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Sliding Rocks Bemuse Scientists

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the no-footprints dept.

Science 433

An anonymous reader writes "Scientists can't figure out why these rocks — weighing up to several hundred pounds each — slide across a dry lake bed. The leading theory proposes that wind moves the rocks after a rain when the lake bed consists of soft and very slippery mud.

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Mark Newman Poster (5, Informative)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496757)

Mark Newman [art.com] has a very nice sliding rock poster [amazon.com] with a good shot of rock and trail in a variety of sizes.

Re:Mark Newman Poster (4, Informative)

An ominous Cow art (320322) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496813)

I was there in August this year, and it was quite windy. It's very easy to imagine that if the ground had been muddy, the wind could slide the rocks around.

Re:Mark Newman Poster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21496849)

you were in Mark Newman's poster?

Re:Mark Newman Poster (1)

An ominous Cow art (320322) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496997)

Why, yes. Yes, I was.

But no, really, I was at the Racetrack playa in Death Valley National Park. I'd post pictures, but the ones in TFA cover it pretty well. Although I do have a nice close-up of the ground texture.

Re:Mark Newman Poster (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21497083)

I dunno. It seems to me that it's just another crop circle thing.

1) many rocks didn't penetrate to the bottom of the mud pieces, which to me says the mud wasn't totally soggy when the rock was moved. How can the top be so soggy that the rock slides, but the bottom still be hard?

2) One of the rock pictures had rubble next to it that looked like it was created from already dry clay crumbled up.

Just seems to me that instead of crazy rocks sliding round on their own, some damn kids were up there fucking round with rocks.

Re:Mark Newman Poster (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497247)

It's very easy to imagine that if the ground had been muddy, the wind could slide the rocks around.

There are few sights as graceful as the majestic stoneships with their rocky sails gliding across the bounding main.

OK, I can possibly imagine storm winds so ferocious that they can drag rocks across a rough surface. I just can't imagine said surface being neatly lined and clean-edged afterward. If the mud were soft enough for the rocks to move across it easily, wouldn't it be prone to the soil equivalent of whitecaps with little ripples across it?

It's a Horta! (5, Funny)

loftwyr (36717) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496771)

I saw this on TV once! It was this documentary about these very things! They're called Hortas and their intelligent. Apparently they can be taught to mine.

Re:It's a Horta! (2, Funny)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496825)

you also don't want a female Horta to sit on your face if you wear glasses, that hydrofluoric acid they secrete when they're horny eats right through spectacles.

Re:It's a Horta! (1)

Borgschulze (842056) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496831)

If makes a Sparta reference, I'll throw 13 chairs at them.

Re:It's a Horta! (1)

blueturffan (867705) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496863)

No Kill I

Re:It's a Horta! (5, Funny)

sokoban (142301) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496959)

Yes, and though the flow of water surrounding these things can be directed, these Horta do not readily absorb moisture.

Thus, you can lead a Horta water, but you can't make it drink.

Re:It's a Horta! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21497015)

Oh. So the movements of the rocks have to do with Horta culture.

You know, TFA mentions they experimented with stakes to test the "ice sheet" theory. I have an idea.

Instead of testing individual theories by leaving stakes sitting around, how about getting a definite answer by leaving a webcam?

Obvious Answer!! (3, Funny)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496775)

Anyone who has seen an M Night Shamylan movie or been involved in a Usenet discussion about UFO's can readily see that there is one glaringly obvious answer...

IT'S ALIENS GUYS!! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!

Re:Obvious Answer!! (1)

liquiddark (719647) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496803)

I for one welcome our rock-moving overlords.

Complimentary headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21496795)

Sliding Cocks Bemuse Slashdotters

News at 11!

Re:Complimentary headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21497047)

Sliding Cocks Bemuse Slashdotters

News at 11!
God damn it, which one of you leaked that vid of me and this guy's mom to the press?

So this is... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21496809)

...nature's version of desert curling?

