Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Science or supernatural possession? The case of the moving statue

Archaeologists tend not to believe in ghosts or superstitions on the whole, but now and then eyebrows and questions are raised when the inexplicable presents itself. The case of the independently moving Egyptian statue is a case in point. And this story comes with time-lapse video proof!

The University of Manchester filmed an ancient carved god twist counterclockwise180 degrees over the course of a few days (no movement was detected at night.

Dating to c.1,800BC, the 10-inch statue of Neb-Senu is carved on its back with a request for sacrificial offerings of bread, beer, oxen and fowl.

Speculation of why the movement takes place is detailed by MARC LALLANILLA of LIVESCIENCE:

This daytime movement led British physicist Brian Cox to believe the statue's movement is due to the vibration created by museum visitors' footsteps. "Brian thinks it's 'differential friction,' where two surfaces — the stone of the statuette and glass shelf it is on — cause a subtle vibration, which is making the statuette turn," Price said. "But it has been on those surfaces since we have had it and it has never moved before," Price said. "And why would it go around in a perfect circle?" On his blog, Price also speculates that the statue "was carved of steatite and then fired [which] may imply that it is now vulnerable to magnetic forces." Steatite, also known as soapstone, is a soft stone often used for carving.

But Paul Doherty, senior scientist at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, believes the statue's movement isn't caused by any supernatural force, but by something quite ordinary: vibrational stick-slip friction, sometimes called stick-slip vibration. As Doherty told LiveScience, if the glass shelf on which the statue rests vibrates even slightly, "the vibrating glass moves the statue in the same direction," causing it to turn around.

But why would the statue stop moving after turning 180 degrees? Doherty believes the statue stops turning because it's asymmetrically weighted: "One side of the statue has more weight than the other side." After turning around on the shelf, the statue's uneven bottom reaches a more stable position and stops turning.

Besides the footsteps of passing museum visitors, the source of the stick-slip vibration "could be some trolley that goes by during the day, or a train that passes during the day," Doherty said.

Read more: http://www.livescience.com/37678-ancient-egyptian-statue-moves-on-its-own.html#ixzz2XFIw6Xaz

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