When an unidentified object turns up, the theories about aliens are right there for the taking. It’s no different now with the steel monolith in the Utah desert, recently discovered by a helicopter when counting sheep. An experienced Reddit user has since managed to find out the likely exact location of the object, but this does not solve the mystery. Aliens? They seem out of the question.
CNET, The Verge, New York Times, CNN
Last week, November 18, the Utah conservation helicopter took to the air to count bighorn sheep in a very inhospitable area of the US state. A biologist on board suddenly saw something shining, which later turned out to be an upright steel object about three meters high, planted between the red rugged rocks of the desert. It was reminiscent of, among other things, the opening scene of Stanley Kubrick’s film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ from 1968, in which monkeys marvel at a similar construction, but in black. The shiny column returns in various episodes in human history, without Kubrick providing an explanation. The director suggests an alien origin.
Helicopter pilot Bret Hutchings bet on a work of art by a big fan of Kubrick’s film or by a new wave artist. The name of the minimalist artist John McCracken, known for his ‘shelf sculptures’, soon fell, but it was not conclusive. The glittering monolith circumnavigated the World Wide Web, attracting the attention of many curious. A group of internet investigators saw the light of day on the social network site. They set out to find the exact location of the object, which the Department of Public Safety (DPS) declined to disclose in order to prevent people from embarking on a dangerous expedition in the Utah desert.
Less than a day after DPS sent the photos of the construction to the world, Reddit user Tim Slane had already praised it. He posted the coordinates of a small canyon with a narrow opening that bore striking similarities to the rocks surrounding the metal monolith in the DPS photos. Satellite images from Google Earth show the long, rectangular shadow of an object that is barely visible itself. There was no trace of the object on images from Google Earth between 2013 and mid-2015. As of October 2016, it is clearly visible and the vegetation on the terrain around it has apparently been removed.
Nice research, but we still don’t know where the object came from. Artist John McCracken died in 2011. His gallery owner David Zwirner said New York Times: “I think this was really made by John”. But not everyone in the gallery is convinced of that. In that case, it would have been put there a few years after McCracken’s death, if Tim Slane’s timeline is correct. This work may have been by another artist, whether or not as a tribute to McCracken. In addition, the name of Petecia Le Fawnhawk, a contemporary artist who has often created austere sculptures in remote places. But she then denies again The Verge.
In any case, it seems unlikely that this would be the work of aliens. “This monolith is clearly something people can make (and they do!) In places people go,” Jason Wright told CNN. He is a professor of astrophysics at Pennsylvania State University and director of the university’s Extraterrestrial Intelligence Center. “Indeed, desert art is common in the American Southwest, so I don’t see any reason to think it’s anything other than that.”
IQ Hunter, film scientist and professor at De Montfort University, is on the same page. If “2001: A Space Odyssey” had never penetrated collective memory, we probably would never have wondered, according to Hunter, whether a simple geometric figure was placed on Earth by aliens.
DPS has already stated that it is illegal to install structures or works of art on federally managed public lands in Utah without permission and that this applies to everyone, “no matter what planet you come from”.
According to members of the Reddit group, lines can be seen at the bottom of the newly discovered metal obelisk, which would indicate using a grinding wheel to plant it in the soil. Zooming in on the object would reveal that the parts are attached to each other with screws. So it would not be a one-piece metal column. Some therefore reject the term ‘monolith’ to describe the object.
Around the period from August 2015 to October 2016, when the mysterious object must have been placed in the Utah desert, according to satellite images from Google Earth, filming for the first season of the science fiction TV series Westworld also took place somewhere nearby. . According to CNET, it’s possible that the steel plate was left behind after the clean-up or that someone on the crew meant this as a joke, inspired by Stanley Kubrick. The same location would have been used for other TV shows and films, including westerns from the 1940s and 1960s. More recently for movies like 2010’s 127 Hours and 2000’s Mission: Impossible II.
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