideal replacement for unhealthy grain carbs.

 Sources and References

Time for the Big Push to Defeat Malaria.

Moments of historic greatness are rarely realized by a single actor. Instead, they require the work of partners, with a sense of shared responsibility and coordinated action. The Big Push to defeat malaria is no different. In the past 10 years, partners working together have reversed malaria’s spread and prevented millions of deaths, mostly of children under the age of five. Yet even with all that progress, malaria still claims a child’s life every minute. So we have more work to do. Science has given us the tools to defeat this disease. We will achieve greatness by getting it done.

Today we have insecticide-treated nets rather than just regular nets that last longer, significantly reducing costs. There are new drugs to tackle resistant strands and rapid diagnostic tests that allow us to identify kids that do and don’t have malaria. We are moving in the right direction. Global malaria mortality rates have dropped by 26 percent and half of the malaria endemic countries are on track to meeting the global target of reducing malaria case incidence by 75 percent by 2015.

As a global community, our fates are often more intertwined than we like to imagine. Controlling malaria isn’t only a prospect of preventing needless deaths, it is an economic imperative. Entrepreneurs, farmers and traders who are at home sick themselves or with their kids cost Africa an estimated $12 billion a year in productivity. Defeating malaria is one of the first steps we can take to speed up Africa-driven economic growth.

Later this year, the international community will gather to pledge money to the Global Fund for the next three years. In April, the Global Fund requested $15 billion from donors as an investment towards the historical opportunity of defeating these diseases. It’s the kind of investment where the return will be measured in lives saved, and the increased productivity of developing countries no longer burdened by deaths from mosquito bites.

Essential to maximizing these investments, African leaders will continue to demonstrate their own commitment to national health programs both financially and with human resources. The African Leaders Malaria Alliance, a consortium of 49 leaders from the continent, tracks country progress in preventing and treating the disease, with government leaders holding one another accountable to keep malaria a priority, while working towards the goal of near zero deaths by the end of 2015.

With less than 1,000 days until the clock runs out on the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, our resolve will be tested both before and after the zero hour. Meeting the health related MDGs would no doubt be a great accomplishment for our global brothers and sisters, but history will judge us by whether or not we fill our war chest and use our proven strategies and tools to defeat these diseases. As partners in this fight, this is our shared opportunity and responsibility.






4 Practices to Help Cure Negative Thinking.


Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come. ~Robert H. Schuller

My friend and I were out walking this morning around the neighborhood when we noticed some magnificent landscaping and flower beds to die for!  We were also, funnily enough, talking about having foggy, congested heads (physically and mentally) because of the amount of time we are spending on our computers.  We both happen to be writers.

I found that looking at these spectacular gardens really opened up my heart space and led me to think about this concept of the mind/garden metaphor.

If we can just give ourselves time in our own gardens (minds) to prune back, weed and cut off any dead branches and scrape up old leaves off the grass, we would be able to temper that stuffy headedness.

Back to my morning stroll…we then went on to discuss how meditation, exercise, getting out into nature and yoga work to unclog this tightness and tiredness in the head.

So, some good practices to follow when you feel your thoughts aren’t being honorable paying guests in your head are to:

1. Gift yourself some time for space and clarity

This doesn’t have to be for very long stretches (however long you want) but make sure it is at least 10-15 minutes of down-time.  You can sit in your garden or in a comfortable quiet space and reflect on your thoughts.  Realign them to what you feel comfortable with.  Then simply let all your thoughts dissolve and sit in stillness.  Observe what comes up and then put it aside.  Enjoy the space of just being.  We are human BEINGS not human DOINGS.  Don’t forget that.

More important than the quest for certainty is the quest for clarity. ~Francois Gautier

2. Assess yourself

If you are having a lot of negative, worrisome thoughts, ask yourself if they are really necessary?  Is worrying about it going to change anything?  How can you steer them onto a different more nurturing path?

There is a basic law that like attracts like. Negative thinking definitely attracts negative results. Conversely, if a person habitually thinks optimistically and hopefully, his positive thinking sets in motion creative forces — and success instead of eluding him flows toward him ~ Norman Vincent Peale

3. Go for a walk or do some yoga

Any kind of exercise can actually give you a huge boost.  I know a lot of people that are tired and worn out from a hard day’s work don’t particularly care for physical movement.  Perhaps you think it is the last thing that can help but it really can.  Just 20-30 minutes can really get you to shift stagnant energy and get your system up and firing.

Walking is a man’s best medicine. ~Hippocrates

If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk. ~Raymond Inmon

4. Breathe properly

Take a few good and hearty breathes.  This is a wonderful grounding tool and can get you into balance very quickly.  Most of us breathe very shallowly, not allowing for the body to become fully oxygenated.  Try to take in enough breath as to fill your lungs and spill over into your stomach (you should look like your pregnant — that is an indicator that you have got in enough air). Breathe in to the count of 5, hold it to the count of 5 and then consciously breathe out to the count of 5.  This enlivens and awakens your mind — try it, you’ll see.

