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A Computer Model Explained How Natural Galleries Are Formed From Arches And Columns

A Computer Model Explained How Natural Galleries Are Formed From Arches And Columns

Using a computer model, mathematicians reproduced the process of forming peculiar galleries of natural arches and columns that can be found in the mountains of the Czech Republic, Jordan, and the US State of Utah. This news was reported by the press service of the SKOLKOVO Institute of Science and Technology with reference to an article in the scientific journal Geomorphology.

"Our model shows how rows of arches and columns can occur inside a rock formation spontaneously, under the influence of inhomogeneities in the load distribution. The only necessary condition for their appearance were cracks or thin layers of other minerals in the rocks, which cause an excess of load and start the process of arch growth," the scientists write.

In the mountains, you can often see structures that look like columns, arches, and other man-made objects, which, however, were created by nature. Five years ago, mathematicians from the Czech Republic showed that these columns and arches arise due to a kind of self-organization of sand grains inside Sandstone layers. Under the influence of wind, these layers gradually collapse, which is why such arches and columns are formed.

As the scientists' calculations showed at the time, these particles "cling" more tightly to each other due to erosion. Later, Czech researchers and their Russian colleagues were able to reproduce this process by creating a detailed mathematical model of the "growth" of a single arch.

The non-man-made architecture of mountains

Based on these calculations, mathematicians led by Skoltech Professor Alexander Safonov tried to solve a more complex problem – to find out exactly how long natural colonnades or galleries of arches are formed, examples of which can often be seen in the mountains of the Czech Republic, Jordan, and the United States.

Their calculations showed that nature "builds" such structures in fact on the same principles as single arches and columns. In order for them to appear, we only need structures that geologists call zones of heterogeneity. They may be associated with cracks or thin layers of softer rock.

"When rock erosion occurs in a zone of heterogeneity, loads are redistributed from one part of the rock to another. This results in regular areas with the highest pressure. When further erosion occurs along the rock surface, arches appear that connect neighboring zones with high pressure. This is how arcades appear, which consist of a sequence of arches," Safonov explained.

The created mathematical model, as scientists assume, not only explains the existence of so-called "mountain cities," complex systems of many natural arches, columns and other structures on the territory of the Czech Republic and the United States but also vaults inside rocks on the shores of the seas and oceans in all corners of the world. Their study, according to researchers, will help engineers and architects improve man-made analogs of these natural objects.

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