The slot valleys of Antelope Canyon as a hydro-dynamic computation

Twists and Turns – Mandj98

The slot valleys of Antelope Canyon, Arizona, are a beautiful example of the (de)generative process of aqueous erosion of sandstone rock. Technically known as Slot Valleys, these pre-historic canyons have been carved via a millennia of fast intermittent flowing waters, the result of yearly monsoons.

The vortices and whorls have left their mark in the walls of the rock which incorporate smooth undulations and spiral formations, all the more accentuated by the combination of light penetrating the surfaces of the red-orange rock.

‘Some canyons measure less than a yard across at the top but drop a hundred feet or more from the rim to the natural floor. Slots are cut and scoured by water and wind with the striations of the sandstone becoming almost incandescent. Seen from the surface, a slot canyon appears as a slash. From within you find a palette of colours transmuted by light filtering down from above and bouncing from wall to wall.’

Since the sandstone has the qualities of particulate matter, it makes the process of erosion a suitable candidate for computational modelling and simulation. These kinds spatio-temporal emergent patterns are readily simulated by Cellular Automata systems. Acolytes of the Universal Computation paradigm will feel comfortable with the idea that time-space ordering of these shapes is nothing more that an immensely long and complex hydro-dynamic ‘computer program’.

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