Meteorite used as doorstop for decades worth $100,000

It had a role in that old farmhouse...

  • It landed on a farm near Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1930, and is estimated to be 4 billion years old
  • When the house was sold, it was included in the sale by the farmer who had no idea of its value, but had quite a story about finding it
  • If you see a meteorite fall to Earth and remain at least partially intact, it would be in your best interest to run (or drive, quickly) to find it!

It's not often that Mona Sirbescu, a professor of geology at Central Michigan University, has actually had someone come in with what they thought was a meteorite, and then found it to be true. In fact, this is the only time it's happened to her.

People bring things there frequently, and they're never meteorites. However, a man named David Mazurek showed up recently with a specimen that proved be the the bonafide thing. "For 18 years, the answer has been categorically 'no,' meteor wrongs, not meteorites," Sibescu quipped in a statement from CMU on Thursday.

Weighing in at 22.5 lbs., and made of 88.5 percent iron and 11.5 percent nickel, Mazurek's rock is only the 12th actual meteorite to be identified in the state. "I could tell right away that this was something special," Sibescu said. "It's the most valuable specimen I have ever held in my life, monetarily and scientifically."

The Smithsonian, in Washington, D.C., has confirmed that it is an actual meteorite.

Central Michigan University

The 4-billion-year-old "Edmore Meteorite"

It has quite a story behind it. You see, the meteorite (remember that meteors disintegrate before entering or while entering our atmosphere, while meteorites are the ones that make it all the way to Earth's surface) landed on some farmland in a town called Edmore, Michigan, in the 1930s.

Apparently, according to the old farmer who lived there, it made quite a racket. When he and his sons dug it up the next day from the crater, it was still warm. The meteorite was sold with the farmhouse to Mazurek about 30 years ago, who then moved on a few years later, bringing the "rock" with him. When it wasn't being used as a door stop, it was something that his kids would take to school for show-and-tell.

Photo by George Varros and Dr. Peter Jenniskens/NASA/Getty Images

Device Tracks And Photographs Meteorites

Now dubbed the Edmore meteorite, it's likely to end up in one museum or another. "What typically happens with these at this point is that meteorites can either be sold and shown in a museum or sold to collectors and sellers looking to make a profit," Sirbescu said.

Both the Smithsonian and a mineral museum in Maine are considering purchasing the meteorite for display. If it sells, Mazurek has decided to give 10 percent of the sale value to Central Michigan University for the study of earth and atmospheric sciences.

Sirbescu, though, seemed more impressed with its other qualities. "Just think, what I was holding is a piece of the early solar system that literally fell into our hands," she said.

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An organism found in dirt may lead to an anxiety vaccine, say scientists

Can dirt help us fight off stress? Groundbreaking new research shows how.

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  • New research identifies a bacterium that helps block anxiety.
  • Scientists say this can lead to drugs for first responders and soldiers, preventing PTSD and other mental issues.
  • The finding builds on the hygiene hypothesis, first proposed in 1989.

Are modern societies trying too hard to be clean, at the detriment to public health? Scientists discovered that a microorganism living in dirt can actually be good for us, potentially helping the body to fight off stress. Harnessing its powers can lead to a "stress vaccine".

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that the fatty 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid from the soil-residing bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae aids immune cells in blocking pathways that increase inflammation and the ability to combat stress.

The study's senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Christopher Lowry described this fat as "one of the main ingredients" in the "special sauce" that causes the beneficial effects of the bacterium.

The finding goes hand in hand with the "hygiene hypothesis," initially proposed in 1989 by the British scientist David Strachan. He maintained that our generally sterile modern world prevents children from being exposed to certain microorganisms, resulting in compromised immune systems and greater incidences of asthma and allergies.

Contemporary research fine-tuned the hypothesis, finding that not interacting with so-called "old friends" or helpful microbes in the soil and the environment, rather than the ones that cause illnesses, is what's detrimental. In particular, our mental health could be at stake.

"The idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation," explained Lowry. "That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders."

University of Colorado Boulder

Christopher Lowry

This is not the first study on the subject from Lowry, who published previous work showing the connection between being exposed to healthy bacteria and mental health. He found that being raised with animals and dust in a rural environment helps children develop more stress-proof immune systems. Such kids were also likely to be less at risk for mental illnesses than people living in the city without pets.

Lowry's other work also pointed out that the soil-based bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae acts like an antidepressant when injected into rodents. It alters their behavior and has lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, according to the press release from the University of Colorado Boulder. Prolonged inflammation can lead to such stress-related disorders as PTSD.

The new study from Lowry and his team identified why that worked by pinpointing the specific fatty acid responsible. They showed that when the 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid gets into cells, it works like a lock, attaching itself to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR). This allows it to block a number of key pathways responsible for inflammation. Pre-treating the cells with the acid (or lipid) made them withstand inflammation better.

Lowry thinks this understanding can lead to creating a "stress vaccine" that can be given to people in high-stress jobs, like first responders or soldiers. The vaccine can prevent the psychological effects of stress.

What's more, this friendly bacterium is not the only potentially helpful organism we can find in soil.

"This is just one strain of one species of one type of bacterium that is found in the soil but there are millions of other strains in soils," said Lowry. "We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of identifying the mechanisms through which they have evolved to keep us healthy. It should inspire awe in all of us."

Check out the study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.