TRAFFIC ALERT: I-5 expansion-joint work continues; tonight until Monday morning, WSDOT is closing up to 3 northbound collector-distributor lanes downtown .
The United States Geological Survey issued a press release yesterday indicating that the magnitude 5.7 earthquake that struck Prague, Oklahoma in 2011 was unintentionally human-induced.
The British Museum showcases the poetry, boats and bling of the marauding 11th-century Norsemen who, above all else, understood curves…
Anyone who has even dipped a toe in the briny sagas of the Viking kings will know that the stag outing the itinerant Norsemen prized above all others always began something like this: "On Saturday the fleet-lord throws off the long tarpaulin, and splendid widows from the town gaze on the planking of the dragon ship. The young ruler steers the brand new warship west out of the Nio, and the oars of the warriors fall into the sea… " Those lines come from the 11th-century court poet Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, and they describe the characteristic actions of the fleet of Harald Hardradra (Harold the Hard Ruler), the last great Viking king, who fought unsuccessfully to extend his Norwegian monarchy to Denmark and then Britain. He died at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 along with his poet.
For nearly three centuries prior to that, the collective skill of creating "brand new warships" in a society seemingly geared to the singular thrill of that moment of setting forth on the ocean, west or east, powered a culture that came to explore, colonise, terrify (and enslave) large parts of northern Europe and Asia, and which extended its trading reach to Constantinople, Newfoundland and beyond. The word "viking" was originally shorthand for the experience of throwing back that sealskin tarpaulin and setting oars to water, deriving from "vik", which was the name for the mouth of a river or fjord. Later, in particular in the Icelandic sagas, it became something like the catch-all term we now understand: to "fara í viking", "go on a viking" came to mean not only to set out on a voyage but to take part in anything that might follow – trade, commerce, raiding, piracy or worse.
One thing this quite austere British Museum exhibition seeks to establish is that the lines of the saga poets were secondary to the lines of the ships themselves. The legends of the exhibition's title are told very much through its objects rather than its famous verses (though the soundtrack is a looped, guttural telling of some of those legends in a language you seem to half understand from box sets of The Bridge). Empires have been built by many means, but the implication here is clear, the Vikings built their roving power on a single collective facility: they understood curves. This knowledge enabled them to build large, fast sea-going ships with shallow enough drafts to navigate far inland on rivers, and light enough to be dragged up on to beaches (Viking raiders got as far into England as Lichfield in the landlocked Midlands, and they raided and colonised far into Russian lands along the tributaries of the Volga).
For a quarter of a millennium no other culture in their sphere had much of an answer to that curvilinear knowledge. Like the splendid 11th-century widows marvelling at the unsheathed warship, you confront those curves immediately in the new hangar-like exhibition space of the British Museum, which is also launched with this show. The great dragon ship Roskilde 6 is reconstructed in the new hall with a good deal of its original planking laid on a steel skeleton. The ship seems likely to have been part of the fleet of Canute (or Cnut, as he is here, to which the epithet "total" remains silent); it was, like most Viking vessels, essentially a troop carrier, 36 metres long, and is the largest longship ever found. Having probably crisscrossed the North Sea 1,000 years ago before being scuttled to protect the harbour entrance to Roskilde, the ancient capital of Denmark, it was discovered and excavated in 1996, and has made the journey across the greyest of oceans once again. About a quarter of its timbers survive, but even in its hollowed and reimagined state, its aerodynamic heft, the sheer prowess of its ribs and stays, retain a good deal of the original 11th-century shock and awe.
That ship so dominates this show that you begin, probably justifiably, to see its curves almost everywhere in the exhibits that surround it. The dominant Viking forms are obvious in the representations of the curious longhouses, often windowless and built like upturned boats, and in the shape of the graves that took notable Viking warriors on their last voyages of discovery – accompanied by valkyries in the myth, perhaps to the great hall of Valhalla to drink with the god Odin, and imagine how their stories might echo down the ages to be recast in CGI and given Hollywood endings.
Odin, who takes his place here only as a tiny silver figurine, a tactile charm, was associated with "feminine magic", and appears to be depicted in women's clothes. There is precious little else that might be described as feminine in the Viking aesthetic, beyond some of the delicate skill in carving. The investment in ships afforded chiefs and kings great wealth, traded or looted and defended with double-edged swords, of which there are many lethal looking examples.
There was, it seems, a formidable culture of bling, great rope-like chains of silver and gold; almost comically outsized buckles and brooches that became status symbols from Stockholm to Shetland. In some instances amulets and bracelets doubled as currency; the silver of some examples is scored in regular increments for the purposes of trade; cattle or silk would be purchased by chiselling off a couple of segments.
Almost universally, jewellery and armour, as well as the many whalebone artefacts, are decorated with bold riverine and wave designs, reminders of where the money came from. When Christianity began to supersede Norse mythology – and crucifixes replaced valkyries – it is easy to see how the Vikings might have taken to a god who walked on water.
