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Death Valley's Sailing Stones Caught In the Act

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the aliens-did-it dept.

Science 48

Capt.Albatross (1301561) writes "The flat surface of the Racetrack Playa in Death Valley is littered with rocks, some weighing hundreds of kilograms, each at the end of a track indicating that it has somehow slid across the surface. The mechanism behind this has been the subject of much speculation but little evidence, until a trio of scientists caught them in action with cameras and GPS."

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From TFA: (4, Informative)

Dins (2538550) | about 3 months ago | (#47773919)

Jagged plates of thin ice, resembling panels of broken glass, bulldoze the rocks across the flooded playa, the scientists reveal today (Aug. 27) in the journal PLOS One. Driven by gentle winds, the rocks seem to hydroplane atop the fluffy, wet mud. "It's a wonderful Goldilocks phenomenon," said lead study author Richard Norris. "Ponds like this are vanishingly rare in Death Valley, and it may be a decade between heavy enough rain or snowfall events to make a substantial pond," said Norris, a paleobiologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California.

Now for the History Channel's documentary: (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 3 months ago | (#47773947)

Sneak Preview [neowin.net]

Re:From TFA: (3, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#47773975)

If I wanted to read the article, why would I be posting on slashdot?

Re:From TFA: (4, Insightful)

Dins (2538550) | about 3 months ago | (#47774013)

You wouldn't. I took one for the team and at least read enough to answer the question of how the rocks are moving so you and others wouldn't have to click the link.

Re:From TFA: (4, Interesting)

sumdumass (711423) | about 3 months ago | (#47774435)

I for one am glad that you did. The site the article calls home purley sucks. I'm on my phone and when you make the text large enough to read, a flash menu and a bunch of social networking crap floods the page so you can only see two words in a line.

Re:From TFA: (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47774307)

That's the digested version of the actual article in PLOS One [plosone.org] , which isn't paywalled.

One of the coolest parts is the way they instrumented "test rocks" with GPS that could stay powered for very long durations (months/years) from a small battery because of how intermittent the movement is and how remote the location is. The trick was not to engauge the GPS data logging until a magnetic switch was tripped when the rock moved. The magnet was set in the floor of the playa lake, the switch in a hole bored in the rock that also contained the GPS receiver. The instrumented rocks were brought in for the experiment and behaved the same as the natural ones on the site.

From TFA: (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47774413)

If they're as slow as my internet connection, it's little wonder it was a mystery for so long!

The Lonely Assassins (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47773979)

That's what they used to be called. No one quite knows where they came from, but they're as old as the Universe, or very nearly. And they have survived this long because they have the most perfect defense system ever evolved. They are Quantum Locked. They don't exist when they are being observed. The moment they are seen by any other living creature they freeze into rock. No choice, it's a fact of their biology. In the sight of any living thing, they literally turn into stone. And you can't kill a stone. Of course, a stone can't kill you either, but then you turn your head away. Then you blink. Then, oh yes, it can.

Re: The Lonely Assassins (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47774109)

IMHO the most terrifying Dr Who monster ever.

Re: The Lonely Assassins (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47779743)

Nah, The Silence are more insidious.

Re:The Lonely Assassins (2)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 3 months ago | (#47774171)

The only issue I had with the Weeping Angels is the part about them not moving so long as they are seen by any living creatures.

It would seem that birds, mice, rats, squirrels, etc would qualify as living creatures so when Rory and Amy were sent away, how could the last Angel have moved when presumably some other creatures was watching it?

It's one thing if you're in a building (or cave where the only route out is up) where, presumably, you are the only creature able to see them, but outside is another matter.

Re:The Lonely Assassins (1)

mrbester (200927) | about 3 months ago | (#47774511)

Maybe something wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey about insects not living very long in the first place so there's no point using all that energy sending them back in time to live to death. Or it's a sentience thing.

Either way, I most certainly can kill a stone. I can smash it to bits with a hammer. Maybe even a *rock* hammer. I don't see anything coming back to life after it has been shattered into tiny pieces apart from a T1000 / Crichton and Aeryn.

Re:The Lonely Assassins (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 months ago | (#47774629)

You just made a stone with friends, you killed nothing.

Re:The Lonely Assassins (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47779121)

The worst part would be if you assume each has the time energy draining power, and now you have to keep eyes on each of the smaller pieces.

