Sunday, March 27, 2011

Solitons in Swimming Pools: Verified

...Verified, that is, the appearance of the physical phenomenon, but not what it means. I did the experiment as promised, and though with the light I couldn't get a picture, the vortices lasted 42 seconds. There's not much of a trick to it at all and it's really quite eerie. It looks like this when it works (not my film):

Note: the pool has to be fairly calm as evidenced by failure to replicate it in Palm Springs with pre-eminent Large Hardon Collider scientist Thurston supervising.

Claims have been advanced that these are virtual particles and their behavior has implications for the geometry of space time. The math is all quite beyond my poor power to evaluate so I asked two people: an astrophysicist and a cosmologist. The astrophysicist said politely that it was bunk. The cosmologist (in fact, it was Dr. Splat himself) said:

I can certainly see how these things can exist in a pool, but connecting that to string theory is a bit of a stretch. He already acknowledges that there is a Navier-Stokes solution for these. If he actually knew what he was doing, he'd be asking whether these structures exist in General Relativity (& I'd bet that they do), not string theory. They might be something like a rotating wormhole.

People often see 'spooky' connections between phenomena at different scales & then try to say 'everything must be made of vortices', or twistors...But I think what's really going on is that there are only so many ways to write down a successful physical theory, & almost all of them involve second-order partial differential equations with varying degrees of nonlinearity.

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