Any word on magnetic influence? (1)

inject_hotmail.com (843637) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496815)

I'd guess it isn't wind...are these rocks ferrous? Or...maybe the earth is tilting on its side...weird stuff like that always happens here...I think our perspective of it is just off a bit.

Re:Any word on magnetic influence? (2, Funny)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496853)

has anyone checked the mitichlorian levels in the area?

Re:Any word on magnetic influence? (3, Funny)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496951)

Actually, it's caused by the continential tilt. It causes all the loose cannons and nuts and bolts to roll towards California.

Re:Any word on magnetic influence? (0, Troll)

orclevegam (940336) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497235)

Actually, it's caused by the continential tilt. It causes all the loose cannons and nuts and bolts to roll towards California.
Well, the nuts at any rate.

Re:Any word on magnetic influence? (4, Funny)

TempeNerd (410268) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497101)

Obviously, the rocks were casually lurking on Slashdot, when they read "Move along, nothing to see here..."

{rimshot}

I think (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496821)

I think that I can safely speak for everyone here when I say, 'WTF?'

Re:I think (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21496949)

The most compelling theory is that the rocks are made mobile by the extremely rare combination of water, cold weather and wind. A thin ice layer can lift the rocks and provide a slick surface on which to travel.

Global Warming (-1, Troll)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497089)

WTF is right. This is an excellet demonstration of how little we really know about this planet and how it works.

Science can't explain a few rocks scooting over the desert, yet is confident enough to make roaring extrapolations about global warming etc.

A mere 35 years ago, the theory was that mountains "just rose up" because teutonic plate theory was just too crazy to accept. Now teutonics is accepted by most. Yes, science does continue to advance, but we should never think we really have any true answers yet. In 50 years maybe we'll be looking back at what we thought in 2007 and laugh at how naive we were back then.

WTF? (1)

mandark1967 (630856) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497203)

What do the frikkin Germans have to do with this?!?!

Re:Global Warming (5, Funny)

AlamedaStone (114462) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497205)

because teutonic plate theory was just too crazy to accept...
 
... although it replaced the even more silly Gaulish plate theory, quickly discarded by history.

Re:Global Warming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21497217)

I think "teutonic plate theory" would be something to do with German crockery. Do you mean tectonic?

Re:Global Warming (1)

toddhisattva (127032) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497231)

teutonic plate theory
Funniest typo this week!

Re:Global Warming (1)

Maint_Pgmr_3 (769003) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497287)

roaring extrapolations about global warming

I think they are just trying to cover up the blunder that they made with the 1970 Clean Air Act, which was fixing the errors of the 1967 Clean Air Act.
But that is what happens when you have to make a rapid "tradeoffs" to a problem that you don't understand. Trade HydorCarbons, CO and NOx for H2O and CO2, let's hear it for catalytic converts.

Re:Global Warming (1)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497305)

Man I just couldn't pick between.

1:But the Teutonic order wasn't formed till the end of the 12th century!

2: Man i really am glad science moved away from that medieval idea of plate tectonics.

Answer on page 42 ... (5, Interesting)

foobsr (693224) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496827)

... literally:
Quote: "Research of the Racetrack has continued. In the April 1997 GPS World, Paula Messina, Phil Stoffer and Keith C. Clarke reported a GPS study they conducted of the Racetrack. In ten days of intense field work they mapped every featured of the playa using differential GPS to produce, "the first-ever, complete, georeferenced, submeter-resolution map of the wandering rocks." (Messina, 1997, p. 42)"
http://sophia.smith.edu/~lfletche/deathvalley.html [smith.edu]

But it seems they have no real conclusion too.

What about 'The Force"?

CC.

Re:Answer on page 42 ... (5, Funny)

orclevegam (940336) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496901)

GAH! MY EYES!!! Put a warning on that link, geez.

Re:Answer on page 42 ... (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496985)

Perhaps the stones are moving to escape websites which employ pink text on a purple background?

