Monday, February 16, 2015

Secrets and Mysteries: Where's the Difference?

Cain and Abel, from Neil Gaiman's Sandman #40. "A Parliament of Rooks".

What the Difference between a Mystery and a Secret?

(Inspired by Neil Gaiman)

One is a question, and the other is an answer. Mysteries are widely known and shared. Secrets are carefully savoured and kept. Mysteries are perpetuated by their retelling, while Secrets - once shared - cease to be, become trivia, and are ultimately forgotten. Is it logically possible for a secret to be known by everyone? Mysteries don't care who knows them or what is said about them. Sometimes Mysteries are just answers that have been lost - for example: how were the pyramids built? In our modern high-tech world we can only guess, but I guarantee that in 2,600 BCE, in Egypt, someone knew and it wasn't Yoda or any other little green dude. And the methods they used would have been more efficient and resourceful than we could begin to imagine.

A moment with Ogami Itto, from Lone Wolf and Cub # 12. Kazuo Koike and Gozeki Kojima. Another edition translates Itto's pronouncement as "The snow doesn't care that it chills the hearts of men."

Whether we know or not, the pyramids remain where they've stood for millennia. An answer will not change them in the slightest. The pyramids don't care if you and I are unaware of how they are built. So if their existence isn't the question, what is? The question is: Why were they built? "Why?" This is the true mystery. They took 20 to 80 years of labour, depending. Millions of blocks of stone each. They were definitely for something - funerary or otherwise. Odds are against a nuclear reactor (I'm not making this up) dedicated to enriching uranium. For a truely thoughtful examination of the pyramids' construction check out:

So Many Mysteries?

Who is the "Babushka woman" in Dallas 1963? She appears in many photos of the scene and seems to be photographing the entire assassination from the best vantage point. Despite police investigation, she was never identified*. The "Babushka Woman" never came forward to the Warren commission. Stranger still seems to be her lack of surprise in the pictures. She remains fixed while the three shots ring out and Kennedy explodes in front of her. Everyone else is on the ground or running. The truth - the Secret - is most likely mundane. Maybe she didn't have status in the U.S., so didn't come forward. Maybe she was traumatized. Maybe, for some unfathomable reason, she was a mannequin. Maybe she was a time-travelling Jackie Kennedy looking for the missing piece of Kennedy's brain. But I really doubt that, after the shooting, she travelled back to the future - at least not at any faster speed than the rest of us. One second per second. Just because it's a Mystery, doesn't mean there's a conspiracy.

*. Years later a woman came forward claiming to be the Babushka woman. Her story defied belief, but you can still buy her autograph or her book online.

A Conspiracy Theory is a Mystery Wrapped in a Secret.

Even when a Secret is told, sometimes it creates a larger Mystery - when that Secret cannot be proven. The "proof" is its unprovability. 9/11. Sandy Hook. Malaysian flight MH370. False flags? Staged events? Conspiracies that continue to grow like weeds in an unkempt garden, perpetuated by their lack of substance. Little needs to be said about the rediculousness of personal attacks that have been made on the families of the deceased.

Sometimes there are unexplained accidents. Sometimes there are lone gunmen. The core theories of most conspiracies simply fall apart in the face of the shear incompetence inherent in human beings. A super-powerful cabal of diabolical geniuses? We can hardly keep a baggage handling system running at an airport - never mind fake a moon landing or hijack a whole plane in Indonesia and crash it months later in the Ukraine; as my favorite conspiracy theory states. Secrets can be banal, or Secrets can be brutal.


Jack the Ripper was Nobody Special.

Who was Jack the Ripper? Mysteries are perpetuated by every subsequent generation's retelling, as the past gets further behind. Any living memory of the Ripper killings is long dead. Further complicating the scene are the "facts", many of which were created years later in the past 125-plus years since the killings. To put in perspective how long ago this was - Adolf Hitler's parents would have been feeling particularly frisky in the midst of the serial murders. Hitler's birth was nine months after the first killing. (Thanks to Alan Moore* for pointing this out.)

