When University at Buffalo theorist Surajit Sen published his prediction that solitary waves, tight bundles of energy that travel without dispersing, could break into smaller, "baby" or secondary solitary waves, experts in the field acclaimed it as a fine piece of work. They also felt that these waves might never be seen experimentally.
But in a paper published this week in Physical Review Letters, Sen and his co-authors report that they have done just that. The new results contribute to a better understanding of how energy propagates through strongly nonlinear systems, where nearly every detail of the system matters and that make up many of the systems of interest to scientists. "A central theme behind the physics of any system is how its particles share and transmit energy," explained Sen. "This work goes to the heart of nonlinear systems because it provides insights into how such systems propagate energy."
The current research also may overturn completely the generally accepted idea that equilibrium states – or at least a similar type of state – cannot easily occur in nonlinear systems. "Solitary waves are, by definition, energy bundles, which do not fall apart," Sen explained. "They are not supposed to be easily breakable because they are energy bundles, so they generally travel intact and dont transform."
Ellen Goldbaum | EurekAlert!
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