Saturday, September 4, 2010
Mysterious Moving Rocks
A group of young scientists is taking a crack at solving the puzzle of this odd desert area known as Racetrack Playa.
Most of the wandering stones are about the size of a one-liter soda bottle and far heavier, according to Brian Jackson, a NASA scientist who has been studying the area for more than four years.
"You don't expect 20-pound (9-kilogram) rocks to go sliding across the ground very easily, but they seem to do that on occasion," Jackson said.
Jackson said crackpot theories abound to explain the stones' travels across the playa (a term for a dried-out lake bed), which is about 3 miles (4.5 kilometers) long, almost a mile and a half (2 km) across, and preternaturally flat.
"I've definitely heard aliens, magnetic fields, frat boys from UNLV" — the University of Nevada, Las Vegas — "but nothing really plausible," Jackson said. "There's no way it could really be a hoax, because if someone were pushing them you'd see footprints."
The tracks show in the picture...