ABOVE: Photo of alleged Roswell UFO metal.
In investigating the claim of this supposed mystery metal, Howe had the metal analyzed by a scientific technologist named Nicholas A. Reiter. Howe had used Reiter on other cases and no issues with his findings - that is, until they did not start matching up with the claims being made. Before we get to that, let's look at some of what Howe currently wrote on her Earthfiles.com website about the alleged Roswell UFO metal:
- An exam found the first pieces of metal to be greater than 99% aluminum and of normal density.
- Howe then says engineers at an aluminum manufacturer stated the aluminum pieces were not typical of industrial machining. Howe goes to say there was speculation that military handlers may have "had samples from the alleged extraterrestrial craft punched out to distribute to American scientists for study."
- Howe stated an exotic metals manufacturer in 1996 stated, "No one layers bismuth and magnesium. It can't be done! The layers won't bond with each other."
- Howe writes she contacted the Director of Material Sciences at MIT, "but no one had any knowledge of such layered material."
- Howe writes another expert stated, "I have basically exhausted every resource that I have ever tried to usein the past from 1940 to now. I have found no reference, even in government research, for bismuth/magnesium layers."
Problem is that bismuth and magnesium will indeed bond with each other, as you will see.
Howe goes on to do what she seems to do best, inserting bits from other stories or claims in an attempt to bolster the mysterious and possible extraterrestrial origin of the metal. Howe cites a member of the Navy supposedly seeing photos of Roswell alien bodies, she cites the infamous Colonel Corso's "understanding of UFO propulsion, and tags her go to classic of extraterrestrial biological entity into the series of articles.
Howe cites how one researcher put a large amount of electrical current through the metal and it allegedly floated to the side. Howe touted this in interviews on late night radio as something amazing. Truth is, if you subject a soft drink or beer can to a large electrical current it too will move. Then again, the simple truth just isn't as sexy as aliens and doesn't sell subscriptions to Howe's website.
In the end what you have are some pieces of metal and a lot of speculation or, if you prefer, promotion.
Howe has discounted scientific work that does not fit the narrative she is promoting.
First draft presented to Linda Moulton Howe
07 August 1996
Nicholas A. Reiter
Updated November 30, 2001
07 August 1996
Nicholas A. Reiter
Updated November 30, 2001
The following report appears here for the first time, at least in it's original form. It represents a most interesting adventure in the realm of UFO detective work. Some readers may recall the on-going debate on the Art Bell show back in 1996 and 1997 relating to the claimed fragment of the crashed Roswell saucer. Research into the claimed artifact was hosted and managed by author and UFO personality Linda Moulton Howe. Linda had partitioned the fragment presented to Art Bell into smaller sections that were then analyzed at assorted labs around the country. NR was one of the chosen. As the reader will see, we had a bit of a leg up on this one.
The metal sample was eventually returned to Linda Howe, though we retain a very tiny fragment to this day, with her permission. While our analysis of the sample by SEM and EDS spectroscopy agreed with that performed at the other labs, our opinion of the origin of the sample did not represent the final "verdict" that appeared to win out on Art Bell's show, or later literary references. We were, and remain, skeptical for reasons that will become apparent. Following the text of the report is a short update. Read on, and remember that nothing is as it seems…
On 12 July, 1996, I received by Fed Ex a small metal artifact from LMH. The purported origin of this piece, as well as highlights of previous analytical work, had been revealed to me by LMH in earlier telephone conversations. Along with the artifact portion, I received several color photographs of the parent artifact, as well as some SEM photos, and a written summary of previous EDS and SIMS work. After personal viewing by me, the original photos were sent back to LMH.
From 12 July to the present, I have performed numerous simple tests and analytical operations on the sample. The results of these tests, to date, are summarized here.
The artifact appears to be a small chunk of lightweight metal, sawed or micro-tomed from a larger parent piece. It is irregular in contour, and measured (as received) about 22mm x 4mm x 6mm. Of the two non-cut sides, one is of a silvery colour, textured with many small convex "bumps". The other side is of a gold- black colour, with a fluted surface; a concave "negative" of the silvery side topography. Upon handling, a thin (about 1mm thick) portion delaminated from the original piece. This smaller portion broke away along a line following the contour of the primary piece. The smaller portion retained the characteristics of silvery and blackish sides, with the now exposed surface of the large portion being silvery - convex. The smaller fragment was reserved for destructive testing.
