February 13 – Discovery of a 500,000-year-old Spark Plug?

Posted on February 13, 2017

Above, a geode.
Before they are cut open with a diamond
saw, geodes look like these rock nodules:

If three rockhounds found what they thought was a geode (a roughly chunk or nodule of rock that has a crystal-lined cavity)...

...And then the rockhounds tried to cut open the geode with a diamond-bladed saw, but instead of a crystalline surprise found an old metal something that badly damaged the saw...

...And then the rockhounds let everyone know that a geologist had studied the nodule of rock and the metal something, 

and had determined that the metal seemed to be a human-made artifact, but that the rock and metal artifact were both about half a million years old...

...Would you believe that last bit?

This is what is known as an extraordinary claim. And although you might easily accept an ordinary claim -- like a friend telling you that she went out to eat at a pizza restaurant the night before -- you should definitely think twice and then again about an extraordinary claim. And then you should ask for evidence. Lots and lots of evidence.

The find...

On this date in 1961, two men (Wallace Lane and Mike Makesell) and one woman (Virginia Maxey) found what seemed to be an nodule of rock in Olancha, California. Later, Makesell tried to cut it open and ended up destroying his rock-cutting blade as it hit an artifact inside the rock.

The artifact inside the nodule (which is called the Coso artifact for some reason unknown to me) looked to be made by humans. That was a shock, of course! 

The claim...

Maxey claimed that a trained geologist had inspected the rock and had dated it to be at least 500,000 years old. So that was exciting! Clearly something very unusual was indicated:

* Maybe the Coso artifact was from an advanced civilization that had died out without leaving any other trace!!!!

* Maybe the Coso artifact was created by an alien intelligence that visited Earth and, again, left no other trace of its visit!!!!!!!!!

* Maybe the Coso artifact was created by humans but taken back to the long-ago past by time travelers. Who, again, left no other trace of their visit!!!!!!!!!!!!

Or maybe...

Several people have identified the Coso artifact as a Champion spark plug, the kind that was used in Model T and Model A automobiles. Since the initial identification, other spark plug collectors agreed with the conclusion. Spark plug collectors have also shown that spark plugs can relatively quickly become encased in a "concretion" (a glob of rock or mineral) made of iron.

With such an ordinary explanation ready-to-hand, and no evidence of any of the more remarkable explanations anywhere to be seen, of course we go with the ordinary explanation. It's not as "cool, man!" as the other possibilities, but it has the benefit of being almost certainly true!

By the way...

In case you are wondering, the Coso artifact has been lost. Lane has died, Makesell's whereabouts are unknown, and Maxey won't talk to people about the artifact anymore. Also, she has never identified by name the geologist who supposedly dated the rock as hundreds of thousands of years old, so nobody can ask the geologist what tests were used to date it. And that is important, because -- get this! -- at the time that the claim was made, there was no technique known that could have dated the concretion as being that old!  

Also on this date:

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