March 30, 2011

Death Valley Moving Rock Theory

Recent research conducted at the Racetrack Playa area in Death Valley by both NASA and students of Slipperyrock University has lead to interesting conclusions over the phenomena of moving rocks. NASA claims the rocks are most likely moved by strong wind gusts, calculating that at least 150 mph would be necessary to move the largest of the rocks tipping scales at nearly 700 pounds. Students of Slipperyrock determined a slope does exist but they feel it is far too insignificant to affect the movement of the rocks. They also gathered radiation and magnetic anomaly data during the process of cause elimination.


The data presented by NASA and Slipperyrock students does not encompass the entire dynamic system at work in the Death Valley region. In reference to NASA's wind theory and pictured rocks which are proportionately more vertical than girth; High wind forces against those sail-like rocks would logically cause them to tumble along the flats yet the transient path is smooth, consistent, and highly accurate to the rock traveling along a single face. In reference to the students of Slipperyrock and the slope discovery; This is on the right track, almost literally. Even-though the slope may appear to be minuscule and insignificant enough to move large rocks, its a positive indicator to the processes happening below the flats.

Slope findings dismiss the possibility of an optical illusion whereby the surrounding area tricks the viewer into thinking the area is level or sloping in a different direction. Death Valley and Racetrack Playa are part of a super-dynamic tectonic system influenced by deep area seismic activity. The entire flat plain actually fluctuates in a double sea-saw type motion. Transients demonstrate the path relative to activity which previously took place below the surface. Like a dynamic bellows, pressure placed on one end of the plain causes another end to rise or tilt respectively. Except in this case the pressures are applied inside, forcing parts of the crust to inflate and retract. Recent slope measurements have demonstrated the rocks seem to be moving in a very slow upward incline indicating the system's fluctuation has since changed.

An alternative visualization is thinking of the flat plain as the pad of a trampoline. When pressure excites one section of the trampoline, the object at the pressure point is forced away, similar to the rocks at Racetrack Playa. Tension differential, though, is why the rocks do not jump from one place to the next. Instead, the rocks slide along as different tethers which push upward and then relax. This is why in certain areas large groups of rocks seem to move together while others nearby don't. Areas moving together are affected by the same tether. The entire system is composed of several independent tethers relative to the activity below. Essentially, by tectonic process in a linear explanation, pushing on one side of the valley creates enough tension to bulge areas of the surface until the opposite side shifts ever to slightly, releasing the pressure and removing the bulges.