The evolution of pebble size and shape in space and time

G. Domokos, G. W. Gibbons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Citations (Scopus)


We propose a mathematical model which suggests that the two main geological observations about shingle beaches, i.e. the emergence of predominant pebble size ratios and strong segregation by size, are interrelated. Our model is based on a system of ordinary differential equations (ODEs) called the box equations that describe the evolution of pebble ratios. We derive these ODEs as a heuristic approximation of Bloore's partial differential equation (PDE) describing collisional abrasion and verify them by simple experiments and by direct simulation of the PDE. Although representing a radical simplification of the latter, our system admits the inclusion of additional terms related to frictional abrasion. We show that non-trivial attractors (corresponding to predominant pebble size ratios) only exist in the presence of friction. By interpreting our equations as a Markov process, we illustrate by direct simulation that these attractors may only be stabilized by the ongoing segregation process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3059-3079
Number of pages21
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2146
Publication statusPublished - Oct 8 2012



  • Collisional abrasion
  • Friction
  • Pebble-shape evolution
  • Segregation
  • Transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mathematics(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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