2012 February 22
A Sailing Stone in Death Valley
How did this big rock end up on this strange terrain?
One of the more unusual places here on
Earth occurs inside
There a dried lakebed named
Racetrack Playa exists that is almost perfectly flat,
with the odd exception of some very large stones, one of which is
Now the flatness and texture of large playa like Racetrack are fascinating but not
scientifically puzzling -- they are caused by mud
flowing, drying, and cracking after a heavy rain.
Only recently, however, has a
viable scientific hypothesis been given to explain how 300-kilogram
near the middle
of such a large flat surface.
Unfortunately, as frequently happens in science,
a seemingly surreal problem ends up having a
relatively mundane solution.
It turns out that high winds after a rain can push
even heavy rocks across a temporarily slick lakebed.