Re:Answer on page 42 ... (1)

Kimos (859729) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497069)

I didn't really notice the offensiveness of that website. Guess it's one of the rare occasions where I'm happy to be colorblind.

Re:Answer on page 42 ... (1)

choongiri (840652) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497137)

What? Barney the Dinosaur got a job as a research assistant?

Re:Answer on page 42 ... (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497139)

GAH! MY EYES!!! Put a warning on that link, geez.

Pfff ...

Real candidates here [greater-ne...owship.com] and WARNING! here [digitalslice.net] !

CC.

Re:Answer on page 42 ... (0, Offtopic)

orclevegam (940336) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497191)

Strangely enough, although both of those are hideous and difficult to read (or stomach as in the second one), they don't have that instant migraine inducing behavior of the previous link. Something about the contrast of pink on purple just makes me want to gauge my eyes out, where as the rainbow flashing seizure inducing second link just makes me want to slap the shit out of it's author and make him take remedial web design courses.

Begs the question (3, Interesting)

orclevegam (940336) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496857)

This begs the question, why hasn't someone setup a webcam to record these rock movements and solve this thing once and for all? I mean, if they can setup cameras in the arctic circle, death valley shouldn't be that hard to handle.

Re:Begs the question (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21496923)

in before some fag explains "begging the question"

Re:Begs the question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21496991)

Same as "tea begging".

Not even a webcam. (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496967)

Take MOVIES of the stupid things ... and have devices in view that measure the wind speed and the temperature.

Also, build a rock with different measuring devices in it and see if IT moves.

Begs the answer(s) (1)

tomzyk (158497) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497153)

1) funding
2) laziness
3) All of the above (better things to do with current funds and time/effort)

Re:Begs the question (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497173)

why hasn't someone setup a webcam to record these rock movements and solve this thing once and for all?


The reason is because there is no way to know when these rocks, or which rocks, will move. Since we don't currently know what causes them to move, there is no way to wait for those conditions and then start filming. Even with the best guess (wind + water or ice) you'd still have the multi-choice selection of subjects to choose from.

What would have to be done is to have multiple cameras pointing at multiple rocks waiting for something to happen. It could take days, months or years for these things to move.

Yes, it would be nice to know what causes these things to move but having all that equipment outside for years is just begging someone to steal it.

Re:Begs the question (2, Insightful)

Maint_Pgmr_3 (769003) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497213)

I agree, if "they" [USGS] can put spiders on MT ST Helens to see how the dome is growing and moving, you would think that someone could tape a small GPS on the rock. Duct tape shouldn't change the movement by much.

better yet, put a small weather station, ala north pole, on a sled and leave it in the middle of the playa and see what the weather conditions are and when it moves. 12 volt battery and an automotive condenser should discourage people from disturbing the sled.

Re:Begs the question (1)

Target Drone (546651) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497223)

This begs the question, why hasn't someone setup a webcam to record these rock movements and solve this thing once and for all?

Why not just take some water and a fan up to there to test the leading theory. Wet down a patch of ground to get it nice an slippery and then turn on the fan to see if you can blow a rock around. If that fails then go with the webcam.

Re:Begs the question (3, Insightful)

Bob(TM) (104510) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497303)

Yeah, but ... how you gonna keep the webcam from sliding? :)

Why did the rock cross the lake bed? (1, Funny)

Brothernone (928252) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496867)

... to get to the sex and drugs on the other side!

Isn't it obvious yet? (5, Funny)

CitznFish (222446) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496869)

These stones don't want to gather any moss.

Re:Isn't it obvious yet? (1)

spun (1352) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497115)

While we know that rolling stones gather no moss, more research is needed to determine whether sliding stones do. My hypothesis is that they would in fact gather moss, as the same side is always pointing up. Now I'll just need a $500,000 grant to find out for sure.

