30 August 2014

Movement of Death Valley's "racetrack" rocks finally explained

Rocks of various heft – some weighing 600 pounds or more – leave trails that wiggle like snakes or form complete loops or even rectangles. The trails are cut sharply into the earth but no other tracks are visible.

Theories over the decades have included sporadic hurricane-force winds when the surface is covered with rain water, or rocks carried across the mud by small rafts of ice, or UFOs.

But until the Norrises had an incredible stroke of luck that day last December, no one had scientifically verified the phenomenon. The findings were formally presented today in the online scientific journal PLOS ONE.
This video, posted at GrindTV has details and video of the rocks moving.

Additional details at that link (hat tip to reader Stan Banos for sending it in).
As part of the Slithering Stones Research Initiative, researchers custom built motion-activated GPS units and fitted them into 15 rocks and placed them on the playa in the winter of 2011, with permission from the National Park Service. They expected it would take five to 10 years before something happened.

Ralph Lorenz, one of the paper’s authors from Applied Physics Laboratory at John Hopkins University, called it “the most boring experiment ever.”

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