Rocks in Death Valley Move By Themselves

Scientists look to crack mystery: Maybe ice?
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 24, 2010 5:20 PM CDT
Updated Aug 28, 2010 2:14 PM CDT
Rocks in Death Valley Move By Themselves
A view of Death Valley, California is shown in this undated file photo.   (Wikimedia Commons)

Heavy rocks seems to move by themselves in one part of California's Death Valley, their means of locomotion a scientific mystery, LiveScience reports. Though no one has ever seen them move, rocks the size of large soda bottles criss-cross the surface of Racetrack Playa, leaving trails. "You don't expect 20-pound rocks to go sliding across the ground very easily, but they seem to do that on occasion," says a NASA scientist.

Scientists don't think it's pranksters (or aliens). But they have a promising theory: Temperatures in the playa—a dried out lake-bed—can drop below freezing in the winter months and allow ice to form. So maybe the rocks are sliding around on a frozen surface? "It's pretty clear these rocks are assisted by ice somehow," says the scientist. A new paper will be out this year on the subject.
(More California stories.)

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