News FocusGEOLOGIC MODELING

Seeing a World in Grains of Sand

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Science  17 Mar 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5460, pp. 1912-1915
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5460.1912

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Summary

An apparatus called "Jurassic Tank," a rectangular tank half the size of a tennis court that can hold some 200 tons of sand, is offering high-tech views into the genesis of complex stratigraphy that are allowing scientists to figure out how intricate patterns of sediment layers are deposited by rivers and ocean currents. Although by no means a perfect simulation of the real world, the apparatus is on the leading edge of a new generation of physical models that can simulate the rise and fall of sea level, the effects of swings in climate, and the sinking of tectonic plates. The model could also help oil companies save money on expensive offshore exploration.