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Scientists trigger controlled rogue wave in the lab

"This will help us not only to predict oceanic extreme events, but also in the design of safer ships and offshore rigs," said researcher Amin Chabchoub.

By Brooks Hays

HELSINKI, Finland, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Scientists have created what just a few years ago many thought was unpredictable, and thus uncontrollable -- a rogue wave.

Researchers at the Aalto University can now create and control rogue waves under laboratory conditions realistic to ocean environments.

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"This will help us not only to predict oceanic extreme events, but also in the design of safer ships and offshore rigs," Amin Chabchoub, a researcher at Aalto University, said in a news release. "In fact, newly designed vessels and rig model prototypes can be tested to encounter in a small scale, before they are built, realistic extreme ocean waves."

Research conducted over the last few years has revealed a phenomenon known as modulational instability to be the cause of rogue waves. During modulational instability, nonlinear perturbations lead to the breakdown of wave form, leading to a series of amplifies pulses. In simple terms, two waves become one giant wave.

Last year, scientists in Australia zeroed in on the conditions that produce rogue waves by formulating a solution to the nonlinear Schrodinger equation, a mathematical equation that describes the time evolution of the system's wave function.

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The latest research, which resulted in controlled miniature rogue waves in the lab, builds on the work of the physicists at the Australian National University. The science behind the model waves was detailed this week in the journal Physical Review Letters.

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