Scientists from Russia found out how the wind is going to build a mysterious arch in the mountains

CC BY-SA 3.0 / Palacemusic / Delicate Arch in the mountains of Utah (USA)Scientists from Russia found out how the wind is going to build a mysterious arch in the mountainsCC BY-SA 3.0 / Palacemusic /

. Mathematics of the «Skoltech» revealed the secret of the formation of the most unusual natural structures, graceful columns, arches and other architectural elements that are often found in the mountains, and published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.

The face of the Earth is changing almost every second due to the movement of continents, the Cycling of rocks in its depths, and various forms of erosion. The main «sculptors» the face of the planet are not people, and the wind, rivers, rain, glaciers and other forces and phenomena. Over the past few centuries, scientists have discovered several hundred erosion of landforms, the formation of which involves dozens of different processes and factors.

The most striking and unusual of them are giant stone arches, bridges, columns and other complex structures that can be seen in the mountains, built of Sandstone and other soft rocks. The story of their formation was one of the most interesting mysteries to mankind, and many ignorant people honestly expect their sculptured representatives of ancient civilizations, or even «guests» from outer space.

Three years ago, the mathematics of Charles University in Prague (Czech Republic) found that their «sculptor» was the wind, not the aliens or the ancient architects. They found that these columns and arches arise as a result of an unusual process of self-organization of sand grains within the Sandstone layers being destroyed by the wind that makes them cling tighter to each other as «birth» of an arch or columns.

Igor Ostanin, Skoltech researcher, and his colleagues were interested in opening a Czech colleagues when they noticed that they described the phenomenon very similar to how the most advanced engineers and architects today is to optimize the shape and structure of man-made pillars, arches and other structures where necessary and at the same time high strength and low weight.

«We couldn’t help but notice that similar methods of finding the optimum shapes of structures are widely used in modern industry. These methods, evolutionary structural optimization based on the gradual removal of inefficient material. The most striking aspect of this similarity is that the mathematical criterion by which material is removed during optimization, almost exactly coincides with the criterion from the physics of the erosion process», — says Igor Ostanin, Skoltech researcher.

Guided by this conjecture, Ostanin and his colleagues have created a set of mathematical formulas describing the process of wind erosion, and tried to «build» an arch with his help, using a computer model of the Sandstone.

It was very simple – Sandstone, in fact, consisted of many almost unrelated to each other cubes, which stifled the neighbors with a certain force. If this force exceeds a certain value, the wind could not move the «cube» and otherwise he would disappear from the reservoir after a certain period of time.

Experimenting with this model, Russian scientists have confirmed the findings of their Czech colleagues and revealed some of the physical principles that explain how born these columns and arches. In General terms, they were able to show that wind plays the role of a «computer» that is trying to make the layer of Sandstone that form in which it accumulates inside the minimum amount of energy of elastic deformation, very gradually and accidentally removing the weakest elements of the design.

Initially, this process is very fast, but after a few hundred years, when the form of columns or arches to the ideal, erosion slows sharply, as almost all «cubes» begin to cling to each other with great force. Thanks to this real mountain arches and columns can exist for millions of years, almost intact.

These findings, as noted Ostanin, it is important not only for engineers and geologists, but also for people engaged in the search for traces of extraterrestrial life. Now, as emphasized by Russian mathematicians, such structures which, for example, can be opened on Mars, in principle, cannot be considered as the traces of extraterrestrial civilizations.