1999, Volume 2, Number 1, pp.1-7
Large rare fluctuations in a nonequilibrium system are investigated theoretically and by analogue electronic experiment. It is emphasized that the optimal paths calculated via the eikonal approximation of the Fokker-Planck equation can be identified with the locus of the ridges of the prehistory probability distributions which can be calculated and measured experimentally for paths terminating at a given final point in configuration space. The pattern of optimal paths and its singularities, such as caustics, cusps and switching lines have been calculated and measured experimentally for a periodically driven overdamped oscillator, yielding results that are shown to be in good agreement with each other.
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