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Reading this, I can intuitively understand that fractures propagate along the path of least resistance, creating "width in a direction that requires the least force". However, it is less intuitive (to me, at least) that "a fracture will propagate parallel to the greatest principal stress and perpendicular to the plane of the least principle stress". In my mind, I visualize a rock between the two plates of a press. I can see the forces balancing until a critical force is applied. At this point, how do I visualize the stresses? Do I have to analyze the stresses at a molecular level or is macroscopic description sufficient?

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"At this point, how do I visualize the stresses? Do I have to analyze the stresses at a molecular level or is macroscopic description sufficient?" What do you have in mind? Are you making experiment, or it is just a theoretical figure of language? Second question is what fracture do you have in mind? There are different sorts: brittle, viscous, fatigue and they all are different. –  Alexei Boulbitch Oct 15 '12 at 14:16
    
@AlexeiBoulbitch: You have brought up good points. I'm actually working on multiscale simulation, so either (or both) microscopic and macroscopic would be nice. Also, I was looking for information specifically about brittle fractures. –  Paul Nov 19 '12 at 2:39

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