12 Amazing Balancing Stones Around the World

Balancing rocks are truly stellar (and indeed interstellar) features that attract tourists, geologists, and increasingly, artists.

1. BALANCED ROCK // COLORADO, USA

A few hundred million years ago, Colorado was covered by a shallow inland sea that eventually turned into sandstone. As the area rose during the creation of the Rocky Mountains, the softer areas of sandstone eroded away, while the areas of the sandstone that were harder stayed put, giving us Colorado’s Garden of the Gods. Eventually, the erosion and weathering around the base will cause Balanced Rock (see photo above) to lose its balance and collapse.

2. BALANCING ROCKS // SEVERAL PLACES AROUND ZIMBABWE

Carine06, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

As in Colorado, these features were originally surrounded by softer rock that eroded away. As the rocks warmed and cooled, they cracked into nice geometric patterns. When the surrounding rock and dirt disappeared, they fell onto each other, just like bricks would if you removed the mortar [PDF]. Zimbabwe so appreciates these features that they have the rare geologic distinction of being featured on the 100 trillion Zimbabwe dollar note.

3. BIG BALANCED ROCK // CHIRICAHUA NATIONAL MONUMENT, ARIZONA

Al_HikesAZ, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Around 27 million years ago, the Turkey Creek volcano (now a caldera) erupted, covering areas of modern Arizona with over 1600 feet of ash and pumice that fused into a soft rock called welded tuff. But tuff isn’t very tough, and it began eroding away along the weaker areas at the rate of two thirds of an inch per thousand years [PDF]. Thankfully, the USGS says there is no risk to these rocks from erosion for the next several thousand years. A much bigger concern for the rocks is earthquakes, although they came through a recent 7.2 quake with only minor damage (nearby buildings weren't so fortunate).

4. PRECARIOUSLY BALANCED ROCKS // NEAR SAN ANDREAS FAULT, NEVADA AND CALIFORNIA

Nick Hinz // Nevada Bureau of Mines & Geology

If there's any place in the country where balancing rocks shouldn’t exist, it's near the San Andreas fault, where you'd think earthquakes would topple them like dominoes. Yet they are there, and have been for at least 10,000 years, through at least 50 large earthquakes. An attempt to address the mystery of how the rocks stay put was published in August, suggesting a theory that since the rocks are between the San Andreas and San Jacinto faults, there might be an interaction between the faults that protects the balanced rocks by lessening ground vibration in the area. This idea would fit into geologic theory—but would mean all our current models of the San Andreas fault are incomplete.

5. IDOL ROCK // YORKSHIRE, UNITED KINGDOM

The strange Brimham Rocks in Yorkshire, of which Idol Rock is the most famous, were formed around 400 million years ago when the area was under a river. During the last glacial maximum, the nearby mountains were covered in glaciers, and where there are glaciers, there are glacial winds. The winds blew sand across the rocks at great speed, carving them into their odd new look—think of it like a natural form of sandblasting.

6. KUMMAKIVI BALANCING ROCK // FINLAND

Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

The name translates as “strange rock,” but in English we have our own name for these features: erratics. As glaciers advanced, they picked up boulders from the surrounding countryside, and carried them along—sometimes for hundreds of miles. But when the glacier began retreating, the rocks didn’t make the trip back, and instead were set down on the surrounding countryside—sometimes perfectly balanced on top of another rock.

7. BALANCING ROCK // HOLLISTON, MASSACHUSETTS

WikimediaCommons // Public Domain

What makes this rock interesting is less the rock (it's a standard glacial erratic) than who attempted to knock it over. According to local legend, George Washington was traveling through and tried to push the rock down. Obviously, he failed.

8. RUGGESTEINEN // NORWAY

Sometimes a rock is so perfectly balanced that it can be rocked with just a bit of effort. This is the case with Ruggesteinen in Norway, also known as the Rocking Stone. Despite being over 70 tons, a couple of people pushing can move it.

9. KRISHNA'S BUTTER BALL // MAHABALIPURAM, INDIA

Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

This one is mysterious. It might be a glacial erratic, it might have been eroded out of the surrounding rock, or it may have been placed there by ancient Indians. According to legend, in 1908 the local British Governor decided that it was dangerous and needed to be removed. Seven elephants supposedly weren’t able to budge it. While the elephant story might be a myth, glaciers can transport extremely heavy rocks—there’s one in Canada that weighs 16,500 tons.