Re: The Lonely Assassins (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47778205)

You can put a sea sponge in a blender, and blitz it. It'll still reform and live.

Re: The Lonely Assassins (1)

lgw (121541) | about 3 months ago | (#47779145)

Not after I throw the bits of statue into the sea, then just to be safe throw the planet into the Sun, and then throw the Sun into a black hole. It's like you've never played D&D, or something..

Re:The Lonely Assassins (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 3 months ago | (#47779259)

The issue I had was when they brought the Weeping Angels back for another episode and ruined the whole thing.

Re:The Lonely Assassins (1)

zeugma-amp (139862) | about 2 months ago | (#47786563)

The only issue I had with the Weeping Angels is the part about them not moving so long as they are seen by any living creatures.

It would seem that birds, mice, rats, squirrels, etc would qualify as living creatures so when Rory and Amy were sent away, how could the last Angel have moved when presumably some other creatures was watching it?

Then there is the episode where the Statue of Liberty was a Weeping Angel. Are they really trying to say that noone was looking at it for long enough for it to swim across to land, and walk to where Rory and Amy were? The concept of the angels was cool, and the "Blink" episode is one of my favorites, but sometimes writers don't know when to stop.

Re:The Lonely Assassins (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47774207)

I never understood why those weeping angels didn't attack from above. They always want to get right in your face. You say (in your quote) that a stone can't kill you. But that is just wrong. Attack from above. They look up in the sky and see a bird, a plane, oh holy shit a statue falling on them. That stone sure as heck can kill you - even at substantially less than terminal velocity.

Re:The Lonely Assassins (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47774477)

They can't feed on a corpse, since it has no remaining "timey-wimey".

Re:The Lonely Assassins (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47776939)

If you don't look up, and you're instantaneously sent back, they'd feed before they could kill you. If, however, you look up, then yes, you'd be crush to death, but at least you'd die in your time.

Re:The Lonely Assassins (1)

LduN (3754243) | about 3 months ago | (#47774723)

stones are heavy, when they can get glimpsed they will fall to the earth and presumably shatter. the risk far outweighs to potential benefits.

Re:The Lonely Assassins (1)

Livius (318358) | about 3 months ago | (#47779149)

Sure you can kill a stone. Enough heat and it melts, or just shatter it.

Unfortunately, I suspect Weeping Angels aren't actually stone in the geological sense.

timothy = fail (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47773981)

This was reported *5 years ago* in National Geographic. Pull your head out of your rear and read some paper.

Re:timothy = fail (1)

14erCleaner (745600) | about 3 months ago | (#47774051)

The reported video is from 2013, so NatGeo must have been reporting something else.

Re: timothy = fail (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47774059)

This was reported *5 years ago* in National Geographic. Pull your head out of your rear and read some paper.

Except what was reported in NG was yet another theory that turned out not to be correct. This time there is documented evidence of the rocks in action.

Re: timothy = fail (1)

mrbester (200927) | about 3 months ago | (#47774541)

As distinct from the usual rocks inaction.

I'll get me coat...

Re: timothy = fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47775973)

Documentation of the rocks' motion is still not proof of anything, except that the rocks did in-fact move. The underlying cause is still just theory, and could be just as incorrect as any other theory.

Re:timothy = fail (1)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about 3 months ago | (#47774087)

Didn't know National Geographic had a time machine.

Re:timothy = fail/Re:The Lonely Assassins (1)

skatull (166201) | about 3 months ago | (#47774383)

Obviously the Weeping Angels stole the Tardis at the behest of The National Geographic Society.

FYI: Video is not viewable in Canada (1)

denis-The-menace (471988) | about 3 months ago | (#47773995)

can someone post it someplace else?

Re:FYI: Video is not viewable in Canada (2)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about 3 months ago | (#47774091)

I'm in Canada and it worked fine for me, even with the IE 8 I have access to at work.

Re:FYI: Video is not viewable in Canada (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47775345)

Here's [youtube.com] a long (6:15) explanation including footage of rocks moving. Here's [youtube.com] just a short timelapse vid of a rock moving. This one [youtube.com] features a whiteboard demonstration of the principles at work. They're all on the Racetrack Playa YouTube channel.

