A New Insight into the Stability of Precariously Balanced Rocks
Balázs Ludmány, Ignacio Pérez-Rey, Gábor Domokos, Mauro Muñiz-Menéndez, Leandro R. Alejano, András Á. Sipos
Abstract: Recently it became increasingly evident that the statistical distributions of size and shape descriptors of sedimentary particles reveal crucial information on their evolution and may even carry the fingerprints of their provenance as fragments. However, to unlock this trove of information, measurement of traditional geophysical shape descriptors (mostly detectable on 2D projections) is not sufficient; fully spherical 3D imaging and mathematical algorithms suitable to extract new types of inherently 3D shape descriptors are necessary. Available 3D imaging technologies force users to choose either speed or full sphericity. Only partial morphological information can be extracted in the absence of the latter (e.g., LIDAR imaging). In the case of fully spherical imaging, speed was proved to be prohibitive for obtaining meaningful statistical samples, and inherently 3D shape descriptors were not extracted. Here we present a new method by complementing a commercial, portable 3D scanner with simple hardware to quickly obtain fully spherical 3D datasets from large collections of sedimentary particles. We also present software for the automated extraction of 3D shapes and automated measurement of inherently 3D-shape properties. This technique allows for examining large samples without the need for transportation or storage of the samples, and it may also facilitate the collaboration of geographically distant research groups. We validated our software on a large sample of pebbles by comparing previously hand-measured parameters with the results of automated shape analysis. We also tested our hardware and software tools on a large pebble sample in Kawakawa Bay, New Zealand.