The trade that underpinned a good deal of that wealth was in slaves, or "thralls". The neck chains and manacles of Irish slaves, literally enthralled and sent off to Iceland, are grimly emblematic of what the sight of longships on the horizon might have represented to native populations. A preserved warrior's skull in which the front teeth have been filed flat for aggressive effect also makes a chilling point (though his helmet was never adorned with horns; those were a Victorian addition to the myth).
Though dues are paid here to the profound depths of Norse mythology, and to the Vikings' civilisation-changing technological expertise and sporadic efforts at diplomacy, you are unlikely to leave this exhibition with the feeling that longships were often welcome visitors on foreign beaches. In part of an excavated mass grave from Weymouth, in which the exclusively male DNA is sourced to 10th-century Scandinavian origins, each skeleton has been brutally beheaded (with in some cases protective hands sliced clean through as well). This is thought to be evidence of the manner in which the crew of a single Viking longship were repelled. For many decades, such a violent reverse was obviously an exception to the rule.Tim Adams
The comedian and actor on Breaking Bad, Jez Butterworth's Jerusalem and the magic of Cape Town
Ruby Wax is an actor, comedian and writer. She grew up in Evanston, Illinois and graduated in psychology from the University of California at Berkeley. Arriving in Britain in the 70s she studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, then became part of the alternative comedy scene alongside Ben Elton, Rik Mayall and Jennifer Saunders. In the 90s she made a series of programmes for the BBC, culminating with Ruby Wax Meets in which she interviewed public figures including Imelda Marcos, Pamela Anderson and the Duchess of York. She also served as a script editor and often appeared in Jennifer Saunders's hugely successful sitcom Absolutely Fabulous. It was around this time that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder which was the subject of her 2010 standup show Losing It. She is about to embark on a new tour inspired by her book Sane New World, out now in paperback.Television: Breaking Bad
There is nothing I don't like about it. I can't even explain how strongly I feel about it. It just keeps coming. I have never seen writing like that. And for such an extraordinary tale, it is utterly believable. I think we can relate to Walter White [the drama's school teacher turned drug kingpin antihero] because we have all met someone a little like him. We have, at least initially, real empathy with him. Everything that happens to him and the way he reacts would be the way I would react. It's easy, at least to begin with, to stand in his shoes. If I was dying of cancer and needed money to pay my medical bills and support my family I would hold up a bank, no question. I would do what Walter does.Book: The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge
I am obsessed with science books, which I've been reading for a very long time. Daniel J Siegel, who is a professor at UCLA, made the point that there have been many neuroscientists who study the brain but not one psychologist who studies the mind. He is the reason I went to Oxford [Wax graduated from Kellogg College, Oxford last year], he is the reason I went in this whole direction. This is one of the books I love, and which talks about neuroplasticity, meaning the ability to change who you are by essentially rewiring your own brain. Doidge's book should give everyone who reads it huge hope, because his thesis is that we are not tied to genetics. Like him I believe we are the result of certain genes, expressed and unexpressed; our neuro-wiring; chemicals and hormones; who our parents are; what our culture is and our experiences. This is now where science is at, which is a long way from saying "I'm an Aries".Theatre: Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth
This for me is the Breaking Bad of theatre. I know it's good 'cos my children queued up all night around the block to get the last tickets. And it went to New York. And in its first run back in 2009 it starred Mark Rylance (left), who is the God of all actors. It concerns a wild man, just wild. But you adore him. He's one of those guys who is a thorough reprobate and spends his time with other reprobates but has huge charisma. Kids just worship him because his stories, his anecdotes are out of this world. But he's a criminal, a pied piper. In part it's inspired by William Blake's poem, but it's funny and dangerous and delightful. This for me is as good as it gets, and even though it lasts more than three hours you beg for it to keep going. I cannot urge you enough to go see it. Wherever its showing, go see it.Festival: Burning Man, Nevada
Some people go to Burning Man for the people. I would not go for the people. I went for the installations. They have about 200 of them and they are thoroughly mind-blowing. Nudes the size of skyscrapers, burning spaceships, full-sized pirate ships are driving you around. There are cars that look like sharks. The whole thing is Fellini on acid. And in the middle of the desert. I had heard about, been told about it, read about it, Google-imaged it. But the reality is far better and more mind-blowing than anyone could ever lead you to believe. It is the No 1 wonder of the world. Anything you can imagine and plenty that you can't is there. You really don't need drugs to appreciate this – in fact drugs would get in the way of seeing how strange and beautiful it is.Interactive theatre: Punchdrunk