Muddying the waters were artists painting portraits based on photos of the murders; copy-cats continuing to write JTR letters "From Hell"; phony diaries were created. (Both for JTR and Hitler.). Later lust-murders that copy the M.O. of Jack the Ripper are both shocking and tempting to tie to his knife - but the lust-murder has been some kind of rare male-brain mis-wire for millennia and continues to be repeated in some kind of perverse cycle.

Modern FBI profiling* portrays Jack the Ripper as ordinary in appearance, wearing respectable clothes and working in a job related to his paraphilia - in a butcher shop, mortuary or hospital, possibly. (The profile notes that London Hospital was only one block away from the first JTR murder.) Ordinary. Most likely interviewed by the police and overlooked. Who wants to think of this street butcher as ordinary - better to think he was Royalty, an Impressionist, a wide-eyed lunatic, a Freemason or some modern Dr Frankenstein? So authors who more recently identify JTR wrap their secret in a mystery to perpetuate it. But the truth is this: he was a classic disorganized lust-murderer and no-one will ever know his name. People that drank with him in the Whitechapel pubs would have had no idea who was sitting across from them. And as proud as he would have been of his "work", his passing left the world no poorer.

* The FBI profile of JTR can be found at:

Mysteries contain a Secret. And many Secrets will never be known and they remain hidden in their dark House of Mystery. But for many people, this explanation will never be good enough. Aliens. Fairies. The Mad Fishmonger. (One of my favorite explanations for fish-falls. Check out "Lo!" By Charles Fort)

If humankind has a collective trait, it is horror vacui - the fear of empty space. Present us with a Mystery and the mind staggers about in the darkened room, searching for the switch that will illuminate the Answer. But the Answers that are found in the dark are the result of blind groping and often bare little resemblance to an Answer. What do we find in the dark? Ghosts, goblins, witches, aliens.

In real life, Secrets are often mundane, ordinary, banal. And no fun. The earth and its environs has been explained to us ad nauseum - from the smallest sub-atomic particle to the unseen dwarf planets of the Oort Cloud. If we don't know, it must be alien. What else can it be?

The Wedge of Aiud

The mystery of the Wedge/ Object of Aiud is no exception. For so many years, the vast majority of print expended on the object only furthered the mystery of what it is. Aluminum-Copper-Silicon. Clearly cast and machined. Found in soil 25,000 years old with Mastodon bones. A few lone voices called it an Excavator Bucket Tooth - most likely falling off of the machine that had been doing the digging. Booooooooring. Much more exciting to think that it had fallen off a space-ship or time-machine that had collided with a "hairy rhinoceros". And in classic X-files fashion, Okham's razor is denigrated and insulted. Just because it looks just like a Clamshell Excavator Bucket Tooth; is made out of similar materials; and was found at the bottom of an excavation, wrapped in material that was being dug - that's no reason to believe that it's a part of the excavator. That's not a mystery. That's an OOPART.

OOPARTs : Out Of Place Artifacts

Something that always catches my attention are claims of OOPARTs. There are few Mysteries that challenge so many tenants of accepted Dogma. Aluminum is a particularly interesting one because there are no demonstrable native* sources of ancient aluminum found in the archeological record - meaning that, taken at face value, any finds of aluminum should not predate its human discovery and refining in the early-to-mid 19th century. So the Wedge of Aiud or the Belt Buckle of Chou Chou (as described by their proponents) are impossible without recourse to some kind of extraterrestrial or out-of-time intervention. Alien Time-Travellers! And the fact that educated people that have studied archaeology and material sciences say "it can't be so", is used to self-servingly demonstrate the avant-garde nature of the conspiracy writers insights. But then, for every proponent of "prion disease" (such as BSE or Kuru) that is eventually proved right, there are 999 flat earthing free energy gurus without a clue.

