300 Million year old machine parts?

Unexplained Things Are Out There shares the story of a purportedly 300 Million year old bit of something found in some Russian coal.

The metal detail was supposedly 300 million years old and yet the scientists suggest that it was not created by nature but was rather manufactured by someone. The question of who might have made an aluminum gear in the dawn of time remains unanswered.

(Thanks, Rick Overton!)


  1. … for certain values of “science” and “scientists”.
    Science by press release / News release: check.
    Artifact age assumed by stratigraphic dating in a substance that notoriously agglomerates and cements : check
    Lack of radioisotope dating: check
    Artifact visibly “cleaned” so “well” that in numerous places the oxide layer seems to have been removed: check
    Possibility of aluminium smelting from natural forces (underground coal fire on aluminium ore) producing a vein of aluminium in a coal seam, discounted entirely, because “aluminium is not found in nature as a “pure metal”: check
    Possibility of a piece of industrial equipment shearing and embedding aluminium in chunk of coal: discounted.
    Complex, unsupported Hypothesis that is unfalsifiable: put forward.

    (Very bad p values for “science” here)

    1. Denialist. You must embrace the possibility, no, the FACT, that we were designed by superior beings from another world. Something something Prometheus.

      1. You can believe in freaky albino Soloflex dude with super-leprosy falling off a cliff if you want. I’ll take Bronze Age god making dirt and rib people, thank you very much. Heathen.

      2. You must embrace the possibility that this is either a hoax or simply amazingly bad science.  But believing what pleases you is far easier than thinking, isn’t it?

    2. Also: http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC131.html 

      Cementing modern tools into ancient coal through mineralization is not that difficult.

        1.  I think that curve is a little pessimistic.  1 Billion US dollars to fake a UFO sighting is already questionable.  I would probably have the curve start to go up around 2-5 Million and max out before it hit a Billion.  Basically enough that a crazy rich person/corporation couldn’t fund it without outside help.  Even that might be too pessimistic, because at some point you’re talking about hundreds of people or more on the project, and then too many people are in on it. 

          1. You could quibble with the numbers, but I assumed that it was allowing for things such as members of Congress apportioning ridiculously large sums of money to the USAF to build things they saw in Popular Mechanics, so the USAF has to go through the motions of actually building it.

          2. That’s only if you’re funding it for the purpose of faking it. You have to consider well-funded military projects, too.

    3. Re: “Complex, unsupported Hypothesis that is unfalsifiable”

      A person could discount the entire endeavor of cosmology, as well as most astrophysical entities, with the same rebuttal.  How a person responds to such anomalous finds depends upon a person’s philosophy.  If you subscribe to the Sagan Standard — that “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence” — then you are essentially assuming a positivist worldview.  Debunkers basically simplify science by positioning science as having a central philosophical locus, by which all anomalous claims are treated essentially as hostile attacks upon the establishment of science.  To be clear, positivists will be the last people on the planet to realize that a theoretical paradigm change is underway, if and when it happens.

      The constructivist worldview looks at the Sagan Standard and responds, “Extraordinary to which worldview?”  Constructivists realize that humans choose which theories to construct, and that we are able to build additional scientific paradigms, based upon alternative premises and philosophies, if the willpower exists amongst enough people to make it happen.  An excellent example of this is the work of Wal Thornhill and David Talbott, who have shown that it is possible to apply laboratory plasma physics principles to decode ancient mythological stories, based upon a catastrophist worldview.

      The worldview has a big effect upon what sort of questions a person asks in science.  For instance, there was an observation once of a downed power line, which connected to the earth through a tree, for a couple of days.  The passage of this electricity through the tree apparently fossilized the tree.

      Most of the web is currently populated by positivist websites.  We currently live in an era of debunking, in part because we have all been trained in the positivist worldview.  However, positivists seem to imagine that we can all learn how to think like a scientist by learning what scientists think.  Positivists therefore demarcate “real” science from pseudoscience.

      Constructivists see a problem, however: How can you authentically teach how to think like a scientist using demarcation?  Critical thinking requires a process of questioning assumptions and listening to critics.  Thus, while the debunkers imagine that they are providing a service for us all, the knee-jerk defense of established theory seems to exhibit a consistent effect upon the public of culturing ignorance of competing worldviews.

