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posted by martyb on Wednesday September 29, @07:39PM   Printer-friendly
from the can-you-top-this? dept.

Physicists may have cracked the case of “Zen” stones balanced on ice pedestals:

Visit the Small Sea of Lake Baikal in Russia during the winter and you'll likely see an unusual phenomenon: a flat rock balanced on a thin pedestal of ice, akin to stacking Zen stones common to Japanese gardens. The phenomenon is sometimes called a Baikal Zen formation. The typical explanation for how these formations occur is that the rock catches light (and heat) from the Sun and this melts the ice underneath until just a thin pedestal remains to support it. The water under the rock refreezes at night, and it's been suggested that wind may also be a factor.

Now, two French physicists believe they have solved the mystery of how these structures form, according to a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences—and their solution has nothing to do with the thermal conduction of the stone. Rather, they attribute the formation to a phenomenon known as sublimation, whereby snow or ice evaporates directly into vapor without passing through a water phase. Specifically, the shade provided by the stone hinders the sublimation rates of the surrounding ice in its vicinity, while the ice further away sublimates at a faster rate.

Many similar formations occur naturally in nature, such as hoodoos (tall, spindly structures that form over millions of years within sedimentary rock), mushroom rocks or rock pedestals (the base has been eroded by strong dusty winds), and glacier tables (a large stone sitting precariously on top of a narrow pedestal of ice). But the underlying mechanisms by which they form can be very different.

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  • (Score: 1, Offtopic) by Freeman on Thursday September 30, @01:48PM (1 child)

    by Freeman (732) on Thursday September 30, @01:48PM (#1183098) Journal

    In the event that you believe in the biblical Flood, it's not terribly hard to imagine how they got there. In the event that you believe at some point in history there was a great flood of some sort, then you also don't have to wonder how they got there. []

    Genesis flood narrative
    Main article: Genesis flood narrative

    The Genesis flood narrative is encompassed within chapters 6–9 in the Book of Genesis, in the Bible.[3] The narrative indicates that God intended to return the Earth to its pre-Creation state of watery chaos by flooding the Earth because of humanity's misdeeds and then remake it using the microcosm of Noah's ark. Thus, the flood was no ordinary overflow but a reversal of Creation.[4] The narrative discusses the evil of mankind that moved God to destroy the world by the way of the flood, the preparation of the ark for certain animals, Noah, and his family, and God's guarantee (the Noahic Covenant) for the continued existence of life under the promise that he would never send another flood.[5] []

    Megafloods are paleofloods (past floods) that involved rates of water flow larger than those in the historical record. They are studied through the sedimentary deposits and the erosional and constructional landforms that individual megafloods have created. Floods that are known to us through historical descriptions are mostly related to meteorological events, such as heavy rains, rapid melting of snowpacks, or combination of these. In the geological past of the Earth, however, geological research has shown that much larger events have occurred.[3] In the case of outburst floods, such floods are typically linked to the collapse of a barrier which formed a lake.

    Also, weird stuff, because people do stuff: [] []

    I'd guess, probably not put there by humans, though.

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  • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 30, @06:55PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 30, @06:55PM (#1183155) the hell does that even remotely answer the question