Learning about fluids as a physics major

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Hopefully I'm posting this in the correct forum but I was just wondering, when would would a physics major learn about fluids? We covered it a little bit in high school but I don't see fluids at all in my university's curriculum.
 

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  • #2
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General Physics 3 has an introduction to fluids. A course specifically on fluid mechanics, from what I can tell, is usually found in the mechanical engineering department. I'm also finding that it's often listed as part of a grad program.

My university (Towson) doesn't have a class specifically for fluids, either.
 
  • #3
Andy Resnick
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The typical physics curriculum does not cover fluid mechanics. I learned it via a "special topics" class with my advisor, a mechanical engineering class (continuum mechanics), and on my own.
 
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Really? Why is that? Is fluid mechanics not considered a vital part of the physics curriculum?
 
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Andy Resnick
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I think it is. I can't speculate on the curriculum at other institutions. Jerry Gollub wrote a very cogent article about this:

Physics Today / Volume 61 / Issue 10 / REFERENCE FRAME
Physics Today - October 2008
Teaching about fluids
 
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That was quite an interesting article! In that case, is a "special topics" class the only point in my education that I might learn about fluids? At my school, several other engineering courses are listed as prerequisites to Undergraduate Fluid Mechanics. Even my high school physics teacher, who has a Master's degree in physics, admitted that most of what he knows about fluids he learned in high school several decades ago.

Another quick question I have is, if we don't have a separate fluids class, at what point in our education do we learn about concepts such as Reynolds numbers? How much are we expected to just learn on our own?
 
  • #7
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Indeed, most of the universities close to home don't even offer fluid mechanics for Physics Major (except Bernouilli's equation).

http://www.phys.uu.nl/~thooft/theorist.html recommends to study some fluid dynamics, so I guess it is important for a Physics Major (notice that he lists this subject in the beginnig of the list, so it's reasonable to assume universities should offer some courses about it. Also, I've read some books about it (never got very deep, though) and it seems to require vectors (and div, grads, curls), tensors and diff equations as math requirements. So I don't see a reason for not offering courses about it for undergraduates.
 
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My school doesn't offer fluid dynamics in the physics department either. I'm sure there are courses in the engineering school. I guess the demand wouldn't be high enough for a straight physics course, but I'm kinda surprised it isn't cross listed or something.
 
  • #9
Andy Resnick
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There really is a need for a continuum mechanics/condensed matter class. Such a class would include fluid mechanics and statistical mechanics, but be very broadly applicable. As it stands, 200/300-level undergraduate mechanics classes are primarily an introduction to quantum mechanics.

Part of the difficulty is the lack of a good text, but this could change given the current popularity of 'soft matter' and biophysics books.
 

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