Sixty Years Studying Wave Propagation in Random Media at the Applied Physics Laboratory

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The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

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Ocean acoustics has been a useful avenue for testing evolving theories for Wave Propagation in Random Media (WPRM). These theories generally assume that the index of refraction statistics are stable in space and time, an assumption proven reasonably true in the deep ocean for acoustic paths away from boundaries. In the present work, results from 60 years of theoretical and experimental WPRM research at the University of Washington's Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) are reviewed. The first experiment was performed in 1959 to test theories for amplitude fluctuations based on the Born approximation. The Rytov approximation (from Russian literature) for calculating the log-amplitude fluctuations was also evaluated. Conclusion: neither applied. Experiments in 1971 and 1977 measured acoustic fluctuation statistics for an 18 km acoustic path at sonar-relevant frequencies, 2–13 kHz. A 1985 experiment under Arctic ice used 2–16 kHz signals over a 6 km path. These experiments are discussed together with theoretical issues based on the Moment Equation method to provide one viewpoint on the history of ocean acoustic WPRM. The following translation of Voltaire is appropriate: "The ancients when reasoning about physics without the enlightenment of experiments are like blind men explaining the nature of colors to other blind men."


Daniel Rouseff is also affiliated with the University of Washington - Seattle Campus.



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