STRATA MACHINE REPORT © Copyright John Mackay May 2018

THE GOOD NEWS is we have been able to resume our experiments with our strata machine (now Mark5A Model) which will demonstrate to students in just one short visit to Jurassic Ark, that strata form a) rapidly b) horizontally and c) NOT from bottom to top. The reboot on Thursday 26th April with new modifications was very successful, and the experiment took 2 hours - well within one JA visit time. The test also suggested new modifications to improve performance. (Mark6 now on drawing board).

Our chief new observation was that 1) the beds started growing sideways as steeply inclined beds that parallelled the 45 degree starter slope we had deliberately built into the machine; then 2) as the sediment load approached the top of the machine inbuilt 45 degree slope, the strata began to grow horizontally across the tank, and 3) not from bottom to top. Our sediment deliberately included three easily detectable 'markers' - light sand, coarse sand and very dense black mineral sand. The heavier sediment always ended up as a top layer in any flood pulse flow, because it was deposited last across the horizon and was never at the bottom. This is the opposite of all you are taught in geology class regarding density effects. The heaviest rock does not fall out first.

OF GREATER SIGNIFICANCE is the implication that fossils buried in the top layer of the pulse at the starting end, will actually be older than fossils in the bottom layer at the other end. An upset to geological history for sure ... especially if we consider flood waters as behaving as if in a delta, where horizontally flowing water from one direction carries sediments then hits a different depth of water and loses speed thereby depositing sediment sideways.

So far this experiment has cost us about 10K and we will be building Mark 6 machine from scratch next. In our next machine we will be using fluorescent "organic" material to show the order the fossils deposit in. Thanks to helpers Ben and Estienne (pictured with the apparatus). and yes, further donations are welcome.

Giving credit where credit is due, our Strata machine is a student friendly duplication of French Sedimentologist Guy Berthault's strata experiment, originally set up to demonstrate bed formation in deltas based on the late 1800's observations by Johannes Walther in Venice, (see 1893-1894, Einleitung in die Geologie als historische Wissens- chaft, Jena, Verlag von Gustav Fisher, Sud. 1 055 pages). As to why most never hear about this see also 'Johannes Walther's law of the correlation of facies' by Gerard V Middleton - Geological Society of America Bulletin, 1973 - pubs.geoscienceworld.org.

Strata machine

Liquid Layers

1 WEEK LATER - the next test with our strata machine produced visual evidence that even turbulent water flows in layers, and sediment is immediately taken into these layers ... no need for millions of years to form separate sedimentary layers etc. I have read about this layering phenomenon since my interest in WW2 submariners who used the layers in water to hide beneath. but this is the first time we have been able to demonstrate it simply so students can see it in a short time. Sadly this real layering behaviour in liquids is certainly unknown by the general geologist as well as the public.


So far this experiment has cost us about 10K and we will be building Mark 6 machine from scratch next.

Thanks to helpers Ben and Estienne .pictured ..further references below. And yes donations are welcome click DONATIONS.


ORIGINAL PAPERS Berthault, G. 1986, Sedimentology – experiments on lamination of sediments, C. R. Academie Science, Paris, 303 II, 17, 1569-1574

Berthault, G. 1988, Sedimentation of heterogranular mixture – experimental lamination in still and running water,
C. R. Academie Science, Paris, 306, II 717-724


Dynamics of granular material by H. M. Jaeger & S. R. Nagel American Scientist, December 1997, 85, 540-545.

Stratification in poured granular heaps by J. Baxter et. A.l Nature, 8 Jan 1998, 391, 136.

Experiments in Stratification, 1999, nouvelle vidéocassette (en anglais) dis- ponible de APCS 
(c/o P. Wilders : 42, Bd d'Italie, 98000 Monaco).



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