Other Ideas for a Physics Project (Fluid Dynamics)

PhysicsGuy12341

I am a high school student interested in fluid dynamics, especially the Physics of ocean waves. So I'm hoping to do a science fair project about the Physics of sea waves, maybe for local science fair, or if it's really good, ISEF.

The trouble is, I don't know what to do, especially because the science fairs I am considering all demand original research (not just research that has been only done by me, but as in original research). And I can't think of any ideas that have not been taken already. I've thought of doing a project to do with how global warming is affecting wave behaviour, and analysing the Physics behind that. But that won't work because I'm sure people have already done research on that. I've also thought of a project about looking at how storm waves are affected by wind speed. But the problem is first, there is no need for that, because we already have the weather observatory to do research on all those things. And second, I don't think I know enough math to completely model all of the things that effect a storm wave's behaviour.

Oh, and last thing. My current level of knowledge. For math, I've done AP Calculus BC, multivariable and Vector Calculus (but not much. I've learnt all this from Strang's Calculus). I've also done some differential equations and PDEs from select chapters from James Nearing's Mathematical Methods Of Physics (I haven't done any other chapters in his book). As for Physics, I've done Resnick Halliday's Fundamentals Of Physics, and I've also read through "Introduction To Ocean Waves" (http://pordlabs.ucsd.edu/rsalmon/111.textbook.pdf) because fluid dynamics is the part of Physics that interests me, and where I want to do a project on.

Any suggestions on what to do? Thank you so much in advance.

jedishrfu

Mentor
You could look into non-linear waves that ones known as rogue waves. Perhaps you could construct a small wave tank where you overdrive it to produce the waves and then take some measurements from the tank experiment to compare with theory.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rogue_wave

Youtube has several videos on it here:

For other ideas you might look at tsunami waves and how they are transmitted and how they could be detected in the deep ocean using satellites or buoys.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsunami

Lastly, you could do some numerical simulations of the waves in Matlab or Java (open source physics) using what you learn from Salmon's book.

PhysicsGuy12341

Thank you, I'll consider those suggestions. A question though. I've done a little looking into research about rogue waves, and I see that research has already been done on them. This one for instance: http://sandlab.mit.edu/Papers/17_SA1.pdf. How am I going to differentiate my project from those? The same with tsunami detection.

jedishrfu

Mentor
My suggestion is to get creative and look for a hole in the research. Another way is to brainstorm it with someone preferably a prof. It doesn't have to be a big earth shaking hole it could be using a newer algorithm on an old problem for faster results, or something else. You could replace the water with a different kind of fluid (non-newtonian fluids -> oobleck anyone??? some humor here :-) ) and then calculate the rogue wave or tsunami generation...

As an example, PhD thesis topics are often selected by your advisor who is familiar with work in the field. Every once in a while though you start work on it only to discover someone publishes on it before you and you then have to go back and start again. There was a story once where a PhD candidate was giving his defense on a new kind of antenna and an audience member brought forth a reference that showed someone had already done it a few years earlier and his advisor was unaware of the work. Oops.

I couldn't find a reference to the above story but I did find this off-topic blog about questionable PhD dissertation defenses:

PhysicsGuy12341

I like the non-newtonian fluid wave generation problem, I'll start working on it. I have a question about it though: sea waves never occur in non-newtonain fluids, so the research won't be relevant to the real world. Would that affect the quality of the project?

And as for finding a professor, will emailing a local university with a research proposal work? I don't see any other way for a high school student to find a professor.

Thank you!

Dr. Courtney

Gold Member
2018 Award
https://www.physicsforums.com/insights/secrets-successful-science-projects/

Read the above article carefully. Having mentored a bunch of projects, with a 67% success rate winning first in the state fair (in category) with a few trips to ISEF and other national level events, the big trick is matching the student's ability to a project that is both interesting and novel. Theoretical advances are unlikely with the limited tools you have. Meaningful experiments more likely mean you end up testing an interesting and new hypothesis against third party published data. NOAA has tons of tide data (water level vs. time) for lots of locations and over many years. I'd brainstorm a way to test a meaningful and interesting hypothesis against that tide data.

Several broad areas are possible: 1) Since the lunar components are well known, one might quantify changes between wind forcing effects and lunar effects over time. 2) The magnitude of different lunar components can be quantified with great precision using Fourier analysis. These different lunar components have different physical meanings and changes over time might be evidence of specific causal factors. 3) Phase delays between sampling stations has physical meanings which may be related to various hypotheses.

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jedishrfu

Mentor
I would setup a meeting with a prof at the local college or better yet your the high school science department head to get you a connection there. Colleges are always interested in working with local high schools. My math teacher who was also the head of our math dept in high school got a contact for me. The prof was very interesting teacher. He was restoring these French string models that had gone into disrepair and it required some knowledge of geometry to get the restoration right. His last question to me was about what schools I had applied to and he put the bug in my ear that maybe I could go there. I never thought I was smart enough for this school and I got in.

"Ideas for a Physics Project (Fluid Dynamics)"

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