Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fluid Mechanics

As a chemist, I make stuff. I spend a lot of time thinking about how the structure of the molecules that I make will affect the way the behavior of the material made from the molecule, and what sort of properties I can expect to see.

What I find, now that I am practicing in the real world, is that my intuition about individual molecules is pretty solid. Likewise, my understanding of how to make things was well-formed by my education. There is a great void, however, in my understanding of the mechanics of materials. This is a deep, complex, and mathematically forbidding subject, even for someone with a love and affinity for math. It is a world inhabited by tensors and coordinate transforms and, often as not, nonlinearities that make solution of problems impossible without computational firepower that represents yet another subject I have to master.

This is especially true of the subjects of rheology and fluid mechanics. I am not at liberty to explain why, but I have been intensely concerned with these subjects recently. Learning what I need to know has not come easily. With constant exposure to instrumental analysis of these properties, coupled with as vigorous an attack on the theory and mathematics as I can possibly mount with the constraints on my time and mental capacity, I am just beginning to appreciate what an incredibly beautiful and fascinating world I have been surrounded by, yet been insensible toward.

I found an interesting video about fluid behavior that I want to share. The science is cool, the pictures beautiful, and even the dreamy music sort of captures the wonder of the soft matter world that I am fortunate enough to get to explore.


At Wednesday, August 27, 2008, Blogger Ψ*Ψ said...

Very cool video! I don't envy you the math, though.

At Thursday, August 28, 2008, Blogger David Eaton said...

I've been thinking a lot about how mathematics is such a stumbling block, yet there are so many ways to visualize and manipulate math with computers now that haven't been fully exploited.

I think most of the problem is the manipulation, the bookkeeping and drudgery of math that makes it so universally despised. But we should be able to automate that.

I mean, an orbital is really a mathematical construct, right?- yet that isn't the way we use them to understand stuff. The boring stuff in math should be eliminated. You should not have to be a mathematician to use this stuff.

At Friday, August 29, 2008, Blogger John said...

Math is a matter of perspective. Before Einstein was really famous, we worked in fluid mechanics. The Einstein-Stokes equation is still used to this day. He left that field behind to go work on relativity. (Rumor was that FD was too hard!) But fluids got the best of him in the end! The same tensor manipulations that he needed to solve problems in relativity are needed are used in fluid dynamics.

At Friday, August 29, 2008, Blogger David Eaton said...

I wish Einstein could have had Mathematica or Maple to help him. I know how much visualization helps ordinary mortals like me. I wonder what he or John Von Neumann would have done with computers.

I like fluid mechanics and rheology precisely because there are so many surprises, and I have come to grips with the fact the math is tough for me. I guess I feel better knowing it was tough for Einstein, too.

At Monday, November 10, 2008, Anonymous Brittania said...

Good words.


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