The mysterious "sailing stones" of Death Valley have confused experts for years.
The massive stones appear to travel over the dried lake bed known as Racetrack Playa in California's Death Valley National Park, leaving a path in the cracked mud behind them.
The apparent movement of the rocks has been attributed to a variety of factors, including alien invaders, magnetic forces, and pranksters. However, no one has ever observed the rocks move, adding to the mystery.
Park ranger Alan Van Valkenburg told Smithsonian.com, "It's extremely quiet out there, and it's very open — and you tend to get the playa to yourself." "And the longer you stay out there, the more it takes on a sense of wonder."
For decades, scientists have attempted to solve the mystery of the sailing stones. Dust devils, according to some academics, could be moving the rocks, which can weigh up to 700 pounds each (318 kilograms).
Strong gusts that frequently whip across the wide lake bed, according to some studies, could force the rocks to slide across the earth. These and other explanations were proven fake, leaving experts confused.
According to Slate.com, the rocks' paths have been measured to stretch as long as 820 feet (250 meters) in certain cases. Some of the traces followed a smooth curve, while others followed a straight path before abruptly shifting to the left or right, confusing researchers even more.
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The far outer space and the depth of Death Valley
Ralph Lorenz, a NASA scientist researching weather on different planets, became interested in Death Valley in 2006. Lorenz was particularly interested in comparing the weather conditions in Death Valley to those near Ontario Lacus, Titan's large hydrocarbon lake.
However, while studying Death Valley, he became fascinated by Racetrack Playa's mysterious sailing stones.
To demonstrate how the rocks might glide across the lake bed's surface, Lorenz created a kitchen-table replica using an ordinary Tupperware container.
"I put a small rock in a Tupperware container and filled it with water until there was an inch of water and a bit of the rock peeking out," Lorenz told Smithsonian.com.
Lorenz ended up with a little block of ice with a rock stuck in it after freezing the container. All he had to do was softly blow on the ice-bound boulder in a large tray of water with sand at the bottom to get it to move across the water.
The ice-embedded rock scraped a track in the sand at the tray's bottom as it traveled. Lorenz designed his ingenious experiment by studying how the buoyancy of ice can force big rocks to float along tidal beaches in the Arctic Sea when covered in ice.
myths are preferred over Science.
Under specific winter circumstances in Death Valley, Lorenz's study team predicted that enough water and ice may accumulate to float the rocks over the muddy floor of Racetrack Playa in a gentle breeze, leaving a trail in the mud as they went.
However, some Death Valley tourists appear to prefer more supernatural interpretations for the sailing stones.