Why do Physics programs not cover continuum mechanics?

In summary: Engineers have to use these concepts to solve problems, whereas physicists typically use them for their understanding of physical phenomena.
  • #1
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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?
 
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  • #2
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.
 
  • #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.
 
  • #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...
 
  • #5
Finkle said:
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?

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.
 
  • #6
jeebs said:
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"
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 physics 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.
 
  • #7
Continuum mechanics and fluid dynamics are generally offered under the engineering programs.
 

1. Why is continuum mechanics not covered in physics programs?

Continuum mechanics is a branch of physics that deals with the behavior of matter in a continuous state. It involves complex mathematical equations and concepts that require a strong foundation in advanced mathematics. Due to time constraints and the vastness of the field, many physics programs choose to focus on the fundamental principles and theories of classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, and electromagnetism.

2. Is continuum mechanics not important in the study of physics?

Continuum mechanics plays a crucial role in many areas of physics, such as fluid dynamics, elasticity, and thermodynamics. However, it is not considered a fundamental concept in the study of physics and is often covered in more specialized courses or graduate programs.

3. Can I still learn about continuum mechanics in a physics program?

While continuum mechanics may not be a core component of most physics programs, many courses may touch upon its principles and applications. Additionally, students can choose to take elective courses or pursue independent studies to further their understanding of continuum mechanics.

4. What other disciplines cover continuum mechanics?

Aside from physics, continuum mechanics is also studied in other fields such as engineering, materials science, and applied mathematics. These disciplines often have a more specific focus on the practical applications of continuum mechanics in designing and analyzing real-world systems.

5. Do I need to understand continuum mechanics to be a successful physicist?

No, understanding continuum mechanics is not a requirement to be a successful physicist. While it may be useful in certain areas of research, there are many other important concepts and theories in physics that are essential for a successful career in the field.

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