Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Racetrack Playa, a story my students tell me

Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Blair Mountain and Labor Day) on Daily Kos contained articles about a story I tell my students and a story my students tell me.  Tonight, I'm sharing the story my students tell me when they submit articles about geology for extra credit, the sliding stones of Racetrack Playa.  I've received copies of that article more times than I care to count. Last month, the mystery of how these rocks moved was solved.

Scripps Research Institute via PhysOrg: Mystery solved: 'Sailing stones' of death valley seen in action for the first time
August 28, 2014
Racetrack Playa is home to an enduring Death Valley mystery. Littered across the surface of this dry lake, also called a "playa," are hundreds of rocks – some weighing as much as 320 kilograms (700 pounds) – that seem to have been dragged across the ground, leaving synchronized trails that can stretch for hundreds of meters.

What powerful force could be moving them? Researchers have investigated this question since the 1940s, but no one has seen the process in action – until now.

In a paper published in the journal PLOS ONE on Aug. 27, a team led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, paleobiologist Richard Norris reports on first-hand observations of the phenomenon.
Here's the video explaining the discovery of the mechanism: How Rocks Move.

Scripps Oceanography paleooceanographer Richard Norris describes the phenomenon of sliding rocks in Death Valley.
I tell my students I learn as much from them as a group as they learn from me individually.  The story of these rocks serves as one example of what my students have taught me.

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