January 16, 2014

California's redwoods could save the world.     Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Trees Grow Faster As They Age

Could help combat climate change

Some of the oldest living organisms on the planet are trees, but how exactly do they grow? A new study in the journal Nature provides answers. Thirty-seven scientists from 16 nations collaborated and found that trees grow faster—not slower—as they age.

The study examined more than 600,000 trees from around the world and found that while trees eventually stop growing vertically, they continue to bulk up, like body-builders.

"It's as if, on your favorite sports team, you find out the star players are a bunch of 90-year-olds," Nate Stephenson, a forest ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and one of the study's authors, told NPR.

To sustain their growth, older trees pull more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than their younger counterparts.

This research could influence how scientists address climate change. Forests full of elderly trees could potentially leech lots of carbon dioxide from the air, eventually reducing the volume of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The Nature article supports last year's findings that a lack of trees can prove fatal for humans. So, get out and plant trees—and think twice before you cut one down.

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Honnold on the face of El Sendero Luminoso.     Photo: SkySight Aerials / Camp 4 Collective Collection

Honnold Climbs El Sendero Luminoso

Sends the 2,500-foot limestone big-wall route in three hours

Alex Honnold started off 2014 with one of his most ambitious and difficult free-solo ascents to date: a sustained 2,500-foot limestone big-wall route called El Sendero Luminoso in El Potrero Chico, Mexico. 

The demanding route entails many pitches of technical 5.12 climbing. Parties often take two days to climb this impressive monolith, but Honnold’s ascent took only three hours. 

Last week, fellow climber and North Face team member Cedar Wright traveled to Mexico to help Honnold clean and prepare the route, and also to pioneer the final thousand feet of terrain to the true summit. 

“I climbed the route four times with Alex, and each time I was struck by how complex and tenuous the climbing is,” Wright says. “There are hundreds of hand and foot moves to remember, and at times it’s just a few millimeters of your fingers and toes that are keeping you connected to the wall. Mostly I just tried not to think about him soloing the route while I was up there because it was so terrifying.”

Honnold says the ascent went as well as he’d anticipated. “It felt pretty straight forward,” he says. “Once I started up, I was like this is awesome. I didn’t blow a single foot—like a ballerina.”

The achievement was documented by Camp 4 Collective for the North Face.

“Alex will downplay the achievement, but I can assure you this is one of the most cutting-edge big-wall solos of all time,” Wright says.

For more, read “Alex Honnold Isn’t Afraid of Skyskrapers” from the December 2013 issue of Outside.

Honnold's route up El Sendero Luminoso.   Photo: Renan Ozturk / Camp 4 Collective Collection

Honnold on the rock face.   Photo: Cedar Wright

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Four snowboarders and a Utah nonprofit have sued Alta Ski Area over the resort's skiers-only policy.     Photo: Pawel Loj/Flickr

Snowboarders Sue Alta Ski Area

For violating Fourteenth Amendment

Four snowboarders and a Utah nonprofit corporation have sued Alta Ski Area and the U.S. Forest Service, challenging the resort's skiers-only rule. 

The lawsuit states that Alta’s policy prohibiting snowboarders from riding at the resort violates the Fourteenth Amendment, which addresses citizenship rights and equal protection of the laws.

Alta is one of three resorts in the country that does not allow snowboarding, and it is the only one that operates on public land controlled by the U.S. Forest Service, according to the lawsuit.   

“Because of Alta’s relationship with the government, Alta’s actions must comply with the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause,” says attorney Jonathan Schofield in the press release. “Alta’s prohibition against snowboarders excludes a particular class of individuals from use and enjoyment of public land based on irrational discrimination against snowboarders, which denies them equal protection under the law as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.”

The resort operates under a Forest Service Permit that, according to the release, stipulates the federal lands must remain open to the public “for all lawful purposes." 

For plaintiff Drew Hicken, there is no reason why skiers and snowboarders can’t share the resort. "We feel that it is time for Alta to let go of outdated prejudices that perpetuate a skier versus snowboarder mentality and allow everyone, regardless of whether they are skiers or snowboarders, to share the mountain together," he reported.

Do you think Alta should allow snowboarders to ride at the mountain? 

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Lindsey Vonn after winning the Downhill World Cup title in 2008.     Photo: Gregwig Loffelholz/Wikimedia

Vonn Goes Under the Knife

Dr. James Andrews successfully reconstructs ACL

Lindsey Vonn underwent surgery to repair her second ACL tear in less than a year. Renowned physician James Andrews (he of RG3's knee) carried out the operation on the skier's right knee.

Vonn's camp released a statement saying that the ACL reconstruction was completely successful and that Andrews expects her to recover in time for next year's World Championships in Vail, Colorado.

The first injury occurred in February of 2013 during the World Cup series. Vonn was just 0.12 seconds behind eventual winner Tina Maze when she crashed, tearing her ACL, MCL, and suffering a tibial fracture.

She attempted to return to competition in November but crashed during a training run at Copper Mountain, Colorado, re-tearing her ACL. After trying to rehab without surgery in order to compete in the Olympics, Vonn announced in January "my knee is just too unstable to compete at this level," and withdrew from Sochi.

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An prototype of the first Nike waffle shoe was found in Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman's backyard.     Photo: Natalie Langdon

Nike Prototype Sold for $1,500

After it was dug up in Bill Bowerman's backyard

A tattered, soiled shoe unearthed in the backyard of a Eugene, Oregon, home sold for $1,500. That's actually a fair price considering the backyard belonged to Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman, and the shoe was one of the first shoes to sport the Nike swoosh—ever.