What I'm trying to get across is this: just because "we" don't know or understand something (or don't like the Secret), it doesn't require us to automatically jump to the alien conclusion. The Wedge of Aiud is Mysterious. The Babushka Woman and Jack the Ripper's identities are a Secret. But the truth is most likely ordinary. And we must always be prepared to not know an answer.


* "Native" metals are found in their metallic form - whether elemental or alloyed. Gold, copper, silver and platinum are found in large amounts; while other metals such as iron, aluminum and tin are found as inclusions where chemical processes have reduced compounds containing those metals. Iron alloyed with nickel is also found in meteorite falls and was prehistoric man's only access to iron for thousands of years. The largest pieces thus-far found are up to 60 tonnes. Ancient finds of iron exist - natives in the Canadian North for centuries cold worked a meteorite. But ferrous meteorites are never made of metallic aluminum - only iron, nickel and cobalt. (The reasons why this happens, and meteorites of, say, deadly metals like osmium or potassium don't fall are interesting in themselves and may be fodder for a new blog in the future.)

















Sunday, January 18, 2015

Aluminum, Aliens (9): Diagram: Aiud Object Explained

1973 or 1974. The Wedge of Aiud, found 10 meters down in an excavation in Romania, in the same strata as Mastodon bones. It was made of Aluminum. "Specialists" analysed the metal object and dated it anywhere from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of years. An "aeronautical engineer" said the "Wedge" strongly resembled the foot of a VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) aircraft. The analysis is problematic on a number of points, whether on the mistaken oxidation age, the different metallurgical test outcomes, or the engineers drawing itself (from Alien Skies) which does not account for the rear "arms" on the wedge or the lack of pivots that would be necessary for landing on uneven ground.

The aeronautical engineers drawing of the landing gear. Notice the profiles in these two views that are not accounted for.


The underside of the wedge of Aiud is rarely seen in photographs. The "boring" side has obviously been slammed down on the earth many times. Deep gouges and scratches pit it's surface. "...on its lower side of the object were traces of repeated beatings, some of which were strong".* But was it beaten under the spacecraft; or an excavator?


Let's call the object of Aiud an Excavator Bucket Tooth (EBT); could it possibly be? Regular bucket teeth are generally hollow and mount of the leading edge of the bucket. But the Aiud EBT would have to mount on the face of the bucket's shovel edge. The "top" of the wedge has a mounting hole with a smaller locking hole in the back, between the wings. This arrangement would leave it hanging under the lip of the digging bucket. Going through a few industrial catalogues, EBTs are "slung under" in clamshell-style diggers.

Clamshell bucket excavator.

They are used where depth is an issue, since the bucket is either on the end of a long hydraulic arm or flown on a wire - especiallyuseful for things like dredging the bottom of rivers or flooded pits. Aluminum teeth are used where there is a danger of explosion or fire - in coal mining, around swamps or garbage dumps - because they minimize the risk of sparking.

The Wedge of Aiud as it would appear on a clamshell excavator.

A conjectural drawing by this author, which is far more explanatory than the "aeronautical engineer's", illustrates how the "wedge" could be fixed to the bucket. The forces that act on it would primarily be in sheer, so such an arrangement would be durable - unlike a standard bucket that experiences a bending moment and requires stronger mounts. Shear would be absorbed by the central 40 mm steel dowel on the bucket. The dowel is locked into the bucket tooth using a pin inserted through the hole between the "arms". Further, the flat surface between the arms would be backed by a steel wedge matching the 45 degree profile of the "arms". The arms themselves prevent the tooth from wanting to rotate on the 40 mm pin, and the wedged shape allows the bucket to open against rough material.

A steel wedge and dowel (rod) welded on the bucket would hold the Aluminum EBT and a pin would fix it there.

Even the wear patterns on the "Wedge of Aiud" would match the pattern of repeatedly digging wedge-on into abrasive material and clamping shut against the opposite shovel. The edges are rounded and extreme wear is seen around the 40 mm mounting pin.

