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Why do Physics programs not cover continuum mechanics?

  1. Nov 18, 2011 #1
    I've looked at a few Physics programs and none seem to cover any time of fluids or continuum mechanics in general. It seems to be a very relevant subject to cover but it's only slightly addressed in one of the lower level classes. In these classes they usually only going over Bernoulli's equation which while important, obviously doesn't reveal much about fluids. The Navier-Stokes equations come to mind for further study in fluid mechanics. During this class it was never really brought up.

    Is there a specific reason why continuum mechanics in general isn't addressed in much detail?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 18, 2011 #2


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    I believe most prestigious places do have courses in continuum mechanics or hydrodynamics, but for example in my universities these courses are offered by the physics and applied maths departments, and they are offered only once in two-three years, not every year, and they are always at the graduate/3rd-4th year of UG.

    I am myself taking such a course this semester.
  4. Nov 18, 2011 #3
    Hm, I guess that basically makes my question invalid. Still I think it's interesting that it's not part of the regular curriculum in all programs. It seems to me just as important as electromagnetism... Okay maybe not that important but still it doesn't seem to get as much credit as it deserves.
  5. Nov 18, 2011 #4
    I asked a friend of mine why our undergraduate/masters course didn't include this, and he said it was because it's too "empirical" - maybe that's the wrong word but perhaps you get what I'm trying to say. I'm not trying to sound derogatory about it here (I'm sure a lot of careful thought has gone into it) but he seemed to think it was more like a "stamp collecting" branch of science if you get what I mean by that - not based on enough "physics-ish" theory, if you know what I mean.
    Here's where people are supposed to prove him dead wrong now...
  6. Nov 19, 2011 #5
    Maybe because matter is made of atoms and in research people usually utilizes computers to go beyond continuum limit and study atomic-molecular structure of materials.

    In my experience, continuum mechanics and thermodynamics are much more important for engineers and for branches of applied physics as atmospheric physics, hydrodynamics of Rias and so on.
  7. Nov 19, 2011 #6

    D H

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    As if solid state physics or elementary particle physics doesn't have it's share of "empiricism"? Most physicists are experimentalists. That is very much an empirical science.

    Many physics departments don't teach this subject because physicists for the most part don't do research in this area. The primary goal of most undergraduate physics programs is to train their students with an eye toward being admitted to and then successful in a graduate physics program.

    That knowledge and research has mostly passed from the domain of physic departments to mechanical and aerospace engineering. Most colleges require their undergraduates to take a core curriculum dictated by the students' majors augmented by technical electives that can be selected, within limits, by the students themselves. If your college has a good mechanical or aerospace program you can take a fluid dynamics class from them as a technical elective.
  8. Nov 19, 2011 #7
    Continuum mechanics and fluid dynamics are generally offered under the engineering programs.
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