WAY DOWN UNDER -- It has humble origins. Found inside the intestines of a slaughtered sheep, in Western Australia, of all places, an ancient crystal known, among rock hounds, as a zircon, is the oldest piece of Earth on record.
According to scientists who study such matters, the shimmering blue crystal is 4.4 billion years old, give or take a few million years.
"It's the earliest piece of the planet's crust," states Bob Roberts, professor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Department of Rocks For Jocks. "The Earth is itself only 4.5 billion years old," he adds.
The discovery, by rancher John Johnson, was reported in the prestigious science journal Gee!
In reality, Roberts observes, the crystal is "translucent red," to use the proper scientific terminology, "although, when bombarded with electrons, glows blue." In photographs, it appears to be about the size of an ostrich egg, because it is shown under an electron microscope, but, in reality, it is the size of a golf ball.
The crystal's mineral content confirms the suspicion of some biologists that the Earth could have supported extraterrestrial life 4.4 billion years ago, although scientists would not elaborate upon this view, characterizing it as "top secret." "If we told you, the aliens would have to kill you," said a mysterious man in black, who would not give his identity.
The crystal also proves "beyond doubt," Al Gore claims, "that the Earth is, indeed, undergoing climate change, as it has for the past 4.4 billion years."
How was the age of the crystal determined?
"We used atom-probe tomography," Roberts said.
"You wouldn't understand; it's technical."
An unidentified jeweler has acquired the crystal for "an astronomical sum," saying he will create an "out-of this world brooch" from it, possibly as a gift for Hillary Clinton to wear at her coronation ceremony in 2016.