I believe that this diagram explains the features of the wedge fairly well. Perhaps from now on we should call it the EBT of Aiud? Again, unless Yoda was at the controls; it's safe to say that Aliens most likely had nothing to do with this piece of mysterious aluminum.













Friday, January 16, 2015

Aluminum, Aliens (8): The Alloy Tests of Aiud

1973 or 1974. The Wedge of Aiud, found 10 meters down in an excavation in Romania, in the same strata as Mastodon bones. It was made of Aluminum. "Specialists" analysed the metal object and said that the oxide layer and the "segregation of the alloy's constituents" dated it anywhere from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of years.

First and foremost: any date that can be established before the mid 19th century would raise some important questions because of the increasing impossibility of man-made Aluminum. The exact make-up of the alloy itself, in many ways, is irrelevant. Whatever alloy of aluminum the object is made of - the wedge of Aiud should not exist in conjunction with Mastodon bones.

The metallurgical tests, though, are a good measure of the rigorousness of the testing procedures. And a red flag should be raised here - the tests do not all have the same results. Not even close.

Sources citing the original research attribute the find to Researcher Boczor Losif. The initial tests were performed by A "Dr Niederkorn" at the Institute for Research and Design in 1975. The further tests in 1995 by Florin Gheorghe and Peter Leb were said to duplicate Niederkorn's results of 89% Aluminum, 6% Copper, and 2% Silicon (Al-Cu-Si with another few percent of impurities) which is somewhat consistent with aeronautic components but more likely made for hard-use.

But later tests in 2007 revealed a different alloy each time. Some of those differences can be explained by the testing procedure used, but some cause me to question the whole story. How does the same object have different alloys? Or have constituents that add up to over 100%.

(1). MMPG - ICPMMN - Baia Mare - Center for Research and Design radioactive metals - Magurele - Bucharest - Analysis Bulletin no. 334 on sample A-1975-CNST

(2). Central Research and Design for radioactive metals - Magurele Commune - Bulletin nr.380 analysis, sample NK-2.

(3). Florian Gheorghita, Peter Leb. Having a sample tested at an unnamed institute in Lausanne, Switzerland.

(4). Metallography Laboratory of the Faculty of Physics.

(5). Ms. Zoia Maxim Bucharest, Magurele. The National Institute of Physics and Nuclear Engineering, Department archaeometallurgy.


The strangest result is the "non-destructive test" in 2007, which I can only assume is the X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF), which is said to have a high degree of accuracy. 97.6% aluminum and 2.4% tin would make it supersaturated. If, and this is a big if, this test was done of the surface layer of aluminum - it might be explained by one feature of the manufacturing process: aluminum alloys are cladded in purer aluminum to increase corrosion resistance.

Traces of repeated beatings...

It does seem a little far-fetched to waste money on cladding - considering the rough use that I suggest the Wedge was put to in an excavator, where it would regularly break rough ground. New sources state that "on its lower side of the object were traces of repeated beatings, some of which were strong".

The other tests results do come up with copper at about 6%, but have stranger doping additives. They all omit magnesium - which first tends to establish this casting as an older piece of material (early 20 th century AD, not BCE) as I pointed out previously. Engineers quoted in a German Article said that a "plane-part" theory was "unthinkable" because of the lack of magnesium in the sample. A "Dr. Jürgen Hirsch" of Hydro Aluminium Germany GmbH confirmed that magnesium was lacking.

This image demonstrates the area of the wedge where samples were taken

There could be several very rational explanations for these test differences, and I'll try to give fair report to each. Try.


1). Poor manufacturing lead to different concentrations of alloys in different parts of the Object.

2). Aliens made magic aluminum that changes dopants each day.

3.). Flim-flam. Facts are not consistent. Tests are not consistent. Backing documentation cannot be found. No archeological evidence.

4.). Incompetence.

5.). There is more than one object of Aiud - whether a Museum copy was made or another object was "found".

