Tuesday, June 18, 2013

NASA geologist finds a clue to 'Sailing Stones' of Death Valley

Sailing Stones of Death Valley - Clue found?
For decades the super heavy stones, some weighing more than 7,000 pounds have been drifting in the Death Valley of California, USA - leaving behind long trails with no other signs of their possible sliding motion. To date, no scientist has been able to record the rock physically moving. It is believed that no one has ever seen them in motion.

Now it seems geologists are close to finding a plausible explanation behind the movement of these huge stones across plains of Death Valley.

Professor Ralph Lorenz, a planetary scientist, believes the rocks become encased in ice during the winter, then as the lake bed thaws and becomes muddy, the ice allows the rock to 'float' on the mud - making them easily blown around by strong desert winds.

In an interview with Smithsonian magazine, he summarized his 2009 breakthrough this way: 'Basically, a slab of ice forms around a rock, and the liquid level changes so that the rock gets floated out of the mud.

'It’s a small floating ice sheet which happens to have a keel facing down that can dig a trail in the soft mud.'

Smithsonian reports that Lorenz devised his theory after a simple experiment on his kitchen counter. He froze a small rock in just enough water that a small amount of the stone was sticking out of the ice.

He then flipped the stone upside down and placed it in a small pool of water with sand on the bottom. The ice allowed the stone to float just enough that it still touched the sand. Dr Lorenz found he could move the rock around simple by blowing it gently.

( via Mail Online )
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