Strange Rock in a Strange Land

Lisa:       By the same logic, you could say that this rock I’m holding keeps tigers away.
Homer:   But it’s just a rock.
Lisa:       Right. But I don’t see any tigers around, do you?
Homer:   …Lisa, I would like to buy your rock.

Elles over at Skepchick is reporting on a “strange rock” found, of all places, in (wait for it) Roswell, New Mexico.

What’s so strange about a strange rock, anyway? Is it made up of neutral Kaons – or perhaps a few neutral Lambda baryons, or positive Sigmas?

A strange rock with unusual magnetic properties – deeply scored, with what appears to be moon phases, a solar eclipse and the depiction of a supernova — has been unearthed on the outskirts of Roswell. Its discovery has startled researchers, scientists and all who have examined it.

If proven to be of extraterrestrial origin, it will mark the second time in less than a century that the Roswell area has received communications from outer space.

Roswell Mayor Sam D. LaGrone, who actually saw and touched the rock over the weekend, said, “It is a very strange looking rock…. I touched it, I felt it, and I just don’t see how it could have been produced.”

Elles provides some insights, for those who seem too stupid:

“Well let’s see… Maybe somebody… carved it in there? Hell, a Google search for “carved rocks” yields a company that will carve rocks for you. That’s just a guess off the top of my head. Even if I hadn’t made a possible guess, “I just don’t see how it could have been produced” isn’t a very good argument. If I could say “I just don’t see how to solve this problem” on my Math homework I’m sure it’d get done a lot faster but I wouldn’t actually gain anything.”

But wait… prepare to be amazed!

“It retains its magnetic polarity by which it will spin a compass needle and register its magnetic field on meters,” he said. The oval rock will also spin, depending on the position of a magnet over the image surface, he added.”

Uh-huh. A ferromagnetic Iron based rock, which can be magnetised as a permanent magnet: Such a beast has only known about for around 2400 years.

The earliest known literary reference to magnetism lies in a Chinese book titled something like Book of the Devil Valley Master, which dates from some point around 400 BCE. “The lodestone makes iron come or it attracts it.” (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

By the 12th century the Chinese were known to use the lodestone as the basis of a magnetic compass for navigation.

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