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A Lego Pirate Is Sacrificed To A Colossal Wave In The Name of Science

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Rogue waves are a little-understood phenomenon of ocean dynamics. The colossal swells, which seem to appear out of nowhere in otherwise calm seas, were reported for centuries before their existence was confirmed in 1995. To better understand them, scientists have recently taken to modeling the strange swells with wave tanks and Lego.

FYFD's Nicole Sharpe explains the video above, which was captured by Nail Akhmediev of the Research School of Physics and Engineering at Australian National University during his team's rogue wave simulation experiments:

How these giant waves form is still under active research, but one leading theory is that nonlinear interactions between waves allow one wave to sap energy from surrounding waves and focus it into one much larger, short-lived wave. I first learned of rogue waves during a seminar in graduate school. At the time, this idea of nonlinear focusing had only been explored in simulation, but a few years later a research group was able to demonstrate the effect in a wave tank, as shown in the video above. Wait for the end, and you'll notice how the rogue wave that takes down the ship is much larger than its predecessors.


Intriguingly, the wave generated by the wave machine in the video up top was used to demonstrate that rogue waves can be even bigger, proportionally, than previously believed – up to five times the size of the waves around them. Akhmediev and his team have deemed such surges "super" rogue waves.

Read more about the strange behavior of rogue waves at FYFD. Read Akhmediev's teams study at Physical Review.