Initial visual inspection, along with inspection of the photos of the parent artifact, shows a clear columnar structure along with discrete bands or layers. The artifact, overall, appears to be quite brittle. An end of the thin delaminated portion was easily snapped off with finger pressure.
The overall appearance of the piece, and it’s parent, strongly suggests rapid epitaxial growth.
A Jeol JSM - T330 SEM was used to examine portions of the smaller artifact fragment. Photos taken showed features quite similar to those seen previously during recent analysis carried out at another midwestern location. The layering effect is quite noticeable. Crystal structure of the light grey metal, composing the thicker layers, is indeterminate visually. Original SEM photos taken at this location have been forwarded to LMH for use with this summary.
A Tracor Northern 5400 EDS X ray analyzer was used to examine compositions of both silvery and blackish regions. The silvery region is shown to be relatively pure Mg, with a small signal for Zn; perhaps indicating about 2 to 3% of the latter. The blackish region appears to be primarily Bi. Please reference attached EDS print-outs. Again, this corroborates results from earlier EDS and SIMS work done elsewhere.
A small crumb of the artifact was held by tweezers over a hydrogen torch flame. It ignited and burned with the characteristic white flare of Mg. A small curl of 99.99% Mg was likewise ignited for comparison. Both appeared to burn identically.
The larger artifact portion was tested with a Baird Atomic 914-434 Ratemeter (Geiger Counter). No indications of radioactivity were noted.
Questions had been raised by LMH as to whether the materials in the artifact were of common (predominant or stable) isotope. The only testing possible at this location for this purpose was a simple Archimedian volume versus weight test. The volume of the large artifact portion was determined by displacement of water in a pipette. Correcting for estimated volumes of Zn and Bi, a calculated weight was derived for the artifact, given the textbook densities for Mg24 , Zn, and Bi. This value was calculated to be .5155g. The artifact was then weighed with a Stanton CL1 lab balance, and actual weight over three trials was found to be .5115g, about 0.7% lighter than the calculated value. From this, we may say that the artifact, while possibly containing small percentages of heavier Mg isotopes, does not appear to be primarily composed of Mg25 or Mg26.
The artifact appears to be quite conductive; and in any orientation, has a resistance too low to measure with a typical ohm-meter.
A Fluke 79 DVM was used to look for any voltage potentials or currents which (by some hypotheses) might be produced by the layering of dissimilar metals or other more unusual mechanisms. None were detected in the range of the meter.
The artifact was tested with a custom - built Hall effect gaussmeter. No discernable magnetic field was noted. The artifact was not seen to be attracted by a NdFeB magnet.
It had been suggested that the layered structure of the artifact resembled proposed structures for high temperature filamentary superconductors. A small NdFeB super magnet was used in an attempt to elicit a Meissner Effect reaction with the artifact, both at room temperature, and in a beaker of liquid nitrogen. No effect was noticed.
The artifact was radiated with light from a .5mW 670nm diode laser, at various angles. No unusual effects or responses were noted.
The artifact was radiated with light from a 100watt long wave ultraviolet lamp. No fluorescence or unusual response was noted.
The artifact was suspended within an electrical field of about 3 to 4 kV at 20 kHz. No unusual responses were noted.
It had been suggested to LMH that the artifact structure was possibly indicative of a hypothetical propulsion system, and that extremely high DC potentials applied to the metal structure would cause it to lose weight! To test this idea, the artifact was mounted on a plastic stand, which in turn was placed on a Mettler BasBal 2400 digital lab balance. A very thin lead wire was attached to the artifact with a snippet of conductive tape, and then connected to a HV source. Two sources were used, a +/- 15,000V DC, 60VA supply (GE 9T63Y2226G2) and a small Van De Graaf generator providing about 30 to 50 kV electrostatic potential.
In either case, no weight changes within the resolution of the balance (10mg) were noted when the HV sources were turned on. However, according to LMH’s source, potentials over 1MV might be needed to cause weight loss (?!).
At the most basic of levels, we would freely state that the artifact portion provided by LMH does NOT seem to be composed of elements or compounds which are unknown. Nor is it composed of alloys that appear to be of a purity or combination beyond the scope of current material science. The artifact bears a strong resemblance to irregular layered residue often found in large physical vapor deposition (PVD) coaters. This family of filming processes includes sputtering, E-beam, and resistively heated thermal evaporation; all common vacuum processes used widely in industry. The structure of the artifact very strongly suggests long term, high rate, disordered epitaxial growth on a cold surface (chilled evaporant shield? chamber walls?).