1.). The wedge itself isn't symmetrical - even accounting for the wear. It seems like it could be a sloppy casting. Just look at the hole in the wedge being off-center, while still lining up with the pin-hole in the flat face of it. The "arms" are also different lengths. If the casting was made of recycled aluminum (using 1/20 of the energy of creating aluminum from bauxite ore) then the process may have been flawed, leaving slightly different doping of the aluminum in different past of the casting.

If this was being mass-produced as part of a set of Excavator Bucket Teeth, then this is understandable. It needs Copper and Silicon for strength; Lead, Zinc and Cadmium for workability, while other doping metals may have been contaminants of the recycling process. Cheaply made, soon to be worn down and cast aside. Further, (see explanation 5) if manufactured for bucket teeth, there would have been hundreds of them. Minimum orders at present day are 500 pounds at a time - that's almost a hundred "wedges".

2.). Aliens are the fairies of the 21th century. Anything that cannot be understood using folk-knowledge and "common sense" must be Aliens. Those ancestral people who understood stone as a building material through necessity - how dare they out-build us. It must have been Aliens. Dinosaur extinctions? Dinosaurs are too cool to have been killed by climate change. Must have been Aliens. The earth's last mammoths died out in the Russian North at the same time the pyramids were being built. Pyramids? Mammoths? Well, that's obviously Aliens, isn't it?

What part of the story of the Wedge of Aiud actually says "Aliens"? Only the location where it was said to be found, of which there is little or no documentation. Even if it were found at the bottom of the excavation, it closely resembles a piece of excavation equipment. Very closely.

Really, the only thing that says "Aliens" is a fear on the part of the human being. In the 21st century we know everything. Hey, Wikipedia! If we don't know, in a world of infinite knowledge; the answer must, by definition, be alien.

Think back on the words of Socrates: "True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us." [Plato, The Apology]. Perhaps Socrates, and his knowledge of wisdom before it's time, was an Alien? Better, then, to quote Carl Sagan: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" or the famous words of Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, "A proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It's a proof. A proof is a proof. And when you have a good proof, it's because it's proven."

3.). The whole story is flim flam. The wedge was found by what Forteans would call "a Friend Of A Friend". [FOAF: a term used to give credence to a story. Basically, it's better than saying, "An unnamed person that I don't know. It was coined by Rodney Dale in "The Tumour in the Whale: A Collection of Modern Myths" (1978)] No original reports of the alloy makeup are available, no mastodon bones are exhibited or associated with the artifact, no photos or scientific records of it's actual recovery are shown to exist. All tests could have been made up or done on scrap. The "non-standard alloy" wedge itself was found at or near the site of a metal foundry. The only "proof" is the item on a shelf in photographs.

4). The sample is not from the same metal. Or the analyses were faulty - but if they were faulty, which do we take as the right one? In the Western world, Spark-OES tests have been available since WW II and are said to be accurate (when properly calibrated) to parts per million. So more recent tests are no more likely to be accurate than those of 1975.

Many types of tests are available and all are fairly accurate when properly interpreted. Working in the building trades, I've learned the hard way never to underestimate the incompetence that is possible in certified "experts", particularly when not subject to some form of peer-review. In this case, the quoted specialists demonstrate a clear lack of understanding about the corrosion process, and it raises doubts about the competency of everyone involved in assessing the validity of the Object of Aiud.

5.) Museums often make copies of artifacts stored in vaults - to better protect the originals. The artifact and more specifically the documentation have been lost by the museum while it is "under renovation". The artifact itself has more recently been "found" although the documents are still lacking. Perhaps the wedge was not "found" but replaced with a copy - whether manufactured or simply taken from the old stock of Excavator Bucket Teeth that surely existed when the wedge was found. And further; perhaps the Clujean museum lost track and has performed metallurgical tests on the copy. And that's as far as I'd like to speculate.

Next: isometric diagram of how the "wedge" would possibly attach to the clamshell bucket that accounts for all it's physical features.

Casting Aluminum Alloys. by Vadim S Zolotorevsky, Nikolai A Belov, Michael V Glazoff