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Direction of pressure in a Fluid

  1. Mar 22, 2015 #1
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 22, 2015 #2
    That's supposed to be the weight of the fluid inside the wedge (they left out the g, or assumed that it is combined with the rho). They are doing a force balance on the wedge of fluid.

  4. Mar 22, 2015 #3
    So the 1/2 factor is because ρ(b∆x∆z) is the weight of the whole cuboid and we need the weight of the only one half along the diagonal from upper left point to lower right point? Am I correct? Because if you place another identical triangular volume upside down on the already existing triangular volume, we get a cuboid. Right? So we include the 1/2 in to get the desired area.
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2015
  5. Mar 22, 2015 #4
    Yes. That's how we arrived at the equation in geometry for the area of a right triangle = (1/2) bh.
  6. Mar 25, 2015 #5
    So why are we only considering forces perpendicular to each of the faces of the triangular prism? There are many other forces too which are not perpendicular to the faces of the triangular prism. And what about the faces parallel to each other, which exist on the page and are parallel to it?
  7. Mar 25, 2015 #6
    Pressure can only exert forces perpendicular to surfaces.
  8. Mar 25, 2015 #7
    So what happens to the forces which are not perpendicular. They definitely exist. But then why aren't they shown in the diagram? If you say that they cancel out when we divide them into components, then we are assuming that they are of same magnitude. Otherwise they won't cancel out. But does this assumption have any basis?
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2015
  9. Mar 25, 2015 #8


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    And exactly which forces are not perpendicular to the wedge?

    Fig. 2.1 can be converted into a free body diagram of the wedge. You can determine if the wedge is in static equilibrium given the weight of the wedge and the hydrostatic pressures as shown.
  10. Mar 25, 2015 #9
    Yes. Where do these alleged forces come from?

  11. Mar 26, 2015 #10
    From the fact that pressure is exerted in all directions.
  12. Mar 26, 2015 #11


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    Pascal's Law states that pressure is exerted equally in all directions. This means that at a given depth of fluid, the static pressure produced by the fluid will be the same in all parts of the fluid's container.

    However, just because the pressure exerted is the same in all directions, it does not follow that there are forces acting in all directions which are produced by this pressure.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pressure [Specifically, the first section and the section on Liquid Pressure]


    You have alleged that:

    and have been informed by Chet that:

    So, the ball is in your court to show the existence of these oblique forces supposedly caused by pressure.

    I still maintain that if you use Fig. 2.1 in your link as a free body diagram and analyze the hydrostatic forces normal to all sides of the wedge, you will see that these oblique forces do not exist.
  13. Mar 26, 2015 #12
    Hi Andyrk,

    Unfortunately for you and many other students, they have simplified the concept of pressure to the point where it has caused considerable confusion. Later on, you will learn that pressure is not a scalar, but really part of a second order tensor quantity known as the "stress tensor," which has a certain kind of directional character associated with it. The pressure part of the stress tensor has the directional character that, for any tiny element of surface area within the fluid or at the boundary of the fluid, the pressure force per unit area acts perpendicular to that surface, irrespective of the orientation of the surface element. This is what they mean when they say "the pressure acts equally in all directions."

    I wish I could be more precise than this, but to do that, I would have to teach you tensor analysis. For now, it will suffice for you just accept the key feature of pressure that SteamKing and I have conveyed to you (obviously in a better way than your text has done it).

  14. Mar 26, 2015 #13
    Can you not just say pressure is exerted in all directions - which it is as the molecules move in random directions, but these add up to a perpendicular force on the face of a container? Just do it in a Newtonian ping pong ball analogy way?
  15. Mar 26, 2015 #14
    That physical interpretation works great for an ideal gas, but not all fluids are ideal gases. For liquids, it might be less convincing to andyrk.

  16. Mar 28, 2015 #15
    I don't know how to prove it but I feel they should exist because I connect the different directions of pressure to different directions of forces.
  17. Mar 28, 2015 #16


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    Even if they exist on the atomic level, they cancel each other on average, because they are uniformly distributed in all directions parallel to the surface.
  18. Mar 28, 2015 #17
    So why doesn't the perpendicular one also cancel out too? Why does it remain intact despite the fact that all others get completely cancelled out?
  19. Mar 28, 2015 #18


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    Because along that axis the colliding molecules are all coming from one direction: from the fluid.
  20. Mar 28, 2015 #19
    So along the opposite direction also the colliding molecules are coming from the fluid. There aren't any other particles in this other than the fluid.
  21. Mar 28, 2015 #20


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    No idea what you mean. You should draw yourself some diagrams. It's all quite obvious from geometry.
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