Playa Magic: “Sailing Stones” [Updates]

The Smithsonian magazine has an interesting article about the movement of stones on another playa, which is difficult for scientists to explain. I wonder if the “playa serpents” have anything to do with this magical phenomenon? It certainly shows that we don’t at all understand the kinds of things going on in these ancient ocean beds.

Racetrack Playa is a dried-up lakebed, ringed by mountains, about 3 miles long and flat as a tabletop. During summer, the cracked floor looks prehistoric under the desert sun; during winter, it’s intermittently covered by sheets of ice and dustings of snow. But the dozens of stones scattered across the playa floor are the most puzzling part of the view. Ranging from the size of a computer mouse to a microwave, each one is followed by a track etched into the dirt, like the contrail behind an airplane. Some tracks are straight and just a few feet long, while others stretch the length of a football field and curve gracefully or jut off at sharp angles.

Sailing-Stones-Death-Valley-631Staring at these “sailing stones,” you’re torn between a pair of certainties that are simply not compatible: (1) these rocks appear to have moved, propelled by their own volition, across the flat playa floor, and yet (2) rocks don’t just move themselves.

“It’s very quiet out there, and it’s very open, and you tend to have the playa to yourself,” says Alan Van Valkenburg, a park ranger who has worked at Death Valley for nearly 20 years. “And the longer you stay out there, it just takes on this incredible sense of mystery.” The mystery is rooted in an extraordinary fact: No one has ever actually seen the rocks move.

Explanations for the stones’ movement have tended towards the absurd (magnetism, aliens and mysterious energy fields, for example). Some present-day visitors apparently agree—Van Valkenburg notes that stone theft is a growing problem, perhaps because of perceived special properties. “I don’t know whether people think they’re ‘magic rocks,’” he says. “But of course, as soon as you remove them from the playa, all ‘magic’ is lost.”

But if they’re not magic, what really does cause the stones to sail?

via How Do Death Valley’s “Sailing Stones” Move Themselves Across the Desert? | Science & Nature | Smithsonian Magazine.

Follow the link to the article for the explanation, I don’t want to spoil it for you. And I’m not sure that I believe their latest theory. I choose to believe in magic instead.


[Updates 6/17/13 – spoiler alert – or is it?]

The story has made it to the Daily Mail in the UK, who raise the alien angle. For example, you will notice a cigar-shaped UFO in the night sky! Their gorgeous photos also seem to show the “Playa Serpent” effect, a wake from the movement of the stones…of course, for that to explain the Black Rock playa serpents, we’d need to find magic rocks next to them. If Burners didn’t get there first and remove the MOOPs…

In the dusky, cracked surface of a dried up lake bed in Death Valley, California, the stones move across the desert all by themselves. 

On the barren Racetrack Player, the rocks, some as big as 700 pounds, leave trails in the sand, marking their inexplicable movements. Some of the tracks are nearly 600 feet long.

The ‘magic’ force behind these ‘sailing stones’ has been a mystery to scientists for nearly a century. 

Now, a NASA geologist believes he has finally found the answer.

Read more: 

sailing stones mail night

sailing stones playa tracksailing stones playa serpents

this one looks like it changed direction. From wind? Yeah right.

this one looks like it changed direction. From wind? Yeah right.

2 tracks sailing stones3 tracks sailing stones

Here’s Unsolved Mysteries talking about the phenomenon…

This next guy has a slightly different theory, and one that disproves Ancient Alien theorists to boot. He’s not a science expert, but he promises you’ll be 100% convinced by the end of his video.  He has “a multi-dimensional sense of awareness and doesn’t see things in the way normal people would. When he looks at things, he sees other things. He’s that guy who looks at the clouds, and sees faces in the clouds”. A bit like NASA then. Or LUCIFER.

Skip the first 10 minutes to get to the juicier bits.

Playa magic rocks made the Nazca lines? Or at least, inspired them? Works for me. Bits of ice formed, and dragged 700 lb boulders for 600 feet in the wind, including making u-turns…then melted without a trace? And that doesn’t happen anywhere else on earth, or for other types of boulders? I’m more skeptical. In fact let’s score it Magic 1 Science 0. Science #fail

Mercury sure does have some weird properties. Here’s it reacting to sound:

…and here’s it reacting to a chemical

Explain that, NASA.

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