Research

Rogue Wave Recreated

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For years, mariners have reported occurrences of rogue waves–sudden, isolated waves many times larger than the surrounding surface waves. Until 1995, when a rogue wave was first measured, debate raged as to whether such waves even existed. Scientists have since agreed that nonlinear models of wave interaction are the most likely source of the amplification necessary to create rogue waves. Since the Navier-Stokes equations that govern hydrodynamics are so difficult to solve, scientists have looked to simpler nonlinear wave equations, like the nonlinear Schroedinger equation that governs optics, to generate rogue-wave-like behavior. While the equation gives insight into how a given wave system will evolve, it is still necessary to determine what initial conditions can lead to the formation of a rogue wave. All manner of random conditions exist in the ocean, but to recreate the behavior in a simplified system, we must know which initial conditions are the right ones. Akhmediev et al presented a theoretical perspective on the initial conditions that might lead to rogue wave amplification, and now, for the first time, researchers have been able to create a rogue wave in a wave tank. That little blip that sinks the Lego pirate ship is a great accomplishment toward understanding a phenomenon whose very existence was in question less than twenty years ago. (Video credit: A Chabchoub, N Hoffmann, and N Akhmediev; via Gizmodo; for more, see APS Viewpoints and Akhmediev et al)

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