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Fluid Mechanics:

Fluid mechanics is the study of the effects of forces and energy on liquids and gases.
Like other branches of classical mechanics, the subject subdivides into statics (often
called hydrostatics) and dynamics (fluid dynamics, hydrodynamics, or aerodynamics).
Hydrostatics is a comparatively elementary subject with a few classical results of
importance but little scope for further development. Fluid dynamics, in contrast, is a
highly developed branch of science that has been the subject of continuous and
expanding research activity since about 1840.
The development of fluid dynamics has been strongly influenced by its numerous
applications. Some of the fields of application to engineering, the environmental
sciences, and the biological sciences are evident: aeronautical engineering, marine
engineering, meteorology, oceanography, and the study of blood flow, the dynamics
of swimming, and the flight of creatures. There are also many less immediately
obvious applications.
Fluid dynamics is studied both theoretically and experimentally, and the results are
described both mathematically and physically. The phenomena of fluid motion are
governed by known laws of physics--conservation of mass, the laws of classical
mechanics (Newton's laws of motion), and the laws of thermodynamics. These can be
formulated as a set of nonlinear partial differential equations, and in principle one
might hope to infer all the phenomena from these. In practice, this has not been
possible; the mathematical theory is often difficult, and sometimes the equations have
more than one solution, so that subtle considerations arise in deciding which one will
actually apply. As a result, observations of fluid motion both in the laboratory and in
nature are also essential for understanding the motion of fluids.
Liquids and gases are classified together as fluids because, over a wide range of
situations, they have identical equations of motion and thus exhibit the same flow
phenomena. Scaling analysis makes it possible to infer when two geometrically
similar situations--of perhaps quite different size and involving different fluids (either
both liquids, both gases, or one of each)--will give rise to the same type of flow. It
leads to the formulation of various nondimensional parameters, with names like
Reynolds number, Mach number, Froude number, in terms of which fluid-dynamical
results are usually presented.
Flow configurations equally applicable to liquids and gases include flow through
pipes, flow due to relative motion between a body and ambient fluid, and thermal
convection--gravitationally driven flow due to temperature differences. Sometimes the
effect of rotation of the whole system (of particular significance in meteorology and
oceanography) is included. A common feature of all these flows is their tendency to

undergo a spontaneous transition from one type of motion to another. The best-known
type of transition is that from laminar flow (a smooth, regular type of flow) to
turbulent flow (in which rapid, irregular fluctuations arise). Instability can also lead to
a complicated flow with a highly regular structure (such as an orderly array of vortices
or of convection cells). Much current research is concerned with gaining an
understanding of these various transitions and, in particular, of how a deterministic set
of equations can account for the chaotic behaviour of turbulent fluids.
During flow at speeds comparable to the speed of sound, the density of fluids changes
significantly. This phenomenon is of practical importance only for gases, in which
shock waves may occur. These waves involve an almost discontinuous change in the
velocity, temperature, pressure, and density of the fluid.
The main phenomena of importance for liquids but not for gases are those associated
with free surfaces, such as the upper boundary of a liquid in a partly filled vessel. The
fact that the speed of water waves varies with wavelength and with amplitude leads to
a wide variety of effects. These include the hydraulic jump (or bore)--a sudden change
in water level, analogous to a shock wave--and the soliton--a single large-amplitude
pulse that propagates without change of form.