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Attrition is the act of rubbing things together and thus wearing them down. It is used in physical geology for “the wear and tear that rock particles in transit undergo through mutual rubbing, grinding, ..., etc., with resulting comminution in size” (Thornbury, 1954, p. 48). It specifically refers to the particles themselves and excludes erosion of the rock floor, which is also involved in the mutual collisions and wear, the latter process being referred to as abrasion (q.v.).
The particles involved in attrition, notably sand grains, develop characteristic textures (see pr Vol. VI); for example, wind-worn sands have a distinctive “frosting.” However, there are some possibilities of confusion when these particles are examined only under low magnification. Under the electron microscope, however, a unique appearance characterizes the surface texture of every type of grain—eolian, beach, fluvial and glacial (Krinsley and Takahashi, 1962). Under low-energy conditions, desert sands develop...
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