Stories tagged Norway

Dec
10
2009

Wondrous lights in the sky!: But, no, this isn't it. This is the Hard Rock Cafe, one of the other signs of the apocalypse.
Wondrous lights in the sky!: But, no, this isn't it. This is the Hard Rock Cafe, one of the other signs of the apocalypse.Courtesy otubo
Early this week, the good people of Norway looked up from their frantic vitamin D foraging into the dark, pre-dawn sky above the city of Tromsø to see a bizarre spectacle. A massive, glowing spiral hung in the sky, its eerie light reflecting from the frosty hair and pale, cod oil-smeared faces of the people below. Some of the understandably bewildered Tromsønians cowered before the surreal apparition, crouching behind boulders and rusted car hulks, while others boldly hissed and flailed at it, scratching ineffectually at the frigid air with fingernails worn to milky stubs from pawing at packed snow to reveal the tender lichen beneath. All were afraid, for they knew that what they beheld was surely the beginnings of an inter-dimensional portal, or the atmospheric wake of an alien spacecraft (if not somehow both.)

I should perhaps mention, at this point, that my understanding of Norway and Norwegians is fairly limited. I do know that Tromsø is 300 km north of the Arctic Circle, so when I said “pre-dawn” I was being a little poetic—Tromsø won’t see sunrise until mid-January. So, to arrive at my conception of a citizen of Tromsø in December, I took what I’m like, in St. Paul, MN, on a pretty chilly December 10th, and moved that image up to the 69th parallel. I imagined something like Gollum, but wearing a fur parka. This doesn’t quite mesh with reality, but I’m pleased with it.

At any rate, these hearty, enlightened Scandinavians (or slippery tundra goblins, whichever you prefer) saw this in the sky recently. Click on that. It’s interesting.

What was it? Alien attack? The Eye of Sauron? (JK. The Eye of Sauron was fiery. Y’all know that.) A woooormhole? Is the aurora borealis fed up with being harmless?

No. It turns out that the remarkable effect was caused by something much more mundane: a malfunctioning rocket. Specifically, it was a Russian missile test failure. A submarine in the White Sea test-fired a Buluva nuclear-capable missile, and the darn thing malfunctioned, said the Russian Ministry of Defense. In its death throes, the missile made some neat-o clouds in the upper atmosphere, and they apparently caught the light in a pretty way.

Here’s a video explaining how such things work. (This was released before the official Russian explanation, I think.)

So there you go. Nothing to worry about. Just an ol’ malfunctionin’ Ruskie nukular missile.

Er… what?

Apr
25
2008

Death boat, but not murder boat: New medical testing done on remains from two women's bodies found in this Viking burial boat -- the Oseberg ship -- show no signs of foul play or murder. The ship is now on display at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway.
Death boat, but not murder boat: New medical testing done on remains from two women's bodies found in this Viking burial boat -- the Oseberg ship -- show no signs of foul play or murder. The ship is now on display at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway.Courtesy flappingwings
It took more than 100 years of research, but modern technology has been used to determine that injuries found on a woman in a Viking burial were not the result of murder.

The young woman is one of two people buried in the Oseberg ship, an ornamental craft measuring 72-feet long that was found in 1904 buried under a huge mound in Norway.

It’s believed that the ship was the burial chamber for a Viking queen, the other body found in the excavation. The younger woman had evidence of fractures on her collarbone, initially leading researchers to think she was the queen’s attendant who was also killed at the time of the queen’s death to serve her in the afterlife. The burial boat also contained a slain dog, other animals and a collection of household goods and furniture that were thought to be needed for the queen to continue her regal life in the afterworld.

Through closer inspection of the women’s bones, a little bit clearer picture is starting to emerge about their story. The younger woman, who was around age 50, indeed had a broken collarbone at the time of the burial, but it also showed several weeks worth of healing. So the impact that caused the collar to crack didn’t likely occur at the time of the older woman’s death. Also, the older woman, about age 80, was suffering from a form of cancer based on evidence collected from her bones. The women died in the year 834.

Researchers also think that they both might have achieved high status in Viking culture. While that was known for the queen based on her elaborate burial, new data collected from the younger woman show that she had a diet rich in meat (lower class Vikings ate mainly fish) and that she used a metal toothpick to clean her teeth, something that was only available to upper-class Vikings.

Still, a lot more questions than answers remain about the situation, researchers add.

Oct
06
2006

Pliosaur: Credit: Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, Norway  Artwork by Tor Sponga, BT
Pliosaur: Credit: Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, Norway Artwork by Tor Sponga, BT

Marine reptile burial ground found

Norwegian scientists have discovered a "treasure trove" of fossils belonging to giant sea reptiles that roamed the seas at the time of the dinosaurs. The 150 million year-old Jurassic fossils were discovered while conducting fieldwork in a remote locality on the island of Spitsbergen, approximately 800 miles from the North Pole.

The Svalbard locality represents one of the most important new sites for marine reptiles to have been discovered in the last several decades. In terms of number, a remarkable 28 new individuals were documented during the short two-week field period, nine of which are believed to be significant discoveries. This tally, which includes 21 long-necked plesiosaurs, six ichthyosaurs and one short necked plesiosaur, ranks Svalbard as one of the most productive sites for marine reptiles in the world. The fossilized remains are also very well preserved, and most of the skeletons are articulated, with the bones still lying in their original life position. University of Oslo, Natural History Museum

A skeleton of a pliosaur promises to be one of the largest ever discovered. Over 30 feet long with a six foot skull, the find is referred to as "the monster". A large number of photos documenting these finds are on the Naturhistorisk museum website. A plesiosaur is pictured being eaten by the pliosaur. Ichthyosaurs were another food source represented in the fossil treasue trove.

Unconserved, these specimens would crumble due to repeated freezing and thawing during the cold winters and fairly temperate summers in Svalbard. The destruction of these fossils is being prevented by wrapping them in a “field jackets” and bringing them back to the museum.

Jun
22
2006

Seed bank:: Through a new facility being built in Norway north of the Arctic Circle, seeds from all over the world will be kept safe to be used in the event of catastrophic natural disasters. (Photo from U.S. Agriculture Department)
Seed bank:: Through a new facility being built in Norway north of the Arctic Circle, seeds from all over the world will be kept safe to be used in the event of catastrophic natural disasters. (Photo from U.S. Agriculture Department)
What could be a safer place than the frigid temperatures of the Artic along with roaming polar bears to protect the world’s rich diversity of seeds? That’s the conclusion that scientists have come to I planning a way to save our most precious seeds.

Work started this week on a northern Norway island to build a seed vault. Carved into an Arctic mountain, the vault will hold a supply of food crop seeds. Run by the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT), the vault will protect the seeds from being lost forever if some natural catastrophe should sweep the Earth or parts of it.

GDTC currently has about 1,400 crop gene banks spread across every corner of the globe except Antarctica.

The new vault will be imbedded into permafrost and rock above the Arctic Circle and be covered with a layer of ice. Eventually, seeds from every nation will be stored there. It will have the capacity to hold up to 1 million seeds.

Seeds will be kept in watertight foil packaging and will be stored in an area that doesn’t need artificial refrigeration. Temperatures on the island of Spitsbergen never get over 27 degrees Fahrenheit. The island is only a couple hundred miles from the North Pole.

So what kind of seeds to you think should be put in the vault? What kind of conditions do you think it should take to get seeds out of the vault?

By the way, the Science Museum of Minnesota has its own project involving old, saved seeds. The Three Sisters Garden in the Big Back Yard grows corn, beans and squash that have been stored for hundreds of years by Native Americans.