Flowing air and water are persistent sculptors, gradually working stone, clay, sand and ice into landforms and landscapes. The evolution of shape results from a complex fluid–solid coupling that tends to produce stereotyped forms, and this morphology offers important clues to the history of a landscape and its development. Claudin et al. (J. Fluid Mech., vol. 832, 2017, R2) shed light on how we might read the rippled and scalloped patterns written into dissolving or melting solid surfaces by a flowing fluid. By better understanding the genesis of these patterns, we may explain why they appear in different natural settings, such as the walls of mineral caves dissolving in flowing water, ice caves in wind, and melting icebergs.
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