August 1, 2014

Southwest will no longer be jet-setting in high Shamu style.     Photo: Zach Graves/Flickr

Southwest Leaves the Splash Zone

Parts with SeaWorld "mutually"

If you're thinking Southwest Airlines decided to end its 25-year partnership with SeaWorld because of growing backlash against the animal-rights-offending parks, you're wrong. At least that's how the two companies are putting it publicly.

In the statement, SeaWorld says that the two "have enjoyed their long relationship, and wish each other continued success." This comes just a year after Southwest designed a new penguin-themed plane to celebrate a quarter century of blissful partnership.

But it also comes a year after the release of Blackfish, which has led others to break ties with SeaWorld and probably played a part in the company's 11 percent decrease in earnings from last year. The LA Times points out that a petition calling for the Southwest-SeaWorld breakup also racked up 30,000 signatures during the past year. Still, Southwest says that the decision was purely business-related, as the company aims to introduce international offerings over the coming years.

The only regrettable thing about this breakup is that Southwest will be repainting its SeaWorld planes, designed to look like airborne whales and other marine creatures. Those were pretty great.


Satellite imagery of the already water-strapped Colorado River, which feeds farmland growing the highest concentrations of produce in the country.     Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr

Climate Change Will Destroy Your Lifestyle

British climate projections show impact on global resources.

The U.K. Met Office, Britain's official weather service, created a poster of maps showing how climate change will set in motion a domino-style disruption of human lifestyles. Working with various academic institutions and the U.K. Foreign Office, the Met Office produced a total of seven maps—one map showing current human dynamics and six maps predicting a less-than-pleasant future. Projections use data taken from the office's latest climate and impact models through 2100. 

The map of current human dynamics helps viewers make an important connection: those places we depend on for high agricultural yields, fish, and shipping routes are directly in climate change's line of fire. 

Six maps extrapolate upon what will happen to these trade routes and resources, accomplishing what many climate projections do not—they tell stories, exploring key ways in which we depend on current climate conditions to remain stable, and the repercussions of change. These maps—exploring flood frequency, drought, and demand for irrigation—imply two repercussions: the places growing our food will have too little water while the places that don't might drown, and populations stand to increase most in places with the most resources to lose. 

But even these maps can't show the extent of possible damage. The poster comes in the wake of a series of reports on the interconnectedness of resources, climate, and violence. Studies show that where climate events like drought and floods are prevalent, so too are civil wars, crime, and civilization collapse.


It's like connect the dots, but with 2014 climbing style.     Photo: Alessandro Valli/Flickr

The Virtual-Reality Climbing Wall

Lasers and virtual chainsaws are now training tools

Color-coding your climbing route on the training wall is so last century. That’s why two augmented-reality researchers from Aalto University in Finland developed a laser-projecting movement-tracking system that provides feedback in real time for climbers.

Perttu Hämäläinen and Raine Kajastila's projector sets climbing routes with a glowing line, while a depth-sensing camera tracks movement and offers suggestions for the next move. All holds that a climber touches can be stored for later use as a route build, or climbers can use the system's route automator to guide them and learn the holds of a certain route.

But the guidance doesn’t take all of the fun out of climbing. The duo is confident that some element of surprise remains for climbers—such as the virtual chainsaw projected onto the course that climbers have to avoid. And when someone falls, the systems detect that the ascent is over and automatically replay the climb on a nearby screen. 

Hämäläinen and Kajastila tested a system with eight intermediate and experienced climbers; reviews varied from “good training for unexpected moves,” to “not very elegant climbing,” according to their proposal paper.

Sadly, you won’t be able to judge for yourself right away—News Scientist reports that the team is working to get a prototype up and running this fall.