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SKEPTOID BLOG:

The Mystery of OOParts

by Mike Weaver

January 29, 2013

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Donate A recent article published in The Voice Of Russia by Yulia Zamanskaya tells the tale of an anomalous piece of metal found embedded in a piece of coal. The metal was unusual, being an alloy of aluminum and magnesium, mostly aluminum. Intrigued, I looked further and stumbled into the fascinating world of OOParts. What are OOParts? OOParts are "Out of Place Artifacts", objects found in geologic strata or other deposits which would make them anachronistic, such as highly refined aluminum contained within a lump of coal. Amusingly, the Antikythera Mechanism is one such OOPart.

This particular branch of inquiry, conspiracy, and pseudoscience had flown beneath my radar all this time. It is a treasure trove of excellent stories, fantastic artifacts, and far-ranging suppositions. When I started looking more into OOParts, I expected to find many sites and stories claiming that the OOParts were evidence of ancient astronauts or ancient technologically-advanced civilizations, such as Atlantis. Surprisingly, I found that religious sites, particularly those advocating creationism and a young earth, were using OOParts as evidence of the bible and of the christian creation stories (in my, admittedly, short research cycle, I did not find any non-christian religious sites discussing OOParts). I encourage you to take a look at this article on OOParts from Discovery New, this article on a bell supposedly found in coal from the Genesis Park.

I'm no archaeologist, unless you count excavating the strata of my desk. I don't have what it takes to really assess these claims. Happily, others have done it for me. Two archeologists, Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews and James Doeser have compiled a fantastic resource for people who wish to learn more about good archeology, and, happily, Bad Archeology. One presumes that they were, perhaps, influenced by Dr. Plait of Bad Astronomy fame? The Bad Archeology site provides good resources (with good references!) in a clear and easy to read fashion. I strongly encourage you to take a journey through their site. I learned a great deal.

About that "UFO" part in the coal? The article offers some analysis from unnamed scientists:
No more than seven centimeters long, the object was found to be composed of 98 percent aluminum and 2 percent magnesium.
They go on to observe that nearly pure aluminum is rare in nature, but not impossible. Wikipedia lists a few examples of documented native aluminum found via natural processes. The scientists note that aluminum is very resistant to heat and corrosion, when in this form, so it wouldn't be surprising for it to survive being encased within the coal seam.

The metal might also be from a meteorite:
Another question that interests Russian scientists is whether the aluminum alloy is of Earthly origin. It is known from the study of meteorites that there exists extra-terrestrial aluminum-26 which subsequently breaks down to magnesium-26. The presence of 2 percent of magnesium in the alloy might well point to the alien origin of the aluminum detail. Nonetheless, further testing is needed to confirm this hypothesis.
Lets presume that the piece of metal was found within the coal and had been there since the coal was forming. This can happen via natural processes. While rare, elemental aluminum does occur on the earth (or possibly via a meteor). I think, however, that it is more likely that the artifact, should it actually be milled, cast, or otherwise created, is just that, a manufactured part. The coal came from a coal mine. It is not only possible but highly likely that machines break and parts fall off of mining equipment. It isn't such a stretch to think that parts might fall into coal seams where heat and pressure would recompress coal dust around them.

This all presumes that there is an artifact at all, not just an interesting lump of naturally occurring metal. I do not, however, think it is a UFO part. The image does appear to have some natural grain, it could be normal crystallization which formed the tooth-like structures, but without more knowledge and access to the object, the best we have is the reports and supposition. I leave you with the closing thought from the article:
After the discovery came public, conspirators were quick to dub it 'a UFO tooth-wheel'. Russian scientists, however, do not jump to conclusions and will run further tests to learn more about the strange artifact.

by Mike Weaver

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