Why Most Meteorite Falls are Fake News (& Why You Should Care)

By: Eric Parker

Pro Headshot.jpg

Eric Parker lives in Seattle and has been teaching Tableau and Alteryx for 5 years. He's helped thousands of students solve their most pressing problems. If you have a question, feel free to reach out to him directly via email.

Have you ever read a story about someone finding a meteorite? It probably contained a fantastic story about a smoking space rock careening across the sky, striking the Earth, creating a big, smoking crater and the finder being there to miraculously witness it all and dig it out. It then gets valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars and the finder walks away wealthier. (In case you’ve never read one of those stories, here’s one from October, 2018).

76-1.png

Sadly, most of those stories aren’t true. I didn’t know that until a couple months ago.

I have a close friend who is a professional meteorite hunter and dealer. He has decades of experience under his belt. He has successfully recovered hundreds of meteorites but never found one that came from a fall like that described in the story above. I asked him about several similar stories and after he dismissed the third one, I asked him to explain how he knows they are fake.

He then went into detail about how meteorite falls work. First, most break up in the Earth’s atmosphere so instead of a meteor the size of a semi truck a ton of smaller, golf-ball sized fragments strike instead. Additionally, most of those aren’t found in the Amazon or even a farm field. Meteorites are recovered most easily in the sand or snow. That’s why you hear about so many being found in Morocco and Antarctica.

Is it possible to find them elsewhere? Sure, but they are so much harder to spot in varied terrain and in the midst of other similar-looking objects.

76-2.png

Why would people lie? Money. If you can acquire an otherwise average meteorite from Morocco and convince others that it is part of a previously undocumented fall in Kansas, the collectability and value of that space rock goes through the roof. It’s no longer “just another Moroccan meteorite”, it’s a “one of a kind, Topeka, Kansas” specimen.

So how does this affect your life? Quite a lot actually! Experts are able to easily identify errors and misunderstandings in their area of expertise but have a hard time identifying them elsewhere. That’s normal, but it often goes unrecognized.

When you do a design sprint, it’s important to have front-line workers represented in your group of stakeholders. They can tell you whether you are on the right track or whether your ideas are totally off-base. They have the kind of experience and perspective you can only have by getting your hands dirty.

For example, if you are part of the IT department and are trying to determine which CRM is going to be the best fit for your company but you don’t get input from salespeople, it’s likely that project will fail (or be significantly bumpier) because it lacked proper perspective. Getting front-line stakeholders involved in a design sprint will ensure your solution has the best chance of getting adopted and succeeding.