      Education reformers tend to be constructivists.  And they are attempting to fix our public education system, with the new “core” standards, by permitting the instruction of what many positivists would consider “pseudoscience” — in an effort to teach real critical thinking.  Thus, we could over time see dramatic changes in a generation or two to how people think about the process of science.  And this current debunking phenomenon could turn out to be little more than a blip in the history of science.  We could come to think of it as an ineffective, mistaken philosophy for science.

      1. hmm? this is not a philosophical distinction, the man asked for well researched conclusions. Instead we have an article widely shared, yet the debunking of the “possibly manmade” claim will not be as widely shared.

      2. I think it is false to claim that in order to encourage critical thinking, we must instruct or embrace pseudoscience. You ignore the fact that the core philosophy of science is that ALL theories are to be treated as hostile. 
        You do not get to set aside a few pet wild claims and tell us to be gentle on them in the name of a broader worldview. No, they must withstand the same rigorous testing and verification as all others.
        Does this mean that orthodox science may be slow at accepting new paradigms, sure, but it also means that when those new paradigms are accepted they are on a very firm foundation.
        Look at FDA drug testing and trials. We would all like for new life-saving drugs to get out faster, but at what cost? You just cannot skip steps in science.

      3. I don’t know if it’s fair to say constructivist educators are teaching “pseudoscience,” just because they are teaching critical thinking. A constructivist teacher wouldn’t present this news, for instance, as evidence of ancient technologies or as unequivocally upsetting dominant scientific paradigms – that would be just as prescriptive as a positivist teacher rattling off facts.

        What a constructivist teacher might do is present this news with the question – how does this relate to what we’ve already learned about Earth science, and what new knowledge might help us meaningfully interpret this news? Students may independently or in groups use what they have been learning, and with additional research via books or the web, construct plausible theories for this finding. Perhaps after that, the students could present their different theories, and there could be a discussion about either the general consensus or drastic differences between the students’ ideas. Theories wouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, but students would have to cite sources  to justify their position.

      4. — to the contrary: the hypotheses put forward in modern cosmology are falsifiable. They may not be falsifiable without ridiculously huge investment of resources, but they are falsifiable.
        All the critiques I offer are constructivist in nature – they critique the poor construction of the investigation, the hypotheses put forward (which were positivist), the conclusions drawn (positivist conclusions drawn from cherry-picked data).

      5. Extraordinary claims are those which are, given our current knowledge, extremely unlikely- they have a low prior probability of being correct.

        Evidence is that which should cause us to update our probability estimates of current and proposed theories, and when the current theory is well established and the new one is very unlikely, then it needs to take a *lot* of evidence to even be worth *considering* a specific new theory. If a theory has a one in a million chance of being right, there are hundreds of thousands of equally likely contenders, so why are you proposing that particular one and not the others? What large amount of evidence elevated it to your attention?

        If you don’t demand that of your beliefs, regardless of where you acquired them, you’re going to end up believing a lot of ridiculous things. I’m sure I do. See, scientists *know* that all their theories are in some sense ‘wrong’ – that is, flawed. But they use evidence to update theories in the direction of truth. That is the basic philosophy behind science

      6. So, is it okay to teach velikovskian ideas as if it had the same grounds as present day astrophysics? Is it okay to teach criationism and darwinian evolution as if they had the same scientific merit?

        See, your comment is a clear sympthon of why a debunking of the ABUSE of constructivist thinking and constructivist concepts is desperately needed. Not that there´s anything necessarily wrong with constructivism per se, you understand.

        Without a rigorous evidence standard there´s no reasonable competition among “worldviews” or “paradigms”. That´s not critical thinking you´re putting forward, but something else.

    4. And that all assumes the backwoods Russian who still heats his house with Coal didn’t make the whole thing up because he was drunk and lonely.

    5.  I agree with your overall analysis. However, I don’t think that you can smelt aluminum via any purely thermal means – underground coal fire or otherwise. There’s a reason it’s refined by electrolysis.

    6. Totally agreed.Point of order, though: you can’t reduce aluminum with coal b/c it bonds more strongly with oxygen than carbon. That’s why up until we invented electrolytic processes aluminum cost more than gold.

  2. If true, very cool. However, it’s unlikely.

    From that scale, it looks like those flat bits are 5 mm. What are the chances of a nice round value on that in our measurement scales?