10. GOLDEN ROCK PAGODA // MYANMAR

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This 25-foot-tall rock is also mysterious. Myanmar does have glaciers, so that is always a possibility, but according to Buddhist tradition, the rock was placed there to enshrine a hair from the Buddha’s head.

11. MANMADE BALANCING STONES // AROUND THE WORLD

Recently, rock balancing has become a popular art. Based on traditional cairns (stacks of rocks that are either memorials or landmarks) they can become extremely intricate. But the craze is not without its critics. The removal of the rocks for the balancing act can cause the underlying soil to erode faster, as well as destroy the homes of small animals. In addition, building them in areas where cairns are used as trail markers is a quick way to get a lot of people very lost. Because of this, modern rock balancers prefer to place their rocks back where they found them after they take a few photos.

12. 67P/CHURYUMOV-GERASIMENKO // OUT OF THIS WORLD

ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

In 2014, the European Space Agency landed on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. In the images sent back to Earth was a picture of what look like balancing rocks on the surface of the comet. Their origin is mysterious: it could be that as the comet neared the Sun, ice melted away around these more impervious objects, leaving them behind. It could be that various interactions cause these boulders to move. Or it might even be camera perspective, and better imaging will reveal nothing out of the ordinary. Until then, any tour of the best balancing stones will require a space suit.

Here’s How to Find Out If Your MacBook Pro Was Just Banned by the FAA

shironosov/iStock via Getty Images
shironosov/iStock via Getty Images

Back in June, Apple issued a recall of approximately 460,000 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops sold between September 2015 and February 2017, stating that “the battery may overheat and pose a fire safety risk.” Now, Bloomberg reports that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has warned airlines to ban those batteries from flights.

Technically, airlines could have started banning the laptops as soon as Apple issued the recall, since 2016 airline safety instructions mandate that all recalled batteries may not fly as cargo or in carry-on baggage. The FAA has essentially alerted them to the recall and reminded them about the existing rules.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency banned the laptops in early August, which has been implemented so far by TUI Group Airlines, Thomas Cook Airlines, Air Italy, and Air Transat. Domestic airlines in the U.S. are now following suit, so it’s worth finding out if your laptop battery is part of the recall if you have plans to fly soon. Even if you don’t have any current travel plans, it’s a good opportunity to get your recalled battery replaced—which Apple will do for free.

Fast Company outlines exactly how to check your device: Click the Apple icon in the upper left corner of your screen, and tap “About This Mac.” If you see “MacBook Pro (Retina, 15 inch, Mid 2015)” or a similar description, copy the serial number, and paste it into the box under the “Eligibility” section on this page. If your laptop was affected, scroll down and follow the directions to make an appointment for a replacement battery.

Once your battery is replaced, you’re free to fly with your MacBook; just make sure to bring documentation of your battery replacement to the airport, in case officials ask for proof.

[h/t Bloomberg]

You Can Ride Falkor the Luck Dragon From The NeverEnding Story at Bavaria Film Studios

Emmanouil Kampitakis, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons
Emmanouil Kampitakis, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Kids who were traumatized by The NeverEnding Story in the 1980s and beyond may remember it as the movie with the wolf monster, drowning horse, and laser-shooting sphinxes. But the movie wasn't all doom and gloom; Bastian riding Falkor the luck dragon through the sky has gone down as one of the most uplifting images in cinema. As Nerdist reports, NeverEnding Story fans who find themselves in Munich, Germany, can live out the scene in real-life by riding a full-sized Falkor model.

When The NeverEnding Story hit theaters in 1984, it was the most expensive film ever produced in Germany. The movie is still a source of pride for the country—so much so that props from the film are some of the main attractions at Munich's Bavaria Film Studios.

Visitors to the studio will find props and prop recreations from various movies. Some, like Falkor, are rideable. Guests of all ages can climb aboard the loveable, dog-like creature and pretend to soar through the air as they pose for pictures. The model is located in front of a green or blue screen, and a monitor nearby shows Falkor and riders against a cloudy backdrop. Models of Morla the giant turtle, Pyornkrachzark the rockbiter, and Gluckuk's racing snail are also on display.

Bavaria Film Studios is open for public tours year-round. You can find ticket information here. And if you aren't able to make a pilgrimage to Germany to relive your childhood, you can read up on some facts about the film—which just celebrated its 35th birthday—at home.

[h/t Nerdist]

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