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Hunan – Shockwaves and chaos!

March 25, 2009

Wow the title of this post almost sounds like some kind of natural disaster hit Hunan.  Well in a way it has – today’s paper is on a topic that goes completely over my head so I am sure I will make a bit of a hash of it, but here goes anyway.

Today’s institution boasts a full range of disciplines which run the gamut from law to business to arts to sciences and engineering and everything in between or outside that sphere.  By the look of it, their campuses are absolutely beautiful *drool*.  I am of course talking about:

Hunan Normal University

I must admit that the name of the university did bring a smile to my face – like every other university is abnormal *immature giggle*.  Like the paper from Chengdu, today’s paper is from the area of ‘hard sciences’, which is entitled:

Hai, W., Zhu, Q., Rong, S., (2009), Chaotic shockwaves of a Bose-Einsten Condensate, Physical Review A, DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevA.79.023603

When I read the term ‘Bose-Einstein Condensate’, chaotic shockwaves are what happen in my brain.  I like physics, but basic physics, forces and electricity and all that stuff.  Bose-Einstein stuff and some of the whimsical terminology that is used (refer to abstract for Smale-horseshoe chaos) just make me go what the…?

That being said – here is my pathetic attempt to make sense of the paper.  This is where we enter through the looking glass of particle physics.

Particle physics

Particle physics

By the way if you wanted a definition for a very nerdy joke that is terrible and unpunny – that’s it right there….and yes the mirror imaging is also incorrect…

First, for the benefit of us non-physicists I will define what a Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC) is – it is a boson which is constrained by an external potential being applied at a temperature very close to absolute zero -273.15C.  Bosons are not actually fat, piratical sailors, but they are small particles, sometimes subatomic in size, sometimes (as in the case of 12C and 4He) atomic in size that behave in a manner modelled by Bose-Einstein statistics.  The elusive Higgs boson belongs to this exclusive club.  So BEC’s are pretty much very cold tiny particles.

The paper which I am discussing today shows some pretty fancy maths for describing matter shock waves with both periodic and chaotic amplitudes and phases.  The paper claims that the existence of chaos actually helps to suppress the blast of a matter wave.  Breaking it down very simply the authors modelled the behaviour of shock waves caused by tiny frozen particles constrained in a ‘potential’ space.  They modelled what happens in a nice orderly system when things occur at regular intervals and at regular magnitudes.  Then they basically scribbled all over it and figured out what happens when the shock waves behave in a chaotic manner.

They also have some awesome graphs – if you can’t get hold of the paper, email the authors and they can send you one, otherwise I can pass on one. Anyway Figure 1 basically looks like a sideways hot air balloon with a face.  I am sure it means something very scientific but all I am seeing is pure Rorschach.

If anything I have said is incorrect, then that is not really very surprising…..

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