29 January 2012

An explanation for the mysterious blue spheres that fell from the sky in Dorset

The story was posted at the BBC yesterday -
Steve Hornsby from Bournemouth said the 3cm diameter balls came raining down late on Thursday afternoon during a hail storm. He found about a dozen of the balls in his garden. He said: "[They're] difficult to pick up, I had to get a spoon and flick them into a jam jar."

The Met Office said the jelly-like substance was "not meteorological".

Mr Hornsby said he was keeping the balls in his fridge while he tried to find out what they were.
Josie Pegg, an applied science research assistant at Bournemouth University, speculated that the apparently strange phenomena might be "marine invertebrate eggs".
I forwarded the link yesterday to friends who have a daughter studying marine biology in Florida.  Today I got an answer.  Look at the video and try to figure it out for yourself first.

The answer came not from a university marine biology department, but from a site called Metabunk:
These almost certainly are gel "water beads" aka "jelly marbles", "Orbeez", or "water marbles". Made from superabsorbent polymers, and used for decorative functions, as kids toys, and to water plants.
Photos and more info at the link, plus this video of the product -

- which reminded me that I saw these spheres in a hilarious segment of a QI program.


  1. Pfft - Hydrogel my foot! That is SO the aliens dumping their lavatory tanks over populated areas....

  2. I still don't understand how they came to fall from the sky, or is the idea they were already on the site (in dry form) and discovered only after they sopped up the rain?
    I've used them myself for watering plants on vacation - and before watering they're hard little crystals. Is that the explanation? Or is this a prank by a neighbor or mischievous child?

  3. Andrew- I call shenanigans. Somebody's pranking somebody.

  4. It's Tootles' marbles.

  5. Oh, yeah, wouldn't that be great? Have a supply on hand, just in case - then, when there's a vicious hailstorm - lob them up in the air into your neighbour's garden. Go back inside and watch from behind the curtains...

  6. Those jelly sphere things are sold under various other names-- I've seen them as AquaGems, Suddenly Fish Eggs, and Crystal Mud Software Ice.


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