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Continuum mechanics vs Classical mechanics are they the same?

  1. Oct 26, 2011 #1
    Will taking a course is continuum mechanics give me the same background as in classical mechanics or would I need to take both separately? Can any one explain the difference if there is one between classical mechanic vs continuum mechanics in simple nontechnical terms.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 26, 2011 #2
    Continuum mechanics is math course and classical mechanics is a physics course. So, yes there is a difference, you should probably take classical mechanics before continuum mechanics (it is a graduate level math course at my local university).
  4. Oct 26, 2011 #3

    Andy Resnick

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    Continuum mechanics is a field theory, while classical mechanics is a theory of mass-points.
  5. Oct 26, 2011 #4
    To elaborate on what Andy is saying, what you spend most of your time doing in courses called "classical mechanics" is to analyze the dynamics of particles or bodies that act like particles (e.g. relative distances between the planets and the sun vs. their diameters makes the analysis particle-like, and similar for the trajectory of an ICBM over a rotating Earth). Some/most physics books (both at the grad and undergrad levels) on classical mechanics will give some sort of (limited) introduction to continuum mechanics though.

    So continuum mechanics is the mechanics of "real" objects that have spatial extent. Think of placing a bunch of heavy physics textbooks on a wood bookshelf. Over time, that specific shelf will start to sag; can you calculate how so? Not with particle dynamics!

    The first sentence of Post #2 is actually a bit misleading, although sometimes correct. The majority of "mechanics" that a mechanical engineer does is actually continuum mechanics (fluids, deformations of solids, etc.). Furthermore, plasma physics (MHD specifically) is essentially continuum mechanics!

    This http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuum_mechanics#Major_areas_of_continuum_mechanics" actually gives a good synopsis.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2017
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