Join 3,494 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The sunsets were purple and red and yellow...
February 8, 2013 5:45 PM   Subscribe

Not little fluffy clouds in Arizona, but little squishy, um...orbs. In the desert near Tuscon, thousands of tiny purple spheres have appeared, isolated from the rest of the terrain. The mysterious objects, described as being like "gooey marbles that ooze out a water substance when squished," have yet to be identified.
posted by davebush (75 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oooo, mystery! And they're pretty. Neat!
posted by limeonaire at 5:47 PM on February 8, 2013


Update: After seeing our story about the purple orbs on Thursday, Daniel Bartels gave us a call. He was confident that the water beads he and his company, Canopy Corner, sell are the ones Gerardine Vargas found in Vail's desert on Sunday.
posted by Rhaomi at 5:47 PM on February 8, 2013


But apparently they aren't a perfect match for Canopy Corner's water beads, and the TV station covering this sent a sample of the orbs off for testing...
posted by limeonaire at 5:53 PM on February 8, 2013


*shakes fist* CHRISTO!
posted by davebush at 5:53 PM on February 8, 2013 [44 favorites]


Guy Atchley!

I wonder if the ones out in the desert are smaller and more faintly-colored than the water bead guy's because they've evaporated some?
posted by carsonb at 5:55 PM on February 8, 2013


I love this coverage from the TV station. The pure childlike curiosity and glee (the update story even ends with one anchor describing her co-anchor as "like a child") they display in trying to unravel this minor mystery is great. All must be pretty darn well in a world where this is basically the priority focus for the local news for days straight! That world, I want to go to there.
posted by zachlipton at 5:57 PM on February 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


Regardless of what the heck those things are, the article introduced two new strange concepts to me, jelly fungus and water beads. Huh.
posted by Iosephus at 5:58 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


You don't see that. You might still see them in the desert.
posted by theperfectcrime at 5:58 PM on February 8, 2013 [32 favorites]


Good lord, they found something containing water in Southern Arizona? Quick, build another golf course and an artificial lake!

Ha ha, just kidding. They don't need the excuse of actually finding water to do those things.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:59 PM on February 8, 2013 [22 favorites]


RUN! RUN BEFORE THOSE THINGS HATCH!
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 6:01 PM on February 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


EGGS!
posted by boo_radley at 6:05 PM on February 8, 2013


They've discovered the orbs. They have reached the desert surface, and are now visible.

Let them speculate - there's still time.

One of them has already claimed them as their own. Thoughts?

Let them say what they will. The plan remains...

Have you chosen one?

We have. All it takes is a single transmission.

Is the plan...stable?

The plan is always...stable. The plan will outlive us all.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 6:05 PM on February 8, 2013 [33 favorites]


POKE THEM WITH A STICK



It's the only way to be sure.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:07 PM on February 8, 2013 [19 favorites]


Dear AskMe: I found a fuckton of purple orbs out in the desert that ooze a liquid when squished. Should I eat them?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:18 PM on February 8, 2013 [74 favorites]


So...I'm not the only one assuming this has something to do with meth, right?
posted by maryr at 6:19 PM on February 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm sure they're harmless, but all I can think of is this.
posted by dirigibleman at 6:19 PM on February 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm guessing it's molecular gastronomy. This was actually a basket on "Chopped":

"Your ingredients are! Jelly fungus! Water! The desert! And corn nuts! Time starts now!"
posted by xingcat at 6:20 PM on February 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


If nobody at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum knows what this stuff is, it's not of this earth.
posted by workerant at 6:21 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


This guy looks like he knows something.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:22 PM on February 8, 2013 [16 favorites]


That's what the skies were like when you were young?! Oh, shit!
posted by exogenous at 6:23 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Jesse? I want you to answer me honestly. The past several times we've been out cooking, where have you been throwing out the lithium aluminum hydride?"
posted by crapmatic at 6:23 PM on February 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


Probably just sky spider eggs.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:24 PM on February 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, by the way, is fantastic.
posted by maryr at 6:28 PM on February 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Where I'm from, we call purple globes that squish out water "grapes".
posted by scalefree at 6:34 PM on February 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


Are these those amazeballs I keep hearing about?
posted by jeffamaphone at 6:37 PM on February 8, 2013 [27 favorites]


Where I'm from, we call purple globes that squish out water "grapes".

