Yesterday, science and science fiction sites alike exploded with the news that German scientists had found out some interesting information about a carved Tibetan statue originally discovered by Nazis in the 1930s. The Nazis were definitely not known for their interest in Buddhist-type religions, yet the swastika-like symbol on the statue’s chest is probably what drove the Nazis to bring it back with them to Germany. But this is not the main reason scientists find the statue that they name “Iron Man” to be so interesting.
Remember, I mentioned that science fiction sites also had this news posted? Normally, science fiction involves matters of space, like aliens. Well, it turns out the “Iron Man” sculpture happens to be from space. The German scientists studied the material the figure was carved from, and it’s made of a substance called ataxite, a rare form of iron with high levels of nickel (thank you, Wikipedia). After more investigations, the scientific team surmised that the statue was carved from a Chinga meteorite fragment, a field of which had been discovered around the Mongolia and Siberia borders in 1913 (near modern-day Tibet).
Currently, “the Iron Man statue is the only known illustration of a human figure to be carved into a meteorite,” said lead researcher Elmar Buchner [Gizmodo].
As quick-catching as this news is, I found it interesting, but nothing to get worked up over. I realize that carving into a very, very hard form of meteorite metal was a feat in and of itself, but many people have accomplished incredible feats throughout the centuries; this is just one more to appreciate and add to the book.
I think the reporting of the story is what made it seem so hyped to me as an ethically-trained journalist who believes you tell the truth as accurately as possible. All the news stories made the story seem a little sensationalist, using titles with words in them such as extraterrestrial and alien origins. If you take those words at their literal definitions, they 100% fit the description of the statue being made from something not organic to this Earth. However, since extraterrestrial and alien have very science fiction-y connotations of other beings existing in the universe, these stories’ titles initially made it seem like the statue was originally carved by these beings before arriving (or being “sent”) to Earth. That’s good marketing, but definitely misleading reporting.
Also, I found it curious that after the plagiarism scandal by Time editor-at-large and journalist Fareed Zakaria, that much of the news stories I found yesterday regarding the “Iron Man” statue were bordering on their own plagiarism issues. For example, the Gizmodo article about the “Iron Man” starts, “No, it isn’t the plot for the next Indiana Jones movie” [Gizmodo]. And take this opening line from The Mary Sue: “It’s like Indiana Jones, Marvel and 2001: A Space Odyssey all in one story” [The Mary Sue]. Or what about this line from the Huffington Post: “It sounds like a mash-up of Indiana Jones’ plots” [Huffington Post].
And this isn’t stealing each other’s ideas… how? If Zakaria can take another author’s ideas and simply reword them and be called out on plagiarism, all of these articles’ authors seem to be doing the exact same thing in regards to the Indiana Jones reference. I realize that it’s getting harder and harder to be original on the Internet when you’re racing to get news out, but it seems a little too ironic that all of these authors would be thinking about Indiana Jones as they wrote their articles (or maybe they’re just more geeky than I realize).
Speaking of ironic and all this iron meteorite talk, I’m going to end on a quote for you to consider from our beloved Caboose: “I think it would be ironic if we were all made of iron.”