Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

Latvia Is Bored

On Oct. 25, a group of Latvians near the northern town of Mazsalaca reported seeing something fall from the sky and set a patch of land on fire on impact, creating a 27-ft.-wide crater. After an initial inspection at night, scientists thought it could have been a meteor. But the next morning, with the light of the sun beaming down on the hole, experts realized that it was artificial because it was too tidy. Another clue that it was a not-so-well-thought-out hoax: "Meteorites are not on fire or even hot when they land on Earth," said Caroline Smith, meteorite curator at the Natural History Museum in London. Two days after the purported discovery, a telecommunications company, Tele2, admitted drumming up the whole thing in order to "inspire Latvia" to forget about its economic crisis for a little while — unemployment is at 20.7%, the highest in the E.U. — and give people something "creative and exciting" to talk about. Tele2 then did its part to stimulate cash flow: it agreed to reimburse the emergency-services personnel who had been dispatched to the scene.