Friday, August 17, 2012
Cosmic Chaos or Contrived Confusion?, Part Whatever This Is.
Today the not so brilliant-sounding topic of "slag falls".
I'm actually not too apologetic about being interested in slag falls, because ... well, they [in some definitions] have no business happening.
Let's look at what SHOULD be going on. These are a couple of photographs of things in my collection. The object at the top is a typical meteoritic "iron". This one is from a fall in Gibeon, Namibia sometime prior to 1836. It's been sliced to show the tell-tale [and mysteriously fascinating] crystallization "designs" called the Widmannstatten Patterns. Iron is a major heavy element in the Universe [formed in Star cores as an elemental fusion dead-end product, so it accumulates...when big stars nova, Iron is distributed widely to serve as heavy stuff for new bodies of all sizes]. A good deal of asteroids and comets is, in theory, Iron, so when they bust up [forming "meteors"], we get a lot of "iron raining down" and burning up as a pretty red-orange. THAT's what's supposed to happen to make the Universe make sense.
The second photo is of an interesting object on the left and a dull one on the right. The interesting looking one may well not even be a meteorite, as it is a "tektite". It's a relatively light "glassy" sort of thing, which may not have rained down, but rather be a product of fused sands caused by a big meteorite "splashing" in the desert. It's a mystery in its own right. The dull "pebble" is the meteorite. It's a "rock". It often will have little raw-iron crystals embedded in its matrix, but is generally a stone composed of a variety of "normal" elements. If it's "copper-heavy" it will burn green as it burns up in the atmosphere. I don't remember the vivid red element off the top of my head [Lithium?], but you see these colors all the time in fireworks. Being an old environmental foggie, I shake my head at the waste in these celebrations. But as to meteors: when such a "stone" burns up, it often shatters and its pieces burn with different colors due to the different preponderance of elements in different pieces. So like the wonderful fireball that I once got to see, they may "toss off" colored balls of green and red and yellow as they fly. Beautiful, but normal.
On the other hand, any of this sort of stuff falling down out of the blue is NOT normal, or shouldn't be. The top picture is Pumice. The middle picture is Scoria. These two things are the products of violent igneous activities associated with vulcanism and under-Earth magma-associated processes. The only way that such objects should come down to Earth surface from Space is if some part of an extraterrestrial, probably extra-solar, planet was drifting into the Solar System and intersected Earth orbit. Even then, the atmospheric trip down would have given such stones a hard black fusion crust, like my "pebble" has. Or some Earth volcano could have belched so hard that it nearly orbited some debris... but you'd think we would have noticed. But Pumice and Scoria are claimed as meteoritic falls.
The "worst" is picture three: slag. "Slag" is a garbage word encompassing a lot of different things. What they have in common is the thought that slags are the useless conglomerate melted debris of human furnace technologies --- could be metal-working, or could be ceramics or glass. Whatever the technology, WE are involved and our handiwork is evident. Therefore, if "slag" falls, we've a big mystery on our hands.
Even though most of those are "volcanic" rather than technological, they present enigmas all around. Of course it could be that they are all bogus.
But this is what interests me about the "shouldn't be there" falls in the Greg catalog: falls of this kind have been encountered many times in the post-WW2 UFO period. Slag falls. These things SHOULD be easy to disregard as errors. They aren't quite.
The guy in the picture above is Dr. Nicholas Kohanowski of the University of North Dakota. He was probably enjoying a relatively peaceful academic life when, in "1959", four cases of "slag falls" from his home state of North Dakota came across his desk. These falls had occurred in 1940// 1953// 1957// and 1959. Kohanowski, as a professional geologist, felt that he could rather easily "understand" these events and place them in the conventional world of common reality. He couldn't. [actually, Kohanowski got entangled in this business of strange falls in 1957 due to the Langdon, ND fall, and then the 1959 one was brought to his attention in turn].
The 1940 [Price,ND], 1953 [Breien,ND], and 1957 [Langdon,ND] materials were very similar. They contained no uncombined Iron, no uncombined metals at all, some glass, and were largely composed of the inorganic mineral Melilite, or one of its close cousins. Melilite is a silicate containing many metallic cations, but in proportions that actually make it fairly rare [the Greeks called it "honey stone", thus meli-lite.] It is in both metamorphic and igneous rocks, and seems to be the product of high heat processes. It is also found in some chondritic ["stoney"] meteorites, a fact that I don't believe Kohanowski knew at the time. At the least, we can say that these falls were not technological "slag" as the debunkers wanted to classify them at the time. To Kohanowski's credit, he said that although his lab analyses did not allow him to explain everything about these things and how they "arrived", his primary working hypothesis was that they constituted a new form of meteor. This would be unusually low density and would usually burn up completely, he conjectured. Some things, like the "glass", patches of "carbon", and, in a "slag fall" from New Jersey, an alleged lot of copper, remained puzzling to him. Other mysteries involved why these "slags" burned so long and so hot on the ground, and why their "landings" didn't knock some sorts of "craters", even smallish ones, in the ground.
1957 had the Langdon fall, the Caldwell, NJ fall, a slagfall in Webster, NY, another in Bedford, PA. NICAP advisor Professor Charles Maney was coincidently testing another from Toledo, OH from 1956. Lots of weird stuff was falling out of the sky. These things don't have to have anything to do with UFOs or ETI of course [although Ivan would like that], but here and there comes a curve ball. Lee Munsick, Donald Keyhoe's earliest right hand man [before Dick Hall showed up], had gotten samples of the Caldwell fall and was asking all around for opinions on it. A guy from the Smithsonian said that it was just a "siliceous slag" from some copper-smelting process. Another analyst disputed that the sample had much copper at all, and so was a slag from an iron furnace. When you inspected the physical piece by eye, however, there was an "indentation" in it which looked like it had been made mechanically, and that this odd substance might have been part of something. Yep, those experts can nail these things right down. No sweat. Kohanowski gave it an honest look, and his thermal analysis showed the NJ piece to read like the 1959 [the "different" ND fall] Drake, ND specimen. Hands thrown in the air.....
I don't know how to get a handle on this strange stuff which actually seems to fall out of the sky. I DO know that WE produce some strange-looking stuff ourselves and so we must be careful. The above picture is from "the back" of a glass factory which once existed in the old family hometown of New Martinsville, WV. It has the matrix which contained the "melt" from which the glassblowers sucked out the newly fused glass, and the remnants of the vividly red glass from that batch. When the glassmakers/blowers were done, this "container" must be cracked out and discarded as waste. There were some pretty "alien-looking" materials lying about [if you weren't familiar with a glass plant].
But as to the slag-falls: doesn't it seem that, although some space materials are more common than others, just about any "fall" is possible? Not only Iron/Nickel cores can break up, but stoney concretions, carbon-containing stones, and even I have two specimens containing amino acids and other life-essential bio-molecules. Couldn't a bit of a former life-bearing planet fall down?? Even, yes, a bit of a spacecraft. Greg's slag-falls and igneous rocks are probably a combination of true falls and mistaken pick-ups. Kohanowski's are mainly falls of rare minerals. What was the thing which fell in Hartford,CT in 1960, which we talked about so much here a while ago [the TTownsend Brown Affair] ?
Maybe a picture of Texas Bluebonnets in the Snow will soothe our fevered brows.
They say that white stuff fell out of the sky.... if you try to pick it up, it melts right away, leaving only water.
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