Imagine a more natural, everyday scenario. A student gets into a friend's car and notices that the seats on the sunny side of the car are cool and the seats on the shady side of the car are warm. They would easily conclude that the car had not been parked there long. They may even consider that the car had recently been parked on the other side of the street.
And getting students to think about why something might happen before they are told is a very common tactic.
Also, extending a theory is also very common, where they are told something one day, and why it doesn't always work in all situations the next.
I am sure the teacher would love it if everytime she tried to explain something, a student came up with a smart ass answer about how she could have tricked them.
"So why does this cloth pick up the bits of paper?" "Cause you put glue on them" hahahahaha
That is going to be a great class from that point on.
For example, in a science class students are typically presented with a phenomenon, asked to speculate about it, and then presented with a scientific explanation. Do this often enough and a clear pattern emerges - phenomenon -> scientific explanation.
In the case of the article, it was actually phenomenon -> human interference, but it shouldn't be surprising that the students assumed it would fit the usual pattern.
You are given a candle, a book of matches and a box of tacks. You need to mount the candle on the wall in such a way that the candle won't drip on the table below it.
When the problem is presented as above people struggle to come up with a solution. When you simple changes the description of what you are given to: "You are given a candle, a book of matches, a box and some tacks." people are able to quickly solve the problem.
It's not that they had an alternative model of how it could have happened, and tried to offer a explanation with a technical term. It's that they were just throwing out technical terms.
If a teacher shows an egg being pushed into a bottle with a match in it, and one student guesses 'quantum tunneling', that answer is just as wrong as the answers in this essay, and driven by the same process of inserting magic words.