September 2, 2014

The Navy has to test its ships somewhere, but the way the Naval Surface Warfare Center is using wave-testing is truly fascinating.

The center's indoor ocean, which is housed in suburban Maryland, lies in a pool the size of a football field and contains 12 million gallons of water. In it, the Naval Surface Warfare Center uses 216 electronic wave boards to mimic eight types of ocean conditions, making the indoor ocean "the most sophisticated scientific wave-testing basin of its size in the world," according to Smithsonian magazine. Smithsonian's Abigail Tucker likens the wave boards to "giant piano keys, whose scales and chords are waves."

Since the Navy's ships are worth billions of dollars, testing them is no small matter. The Navy must account not only for flotation, but also for missile launching and helicopter landing, which can be much more difficult in adverse wave conditions. The new technology, which uses a frequency spectrum called a JONSWAP, makes the testing process easier than ever — alternating test scenarios once took 20 minutes, but the wave boards can do them in 30 seconds.

"It almost becomes a kind of art," naval architect Jon Etxegoien told Smithsonian. "But our challenge is to do what nature can do, not what it can't." Check out the Navy's indoor ocean in action over at Smithsonian. --Meghan DeMaria

7:22 p.m. ET
Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images

After meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Wednesday, Donald Trump said the pair did not discuss payment for his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, but a presidential spokesman said that's not the case.

"What the president said is that Mexico, as he has said on several occasions…will not pay for that wall," spokesman Eduardo Sanchez told Reuters. Trump made his earlier comments during a joint news conference in Mexico City, held after the two had a private meeting. Trump said they discussed the wall, just not who would foot the bill. Catherine Garcia

6:51 p.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court denied a request from North Carolina to allow three provisions of its strict voting rights law to go back into effect by the November election.

The justices were split 4-4, leaving intact a lower court opinion that struck down the law. North Carolina's lead lawyer, Paul Clement, asked that three provisions be reinstated: the elimination of pre-registration for 16-year-olds; the need for voters to present one of eight different forms of ID at the polls; and the reduction of early voting days from 17 to 10.

The law has been challenged by civil rights groups and the Department of Justice, who said it had a disparate impact on minority voters, CNN reports. "Once an electoral law has been found to be racially discriminatory, and injunctive relief has been found to be necessary to remedy that discrimination, the normal rule is that the operation of the law must be suspended," acting Solicitor General Ian Gershengorn said. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) issued a statement calling it a "common-sense voter ID law," and said the state "has been denied basic voting rights already granted to more than 30 other states to protect the integrity of one person, one vote." Catherine Garcia

5:17 p.m. ET

Donald Trump met with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Wednesday, after which the two men gave a joint press conference. Trump called Peña Nieto's invitation a "great honor," and said the the U.S. and Mexico are "united by our support for democracy, a great love for our people, and the contributions of millions of Mexican-Americans to the United States." Trump said he has a "tremendous feeling" for Mexican-Americans, explaining that not only does he have several friends of Mexican descent, but he has also employed "tremendous numbers" of Mexican-Americans in the United States.

Trump then laid out five shared goals for the U.S. and Mexico: 1) ending illegal immigration, which he called a "humanitarian disaster"; 2) having a secure border; 3) curbing the drug trade; 4) improving the NAFTA agreement; and 5) keeping manufacturing wealth in the continent. Regarding Trump's infamous border wall, the GOP candidate said that while both he and Peña Nieto "respect and recognize the right of either country to build a physical barrier," paying for the wall was not discussed; Trump has insisted throughout his campaign that Mexico would foot the bill for such construction.

Peña Nieto spoke briefly, saying that he had invited both Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to visit, and Trump's camp responded quickly in the affirmative. He also said he recognized that many Mexicans had been offended and aggrieved by some of Trump's remarks as a candidate, but that as Mexican president, it is his job to work toward a mutually beneficial and respectful relationship with the United States and to respect the American electoral process.

Earlier Wednesday, Trump's advisers said they hoped the visit would provide a presidential photo op for the candidate — but there was no American flag on stage with Trump and Peña Nieto, only a Mexican flag. Next, Trump will give a speech later Wednesday in Arizona on his immigration policy. Kimberly Alters

4:21 p.m. ET

Hillary Clinton dismissed Donald Trump's meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto as being nothing more than a "photo op," and even Trump's own team seems to agree. But if that's true, it is about the worst photo op in history:

It does appear from the footage of the joint statement that the stage is conspicuously lacking an American flag:

As Trump has vowed to make Mexico pay for the border wall, it is perhaps not such an encouraging sign that he seemingly couldn't even negotiate getting an American flag on stage. In his defense, though, there is such a thing as too many American flags. Jeva Lange

3:55 p.m. ET

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Wednesday that frozen strawberries imported from Egypt are the cause of an outbreak of hepatitis A spanning six states. The outbreak was initially traced to smoothies from certain Tropical Smoothie Café restaurants, but upon further investigation, the CDC deduced that the imported berries in the smoothies were the cause.

An estimated 55 people people have gotten sick, with the majority of those cases in Virginia, where the outbreak originated. "About half" of the 44 people infected in Virginia have been hospitalized because of the viral liver infection, CNN reported.

Because hepatitis A has a long incubation period, the CDC predicted that still more people will begin experiencing symptoms, which include jaundice, fever, fatigue, and nausea. Though highly contagious, hepatitis A does not cause any chronic illness. Becca Stanek

3:51 p.m. ET

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has been known to turn the sass dial up to 11 when commenting (or not) on Republican nominee Donald Trump. Earnest certainly put his sarcastic sense of humor to use Wednesday when asked about Trump's trip to Mexico to speak with President Enrique Peña Nieto.

"It is not uncommon, of course, for the leading presidential candidates to make trips overseas," Earnest said, apparently referencing President Obama's own trip to Europe in 2008. "One of the highlights was a trip to Germany, where the president spoke in Berlin to a crowd of about 100,000 Germans who warmly received him and enthusiastically cheered his speech," Earnest went on. "We'll see if Mr. Trump is similarly received."

We shall indeed. Jeva Lange

3:27 p.m. ET

Scientists estimate that before European colonization, the elephant population in Africa numbered around 20 million. By 1979, that number was a mere 1.3 million. But now, following the first major study of its scale and kind, the population of elephants living in Africa is estimated to be just over 350,000, CNN reports.

Due primarily to rampant poaching, between 2007 and 2014 the number of elephants in Africa dropped by 30 percent. In some regions, it dropped by more than 75 percent:

"When you think of how many elephants occurred in areas 10 or 20 years ago, it's incredibly disheartening," says [Mike Chase, the lead scientist of the Great Elephant Census].

"Historically these ecosystems supported many thousands of elephants compared to the few hundreds or tens of elephants we counted."

The current rate of species decline is 8 percent, meaning that elephant numbers could halve to 175,000 in nine years if nothing changes, according to the survey — and localized extinction is almost certain.

Even before the census offered proof, scientists calculated that far more elephants were dying than being born. Now the species has reached a tipping point. [CNN]

To reach their conclusions, the team of 90 scientists and 286 crew members spent 10,000 hours over 18 African countries to count the elephants from the air. South Sudan and the Central African Republic were not included in the study results due to armed conflict, nor was Namibia, which refused to release numbers.

"[Elephants] are our living dinosaurs, the romance of a bygone era, and if we can't conserve the African elephants, I'm fearful to think about the fate of the rest of Africa's wildlife," Chase said. Read the full report on the elephant census at CNN. Jeva Lange

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