False claims that Vibranium, a fictional metal popularised in recent years by the Black Panther movie franchise, are circulating on social media, writes, Seren Morris
A viral video of “electrically charged stones” has gone viral on Social Media, sparking rumours that the fictional metal Vibranium is real.
The video, thought to be filmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been viewed millions of times.
False claims that the material is actually Vibranium, popularised in recent years by the Black Panther movie franchise, are circulating on social media as a result.
So what’s behind the viral video and why can’t it be Vibranium?
Where did the ‘electrically charged stones’ video come from?
Twitter account @Africa_Archives shared a video of men handling a small rock that appeared to conduct electricity.
The video, captioned “Electrically charged stones discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo”, has been viewed more than 30 million times.
Electrically charged stones discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. pic.twitter.com/RB6N5U7Slq
— Africa Archives ™ (@Africa_Archives) January 21, 2023
A second video, posted by the same account, appears to show rocks sparking when touched together.
As a result, Twitter users began speculating that Vibranium is real and that the fictional state of Wakanda is located in the DRC.
One Twitter user said, “Yesterday fiction is today’s reality, vibranium is real,” while another said, “Vibranium wasn’t something that was made up… Hollywood just likes to dramatize the truth.”
What is Vibranium?
Vibranium is a fictional metal invented by Marvel Comics. It first appeared in a 1965 issue of Daredevil, while Wakandan Vibranium first appeared in a 1966 issue of Fantastic Four.
More recently, Vibranium appeared in the Black Panther movie, which is set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda.
Vibranium absorbs nearby kinetic energy within itself, making it hard to destroy.
What are the ‘electricity charged stones’ really?
If one thing’s for certain, they certainly aren’t Vibranium. The stones could be coltan or cobalt, which are both mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It’s hard to say exactly how the men appeared to make the rocks spark but Twitter users have shared their theories, involving hidden batteries or disguised soldering iron.
Science communicator Hank Green said: “I can’t [explain it] but I’m 99 per cent sure I can’t because it is a magic trick, not an electric rock.”
AP Fact Checkers weigh in
In a similar report, Associated press Fact Checkers team also addressed the report and pointed out it us false.
According to AP’s experts assessment, while some minerals can serve as conduits for electricity, rocks can’t store electricity, experts told The Associated Press. The report noted that the claims are “claims are as fanciful as a superhero movie”
Certain minerals can conduct electricity, but none can store electricity in a way that would power a light as the video shows.
“Minerals within those rocks, or if you have sufficient concentrations of them, can conduct electricity, but there’s no way they can really store it,” Simon Jowitt, an associate professor of economic geology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “It just passes through, going from one end to the other, like if you had an electrical current passing through a bit of metal.”
The Congo Basin is known for massive reserves of cobalt, lithium and other minerals that can be used in batteries, as the AP has reported.
But the minerals can’t act as batteries on their own, experts say. Rocks, unlike batteries, are unable to release electricity because they lack a chemical reaction that releases electrons and allows the electrons to flow, Jowitt explained.
“There’s no chemical reactive capacity in a rock that you would get in a battery,” he said.
Naturally-occurring rocks typically lack all the components required to operate as batteries, such as both positive and negative electrodes, said Yuzhang Li, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“I don’t think there’s any new physics being discovered here,” Li said. “I would doubt that the rock alone is generating some kind of voltage.”
Benjamin Hallett, a geology lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, said the rock in the video is “most certainly” a sulfide mineral like pyrite, due to its shiny metallic luster and slight gold tinge. Oxide minerals, sulfide minerals and native metals can transmit electricity, according to Hallett.
While it’s unclear exactly how the light in the video is being powered, Hallett guessed that the person may be holding a battery. (Evening Standards, AP)