The texture of the lake bed where (1)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496877)

the rocks have slid still shows. And if these rocks are a few hundred pounds and the texture is still there, then why can't a human walk on it and not have their footprints show?

Re:The texture of the lake bed where (1)

Brothernone (928252) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497061)

Lets ponder this a momment:

Hey bubba, lets finish this whisky and see how far we can push them rocks..

Fun.. but not likely.

Re:The texture of the lake bed where (1)

An ominous Cow art (320322) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497177)

At the time those pictures were taken, the ground had been baked solid. Footprints don't show up well. But when I was there this summer, I did see footprints made when the ground was muddy. There are signs telling you not to walk out there when it's wet - footprints can persist for quite a long time.

no buildup in front (4, Insightful)

egburr (141740) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496879)

In all those pictures, I don't see any buildup of dust in front of the rocks, though there is plenty on the sides of the paths. Usually, when I push something through the dirt/mud/snow/whatever, I end up with a good buildup in front, too. I wonder where that has gone.

Re:no buildup in front (4, Interesting)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497079)

In all those pictures, I don't see any buildup of dust in front of the rocks, though there is plenty on the sides of the paths. Usually, when I push something through the dirt/mud/snow/whatever, I end up with a good buildup in front, too. I wonder where that has gone.

I had to think about this for a second... I think the answer is that if a rock was digging into the mud, you wouldn't have this effect, because of having to shove the mass of the mud. If you look at the pictures, the fronts of a lot of them tend to be sticking up, implying they're "surfing" over the mud.

Re:no buildup in front (1)

CiRu5 (859713) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497117)

Well they way I see it, if dirt was to build up in front of these sliding rocks it would create far to much resistance and the wind (or whatever) would never be able to move them. More then likely when the rocks are sliding the are behaving like a boat traveling though water and the trail you see is the "wake". Well that's my take on it anyway.

Cheers

Re:no buildup in front (1)

Evil Pete (73279) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497279)

Yes I noticed too. I also noticed that the rocks pictured were not random shapes. The front of the rocks looking more like a slidable(?) geometry. Perhaps the rocks are not pushing any mud in front of them but riding over it. Too many ifs. We need some observations.

Obviously mud (1)

InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496887)

The rocks wouldn't by themselves leave such deep impressions and well-developed ridges along the path unless they were moving through mud.

Re:Obviously mud (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497067)

Except this is old and it's a really thin piece of ice.
Because there isn't a place windy enough to push a 100 pound rock through a 1/4 inch of mud. SOmething must be lowering the friction AND be thin enough to break.

Magnetism? (1)

teknopurge (199509) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496891)

Do the rocks have a large iron content? I wonder how the magnetic fields are in the area...

Re:Magnetism? (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497031)

I was thinking magnets, or perhaps the ground isn't completely flat and there are some vibrations shaking it.

Re:Magnetism? (3, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497059)

Do the rocks have a large iron content?
I hope not. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's ironic rock.

Re:Magnetism? (4, Funny)

spun (1352) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497257)

Ironic rock is worse than rai-e-ain on your wedding day, or a free-ee ride, when you already paid.

Grants (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496893)

Can't one of these bemused scientists think of a military app (this is war, folks) and get a grant to research this. I have always wondered why they hadn't been able to attribute this definitively to the wind, or something.

Ice Sheet (1)

liryon (804280) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496899)

This is not new, or news worthy. A more accepted theory than the one in the blurb is that the rocks get trapped in large ice sheets which are in turn moved by the wind. This explains why rocks that are very far away move in the same exact patterns. Its in the article, but way to not mention it in the blurb. Its still pretty neat, all in all, obligatory you tube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1hoiHvOeGc [youtube.com]

Re:Ice Sheet (2, Insightful)

mpathetiq (726625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497007)

From TFA:

Some researchers have found highly congruent trails on multiple rocks that strongly support this movement theory. However, the transport of a large ice sheet might be expected to mark the playa surface in other ways - these marks have not been found.

