Solitons Made Simple

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Science  06 Jun 1997:
Vol. 276, Issue 5318, pp. 1520
DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5318.1520

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Y.R. Shen Solitons are solitary waves, sometimes seen in water canals or as light pulses in optical fibers, that propagate for long distances without changing shape. This phenomenon is the result of a delicate balancing act between the tendency for waves to disperse and the nonlinear properties of the propagation medium. As a result of this interaction, the mathematical description of solitons can be highly complex. In his Perspective, Shen discusses a report in the same issue by Snyder and Mitchell that shows a much simpler way to mathematically approach solitons.