A devastating earthquake hit Japan Friday afternoon, triggering a massive, 23-foot tsunami that swept away cars and houses. The 8.9 magnitude earthquake, the most powerful quake to hit Japan since 1923, has caused widespread damage to the island nation, causing buildings to collapse, roadways to open up, and subways, trains and Narita airport to shut down. It also prompted a “nuclear emergency” at the nuclear plant in Fukushima prefecture, although there are no reports of leaking radiation.
Japanese media reports that hundreds of people are dead or missing, citing information from local and national police. Television news footage taken from helicopters shows the raging torrent of muddy water sweeping inland, submerging everything in its path, snapping power lines and uprooting trees, all while carrying with it the burning debris of destroyed houses.
The U.S. National Weather Service issued tsunami warnings to more than 50 countries, including Russia, Indonesia, Chile and New Zealand, as well as Hawaii, which saw approximately 6-foot waves in the early morning hours but reported no significant damage.
Construction continues at the Ground Zero site in New York City on One World Trade Center, the signature skyscraper formerly called the Freedom Tower, with workers up to nearly 60 floors of the building’s planned 104-story height. The ultimate height of the building will reach a symbolic 1,776 feet and is slated to become America’s tallest building.
Work also began today on the WTC Transportation Hub, one of the most visually arresting features of the new World Trade Center. Workers are currently installing the hub’s “spine,” which will support the mezzanine roof and floor for the northeast corner of the Memorial Plaza.
On this day 52 years ago, an 11-inch, blond doll named Barbara Millicent Roberts made her debut at the American Toy Fair in New York City. Created by Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel Inc., she was the first doll with adult features to be mass-produced in the United States. The doll was named after Handler’s daughter, Barbara, but the world knows her as Barbie.
In her original fictional biography published in the 1960s, she hailed from Wisconsin and attended high school there, but in a bit of revisionist history in 1999, she suddenly attended the fictional Manhattan International High School. Perhaps this is where the idea of “Totally Stylin’ Tattoos Barbie” came from in 2009.
Common criticisms of Barbie’s unrealistic proportions (estimated at a 36-inch chest, 18-inch waist and 33-inch hips) haven’t curbed sales. Since her introduction, more than 800 million dolls in the Barbie line have been sold around the world. As a personal observation, I have yet to see a Barbie who did not meet her inevitable end at the hands of a creative teenager armed with scissors, a lighter and a Sharpie.
A small colony of emperor penguins living on an island off the West Antarctic Peninsula has gone missing. This news marks the first time the disappearance of a penguin colony has been documented. Researchers are unsure of the cause of the disappearance because they have little long-term information about the penguins at the site, and emperor penguins in general, but say global warming may have had a hand in it.
The colony was first documented in 1948, but observations of the population have been spotty ever since. The group was observed in 1978 to have suffered a sharp drop in population, which had been previously recorded at approximately 150 breeding pairs. An airplane survey of the island in 2009 found the site devoid of any penguins at all, according to a study recently published in the journal PLos ONE (via Live Science). So what happened to the birds during that time?
Emperor penguins are large, flightless birds that can stand has high as 4 feet and average as much as 84 pounds. They have a lifespan in the wild of about 20 years, so the birds originally surveyed in 1978 have surely died off. So, did the missing birds relocate to another home, as emperor penguins have been known to do, or did the colony continue to return to this home in smaller numbers each year until there was nobody left? Philip Trathan, lead researcher and head of conservation biology at the British Antarctic Survey told Live Science, “That’s one of the big unknowns.”
One hundred seven years ago today, Theodor Geisel was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. The author and illustrator has sold more than 200 million copies of his 44 books, and his work has been adapted into television specials, feature films and a Broadway musical. His birthday has even been adopted as the annual date for National Read Across America Day in the United States. If his name doesn’t ring a bell, his work surely does. His most celebrated books include bestsellers like “Green Eggs and Ham,” “The Cat in the Hat,” Horton Hears a Who!” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Theodor Seuss Geisel created and illustrated his imaginative characters under the name Dr. Seuss, of course.
Fun facts about Dr. Seuss:
- His first children’s book was published in 1937 after being rejected by more than two dozen publishers.
- Of the 44 books Dr. Seuss wrote and illustrated, only four are in prose, the rest are in rhyme.
- One day after a class at Oxford, a classmate named Helen Palmer told Geisel after looking though his notebook, “That’s a very fine flying cow!” Geisel married her in 1927.
- At Dartmouth College, Geisel violated the laws of Prohibition by having gin in his room and was stripped of his editorship of the college’s humor magazine. To continue publishing his cartoons without getting in trouble, he signed the work with his middle name, Seuss.
- The correct pronunciation of Seuss rhymes with “voice,” not “goose.”