When a coastal tide rolls out, it can reveal beautiful ripples in the temporarily exposed sand. These same undulating patterns in petrified seabeds that have been preserved for millions or billions of years offer clues to the conditions in which they formed.
The spacing between ripples is proportional to the depth of the water and the size of the waves that molded them. But subtle kinks and swirls in these patterns, known as defects, are found in both ancient and modern seabeds. After studying waves’ effects on an artificial beach in a wave tank, researchers at MIT and elsewhere identified common ripple defects associated with particular wave conditions. They reported in Geology that those resembling hourglasses, zigzags, and tuning forks were probably shaped in periods of environmental flux—for instance, during strong storms or changing tidal flows.
“The type of defect you see in ripples could tell you about how dramatic the shifts in weather conditions were at the time,” says geology professor Taylor Perron of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences. “We can use these defects as fingerprints to tell not just what the average conditions were in the past, but how things were changing.”
DeepMind’s cofounder: Generative AI is just a phase. What’s next is interactive AI.
“This is a profound moment in the history of technology,” says Mustafa Suleyman.
What to know about this autumn’s covid vaccines
New variants will pose a challenge, but early signs suggest the shots will still boost antibody responses.
Human-plus-AI solutions mitigate security threats
With the right human oversight, emerging technologies like artificial intelligence can help keep business and customer data secure
Next slide, please: A brief history of the corporate presentation
From million-dollar slide shows to Steve Jobs’s introduction of the iPhone, a bit of show business never hurt plain old business.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.