Explaining The Formation Of Rogue Waves And Tsunamis Based On Principles Of Quantum Physics; Using Atomic Waves To Understand Ocean Waves

First Posted: Apr 29, 2017 06:22 AM EDT

The existence of 100 feet rogue waves and tsunamis were earlier considered as folklore stories. The rising effects of global warming and environmental pollution that caused many tsunamis proved that such gigantic ocean waves do exist and they are powerful enough to destroy ships, beaches and sometimes even small islands.

Understanding the physics of the formation and propagation of these rogue ocean waves can help in predicting the pattern of these waves and also the amount and extent of damages they may inflict. Physicists from Rice University have proposed a new model that explains the underlying physical forces responsible for the formation of rogue waves and tsunamis.

Randy Hulet, Fayez Sarofim Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Rice University, and his team of researchers have been studying quantum physics and classical physics aspects of atomic and ocean waves for years. According to one of their recent publications in Science, understanding the principles of quantum physics behind the formation of self-attracting subatomic waves can help in understanding the classical physics of formation of giant ocean waves.

In their earlier publications, Hulet and his team have reported the formation of "soliton trains" formed by cooling tiny clouds of atomic gas. They employed lasers and magnetic traps to bring down the temperature of the atomic gas slightly above the absolute zero. After reaching the ultracold temperature, the movement of the atomic particles was defined on the basis of principles of quantum mechanics.

In 2002, they managed to prove that while being propagated, these soliton trains do not diminish or spread out of shape. According to another publication by his team in 2014, oppositely traveling matter-wave solitons would rather sink momentarily than sharing the space while passing each other.

According to Phys.org, the researchers managed to switch the repulsive forces present in Bose-Einstein condensate of atomic gas clouds into attractive ones, thereby initiating modulation instability in them. Due to these modulations, a train of solitons were created. Further analysis on how these trains or waves were formed revealed that soliton trains are born stable; they do not attain the stability as they evolve.

Hulet and his team believe that the recent findings will help them predict and recreate the exact conditions that may help in understanding how rogue soliton waves are formed in oceans. If successful, the same can be implemented for predicting tsunamis. 

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