The data suggest that the earth's crust behaves in accordance with "work minimization principles," an idea that study director Michelle Cooke refers to as the "Lazy Earth" hypothesis.
"Until now, geologists have not been able to explain how "new faults grow in regions where one plate slides past or over another around a bend.
"Geologists don't agree on how the earth's crust handles restraining bends along faults. There's just a lack of evidence. When researchers go out in the field to measure faults, they can't always tell which one came first, for example," says Cooke.
Cooke says that her approach differs from other geoscientists because her lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is "one of only a handful worldwide to use a relatively new modeling technique that uses kaolin clay rather than sand to better understand the behavior of Earth's crust."
Apparently the viscosity of kaolin – also known as china clay – can scale to match that of the earth's crust. If this happens, the data can be used to model earth crust movements over thousands of years.
To read more on the study, click here.
Video: University of Massechussets via YouTube
Source: Phys.org; Journal of Structural Geology