January 29, 2014

Torah Bright on her way to a second-place superpipe run at the 2008 Winter X Games. The Aussie will compete in three events at Sochi next month.     Photo: Nathan Bilow/Associated Press

Torah Bright Makes Olympic History

Qualifies for three snowboard events

Reigning Olympic halfpipe champion Torah Bright is on a quest for a triple crown at Sochi next month. 

The Australian snowboarder qualified for three disciplines at the Winter Olympic Games—the first snowboarder ever to do so. She’ll compete in the halfpipe, snowboard cross, and slopestyle events.

Slopestyle, a sport where snowboarders launch off massive jumps and perform difficult tricks, will make its Olympic debut in Sochi.   

Snowboard cross isn’t a new Olympic event—it debuted in 2006—but it’s always a fun one to watch. It’s a race to the finish where four riders bomb down a half-mile-long obstacle course. Bright took up the event last year and has since competed in 12 snowboard cross races. 

Then there’s the halfpipe. Bright won Olympic gold in this event at the 2010 Vancouver Games and is a favorite to medal again in Sochi this year.

“More than anything, it’s about sharing the sport I love with the world. This has been a journey of exploring what is possible for me on my snowboard and challenging myself like never before,” Bright said in a press release.

If you look at the decline in snowboard sales, it seems like the sport could use all the help it can get. Read our feature on why we think snowboarding is dead.  

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Rockdale County police officers assist a stranded tractor trailer truck on I-20 West near Conyers, Georgia, on January 28, 2014.     Photo: AP

North Melts, South Freezes

Winter storm ravages southern states as Alaska sees record high temperatures

Temperatures in Port Alsworth, Alaska, reached a high of 62 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday, setting a new record for the highest temperature ever recorded in the state during January.

Meanwhile, an unusually strong winter storm has ravaged the southern United States, stranding commuters, closing schools, and blowing semi trucks right off the road. States of emergency were declared in Alabama, North Carolina, Louisiana, and South Carolina as early as Monday in preparation for the winter conditions, but few were prepared for the near-total paralysis of major urban areas.

The weather has forced more than 3,400 commercial flights in the region to be canceled and another 2,000 to be delayed.

Atlanta in particular has turned into a traffic nightmare, with some commuters stuck on the road as long as 19 hours. Weary travelers even took to spending the night in grocery stores and pharmacies.

There have also been reports of hundreds of stranded students spending the night in libraries and gymnasiums, unable to return home.

In Texas, more than 300 traffic accidents have been reported since the storm began. In the city of Austin, police chief Art Acevedo says they are dealing with about 40 accidents every hour.

Although this may seem like an inordinate amount of chaos for just a few inches of snow, most people in the region are unaccustomed to driving in such conditions, and many cities lack the infrastructure to deal with even infrequent winter storms.

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Advanced control of heat flow could lead to major developments in outdoor tech.     Photo: Jochen Sand/Thinkstock

New Technology Manages Heat Flow

Is this the future of outerwear?

A study out of Purdue University has refined a technology that might be able to manage the flow of heat. Similar to devices that control the direction of electrical currents, these findings could potentially control heat flow in everything from electronics to textiles.

"For example, on a winter night you don't want a building to lose heat quickly to the outside, while during the day you want the building to be warmed up by the sun, so it would be good to have building materials that permit the flow of heat in one direction but not the other," explained Xiulin Ruan, an associate professor at Purdue.

“Asymmetric grapheme nanoribbons” were the missing link. Researchers believe these new findings will allow the use of thermal control in a variety of applications, including computers, electronics, buildings, and clothing.

Thermal rectification has been studied extensively before; however, this new study has made a breakthrough in discovering the use of minuscule triangular or T-shaped structures to permit more heat flow in one direction than the other.

 

Image: Courtesy of Purdue University

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Could you give up your daily cup?     Photo: Getty Images/Ingram Publishing

Caffeine Use Disorder Explained

New research outlines the drug's addictive qualities

Scientists recently found that caffeine enhances memory, but don't take that as a full-fledged endorsement. A new study outlines symptoms of a condition known as "caffeine use disorder": the inability to give up caffeine even if patients have conditions the drug would negatively affect, including pregnancy or a heart condition.

Last spring, this addictive characteristic landed the disorder in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a guide for classifying mental illnesses that's used by mental health professionals across the country. The APA noted the need for additional research of this condition.

"There is a misconception among professionals and lay people alike that caffeine is not difficult to give up," said Laura Juliano, an American University psychology professor and coauthor of the study. "However, in population-based studies, more than 50 percent of regular caffeine consumers report that they have had difficulty quitting or reducing caffeine use."

According to current research, Juliano says healthy adults should curb caffeine consumption at 400 milligrams per day—that's about two small coffees—but patients suffering from other conditions that caffeine could aggravate should limit their intake to about half that amount.

So, would you like cream and sugar with that?

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    Photo: Getty Images

104-Year-Old Swimmer Sets World Records

Becomes oldest masters swimmer in history

Canadian Jaring Timmerman began his swimming career at 79 and has kept it up for 25 years. This week he claimed two world records in the 105–109 age group.

Timmerman swam a lifetime best 3:09.55 in the 50-meter backstroke and a 2:52.48 in the 50-meter freestyle.

Though Timmerman is currently 104, he'll turn 105 in February, which qualifies him to compete for records in the 105–109 age group, a category previously uncontested by any Canadian swimmer. Our guess is that he might not have too much competition in future events.

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Luke Birch (left) and Jamie Sparks arrive in Antigua after rowing across the Atlantic Ocean.     Photo: Courtesy of 2 Boys in a Boat

Duo Breaks Atlantic Rowing Record

Students are the youngest to complete voyage

On Monday evening, after 54 days of nonstop rowing, British students Luke Birch, 21, and Jamie Sparks, 22, became the youngest pair to row the Atlantic Ocean.

Participating in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, the duo left the Canary Islands, off the coast of Spain, on December 4 and finished in Antigua, in the Caribbean, on January 27. During their approximately 3,400-mile voyage, the pair rowed continuously in the face of 46 mph winds, lost their mattress overboard, and narrowly missed being hit by a container ship.

"Luke and I are very similar and we both had this goal. We would have done anything to achieve it," Sparks told the Lincolnshire Echo. "Luke is very tough and gutsy as well as stubborn. That is what you want when you are on the high seas."

Birch and Sparks, under the team name "2 Boys in a Boat," finished fifth overall and second in pairs. Despite eating 6,000 calories a day, the two lost 26 pounds each, but they raised the equivalent of $331,000 for the UK charity Breast Cancer Care in the process.

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