News FocusGEOMORPHOLOGY

How to Build a Smarter Rock

Science  14 Dec 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6113, pp. 1412-1413
DOI: 10.1126/science.338.6113.1412

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Summary

Researchers have crafted metal rocks to mimic a natural stone's shape and density, and then inserted custom-made electronics to measure and record the faux rock's movements in real streams and rivers. Their mission: to help researchers better understand how waterways move tons of rock and other sediment downstream. Improving sediment transport models means getting down to small details, including better measurements of dozens of variables ranging from large-scale channel slopes and water velocities to minute interactions between a single grain of sand, the water flowing around it, and the river bed. Now, advances in materials and electronics are making that possible.