They are a British theatre company who pioneered this form of interactive, immersive theatre back in 2000. Their plays take place in these huge warehouses, with 75 rooms or more. I went to see their production of Goethe's Faust, but anything they do is fascinating. You arrive and you are immediately separated from your friends and given a mask to wear. You then walk from room to room. In each room a part of the play is taking place. Sometimes the actors start interacting with you. I got taken off to have drinks with one of the characters and wash another who was covered in mud. Sometimes you're taken to a room and asked to make a deal with the devil. Most of the time, though, the performers behave as if you were invisible. No two people will experience the play in quite the same way. You are taken from room to room, installation to installation, but have no physical sense of the direction you're going in. It's a fascinating and extremely disorienting way of experiencing art.City: Cape Town, South Africa
I love Cape Town, I have a home there and spend as much time as I can there. It recently won Best City in the World. It has that magical light, the light you get in LA, but the people are lovely and interesting and engaging whereas in LA they may as well be furniture. In Cape Town they are lively, funny and politically sharp and engaged. I live on the ocean, and the Twelve Apostles are behind me, so wherever I look I have the most amazing views. The places I go to are very racially mixed and very culturally innovative. I just did a play there for a short run and they are attracting actors from all over the world. It has a very vibrant gay scene, beautiful food and fantastic architecture. For me at least Cape Town is a little piece of paradise.Ben Marshall
The American environmental journalist on how humanity is wiping out our fellow creatures… and one species she'd choose to bring back
Elizabeth Kolbert is the author of The Sixth Extinction, which argues that a catastrophe that may be as significant as the one that wiped out the dinosaurs is under way around us. But whereas the previous five mass extinctions were caused by natural phenomena, Kolbert shows us that this one is manmade. One third of all reef-building corals, a third of all freshwater molluscs, a third of sharks and rays, a quarter of all mammals, a fifth of all reptiles, and a sixth of all birds, says Kolbert, "are heading towards oblivion".
When did you first hear the phrase the Sixth Extinction, and how did it become the subject of your book?
Not that long ago. I read a paper in the National Academy of Sciences that set me down this whole road. That came out in 2008 and it was called Are We In the Midst of The Sixth Extinction? That was sort of the beginning of this whole project. Then I wrote a piece for the New Yorker called "The Sixth Extinction?" , and it involved amphibian-hunting in Panama. I knew I hadn't scratched the surface, that there was a book there.
Your previous writing on climate change met with scepticism. Do you think this broader approach might have a more engaged reception?
Climate change, especially in the US, has been extraordinarily politicised, and that is a real barrier to getting people to even think about the issue. The other issues in the book, which are all contributing to this mass extinction – invasive species and ocean acidification – have not been politicised. But acidification is completely the same phenomenon as global warming. It's all about carbon emissions. Unfortunately the public discourse has really taken leave of the science and just exists in its own realm.
The irony of the previous catastrophes is that we wouldn't be here without them…
Yes, there's a consensus that the dinosaurs were doing just fine 66m years ago and presumably could have done fine for another 66m years, had their way of life not been up-ended by an asteroid impact. Life on this planet is contingent. There's no grand plan for it. We are also contingent. Yet although we are absolutely part of this long history, we turn out to be extremely unusual. And what we're doing is quite possibly unprecedented.
Reading your book, one wonders if it might not be good for the rest of the planet if we died out?
A few species would be worse off if we weren't here but probably most would be better off. That's sounds like a radical or misanthropic thing to say but I think it's evidently true.
It seems that from the moment we arrived we've been busy wiping out species.
There is incontrovertible evidence that when people reached Australia, 50,000 years ago, they precipitated the extinction of many species. Giant marsupials, giant tortoises, a huge bird – all were gone within a couple of thousand years of people arriving.
Your book is very much a reporter's book. Was that important to you to have that sense of a journalistic quest?
Yes, because I am a reporter,not a scientist. I'm not drawing on my own expertise. I'm drawing on the expertise of the people I went out with. You could summarise this whole sad story in one or two chapters, but part of trying to get people to really think things through, and follow you on this quest, is to be out there and tell some good stories along the way.
Your background was in political reporting. Why did you switch to science?
Because I was interested in climate change, and politics led me to it. It was in 2000-2001 when the US, under George W Bush, was withdrawing from the Kyoto protocol. The question was whether climate change was really a huge problem or, as Bush and others were saying, not a problem. It took me a long time to find a way to tell that as a story, and then it ended up being a three-part story in the New Yorker, and it mushroomed from there.
How much of a challenge has it been to get scientifically up to pace?
A huge challenge. I don't have much of a science background. I'm a literature major. But I really think that covering politics and covering science are not that dissimilar because they both involve people in their own worlds speaking in their own jargon, and you have to find ways to write stories that seem relevant to your readers.
International travel has hastened many extinctions. Should we stop it?
