A 31-year-old software engineer will attempt to make history on Sunday by climbing 103 flights of stairs in Chicago’s Willis Tower on his state-of-the-art-prosthetic leg. After losing his right leg in a motorcycle accident, Zac Vawter signed up to become a research subject at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, helping to test a new kind of prosthetic controlled by his thoughts. The climb, called the “SkyRise Chicago,” is a fundraising initiative by the Institute and will feature almost 2,700 other climbers. However, researchers will be watching Vawter’s progress the closest. While most prosthetics are what the University of Michigan’s Daniel Ferris calls “fancy wooden legs,” Vawter’s bionic leg responds to electrical impulses in his hamstring, essentially allowing him to control it with his thoughts as he would his natural limbs. The $8 million project is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Defense.
The number of inbounds avalanche deaths has increased over the past seven years, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Since 2005, there have been eight inbounds-avalanche fatalities—avalanche deaths that occur in open, patrolled terrain due to non-extenuating circumstances—at resorts in the United States in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, California, and Nevada. While eight may seem a small number, it’s double the historical average for a seven-year period. From 1985 to 2005, there were three inbounds-avalanche deaths. The eight deaths also add up to nearly a quarter of all fatalities since 1950.
Sixty-nine parks along the eastern seaboard have either been closed or cordoned off in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, according to the National Park Service. New York was particularly hard hit, with extensive flooding on Ellis Island, Liberty Island, and Battery Park. In New Jersey, the Gateway National Recreation Area, which includes Sandy Hook and Breezy Point, was heavily damaged. Morristown National Historical Park, the site of General George Washington and the Continental Army's winter encampment in 1779, is closed with hundreds of trees down. Further south, all National Capital Region parks are closed, including parks in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Most of Assateague Island, off the Maryland/Virginia coast, remains underwater, and Shenandoah National Park is closed until further notice. More than 100 park employees have been deployed to the hardest-hit areas to assist with repairs.