Scientists have figured out the physics behind massive rogue waves in the ocean

scientists giant ocean wave wind 5034006056 6f88c00402 b
NOAA Photo Library/Flickr
Mathematicians and physicists who use their expertise to work out the science behind killer waves sounds a bit the kind of “movie scientist” job that could only exist in a Roland Emmerich blockbuster.

In fact, figuring out the math behind a particular type of freakish rogue wave, called the Draupner wave, is exactly what a team of scientists from the U.K., Australia, Belgium, and Italy has done in a new research project — which may just save lives one day.

“Forecasting rogue waves in the ocean is challenging and still an open mathematical and physical problem,” Dr. Davide Proment, a physicist from the U.K.’s University of East Anglia, who is a co-author on the paper, told Digital Trends. “There are some mathematical models that have let us make several improvements in the last few decades, but a full understanding of the mechanisms leading to rogue waves formation is still missing.”

Fortunately, they are here to help. Not only have they worked out the physics behind the problem in a way that could help us predict said waves, they have shown that they can be re-created in a laboratory wave machine.

Creating scaled-down waves in a wave machine isn’t new (heck, you probably did it in the bath as a kid!), but what is unique about this research is that the waves were able to be re-created in an annular tank using circular wind patterns. This is different to the mechanical paddles that are normally used to re-create waves in this setting. Such wind conditions are thankfully rare in the real world but do exist in places like Antarctica.

“To generate the waves we blew a constant wind and studied the growth and evolution of the waves during a two-hour time period,” Proment continued. “This type of measurement would be impossible in normal flume facilities. We measured the wave spectrum and studied its evolution over time. We also studied the probability of occurrence of waves higher than a certain value to understand how rogue waves, particularly high and steep compared to average waves, are likely to occur.”

It’s still early in the research process, but similar findings could one day allow us to take precautionary measures by predicting when such giant rogue may strike.

As for using the calculations to create a weaponized wave creator? You need some giant windmakers but we guess it’s theoretically possible. Which puts us firmly back in Roland Emmerich land.

Emerging Tech

‘Guerrilla rainstorm’ warning system aims to prevent soakings, or worse

Japanese researchers have created a "guerrilla rainstorm" early-warning system aimed at preventing severe soakings, or worse. The team hopes to launch the system before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Emerging Tech

The Great White Shark’s genome has been decoded, and it could help us end cancer

In a significant step for marine and genetic science, researchers have decoded the genome of the great white shark. The genetic code revealed a wealth of insight into what makes these creatures so successful from an evolutionary standpoint.
Emerging Tech

Chandra X-ray telescope uncovers evidence of the universe’s missing matter

Where is all of the matter in the universe? NASA's Chandra telescope has uncovered evidence of hot gas strands in the vicinity of a quasar which could explain the missing third of matter which has puzzled astronomers for years.
Emerging Tech

Statistician raises red flag about reliability of machine learning techniques

Machine learning is everywhere in science and technology. But how reliable are these techniques really? A statistician argues that questions of accuracy and reproducibility of machine learning have not been fully addressed.
Movies & TV

Hilarious new Kickstarter aims to fix Scorcese’s last scene in The Departed

A fan of The Departed and apparent hater of rat-as-symbolism imagery has launched a Kickstarter campaign to digitally erase the rodent from the end of Martin Scorsese’s 2006 movie.
Emerging Tech

Baristas beware, Bbox cafe uses robots to brew your morning coffee

Want your morning coffee and pastry prepared by robot? Bbox, a new coffee shop in downtown Berkeley, California, lets customers place their order by app and then uses automation to take care of the rest.
Emerging Tech

This ridiculous new flamethrower makes Elon Musk’s look like a cigarette lighter

The XL18 Flamethrower is a flame-shooting beast on steroids, capable of firing off bursts of flame more than 110 feet in length. The best part? You can order it over the internet today.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX just nailed its most challenging Falcon 9 rocket landing to date

If you've been following the SpaceX launch calendar, you know this week marks the first launch from Cape Canaveral in two months. We have the details on where you can watch the launch live.
Emerging Tech

Touchdown! Japan successfully lands its Hayabusa2 spacecraft on asteroid Ryugu

Japan's space agency has just completed the latest stage of its extraordinarily complex mission, successfully landing its Hayabusa2 spacecraft on an asteroid millions of miles from Earth.
Emerging Tech

Delivery drones: NASA to test advanced traffic control system for cities

Delivery drone services are edging closer as NASA prepares to demonstrate its advanced drone traffic management system, which it claims offers safe and effective control of autonomous aircraft in urban areas.
Emerging Tech

Kickstarter campaign aims to help make 3D-printed space habitats for Mars

Mars X-House is an ambitious project that's intended to create a prototype future Mars habitat using 3D printing. And, thanks to a new Kickstarter campaign, you can be a part of it.
Emerging Tech

Engineer turns his old Apple lle into an wheeled robot, and even gives it a sword

How do you give new life to a 30-year-old computer? Software engineer Mike Kohn found a way by transforming his old Apple IIe into a wheeled robot. Check it out in all its 1980s glory.
Emerging Tech

Virgin Galactic completes another test flight, this time with a passenger

Virgin Galactic chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses rode the company's spacecraft as a passenger on Friday, a key milestone toward commercial availability of the flights later this year. Moses rode along to test "cabin design elements."
Emerging Tech

Controversial CRISPR baby experiment may have resulted in brain enhancements

China’s CRISPR baby saga continues to rage on. Scientists have now expressed concerns that the procedure may have also resulted in changes in the babies’ brains affecting cognition.