    1.  Looks more like quarter-inch from peak to peak to me.
      Hrm… so it fits moderately well with both our most common measuring systems. Guess that proves nothing then. *Exactly* matching one or the other might be significant.

      Waiting for a miner to pop in and say something along the lines of “Oh, that looks like the tear-off strip from a Wibblesworth canteen. All the miners drink from those things in the Ukraine. [link to image of tear-off-strip]”

    2. Well I’d assume alien superbeing predecesors would use Metric – who uses Imperial these days?

  3. Next article should be “People and Pattern Recognition”.  Reminds me of how people will occasionally see faces in random patterns.

    1. Don’t expect them to spell the quarry right or even say the year accurately that would let the reader look up stuff and and turn away fast. Seriously just take their word for it and look at this other evidence they drop on you with an uncritical mind.

      The first of the other “finds” seems to be the Dorchester Pot

      Probably not 500 million years old.

      The other examples are also probably bad archeology. Bad archeology gets sold and put in bad amateur museums who’s curation is so awful the objects are lost before a real scientist can touch them but not before fleecing lots of local rubes. Don’t worry the artifacts live on as inaccurate lists that “not only puzzled the experts but also undermined the most fundamental doctrines of modern science”!

  4. Aluminum, you say…. HELLO!?!?  DeLorean?  Doc Brown?  Why waste time with rigorous testing and airtight proofs when the simplest answer is the obvious answer.

  5. When I was a teen I got hold of Charles Fort’s Book of the Damned.  It’s filled with cryptids, OOPAs, rains of frogs, faces of Jesus, and a hundred other wonders.  It thrilled me for a long while, until it occurred to me that maybe some of those stories were simply made up to boost newspaper sales – maybe even a lot.  Fact checking was hard in the 19th century.

    1. Fort is often misunderstood as just a reporter and believer of wacky theories.  His main premise and value was that he mainly pointed out that the Debunkers of strange tales were often extremely lazy and often had work that was less rigourous than the Believers.  Mainly the Debunkers, often newspaper writers of the day, simply relied on the logical fallacies of “Can’t be true because it’s outside my experience” and Ad Hominem attacks consisting of “there is a possible motive for making this up so that’s what happened”.  He, correctly in my view, was for moving a lot of stuff from the “Wrong” category into “we don’t know because we haven’t looked into it even though it is falsifiable”.  It doesn’t mean that every crank theory, and Charles was more about weird events than weird theories, should be embraced but that you risk missing out on a lot of cool data if you have no imagination.

      One of his greatest (post-mortem) triumphs was the tales from a little Scottish fishing village of a night with weird lights up in the fog and voices speaking in strange tongues up in them.  There was also a report of a downpour that was so local it soaked one side of a single cottage.  This was dismissed as a tourist trade scam even though Fort pointed out that the villagers would much rather be left alone and that the cottage was indeed damaged by a downpour impossible to explain by the Debunkers claims of bucket brigades.  After WWII they found the records of the German dirigible that had gotten lost over the village that night.  The crew had hushed it up to avoid an international incident and a “Dirigible Invasion by the Huns” scare.

  6. My first thought was the Coso artifact (ceramic manufactured object in stone). I heard about it when I was younger… didn’t know that it may have been solved. :)

    When trying to track down the name of the Coso artifac, I also came across this summary of currently discovered “OOPArts.” The tiny copper, tungsten, and molybdenum spirals are rather curious.

    1.  Nah, you’re thinking of the machine Walter built in an alternate timeline to end the war with the alternate universe, that’s the one that got sent back to the distant past. The machine to battle the observers existed in an entirely different alternate future timeline, but didn’t get sent back in time. (How awesome is that show, seriously? That we get to write sentences like that?)

    1. I always found it interesting that God never put anything more… random underground? All it would take is one giant platinum spaceship drive buried next to the dinosaur bones to really throw people for a loop…

      1. A spaceship next to some dinosaur bones is vastly more probable than a spark plug or a machine cog. We don’t know definitively that aliens weren’t visiting us fifty million years ago. We do know that there weren’t any humans then.

        1. It could be an alien cog or spark plug. Who knows what kind of primitive technology they used for space ships back then.

