|Fiction over fact|
|How it didn't happen|
The Klerksdorp Spheres (also referred to as
Deez Nuts the Grooved Spheres) are a favourite reference point for woo that relies on "out-of-place artifacts" (OOPArts) for evidence. Unlike many other alleged OOPArts these finds are not a hoax, and they haven't conveniently vanished without trace leaving only anecdotal evidence or blurry photographs behind — a number of the objects may be viewed at the Klerksdorp Museum.
As uncanny as they are to the layperson, science appears to have taken little interest in studying the stones in any detail. Geologists are confident that the Klerksdorp objects are natural concretions, fully explainable by known geological processes.
Hwhat in tarnation
Found in nearly three-billion year-old mined deposits of pyrophyllite at Ottosdal, near Klerksdorp in South Africa, the Klerksdorp "Spheres" actually range from roughly spherical, through badly squashed, to disc-shaped. Some of them are intergrown in groups.
Much of the woo hinges on the false claims that the objects are perfectly spherical, are made of a metal or alloy of unusual hardness, and are so finely balanced that modern manufacture could not replicate them. Some nuts even claim that the spheres are able to move on their own.
The most striking examples do have the uncanny appearance of being something manufactured. The more spherical ones superficially resemble tiny cannonballs or very large musket balls. Some have latitudinal grooves or ridges that look for all the world like casting or tooling marks.
An oft-repeated claim is that testing by NASA found the spheres to be so precisely balanced that they concluded that they could not have been constructed on Earth, but would have required a zero-gravity environment. Other than a circulating image of an unverifiable letter there appears to be no record whatsoever of a NASA investigation of the Klerksdorp objects (but of course, if you're into that sort of thing, the absence of records is proof of the "conspiracy").
A related claim is that the Klerksdorp Spheres have been known to rotate under their own power inside a vibration-free case at the museum where a number of them are housed. This one may be traceable to a misquote — possibly willful — of the museum's curator. He has since clarified that while the spheres do indeed move about inside their cases, said cases are not "vibration free"; in fact, the museum experiences tremors due to blasting in a nearby mine, which would make anything roughly spherical move about!
Another claim is that the spheres are manufactured of a metal "harder than steel", or are of a man-made alloy so hard that even modern day tools could not cut it. Given that some of the spheres have been neatly cut in half to let geologists see what was on the inside, revealing the "growth rings" of the geological concretion, these claims are just silly. There's some debate about what they're actually made of, with the strongest contenders being hematite and/or wollastonite — a conclusion drawn from X-ray diffraction analysis. Pyrite and iron ore were also suggested by earlier examinations.
- They never move when anyone's looking, though. Basically, Toy Story rules.
- Cairncross, B., 1988, "Cosmic cannonballs" a rational explanation. The South African Lapidary Magazine v. 30, no. 1, pp. 4-6.
- Heinrich, P.V., 1997, Mystery spheres. National Center for Science Education Reports v. 17, no.1, p. 34.
- Heinrich, P.V., 2007, South African concretions of controversy South African Lapidary Magazine vol. 39, no. 1, pp. 7-11.
- Heinrich, P.V., 2008, The Mysterious "Spheres" of Ottosdal, South Africa. National Center for Science Education Reports v. 28, no. 1, pp. 28-33.