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New York City Subway     Photo: littleny/Thinkstock

Record Numbers on Public Transit

10.7 billion trips in U.S. for 2013

Americans turned to public transport more in 2013 than any other year since 1956. Attributed to a recovering economy, growing transit systems, and more options, Americans made 10.7 billion trips on public transportation last year.

The rise in public transport has been pinned to the urban shift across the country, including many Americans' preference to live near transit lines. Sprawling cities such as Seattle, Miami, Denver, and San Diego saw major increases due to renewed focus on public transit systems. However, New York City, which accounts for one in three trips nationally, saw the biggest bump in 2013. 

“People are making a fundamental shift to having options,” explained Michael Melaniphy, president and CEO of the American Public Transportation Association. “This is a long-term trend. This isn’t just a blip.”

New York City’s system experienced an increase of more than 120 million trips in 2013, a 3.6 percent increase from 2012.


An apartment building damaged by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Last night's quake off the Northern California coast was just as strong.     Photo: Getty Images/Fuse

California "Dodges Bullet"

6.9 magnitude quake strikes off coast

Northern California "dodged a bullet," in the words of one law enforcement official, after a 6.9 earthquake struck off the Eureka coast at 10:18 p.m. PST on March 9.

"This easily could have been a catastrophe," Humboldt County Sheriff's Lt. Steve Knight told the Eureka Times-Standard.

The nondeadly quake was the largest to shake the West Coast since a 7.2 tremor rocked Southern California in 2010. It was felt as far south as San Francisco and as far north as southern Oregon.

By 7 a.m. PST Monday, the U.S. Geological Survey had recorded 21 aftershocks, with magnitudes reaching as high as 4.6.

The strong quake—which had similar power to the famous 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake—occurred 50 miles off the coast, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration did not issue a tsunami warning.

Residents said the quake had a relatively gentle rocking effect, despite dislodging books from shelves.

For the time being, the West Coast appears to be safe—but beware: The next "megaquake" could very possibly shake San Francisco or Los Angeles.


About 75,000 killer bees attacked a 71-year-old woman last week.    

75,000 Killer Bees Attack Woman

Stung 1,000 times

A swarm of 75,000 killer bees attacked a 71-year-old woman last week after she disturbed their hive.

The woman, who works for Verizon, was about 90 feet from the nest of Africanized honeybees when the insects surrounded her. She suffered about 1,000 stings and serious injuries but is expected to make a full recovery.

The bees had made their home in an underground electrical vault in Palm Desert, California. Five firefighters were also hurt Thursday as they tried to clear the swarm.

Although killer bees’ stings are no worse than those of other bees, the insects are much more aggressive than their more benign relatives. They’re known to relentlessly attack anything that gets within about 50 feet of their hive.

California residents better watch out. More than 600 bees stung two drivers in Los Angeles on Saturday after one of the cars struck a tree and dislodged a large hive.   


eyes digital robot eyes!

Have bad eyesight? There's an app for that.     Photo: rvlsoft/Getty Images

New App Improves Athletes’ Eyesight

Exercise your eyeballs

Forget eyeglasses and Lasik. Downloading an app might improve your vision by up to 31 percent. University of California, Riverside neuroscientist Aaron Seitz has found a way to gamify eyesight tests to increase your ability to react to visual stimuli. For athletes—or anyone—with impaired vision, the results are promising.

The $6 app, called UltimEyes, tests for neuroplasticity, or the ability of the brain to adapt to changes in surroundings over time. The app flashes graphics containing "targets" and "distractors." The user taps on the targets as quickly as possible and earns points for each correct identification.

"[They are] the kinds of stimuli that will excite cells in the visual cortex," Seitz explains. "So with repeated practice, you're able to identify these when they are harder and harder to see."

The practice group, the university's baseball team, noted eyesight improvements by up to two lines on traditional vision charts after training with the app four times a week. They also saw improvements in their peripheral and low-light vision.

Although the long-term effects of the app are still unknown, researchers are optimistic. "We all know this idea of use it or lose it, and with any other skill that we engage in, we get rusty if we're not actively practicing. Vision is really the same thing," Seitz told Smithsonian magazine.


LA Marathon

Women Elite runners start of the Asics LA Marathon     Photo: Rich Cruse

Big Payday for Runner Amane Gobena

Wins L.A. Marathon, finishes ahead of the men

To the victor go the spoils. Amane Gobena, the women's race winner of yesterday's L.A. Marathon, made more money per hour than half of U.S. wage earners made in 2012—about $30,612.

Gobena, of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, received $25,000 on Sunday for winning the women's race and an additional $50,000 for finishing ahead of the men. The women were given a 17-minute, 41-second head start as part of the event's gender challenge. Gobena finished in 2:27:37, 41 seconds ahead of men's winner Gebo Burka, who covered the 26.2 miles through Los Angeles in 2:10:37.

"I'm building a house," Gobena told reporters through an interpreter, "and definitely that house will be paid off."

USA Half Marathon champ Lauren Kepplin finished as the top American in 2:28:48, which was good for third. Gabe Proctor, a Mammoth Track Club member, was the top American man in sixth place in 2:15:17.

More than 25,000 participants took part in the 29th annual marathon. In January, Los Angeles won the bid to host the 2016 marathon trials.


Photo: Getty Images

Scientists Harvest Deadly Spider Silk

Threads are five times stronger than Kevlar

Don’t mess with a brown recluse spider. They've been known to eat each other and kill humans.

But the poisonous little arachnids produce a silk that scientists and companies covet for commercialization. Unlike other spiders that produce cylindrical silk, the recluse makes a sticky flat ribbon that’s five times stronger than Kevlar. Scientists describe it as sticky like packaging tape, and hope to use it in everything from bullet proofvests and computer electronics, and even as a coating for implant materials.

One spider, endearingly named “Rabbit,” is the subject of a study recently published in Advanced Materials. Researchers say she produces the most reliable and exquisite silk for commercial use.

"Essentially we can 'milk' the spider for its silk under controlled conditions," says scientist Hannes Schniepp, assistant professor of applied science at William & Mary. "That allows the silk to be placed, measured and tested for strength."

But harvesting the silk and using it is not an easy venture. "The protein is insoluble in water and the fiber is so fine—1,500 strands are needed to make a thread—that firms have had to invent new spinning systems," Chemical & Engineering News' Alex Scott explains. "After years of trying to develop commercial spider silk, big companies including DuPont and BASF have dropped out, with the latter pulling the plug on its research just last year."

If this spider thing works out, we’re looking at commercial output for fiber-products and textiles by 2016.