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Subtleties of Sand Reveal How Mountains Crumble

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Science  11 Jan 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5553, pp. 256-258
DOI: 10.1126/science.295.5553.256

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Quartz grains altered by cosmic rays are forcing geologists to reevaluate which forces shape landscapes and how fast they operate. A handful of researchers have begun using cosmogenic nuclides to study long-term erosion rates, a tool that has enabled them to paint a portrait of landscape formation with previously unparalleled resolution. Barely out of its infancy, this technology has already spawned a slew of applications, from examining the sustainability of agricultural practices to decoding signals of global climate change.