I have spent nearly 12 years working in the thin film and vacuum process fields. Some years ago, I worked as a technician for a company in Ohio that ran the world’s largest commercial E-beam coater. One of my duties was to remove chromium residue from the areas around the large E-beam evaporation sources. Hundreds of pounds of chips, flakes, and chunks of columnar layered chromium residue were removed at a time. (Usually weekends - third shift!) If I had not known the composition of the artifact when first viewing the colour photos of it, I would have honestly guessed that someone had done me the honor of saving a souvenir from my old job- a chrome residue chunk from the focus magnet pole piece of an Airco Temescal E-beam source! Rough calculations, coupled with past work experience would hint that residues of the thickness of the artifact represent 80 to 120 hours of build up time, in your typical large sputter or E-beam coater. We used to chip ours out every two weeks or so.
The composition of the Mg:Zn alloy comes close to several commercial Mg alloys: ASTM#’s ZK60A, ZK51A, and EZ33A. All of these alloys, however, are said to have a very small quantity of Zr, typically 0.5% to 0.7%. I have been informed that Zr was not seen in earlier EDS scans at other locations, nor did it seem to be evident in my analysis of the artifact. However, I do also know that at least for our TN 5400, resolution below about 1% is usually not possible. Zr may have simply been below the resolution of the EDS. (Information from The Mechanical Engineers Handbook, 1958 edition, McGraw Hill Book Co.)
It is also evident that the artifact does not, at least in it’s current state of condition, seem to produce any voltages or currents, nor does it act as a superconductor, at least at room temperature or at 77K.
The remaining unusual aspect of the artifact is quite simply the combination of Mg and Bi in a single structure. Mg, of course, finds most use in the automotive and aerospace industry, as a lighter weight substitute for aluminum. It may also be used to make some optical grade films or plating. Bi, on the other hand, has several unusual properties that suit it to more specialized high tech applications. It is often a component in solders and is added to some lower temperature cast-able alloys because it has the characteristic of expanding about 2 to 3 percent upon cooling. It is used in thermoelectric power modules or Peltier coolers along with tellurium. It is the most diamagnetic element known, and the most electro-negative. A patent by Carroll claims Bi as a possible filamentary superconductor at high temperatures. Bi is itself super-conducting at low temperatures.
To date, I have been unable to find any references to uses of Mg and Bi together in one process or product! LMH has claimed that officials at Dow, one of the largest Mg producers in the world, are unaware of any use of Bi in their manufacturing processes.
Of course, this is not to say that there is not some very specialized use of Mg in a Bi application, or vica versa, we have simply not found it yet in our "detective work".
My own opinion is that the artifact probably represents a curious piece of industrial by-product from the thin films industry or a Mg casting plant. However, until a match-up is found, I will not rule out the possibility of a more unusual origin.
In the year or so that followed the analysis by us of this sample, the mythos and mystery of the bismuth - magnesium artifact continued to grow. It became the source for a wide range of speculations, some valid, some baseless, among the anti-gravity and UFO research sub-cultures. The extraterrestrial origin of the artifact appeared to be firmly entrenched in the minds of most who listened, read, and believed. Presumably, there just aren't very many old films and vacuum technology folks out there…
Claims were made by a Tesla coil enthusiast in Alabama that the portion of the artifact in his possession acted strangely and tried to levitate in the presence of the electrostatic field of a Van de Graaf generator and a radio frequency source. We did perform a separate replication here, and found that our metal fragment danced about as well in the field of a Van de Graaf. And so did a piece of aluminum foil! Please understand that just about any small unattached mass will dance in the field of a 200,000 volt source! The mythos grew…
In 2000, one last revelation came our way on the origin of the artifact. The combination of bismuth and magnesium had eluded us for four years. But then one day, we found a reference to an obscure industrial process used in the refinement of lead. The process, called the Betterton-Krohl Process, uses molten magnesium floated over the surface of liquid lead. The magnesium sucks up, or pulls bismuth impurities out of the lead! Often, the magnesium is used over and over again…
Could this little known process have been the real origin of some unusual looking metal residue, that was then in turn promoted as a piece of alien technology?