Where you're from you need a whole lot more of Jesus.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:39 PM on February 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


I will bet even money that those are trimethylated silica/silica silylate aerogels spheres which are carrying a load. Those beads will maintain structural integrity of their inner shell until the outer shell is either pierced or dissolved. Why someone dumped them in the desert, I do not know. Given that they can be safely used in bath and body formulas, they may not be toxic, but that cationic emulsifiers can add whole lot of things to the structure; I wouldn't touch them without gloves.

There is a similar product that is used to make room scents, but those products do not expand dramatically as they absorb fragrance loads, and once they have a scent load, the sphere is solid, and not easily broken.
posted by dejah420 at 6:41 PM on February 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Mutant Camel Spider Eggs, for sure. or not.
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:44 PM on February 8, 2013


So this is what a slow invasion looks like.
posted by mollweide at 6:45 PM on February 8, 2013


Is anyone else thinking of Breakfast Of Champions?
posted by ambulance blues at 6:55 PM on February 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I will bet even money that those are trimethylated silica/silica silylate aerogels spheres which are carrying a load. Those beads will maintain structural integrity of their inner shell until the outer shell is either pierced or dissolved. Why someone dumped them in the desert, I do not know. Given that they can be safely used in bath and body formulas, they may not be toxic, but that cationic emulsifiers can add whole lot of things to the structure; I wouldn't touch them without gloves.

There is a similar product that is used to make room scents, but those products do not expand dramatically as they absorb fragrance loads, and once they have a scent load, the sphere is solid, and not easily broken.
posted by dejah420 at 6:41 PM on February 8 [+] [!]


I do so admire dejah420 with so much of my wondrous, alchemical beating heart.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 6:55 PM on February 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


And there's hamburger all over the highway in Mystic, Connecticut.
posted by zompist at 6:56 PM on February 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


So this is what a slow invasion looks like.

All y'all said I was crazy when I built this here transformin' missile-shootin' motorcycle-armor.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:59 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry, it was me. I threw the diaper out of the airplane. Looks like the gel coagulated into larger balls.

So you're rolling wet diaper gel around in your hands.
posted by surplus at 7:06 PM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think I found the answer.
posted by orme at 7:18 PM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Diaper... gel?

The idea of having children some day just keeps getting more terrifying.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:20 PM on February 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


We spoke to Darlene Buhrow, director of marketing at Tucson Botanical Gardens, who's husband is a botanist. He said if these are something naturally occurring, they could be a slime mold or jelly fungus.


WOW! Lucky her husband is a botanist!
posted by mattoxic at 7:22 PM on February 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


Well, apparently, the source of Juffo-Wup is Tucson, AZ.
posted by herrdoktor at 7:24 PM on February 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


So they are not paintballs?
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:29 PM on February 8, 2013


You don't see that. You might still see them in the desert.

You still see skies like that all the time, when the weather's bad. Just look up. Bad sky. That's how it is.

I mean, the sky's not that important, really, in the long-term.
posted by dephlogisticated at 7:30 PM on February 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


These are obviously the eggs the RODS hatched from!
posted by warbaby at 7:31 PM on February 8, 2013


and now an obscure joke no one will get

Put Twinks around 'em, see if they float up in the air.

I told you
posted by JHarris at 7:33 PM on February 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


I just did a search for "twinks" and found an unintended connotation. I think I should be explicit: my previous comment is intended as a Beanworld reference.
posted by JHarris at 7:36 PM on February 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


"whose"
posted by boo_radley at 7:41 PM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Don't worry, JHarris-- you're among Beanworld fans!
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 7:44 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


My guess is sodium polyacrylate.
posted by RichardP at 7:57 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think I found the answer.
posted by orme


Okay, which one of you knuckleheads wrote the Amazon review?
5.0 out of 5 stars Jazz up any desert! February 8, 2013
By E. Popener
There's a spot out in the Arizona desert that always looked to me like it needed a little "something". Well, I found the solution! Deco Beads! Sure, I had to buy A LOT of packets to make a noticeable difference (it's a big desert), but boy what a difference it made! Things are really starting to come together now, although I'm thinking a few scented candles would just make it perfect. We'll see!
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:06 PM on February 8, 2013 [20 favorites]


This whole thing feels like the cryptic prelude to a season of Breaking Bad.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:06 PM on February 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


This guy looks like he knows something.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:22 PM on 2/8
[7 favorites −] Favorite added! [Flagged]


I have a game on my pod with frogs like that! He's adorable!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:25 PM on February 8, 2013