I don't end the book with my grand plan to solve this problem. There are steps we could take to minimise our impact, but when you look at the totality of what we're doing, you realise it's so much a part of how we live, and have done actually for a long time. We've been dragging beasts across the oceans for hundreds of years. It seem very unlikely we're going to stop crossing the ocean.
How important are zoos nowadays?
I wrote a piece about zoos for National Geographic and I came away impressed by what zoos are doing. They are on the front lines of realising how much is disappearing. A lot of zoos said to me that what we do is manage small populations of animals. And increasingly that's what everyone is going to be doing in national parks and elsewhere, so that the whole world becomes a kind of zoo, which is a sobering thought.
Will this Sixth Extinction have an impact on humanity's survival?
I'm often asked: what about us? I pretty pointedly don't think it's the most relevant concern. We are very good at assuming the habitats of other creatures and consuming their resources. So far it's been an extremely successful strategy. There are now 7.2 billion people on the planet and there are many other species down to their last hundred individuals. There's a lot of unconsumed biomass out there to still be consumed. It seems to me we could do a tremendous amount of damage to other species and the natural world before we'd feel it.
Is there one creature you'd like to bring back from extinction?
I wrote about the great auk, which became extinct 150 years ago. I visited a stuffed one in Iceland. They're really beautiful birds, and apparently they were really rather comical in the way that flightless birds can be. I guess if I had to choose one, that would be it.Andrew Anthony
The 3.2 magnitude quake was recorded 9 miles northeast of Luther, or about 31 miles northeast of the Oklahoma City metro, just before 4 p.m. at a depth of approximately two miles.
Documentary examines rise in injuries in rugby union and other sports that can cause brain damage in later life
Barry O'Driscoll, the former medical adviser to the International Rugby Board, is under no illusion about the defining moment of Ireland's 13-13 draw with France in March last year. The decision to allow his nephew, the multi-capped centre Brian O'Driscoll, to return to the pitch after suffering concussion was an outrage, he said.
"If that had been allowed in the United States, during an American football match, then the officials involved would have been sacked," he said.
O'Driscoll – who resigned from the IRB's medical advisory board in 2012 in protest at its handling of the issues of concussion and brain injury – was speaking in the documentary, Head Games: The Global Concussion Crisis, which premiered in London last week. The American-made film focuses on what it describes as "a silent, global epidemic" of head injuries and traumas triggered by sports that are becoming increasingly robust and are leaving more and more former players suffering from dementia and the effects of brain damage in their middle years. These sports include American football, ice hockey – and rugby.
In the case of rugby union, the sport has become hardened and sharpened in the wake of it turning professional in the 1990s. Players today are bigger, stronger, faster and more able to hurt each other than in the past. Concussion was once treated as a joke – as is revealed by amateur video included in Head Games – but today has become an extremely worrying problem. Too many injuries to the head and a player is put at risk of succumbing to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in later life.
CTE was once known as dementia pugilistica or being punch drunk, a condition that affected boxers in their later years. But now doctors and neurologists are finding that it affects former players of many other sports where there are intense levels of contact and head injury. Five years ago the wider dangers of CTE were first revealed in the US where it was discovered that it was affecting former top-level American football players. At first the National Football League (NFL) rejected a link between head injuries suffered during games and the later onset of depression, dizzy spells and suicide attempts among former players. "It was a bit like the tobacco industry attempting to deny the link between smoking and cancer," says Christopher Newinski, a former NFL player who is the author of the book Head Games on which the film is based.
However, a scientific paper published in 2009 revealed that former NFL players were 19 times more likely to suffer from early onset Alzheimer's disease than the general public. Further studies have backed these conclusions and since then there has been far greater care taken about players who suffer head injuries during matches. In particular, they are not allowed back on pitch and are prevented from playing again for periods of up to several weeks.
But other sports – on both sides of the Atlantic – have been slower to catch up on the newly revealed dangers posed by head traumas, as the producers of Head Games reveal by focusing on ice hockey, Australian rules football, and rugby union. Former players describe bouts of concussion, disrupted sleep, changes in personality and loss of memory since ending their days as professional players. These stories are interspersed with clips of incidents of eye-watering violence as players are battered and pounded on the head – but then expected to continue playing after treatment.
As neurologist Professor Laura Balcer, of New York University, states on the film, it is clear from evidence that a person should not be allowed to suffer continued injuries to the head. "If you suffer concussion on three occasions, you should think of retiring," she says.
The problem, which the film acknowledges, is that these sports all provide amateur players with a great deal of pleasure. The trick is to find a way of allowing people to continue enjoying a sport without risk of succumbing to dementia in later years. As former Canadian ice hockey star Keith Primeau admits: "It is a problem that young players simply do not want to know about."Robin McKie
The tunnel-boring machine, used to construct a two-kilometre tunnel for the Evergreen Line, was christened Friday as Alice, named for Alice Wilson, Canada's first female geologist.