Scientists once thought that the sea scorpion Acutiramus cummingsi, which had large claws and huge eyes and could grow up to eight feet long, must have been the terror of the seas when it lived, more than 400 million years ago. But a high-tech analysis of the animal’s fossilized visual system in the July issue of Biology Letters, by paleontology graduate student Ross Anderson and his colleagues, suggests that the largest arthropod that ever existed couldn’t see well enough to be a top predator. It’s possible, says Anderson, that like the modern-day horseshoe crab—a very distant relative—A. cummingsi “was more of a scavenger that hunted at night.”


Several years ago, labor economist Lisa B. Kahn showed that college graduates unlucky enough to enter the labor force during an economic downturn took a significant and surprisingly long-lasting earnings hit. Now, an as-yet-unpublished working paper by Kahn and her colleagues argues that while hard times were measurably easier for certain majors, such as finance and engineering, the earnings gap already evident during good economic conditions was magnified for majors with lower earnings potential, such as philosophy and music. However, says Kahn, the recent Great Recession was an exception: a “great equalizer” that leveled the playing field by hurting both groups.


Summer in the city can be hotter than in the surrounding countryside, but some cities have it worse than others. In an analysis of 65 North American cities published in the July 10 Nature, Xuhui Lee, a meteorology professor in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and his team discovered that the “urban heat island” effect is maximized in wet places: wetness reduces the efficiency with which an area can shed heat by as much as 58 percent. The increasing temperatures forecast by global climate change models will exacerbate the impact on comfort levels and human health. But there might be a practical method for reducing it, say the researchers: if urban structures, from buildings to parking lots, are made more reflective, they’ll be less likely to accumulate warmth.

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