Source: Purpose fairy

Working (Too) Hard for Love.

frog (Oophaga pumilio) work hard to woo the opposite sex with constant and intense vocalizations until they find a mate. But a new study indicates that all this effort is for naught. Researchers have found that despite the male’s best efforts to impress, females simply mate with the closest frog to them. By choosing a neighbor, females minimize the risk of not mating at all, as receptive females abound and they have only a short time to fertilize their eggs. Although this behavior may seem careless, it is the optimal approach in a system where males are constantly fighting to secure a territory, the team reports this month in Frontiers in Zoology. Females can simply choose the closest frog as, after their fighting, all victorious males with an established territory are of an acceptable standard to mate. Why go further afield, when the guy next door is just as good? The males’ elaborate courtship display is still essential, however, to ensure females can hear them. Shy and silent males go dateless.

Source: Science Now

Oklahoma tornado: is climate change to blame?


Global climate change and politics are linked to each other – for better or worse. No clearer was that the case than when Democratic senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island gave an impassioned speech on global warming in the aftermath of Monday’s deadly Oklahoma tornado, and the conservative media ripped him. Whitehouse implied that at least part of the blame for the deadly tornado should be laid at the feet of climate change.

Is Whitehouse correct? It’s difficult to assign any one storm’s outcome to the possible effects of global climate change, and the science of tornadoes in particular makes it pretty much impossible to know whether Whitehouse is right.

Let’s start with the basics of what causes a tornado. A piece from my friend (and sometimes co-chatter) Andrew Freedman two years ago sets out the basics well.

First, you need warm, humid air for moisture. The past few days in Moore have featured temperatures in the upper 70s to low 80s, with relative humidity levels regularly hitting between 90% and 100% and rarely dropping below 70%.

Second, you need strong jet stream winds to provide lift. As this map from Weather Underground indicates, there were definitely some very strong jet stream winds on Monday in the Oklahoma region.

Third, you need strong wind shear (changing wind directions and/or speeds at different heights) to allow for full instability and lift. Thismid-level wind shear map from the University of Wisconsin shows that there were 45 to 50 knot winds, right at the top of the scale, over Oklahoma on Monday.

Fourth, you need something to ignite the storm. In this case, a frontal boundary, as seen in this Weather Channel map, draped across central Oklahoma, did the trick.

The point is that all the normal ingredients were there that allowed an EF-4 tornado to spawn and strike. (Examination of the storm sitemay cause an upgrading to EF-5.) It happened in tornado alley, where warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico often meets dry air from the north and Rocky mountains for maximum instability. There wasn’t anything shocking about this from a meteorological perspective. It was, as a well-informed friend said, a “classic” look.

The long-term weather question is whether or not we’ll see more or less of these “classic” looks in our changing meteorological environment. It turns out that of all the weather phenomena, from droughts to hurricanes, tornadoes are the most complex to answer from a broader atmospheric trends point of view. The reason is that a warming world affects the factors that lead to tornadoes in different ways.

Climate change is supposed, among other things, to bring warmer and moister air to earth. That, of course, would lead to more severe thunderstorms and probably more tornadoes. The issue is that global warming is also forecast to bring about less wind shear. This would allow hurricanes to form more easily, but it also would make it much harder for tornadoes to get the full about lift and instability that allow for your usual thunderstorm to grow in height and become a fully-fledged tornado. Statistics over the past 50 years bear this out, as we’ve seen warmer and more moist air as well as less wind shear.

Meteorological studies differ on whether or not the warmer and moister air can overcome a lack of wind shear in creating more tornadoes in the far future. In the immediate past, the jet stream, possibly because of climate change, has been quite volatile. Some years it has dug south to allow maximum tornado activity in the middle of the country, while other years it has stayed to the north.

Although tornado reporting has in prior decades been not as reliable as today because of a lack of equipment and manpower, it’s still not by accident that the six least active and four most active tornado seasons have been felt over the past decade. Another statistic that points to the irregular patterns is that the three earliest and four latest starts to the tornado season have all occurred in the past 15 years.

Basically, we’ve had this push and pull in recent history. Some years the number of tornadoes is quite high, and some years it is quite low. We’re not seeing “average” seasons as much any more, though the average of the extremes has led to no meaningful change to the average number of tornadoes per year. Expect this variation to continue into the future as less wind shear and warmer moister air fight it out.

The overall result could very well be fewer days of tornadoes perHarold Brooks of the National Storm Center, but more and stronger tornadoes when they do occur. Nothing about the tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, or tornadoes over the past few decades break with this theory.

None of it proves or disproves senator Whitehouse’s beliefs either. Indeed, we’ll never know whether larger global warming factors were at play in Monday’s storms. All we can do at this moment is react to them and give the people of Oklahoma all the help they need.