Activity time: 10 minutes
Materials for Activity
- A copy of the story, “Things We Still Can’t Explain”
- Leader Resource 1, Ball Lightning Images
- Leader Resource 2, Earthquake Lights Image
- Leader Resource 3, Sliding Rocks Images
- Optional: Computer and a projector or large monitor, ideally with Internet connection
Preparation for Activity
- Read the story and prepare to read or tell it to the group.
- Download and print Leader Resources 1, 2, and 3 to show the group images of ball lightning, earthquake lights, and sliding rocks. If possible, print Leader Resource 2, Earthquake Lights Image, in color.
- Optional: The Description of Activity gives you questions to prompt discussion. One question asks you to reveal to the group the scientific explanation, which emerged in 2014, for the sliding rocks phenomenon. Read an abstract or the full article, “Sliding Rocks on Racetrack Playa, Death Valley National Park: First Observation of Rocks in Motion,” in the August 27, 2014 Public Library of Science ONE Journal. Or, read an August 17, 2014 Los Angeles Times article about the discovery, “Mystery of how rocks move across Death Valley lake bed solved.”
- Optional: If you have Internet access, show images and video of the unexplained phenomena while you share the story or immediately afterward. Start with these links:
- Ball lightning. The story in this session borrows, with permission, from a July 6, 2014 post by Sukanya Mukherjee, “Where Science Has Failed: The 8 Strangest Natural Phenomena Unexplained By Science,” on the website, HEXAPOLIS. Use the link to find images of ball lightning, earthquake lights, and five other unexplained phenomena.
- Sliding rocks. This well-produced video, “How Rocks Move (6:15),” shows the efforts of paleo-oceanographer Richard Norris and a team of citizen scientists to measure and understand the movements of the rocks in Death Valley’s Racetrack Playa; read about the Slithering Stones Research Initiative here. “Raising Heaven: Where Rocks Go Wandering,” by Tim Cahill (National Geographic, 2007) was a source for the story in this session.
- Earthquake lights. This clip on YouTube shows the colorful lights that appeared in the sky a half hour before an earthquake in Sichuan, China in 2008. The first 50 seconds of this YouTube video are a compilation of “earthquake light” images. A good, recent article is "Glowing lights around an earthquake's epicenter" in the online London Times.
Description of Activity
Read the story, showing images of unexplained phenomena as you have planned.
When you are finished, prompt discussion:
- Do you believe all three of these unexplained phenomena are real? Which seems hardest to believe? Why?
- Which of these phenomena fit our definition of a miracle? Why or why not?
- [For each of the phenomena] What do you think the scientists are missing? How would you explain the cause of this phenomenon? How does the lack of a proven, scientific explanation make you feel?
- I would like to tell you that after today’s story was written, someone witnessed the sliding rocks while they were moving, on a cold, windy night. [If you have read the Los Angeles Times article about the discovery and wish to tell the group more, share details now.] The scientists concluded that a combination of a very thin coating of ice on the ground and a very strong wind pushed the rocks. By morning, when the ice melted, the trails were visible in the ground. Does knowing the scientific explanation make any difference to you?
- Even though we cannot be sure of a scientific explanation, do you think the phenomenon has a meaning or a purpose? Why do you think that? Or, why not?