The Airy distribution (AD) describes the probability distribution of the area under a Brownian excursion. The AD is prominent in several areas of physics, mathematics, and computer science. Here we use a dilute colloidal system to directly measure the AD in experiment. We also show how two different techniques of theory of large deviations, the Donsker-Varadhan formalism and the optimal fluctuation method, manifest themselves in the AD. We advance the theory of the AD by calculating, at large and small areas, the position distribution of a Brownian excursion conditioned on a given area and measure its mean in the experiment. For large areas, we uncover two singularities in the large-deviation function, which can be interpreted as dynamical phase transitions of third order. For small areas the position distribution coincides with the Ferrari-Spohn distribution, and we identify the reason for this coincidence.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy (all)