"Saudi police say they are investigating a hoax that has seen people rushing to buy old-fashioned sewing machines for up to $50,000 (£33,500).
The Singer sewing machines are said to contain traces of red mercury, a substance that may not exist.
But it is widely thought that it can be used to find treasure, ward off evil spirits or even make nuclear bombs.
It is believed that tiny amounts can sell for millions of dollars, the Saudi Gazette reported."
Red Mercury was a mid 1990s scam emerging from Russia. There were at least two television documentaries made about it. It was all rather amusing. The scammers were trying to sell a sulphur compound of antimony and mercury, by claiming it had a number of special properties, especially regarding nuclear technology. I thought it had disappeared without trace.
Such scams can have a rather extended life even after an initial discrediting. They seem to get a second wind, as it were. For example the White Powder gold. A sociological study of the way these deceptions arise and are perpetuated by the modern mind would make a good Ph.D. subject.
Yes, I remember watching programs about it as well.
There is a whole weird world out there of oddness. There are people who genuinely seem to believe in the amazing properties of something, such as colloidal gold, and others who are out to scam people. You often find that people who are into one odd thing, such as there being an actual direct line descendant of Bonnie Prince Charlie waiting to ascend the throne, also seem to be into other odd things like colloidal gold. It's a network of craziness.
One of the interesting things about this particular case is that it seems people thought mobile phones coule detect the mercury. I suppose new technology is all too magical to many, thus fulfilling Clarkes dictum.