Atop a desolate hill in a small US town are the Georgia Guidestones: an eerie 19ft tall granite monument with a post-apocalyptic message for the world.
On each side of the capstone, engraved in four ancient languages, were the words: “Let these be guidestones to an Age of Reason.” And written in eight languages – English, Russian, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Classical Hebrew, Swahili, Hindi and Spanish – were cryptic instructions for rebuilding society post Doomsday:
“Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature; Guide reproduction wisely – improving fitness and diversity; Unite humanity with a living new language; Rule passion – faith – tradition – and all things with tempered reason; Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts; Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court; Avoid petty laws and useless officials; Balance personal rights with social duties; Prize truth – beauty – love – seeking harmony with the infinite; Be not a cancer on the Earth – Leave room for nature – Leave room for nature.”
Cairns are simple rock formations, used as landmarks to guide travelers along a path or to mark a sacred place. Cairns are some of the most universal manmade structures, and the practice of making cairns goes back thousands of years. From the Arctic territories of the Inuit to temples in Korea, cairns have been spotted all over the world.
Cairns have evolved as symbols of friendship, safety, and direction. They offer guidance for those wandering life’s path. To stumble upon a cairn is to know that you aren’t alone, that someone has traversed the same terrain you now find yourself on. In this way, cairns remind us to never give up, that the journey is yours to make as long as you keep traveling.
When visitors stumbled upon scores of heavy stones that appeared to have moved across the dried lake bed of Racetrack Playa in California’s Death Valley National Park, leaving a tell-tale trail in their wake, scientists were baffled. How had so many boulders, some weighing 300kg, moved as much as 250m across this remote part of the valley, asks Quora user Farhana Khanum?
Adding to the mystery, some trails were gracefully curved, while others were straight with sudden shifts to the left or right. Who, or what, had moved the stones? A slew of theories emerged, from magnetic fields to alien intervention to dust devils to pranksters.
It took a NASA scientist to crack the case. In 2006, Ralph Lorenz developed a kitchen table model using a small rock frozen in an inch of water in a Tupperware container to demonstrate ice shove, the phenomenon behind the mysterious sailing stones.
In winter, Racetrack Playa fills with water and the lakebed’s stones become encased in ice. Thanks to ice’s buoyancy, even a light breeze can send those frozen boulders sailing across the muddy bottom of the lakebed. Stones with rough bottoms leave straight tracks, while those with smooth bottoms drift and digress. Warmer months melt the ice and evaporate the water, leaving only the stones and their mysterious trails.
People can see these sailing stones in a few locations, including Little Bonne Claire Playa in Nevada and most famously, Death Valley’s Racetrack Playa.