    1. Man, 300 myo.. that’s before the dinosaurs… it’s squarely between carboniferous and permian, which is odd in itself. Maybe technologically-sophisticated super-giant scorpions or super-giant cockroaches?

      And another thought… statistically speaking, those “anomalies” do tend to cluster around major extinction events… Hmm… (and there’s a lot of them out there though this isn’t one of those)

      1. I suspect the Great Race of Yith, as I believe they moved to Earth in the era immediately preceding the dinosaurs. Might also be a trinket of the Old Ones, though their technology was apparently all biotech. I wouldn’t rule out a Yuggothian origin, either.

        1. Don’t get me started on those Yuggoth jerks. They trashed my cabin, and left behind the worst canned ham I ever tasted.

  7. I just realized this is the result of Bill and Ted breaking the time machine.  Those extra parts from the antenna had to go sometime.

  8. It’s a shame the gear was found at the guy’s home on his way to burn it… had it been found before it was moved from the rock, the chain of evidence would be more convincing.

    But it’s amusing to imagine what would happen if a number of these popped up here and there, and if they could be dated. Kind of like early meteorites: clearly people were either lying  or nuts to believe that stone could fall from the sky.

  9.   I’ve probably told this story here before, it’s anecdotal, but relevant so bear with me.  I was on a dig, a real big one.  We were totally excavating maybe a acre and a half of soil.  This was one of those big state funded remove the stuff before it gets paved over salvage jobs.  So, to process that much overburden for artifacts we needed to set up a sluice.. a water screen.  Now it’s not ecologically mindfully to run a sluice like that into the nearby creek that we were pumping out of, so we needed to dig a sump.  The sump would be like a medium sizish pool.
      Okay, getting to the point here, the sump was about 30 meters from the creek and was projected to be about 10 meters deep.  It’s common practice when doing one of these to have a couple of guys (or lassies, whatevs) as spotters to keep the heavy machine operator from tearing through something sensitive.  The sump was located adjacent to the site, so not as much chance, but you still need eyeballs.  To not put a fine point on it you’re looking for bone, maybe some poor dead white guy from 18 eleventy.  Which would necessitate hardships and a new sump.
      The sump dig  went great, until the very tail end of the last meter of the center of the sump.  We were digging in someones pasture.  A place that had time out of mind been a place for cows to gather.  And at the bottom of this sump was a perfectly milled, but grey and aged hard wood board.  I remember it being about the size of a standard 1/4 and about 4 feet long.  There was nothing natural about it and no reason anyone would have to have put that stick of lumber 10 meters in the ground.  It was lying flat down, perpendicular to the surface.  At first I thought, eureka, we found the before mentioned dead white guy, but this was no casket.  It was just a single board.  Maybe oak.
      My point is.. outliers just happen.  I’m not satisfied that I will go to my grave never knowing why that board was in the ground.  It bugs me.  Maybe it was aliens… probably joyriding.

    1. If it was near a stream, it’s likely there was a flood event at some point in the past, which could have deposited the plank there.  Or it could have been there as a marker, and then the flood happened and silted around it.

      Also, I’ve seen weird stuff out in the forest that you’d swear man did it, but it’s nature.  Trees falling over from a wind storm, but the trunk sheared flat, as if it had been sawed.  Trees splitting into shards, some of which were as square as posts.  Falling trees puncturing one another.  Stones embedded high in tree crotches.  All kinds of weird stuff that humans didn’t do.

  10. man, I’ve been *looking* for that!  I was wondering where I’d lost it.  can… can I get that back?

  11. I’ve long believed the Permian-Triassic extinction even was caused, not by volcanic action or by giant meteors, but by trilobites flooding the atmosphere with CO2 from their SUVs and indoor air conditioning.

  12. I like that the original article tries to prove the authenticity of the artifact by citing two similar finds that were debunked without mentioning that they were debunked.

    Apparently, there is a fairly well documented history of objects left near coal deposits being trapped in coal over time because coal clumps together. The article I found said objects like Coke bottles and stuff from WWII have been found in coal a number of times.  Thinking that something you found in coal is as old as the coal itself isn’t really thinking at all.

    Note: for a laugh visit the Russian site listed as the source on Unexplained Things Are Out There.  I can’t read a word of it, but the pictures tell me that it’s not a site that should be trusted for any sort of scientific information.

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