Other researchers experimented with stakes that would be disturbed by ice sheets. The rocks moved without disturbing the stakes. The evidence for ice-sheet transport is not consistent.

Re:Ice Sheet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21497151)

Your obligatory youtube link says that it captures the forces moving the rock for the first time, but it doesn't show any rocks actually MOVING, which makes it a pretty bogus claim.

I am pretty sure ... (5, Funny)

Culture (575650) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496917)

... that the rocks slide because the lateral forces exerted on the rocks exceed the static and dynamic frictional force cause by the gravity induced weight of the rock acting across the mud-rock interface. I guess I could be wrong and there are worm-holes involved.

god doesn't play dice (4, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496933)

but he does hold magnets under the surface of the table, moving objects on top as if by magic, just to bemuse and entertain us

One thing I know for sure (5, Funny)

mcg1969 (237263) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496935)

is that posting this article in Slashdot is sure to produce a definitive solution to the mystery...
or rather, 100 of them.

Re:One thing I know for sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21497239)

is that posting this article in Slashdot is sure to produce a definitive solution to the mystery...
or rather, 100 of them.
... many of which would suggest implementing various distributions of Linux... still more would simply blame Microsoft and/or Vista... and a small few would have something to do with Natalie Portman...

Quick! Alert the creationists! (1)

Kintar1900 (901219) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496947)

Obviously, the only way these rocks could move is if God told them to. Finally! Concrete proof of creationism! :)

Re:Quick! Alert the creationists! (1)

CannedTurkey (920516) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497025)

Touche.

Re:Quick! Alert the creationists! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21497035)

Quick! Your a flaming troll atheist.

I for one (1)

Lucas123 (935744) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496961)

welcome our new sliding rock overlords, even though it will likely be a very slow conquest.

Re:I for one (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497095)

Don't hate the playa; hate the game.

Another possibility (0, Troll)

suso (153703) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496965)

Maybe this [suso.org] is what moved them.

Its not that hard to figure out! (2, Informative)

Henneshoe (987210) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496971)

If there is really this much interest in figuring out how the rocks move, its pretty easy to do. Mount a solar powered camera with a motion detector. If the rock moves start shooting. If you really want to get fancy, you could do a continual time lapse to catch the movement if it is too slow for the motion detector. I think they do this kinda thing when you want to get pictures of wild animals in there natural habitat and the cameras are avaliable at your nearest outdoor outfitter.

FSM (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21496993)

They were obviously moved by his noodly appendages.

Skeptoid (1)

Myopic (18616) | more than 6 years ago | (#21496999)

The Skeptoid podcast addressed this issue and presented a theory. Most theories have the wind pushing the rocks, but that doesn't make much sense since it's hard for wind to push a big rock a long way without rolling. Skeptoid says the lake is sometimes frozen (we're talking about very shallow water here) so there is a layer of ice thru which the rocks protrude. At this point the wind acts on the whole sheet of ice which has the power to slide the rocks without rolling them.

Yeah, that or it's space aliens with magic brainbeams using multidimentional quantum effects.

(PS the Skeptoid podcast is pretty good. Find it on iTunes.)

Uri Geller (1)

JBHarris (890771) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497005)

Uri Geller [wikipedia.org] got tired of bending spoons. He's been doing this for years out of pure boredom.

Problem solved (1)

daves (23318) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497009)

It rains. Water freezes into large floating sheets. Sheets are blown around. Rocks move.

I for one... (1)

popo (107611) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497013)

...welcome our new geological overlords.

Silly scientists... (5, Funny)

VE3MTM (635378) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497049)

Clearly the Flying Spaghetti Monster is moving them with his Noodly Appendage.

