April 2, 2014

The coastal city of Iquique was hit by two earthquakes in March in addition to the 8.2 magnitude quake that hit on April 1.     Photo: Kseniya Ragozina/Thinkstock

Tsunami and Earthquake Hit Chile

8.2 magnitude strike

A massive 8.2 magnitude earthquake hit the coast of Chile late Tuesday night. Five people have been confirmed dead, and the scope of the damage is still uncertain. The earthquake was centered roughly 60 miles north of Iquique in northern Chile and sparked small landslides, cut power, and even triggered a tsunami.

As of Wednesday morning, it appears Chile might have escaped major devastation relative to the quake's strength. An 8.8 magnitude earthquake in 2010 killed nearly 500 people in Chile, primarily in the coastal Maule region.

"The country has faced these first emergency hours very well," said Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. "Many people are fearful after experiencing the powerful earthquake in 2010, so they immediately fled for higher ground when they heard the tsunami warning."

The tsunami generated seven-foot waves in the most affected area near Iquique and sent roughly six-foot waves down a good portion of the Chilean coast. Earthquakes are almost the norm in Chile, which is situated on an arc of volcanoes and major fault lines. A 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit the same Iquique region on March 16, followed by another quake just a week later.

During the Tuesday night earthquake, 300 inmates reportedly escaped from a women’s prison near Iquique, forcing officials to close the Peruvian border.  

0 Comments

Should snowboarders be allowed to ride at Alta Ski Resort?     Photo: Sbvr6/Creative Commons

Feds Back Alta's Snowboarding Ban

Say it's a rational safety rule

The U.S. Forest Service supports Alta Ski Resort's snowboarding ban, according to court arguments filed this week.

The resort's decision to keep the mountain snowboard-free is a rational safety rule that doesn't violate the Constitution, Forest Service attorneys argue.

"Even if Plaintiffs established that they are similar to skiers and have been treated differently, they have failed to show that the federal defendants' treatment of them was irrational," the lawyers wrote.

Four snowboarders sued Alta in January to challenge the resort's skiers-only policy. The lawsuit states that the ski area violates the Fourteenth Amendment by prohibiting snowboarders from riding at the mountain. 

The Forest Service statement comes a week after Alta's lawyers argued to throw out the lawsuit on the grounds that it degrades the U.S. Constitution. "It demeans the Constitution to suggest that the amendment that protected the interests of former slaves during Reconstruction and James Meredith and the Little Rock Nine must be expanded to protect the interests of those who engage in a particularized winter sport," the ski area's lawyers wrote in a brief.

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

0 Comments

These stripes have a purpose, no butts about it.     Photo: Getty Images

Why Do Zebras Have Stripes?

To protect against bloodsucking flies

What do you call a horse wearing Venetian blinds? A zebra. Because of the stripes. Get it? But those stripes aren't just for decoration. New research from the University of California, Davis finds that they serve as a defense mechanism, the Guardian reports. 

The study, published this week in Nature Communications, found that the zebra's stripes deter bloodsucking ectoparasites such as tsetse flies and horseflies, which transmit often-fatal diseases to horses and are probably also capable of draining large amounts of blood.

Researchers studied the geographical distributions of the seven different living species of zebras, horses, and asses, including 20 subspecies found in the Old World, and found that striped species such as the zebra often live in the same region as biting flies.

"I was amazed by our results," lead author Tim Caro, a UC Davis professor of wildlife biology, told the Christian Science Monitor. "Again and again, there was greater striping on areas of the body in those parts of the world where there was more annoyance from biting flies."

The study refuted previous theories for the purpose of the stripes—some dating back to Charles Darwin—that attribute the stripes to aiding camouflage, heat management, or social interaction.

Why don’t bloodsucking flies like stripes? Several studies dating back to the 1930s have shown that flies prefer to land on all-black or all-white surfaces rather than on stripes, but more recent research is needed for scientists to know for sure.

0 Comments

Skydivers hold hands to maintain position during jumps.     Photo: Digital Vision/Thinkstock

Skydivers Attempt World Record

All 222 of them

This week, World Team skydivers will attempt to break the world record for largest double-formation jump. Expected to launch from 10 planes at 19,000 feet before Friday, the 222 jumpers plan to form a multicolored bull's-eye hurtling through the air at 120 mph.

The World Team will have 80 seconds to exit the planes, assume its double formation, and deploy 222 parachutes. A practice run shows them scattering 60 seconds into the jump after struggling to keep the outer ring of their pseudo-bull's-eye in place.

To practice for the event, the team has been doing "dirt dives"—making the bull's-eye formation on the ground—for the past 18 months.

The team will jump above Eloy, Arizona, where two men were killed in a midair collision during a world record attempt late last year.

The previous record for a double-formation skydive was set by 110 people in late 2013.

0 Comments

Sunshine: The best way to get your vitamin D.     Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Vitamin D Could Save Your Life

But not in supplement form

Two studies on vitamin D recently released in the British Medical Journal offer new insights about the benefits of the sunshine nutrient. Long believed to play a vital role in the cardiovascular and immune systems, researchers now believe it all depends on which type of vitamin D you consume.

After studying more than a million people, researchers led by Dr. Oscar H. Franco of Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands observed significant correlations between disease and blood levels of vitamin D. Adults who had lower levels of vitamin D in their systems were 35 percent more likely to die from heart disease, 14 percent more likely to die from cancer, and faced an overall higher risk of mortality.

The catch is that vitamin D2, which is found in supplements, seemed to have no impact, reports the New York Times. Rather, vitamin D3—found in fish and dairy products, and the type the body produces naturally when exposed to sunlight—showed an 11 percent reduction in mortality from all causes. Franco confirms, "Vitamin D could be a good route to prevent mortality from cardiovascular disease and other causes of mortality."

Researchers estimated that more than two-thirds of European and American populations are lacking in this vitamin, even though getting enough involves only going for a walk outside and eating well. "The most important factors in obtaining vitamin D are going out and doing some exercise and following a healthy diet," explained Dr. Evropi Theodoratou of the Center for Population Health Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. 

Not sure if you’re getting enough of the sunshine nutrient? Here's how to get tested—and how some of Outside's staff stacks up.

0 Comments

Comments