Why Scientists Fall for Precariously Balanced Rocks

ON APRIL 1, 1994, PAUL Butcher, then the director of Colorado Springs parks department, received a chilling phone call from a frantic staff member. She told him that Balanced Rock—a 290-million-year-old red sandstone boulder naturally perched on a sloped ledge in Garden of the Gods Park—had fallen. Butcher panicked, his thoughts roiling with how disappointed and outraged both locals and visitors would be with the loss of the beloved, iconic landmark. He imagined the 700-ton boulder rolling downhill, with nothing to stop its tumble onto the nearby U.S. Highway 24, like a monstrously dense tumbleweed. Then he remembered the calendar, and realized it was a prank. “I never laughed,” Butcher, who is now retired, told Out There Colorado. “It’s not a great joke.”

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Atlas Obscura

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8 min

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