Trolls! (1)

Ecuador (740021) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497053)

Sorry guys, but I personally don't have to see a photo in the far-octarine to tell that these are your average, semi-bored trolls. They will obviously just look like rocks to the untrained eye during daytime, but they are no puzzle to someone who's been around the disc...

duh! (1)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497057)

Stupid scientists. It's the Graboids doing it. And Kevin Bacon HAS seen them.

What mystery? (1)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497063)

From our friend wikipedia [wikipedia.org] we learn: "Professor John Reid led six research students from Hampshire College and the University of Massachusetts in a follow-up study in 1995. They found highly congruent trails from stones that moved in the late 1980s and during the winter of 1992-1993. At least some stones were proved beyond a reasonable doubt to have been moved in ice flows that may be up to half a mile (800 m) wide. Physical evidence included swaths of lineated areas that could only have been created by moving thin sheets of ice. So wind alone as well as in conjunction with ice flows are thought to be motive forces." (References in the article.) Once a mystery, but not really one now.

Here's an idea: (1)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497071)

Solar panels + satellite dish + webcam + weather station + time = possible answer(s).

Playing grab ass in the dark isn't going to bring us any closer to the truth.

Tax Dollars at Work! (1)

lionchild (581331) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497087)

I sense that there are some tax dollars at work, or soon to be at work on this very question! Perhaps we could have the government fund a study to watch these rocks, observe them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, record their activity, and uncover the truth! It's for science! ;-)

Amazing how no-one bothers to actually CHECK. (0)

Rob from RPI (4309) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497099)

They just say 'no-one's seen this happen' and 'there's no possible explanation' when 5 seconds worth of googling produces not only a video of it happening, but a foolishly simple explanation too.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4311978216520105215&q=death+valley [google.com]

(It's in the video. Water pushes the rocks.)

MOD PARENT UP! (2)

denzacar (181829) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497291)

Thank you!

I remember this thing from back in '80s and even back then it was obvious that its water+wind+ice that makes the rocks move.

What is next? Channels on Mars?

Answer (1)

phalse phace (454635) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497113)

CowboyNeal

The rocks are stable... (1)

planckscale (579258) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497131)

...it is the earth that is moving underneath them. Perhaps there is enough of a lift by a small mud sheet that the rotational forces of the earth allow the rocks to slide on top.

Vandals (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497133)

Why is it that when we see something like this, we often want to improve on it? I can remember when I first saw this place, back in the '60s, I wanted to drop a few rocks on the playa and come back later to see if they'd moved.

This is pathetic science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21497141)

Stick a GPS tracker, a few sensors and maybe a webcam with a radio transmitter on a fake rock, and leave it there.

Wait for the fake rock to move.

Is it raining? Then mud is a factor.
Is it windy? Then wind is doing the moving.
Is it cold enough for a sheet of ice to form? Then ice is a factor.

The only reason this is still a mystery is because no-one cares enough about actually solving the mystery to fund the solution. This isn't expensive.

Omni SF short-story (1)

Cctoide (923843) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497157)

Heh. I'm reminded of an old Omni short-story they published in one of their short-story compilations, "The Rocks That Moved". The reason behind their movement was a bit different, though...

Runaway solution (1)

denominateur (194939) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497185)

There's obviously a runaway solution in the differential equation governing that part of the Matrix.

Noodly appendage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21497219)

The invisible flying spaghetti monster is using one of His Noodly Appendages to change the position to confound our scientific measurements, just like he does with carbon dating.

One possibilty (5, Interesting)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 6 years ago | (#21497299)

I'd be curious if the under sides of the sliding sliding stones were concave? Why I mention it is I still remember a certain chinese restaurant's tea cups had a habit of sliding across the table. The table tops were resin coated and the concave cups tended to capture moisture under them so when the tea heated the moisture under the cup the expansion provided enough lift to break the friction and allow them to slide. They would move randomly in different directions then stop for a few minutes then slide again. Since the area is hot a unique combination of heated rocks with slippery mud and wind could in combination cause the effect. I remember that some rocks slid and others didn't as well as the direction changes.
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