Jordan Geller, an avid shoe collector and owner of ShoeZeum in California, purchased the artifact from Jeff Wasson, a utilities worker from Oregon. In 2010, Wasson and Bill Bowerman's son, Tom, unearthed a buried trash pile containing dozens of shoes and an original waffle iron that was used to mold soles. Although the majority of the archeological dig is now preserved in Nike's historical archives, Wasson asked for one piece of corporate history, and the younger Bowerman obliged.

"This is the first real prototype that I've ever seen come to market. It's a once-in-a-lifetime find," Geller told ESPN. "This shoe is really special ... because Bill Bowerman made this from his hands."

Bill Bowerman, who passed away in 1999 and was the track coach at the University of Oregon's Eugene campus until 1972, created the first Nike shoes in the 1970s. The latest addition to Geller's collection is believed to be a prototype of the Moon Shoe, the first Nike shoe with the iconic swoosh made under the company's previous name, Blue Ribbon Sports.

After decades underground, the relic now is framed on Geller's fireplace.

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Jagger the pug at the 2013 Westminster Dog Show.     Photo: PhilNolan/Flickr

Westminster Dog Show Allows Mixed-Breeds

Best in Show still reserved for purebreds

The nearly 140-year-old Westminster Kennel Club dog show hasn’t had a mixed-breed prance around since its early days. This year, however, organizers will allow mixed-breeds to compete in a new agility event. 

"[Agility] is just about performance. It doesn't matter what your dog looks like. It doesn't matter who their mother or father was," says Irene Palmerini, who owns a poodle-terrier mix named Alfie.

"We're very excited about the fact that Westminster can play a leadership role in embracing, really, the sport of dogs," said Sean McCarthy, the President of Westminster.

Westminster Kennel Club, with its emphasis on purebreds, has caused much disharmony among dog lovers. Some argue that dog breeding is thoughtless, especially as thousands of mixed-breeds suffer in shelters. On the other hand, many people feel strongly about maintaining certain breed traits and creating the most compatible pets.

Westminster’s most prestigious award, Best in Show, will still be chosen from some 2,800 purebred entrants, such as Labrador retrievers and French bulldogs. The 2014 event will take place February 10 and 11.

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Dolphins move through the water with more power than previously thought.     Photo: Getty Images/Ingram Publishing

Dolphins' Surprising Power Output

Cruising speed is 1.4 times the power a cyclist can sustain for an hour

A dolphin can produce as much as 5,400 watts of power; that’s roughly ten times more than the most fit human athletes produce, according to a study by the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Previously, dolphins were thought to power through the water using a trick of fluid mechanics that enabled them to outswim boats moving at high speed. This theory held for the past 60 years until a researcher named Frank Fish had an idea: "Let's see how much power a dolphin can produce."

Using hydrodynamics models to look at the way a dolphin’s fluke propels it through the water, Fish discovered the secret to their speed. Using little more than a SCUBA tank and a garden hose, Fish measured power output as the dolphins swam through the corresponding bubble vortex.

The dolphins’ cruising speed produced a surprising 549 watts. That’s 1.4 times the power a cyclist can sustain for an hour. When the mammals accelerated, that output jumped to 5,400 watts.

When asked what’s next, Fish responds, “If I can do it for a dolphin, can I do it for a whale? Can I do it for a manta ray?”

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You might want to stop at one.     Photo: Getty Images

Drinking Is Bad for Your Brain

Two-plus drinks per day speeds mental decline

There’s nothing like cracking open a beer after a long day’s work—right, fellas? If you’re over the age of 50, though, maybe hold yourself to a two-drink limit.

A study published Wednesday in the journal Neurology found that middle-aged men who drank 2.5 or more alcoholic beverages (or, 36 grams) daily were more likely to experience rapid mental losses during their next decade of life than light or moderate drinkers, the AP reports.

The study, which used data from 5,000 British civil servants over 20 years, first started tracking participants when they were an average age of 56. Then it tracked decline in memory, attention, and reasoning skills in a series of tests administered to the men every five years.

Heavy drinkers—those who drank 2.5 or more alcoholic beverages daily during a 10-year stretch—experienced mental declines up to six years faster than those drinking 1.5 or fewer drinks daily, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The study found an association with drinking and cognitive decline, but not a cause-and-effect relationship.

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Rosy, a female peregrin falcon, suited up with her spy helmet.     Photo: Youtube

WATCH: Falcon Wears Camera, Goes Hunting

Amazing footage of raptor hunting tactics

Lovers of the Eagle Cam, prepare to be amazed.

Suzanne Amador Kane, of Haverford College in Pennsylvania, wanted to know how exactly falcons pursue their prey in the air, and how flocks of birds react to raptor attacks. Finding no substantial literature on the subject, Amador Kane reached out to falconers around the globe and found a few who were willing to let her attach miniature spy cameras to their birds.

What she found was that instead of pursuing directly from behind, an inefficient method that allows the prey to easily evade and eventually tire out its pursuer, falcons use their unique vision to head off and intercept their victims.

"Falcons have two regions of very acute vision: one directed almost in the forward direction and the other dramatically off to the side, 30 degrees off," Amador Kane told the Journal of Experimental Biology.

The second angle, it turns out, allows the falcon to maneuver in a way that keeps the prey motionless against the falcon's field of vision. It also allows them to track their prey from a positon of stealth. The prey doesn't see the attack coming until the last possible moment, likely shortening the hunt by a wide margin.

All this is secondary, of course, to the awesome birds-eye footage of falcons bombing through the sky and taking down their unsuspecting prey.

Enjoy!

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