*shakes fist* HEISENBERG!
posted by fungible at 8:31 PM on February 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Next time someone says - "Well if there is such thing as alien aircraft, how come we haven't seen any evidence, like say, them dumping their shitter over the desert?" - you'll have an immediate comeback.
posted by phaedon at 8:36 PM on February 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is that stuff that comes out of diapers if they get oversaturated with pee, right?
posted by Artw at 8:40 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ain't seen these in the desert around my house. And that disappoints me. Now I gotta go look for some this weekend.
posted by azpenguin at 9:04 PM on February 8, 2013


Do not taunt!
posted by stargell at 9:37 PM on February 8, 2013 [15 favorites]


All must be pretty darn well in a world where this is basically the priority focus for the local news for days straight! That world, I want to go to there.

I love Tucson and have been homesick for it for years, but unfortunately the typical local news stories about finds in the surrounding desert are rather more grim.
posted by Creosote at 9:59 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Could they just be unscented air freshener gels, a.k.a. "aroma beads"?
posted by rh at 10:24 PM on February 8, 2013


Could they just be unscented air freshener gels, a.k.a. "aroma beads"?

Huh, just watched the video and that was their guess at the end. When you add water to a tub of those things (yeah... I have), they expand significantly and take on a light, gooey texture. So, I'm guessing that some Arizonan scented-things-maker gave up on her Etsy dreams and dumped a bag load there.
posted by rh at 10:32 PM on February 8, 2013


Could it be this? Mysterious blue balls that fell from the sky.
posted by tinwhiskers at 11:58 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mysterious blue balls that fell from the sky.

But I never went skydiving in high school.
posted by maxwelton at 12:10 AM on February 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tuscon, land of fond memories.
posted by Goofyy at 12:50 AM on February 9, 2013


The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.
posted by Prince Lazy I at 4:53 AM on February 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Mysterious blue balls that fell from the sky.

That's what I said to your mom!!!!!!
posted by phaedon at 6:12 AM on February 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


dephlogisticated, you made my day with that song. So many thanks!
posted by snofoam at 7:40 AM on February 9, 2013


> Diaper... gel?
>
> The idea of having children some day just keeps getting more terrifying.
> posted by jason_steakums at 10:20 PM on February 8 [3 favorites +] [!]

No fear, when you actually have 'em all that shit becomes Hello Kitty cute and hugable. Magic!
posted by jfuller at 7:44 AM on February 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Don't people use these to water plants kinda sorta? Maybe someone had a scheme to grow pot out in the desert but without having to drive out to water the plants every day?
posted by ian1977 at 7:46 AM on February 9, 2013


do not touch them


you will be assimilated
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 8:12 AM on February 9, 2013


Well, apparently, the source of Juffo-Wup is Tucson, AZ.

Star Control 2 reference wins the thread.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:45 AM on February 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just hope someone has managed to alert the Doctor.
posted by mubba at 9:16 AM on February 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


From one of the links;

Why would someone buy a bunch of water beads just to dump them in the desert?

Seriously? Does that person ever go out of the house?

I love Tucson and have been homesick for it for years, but unfortunately the typical local news stories about finds in the surrounding desert are rather more grim.

Growing up there "body found in the desert" was like "sunny, hot, chance of afternoon showers" on the news.
posted by bongo_x at 10:01 AM on February 9, 2013


Isn't there stories about rains of frogs and other animals where the explanation was something along the lines of a tornado or other weather phenomenon picking them up, hurling them into the jet stream and then raining down elsewhere? Maybe some ocean cargo load of expando-beads gets lost at sea and then whipped up and tossed (wrathfully) onto Arizona.

On second thought...probably meth related.
posted by amanda at 1:15 PM on February 9, 2013


How do we know the people who found them and reported it didn't toss them out there? You know, for attention. Not that I'm cynical or anything.
posted by Orb at 4:28 PM on February 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry, but I don't think we can trust the theories of someone called "Orb" on this one.
posted by maryr at 7:26 PM on February 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Those sound exactly like the "fruit caviar" balls they have at self-serve frozen yogurt places. Those things are delicious!
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:26 PM on February 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lick 'em.
posted by stormpooper at 7:08 AM on February 11, 2013


this is exactly what I thought of.
posted by mike3k at 8:53 PM on February 12, 2013


« Older Li Hongbo's flexible paper sculptures are incredib...  |  Henry Reich of Minute Physics ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments