February 18, 2014

Will Asian carp eventually take over the Great Lakes?     Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Chicago's Plan to Combat Carp

Alternate proposal: Eat the fish to extinction

This winter, Americans from Traverse City to New Orleans have discussed the spread of the Asian carp, a particularly invasive species of fish quickly overtaking the Great Lakes and Mississippi River. The carp boom seems unstoppable—but not if Chicago can help it.

According to a BBC report, the Windy City is contemplating extreme measures to reduce, or even eliminate, the carp population. The primary proposal? Block the city's famous canals in an $18 billion effort to keep out the fish.

The initiative could severely hinder the city's economy, but proponents think the alternative could be far worse. The Great Lakes contain 20 percent of the world's freshwater, so a carp infestation could seriously influence global commerce.

The idea has some legitimate backing: Representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers talked about the plan, which could take 25 years to complete, at a meeting prompted by requests from Congress and the White House to develop a technological solution to the problem.

"There are 9.1 million people in Chicago and over a period of 100 years that canal has been there and the economic impact is considerable," said Col. Frederick Drummond, outlining the proposal's challenges.

Government officials worry that permanent canal barriers could greatly increase the cost of transportation for shipments in the Great Lakes region, in turn making raw materials and finished goods more expensive.

That's where another proposal—not endorsed by the Corps of Engineers—comes in. In a carnivorous masterstroke, some residents have suggested simply eating the fish into extinction. This would be a huge boon for Dirk Fucik, the only person in Chicago who cooks and sells carp burgers.

"To catch it and throw it away is a waste," Fucik told the BBC. "Eating them helps solve the problem and also provides jobs."

Americans originally released Asian carp into Southern waterways three decades ago to control algae in sewage treatment plants. But the fish, which measure more than three feet long, spread quickly.

Of course, another strategy could be to invite carp hunters to the Windy City—these fishermen have taken controlling the fish population into their own hands. Extreme aerial bow fishers drive boats through carp-infested waters, riling up the fish so they jump out of the water, only to be greeted by an assault of arrows mercilessly shot from crossbows. Then there's this guy, who rode on waterskis, armed with a trash-can suit of armor and a sword. Yeah, we aren't sure either:

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A plane landing at the dangerous Lukla Airport in Nepal.     Photo: Jeremy Lloyd/Thinkstock

Nepal Plane Crash Kills 18

Authorities blame bad weather

A Nepal Airlines plane crashed on Sunday during a flight from Pokhara to Jumia in western Nepal. The small plane was carrying mostly Nepali passengers and one Dane when it crashed into a hillside. All 18 people on board were killed.

Nepal is no stranger to deadly aviation accidents. Since the first plane landed in the country in 1949, there have been more than 70 plane and helicopter accidents, killing more than 700 people, according to reports from BBC News.

This Sunday, officials blamed the crash of the Canadian-made Twin Otter plane on bad weather. When the aircraft took off from the resort town of Pokhara, the weather was reportedly fine, but it later worsened and disrupted contact with the small plane.

The wreckage was found in the district of Arghakhanchi, where rescue helicopters struggled to land because of the rugged terrain. A spokesman for Nepal Airlines said the plane had been refurbished in recent weeks and was in good condition.  

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Mikaela Shiffrin passes a gate in the second run of the women's giant slalom at Sochi on Tuesday.     Photo: Luca Bruno/Associated Press

Shiffrin Fifth in Olympic Debut

Racing giant slalom

Superstar teen skier Mikaela Shiffrin finished fifth Tuesday in a rainy women’s giant slalom. Slovenia’s Tina Maze took the top spot, claiming her second gold medal of the Sochi Games.

Shiffrin skied half a second slower than Maze and just two-tenths of a second slower than bronze medalist Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany. Julia Mancuso, America’s most decorated female alpine skier, failed to finish the race after she skied off-course during her first run.

It’s a strong performance for 18-year-old Shiffrin, who’s favored to medal in slalom this Friday. The Colorado native has already won seven World Cup slalom races and is the event’s reigning world champion coming into Sochi. 

Even though she finished off the podium Tuesday, she’s already getting fired up for the giant slalom of the 2018 Winter Games.  

"I wanted a gold, but I think this was meant to happen," Shiffrin told USA Today. "I believe I wasn't going to win my first World Cup slalom until I was ready, because if I won it a minute early I wouldn't be able to continue to win. I think it's the same with GS. … This is something I can learn from, and the next Olympics I go to, I’m sure as heck not getting fifth.”

Read more about Shiffrin’s date with Olympic destiny.  

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This February 8, 2014, image provided by Reed Magazine shows a large snowball that crashed into a Grove Quad dormitory at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.     Photo: Reed Magazine/AP

Giant Snowball Rolls Out of Control

Wrecking-ball chunk causes massive repair bill

When 12 inches of snow dumped on Reed College in Portland, Oregon, one student attempted to create the world's largest snowball by rolling snow around a grassy field on campus. By nightfall on February 8, the ball had grown to three feet in diameter and weighed between 800 and 900 pounds.

In front of a crowd chanting, "Roll it! Roll it!," two math students bowled the snowball down a hill. As the creation gained momentum, it veered off-course and crashed into a dormitory wall, according to Reed Magazine.

 

Maintenance workers spent 45 minutes cutting through the snowball to find that the wall had been ripped off its studs. Damage repairs are estimated to cost between $2,000 and $3,000.

The Guinness World Record for the largest snowball is 10 feet in diameter. The record was set by mechanical engineering students from ASME Michigan Technological University on March 23, 2013.

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    Photo: Getty Images

Elephants Show Empathy

With chirps and "hugs"

We’ve always known that elephants are intelligent creatures, but a new study to be published in the open-access journal PeerJ found that Asian elephants show empathy in times of stress. When one elephant in the herd appears to be distressed, they console each other physically and vocally, Phys.org reports.

The study, which followed 26 captive Asian elephants at an elephant camp in northern Thailand, is the first empirical evidence of empathy in elephants, says Joshua Plotnik, the study's lead author. Previously, this kind of behavior had been scientifically recorded only in great apes, canines, and certain corvids. 

"With their strong social bonds, it's not surprising that elephants show concern for others," says co-author Frans de Waal, an Emory professor of psychology and director of Living Links at Emory's Yerkes National Primate Research Center. "This study demonstrates that elephants get distressed when they see others in distress, reaching out to calm them down, not unlike the way chimpanzees or humans embrace someone who is upset."

When Elephant A is upset, Elephant B might use its trunk to brush the side of the A's face or put its trunk in A's mouth—an elephant’s version of a hug, researchers say. The vocalization often heard is a high chirping.

“It may be a signal like, 'Shhh, it's okay,'” Plotnik says. “The sort of sounds a human adult might make to reassure a baby.”

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