(AC to preserve mods)

I might've heard of these guys (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47774029)

What kind of music do the Sailing Stones play?

Re:I might've heard of these guys (3, Funny)

Joe Gillian (3683399) | about 3 months ago | (#47774215)

They used to be a rock band back in the 70s, but lost their magnum opus - "Come Sail Away" - in a scandal involving the theft of their lyric sheets by Styx during their joint "Can't Break my Bones" tour. Their lead singer decided that rock and roll was too corporate and went solo, last I heard he does some kinda crazy Burning Man shit where he gets naked in a mud field and records the sound the wind makes in different places. The rest of them made a comeback tour in the 90s, but had their comeback hit, song called "Can't Stop the Rock" stolen by some asshole. Nowadays, I think they're still cranking out indie albums under their own label because they're sick of all the posers stealing their music.

its worth putting this into perspective. (5, Funny)

nimbius (983462) | about 3 months ago | (#47774055)

as a member of the illuminati im disheartened to see this. We'd gone to great lengths to insist to the public these rocks were being moved in order to control the ghost of ronald reagan in a hideous plot to destroy the secret bald eagle buried in the head of the lincoln statue that funds "president" obamas fema death camps. when does this inquisition stop? the secret transciever in your left molar has made it explicitly clear that under no circumstance were you to question the rocks. Next thing you know, people are going to start asking about chem trails and how they always make sure gary busey eats exactly one almond joy candy before meeting with the council of serpents to steal painted lines from the roads through the mojave desert that planned the shariah law anchor baby abortions after the covert resurrection of sadam hussein.

Re:its worth putting this into perspective. (1)

Matthew Miller (2920935) | about 3 months ago | (#47774127)

Needs a "satire" tag as this is not weird enough to be real.

Re:its worth putting this into perspective. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47774265)

That's OK. It's been well known for a long time that Illuminati are just a bunch of cretins anyway.

Re:its worth putting this into perspective. (1)

h5inz (1284916) | about 3 months ago | (#47777089)

Recently they discovered an essential clue about our secret plans - that dogs poop in accordance to earths magnetic field. So we will have to stop them before it's too late. I insist on placing our secret persuadetron chips into birth control products and antipsychotic pills.

Stop the madness!!! (0)

CaptainDork (3678879) | about 3 months ago | (#47774145)

A movement [slashdot.org] is underway to stop bitches like these from applying the scientific method.

Re:Stop the madness!!! (1)

Cragen (697038) | about 3 months ago | (#47774267)

Better yet. Some guy calling himself a "scientist", in the WaPo Comments here [washingtonpost.com] to a similar article with this conclusion: " the perfect alignment of variables that must all fall into place for this explanation to work is virtually impossible on the regular basis required to satisfy the frequency of the event. There is a different reason; they don not know what it is."

When I was young, many years ago, I thought ignorance could be overcome by education. Now, some 60+ years later, I begin to think that is not the case. /sigh

Re:Stop the madness!!! (1)

CaptainDork (3678879) | about 3 months ago | (#47774451)

It HAS to be satire, mocking the parallel argument provided by intelligent design advocates who take the same position in an effort to validate the creation myth.

No one that literate can be that stupid.

Can they?

Nobel to be returned (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about 3 months ago | (#47774551)

There goes my Intelligent Sliding theory. Now how am I gonna get chicks?

Re:Nobel to be returned (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | about 3 months ago | (#47780663)

I don't know. My intelligence kind of goes away when my dick is sliding in something.

rerun (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 3 months ago | (#47775887)

This was also filmed with long term cameras and shown on the discovery and history channels by multiple people years and years and years ago.

Please. . . (0)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 3 months ago | (#47776669)

We all know these rocks were created in a sound stage by Kubrick and Lee Harvey Oswald to further the agenda of the Kenyan-born communist Obama in the teaching children the "maths".

Finally. (1)

Snufu (1049644) | about 3 months ago | (#47778445)

Irrefutable evidence that wind and water have the capability to move bits of earth. I am going to copyright a term for this mechanism: "Erosion" (TM).

JK. I think the footage is neato.

They don't make rocks like they used to (1)

m_chan (95943) | about 3 months ago | (#47780639)

I liked it when rocks took thousands of years to be nudged around by hunks of ice. These new rocks are pushovers.
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