Hate the game, not the playa

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Here’s why the geometric patterns in salt flats worldwide look so similar

The shared geometry across playas may come from fluid flows underground
Hexagonal ridges of salt in Death Valley, California. New research suggests an explanation for why salt flats around the world all look very alike. [Credit: Rudy Sulgan/The Image Bank/Getty Images Plus]

For Science News:

From Death Valley to Chile to Iran, similarly sized polygons of salt form in playas all over the world — and subterranean fluid flows might be the key to solving the long-standing puzzle of why.

Geometric shapes such as pentagons and hexagons spontaneously form in a wide range of geologic settings. Dried mud, ice and rock often crack into polygons, but these patterns tend to vary dramatically in size.

So why are all playas so persistently similar? The answer lies underground, physicist Jana Lasser and colleagues propose February 24 in Physical Review X. With sophisticated mathematical models, computer simulations and experiments performed at Owens Lake in California, the team connected what they saw on the surface with what is going on beneath.

[Read the rest at Science News]

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