Saturday, May 9, 2009

It's Just Rocket Science!

In high school physics class, students learn how to calculate the speed and acceleration caused by forces acting on an object and the forces that occur when objects interact with one another. But what happens when you have a constant stream of fluid on an object? How can you calculate and analyze the force applied by a fluid?

The answer is through the study of Fluid Mechanics. It was my favourite course last term. I think it is really cool to be able to analyze the pressure and forces that a fluid will exert on an object and it is useful for so many different applications!

Fluid mechanics is used in the design of the following:

-Rocket Science – It is a knowledge of fluid mechanics that allows engineers to design rockets. They need to determine how much gas must be produced through combustion to propel the rocket at the acceleration that it needs.

-Aerodynamics of cars – The shape of a car can drastically change its performance. Cars are designed to allow the air to flow smoothly across them without creating too much drag (which really slows cars down). A car without much drag is much more fuel efficient – so this is pretty important!

- Environmental water systems such as dams – A dam has to be built to be strong enough to support the weight of the water it holds, so it is really important to be able to calculate how much force the water will exert on the dam

-Air planes – What makes a plane fly? Fluid Mechanics! The shape of planes’ wings are designed so that when the air passes around them, more force is exerted on the bottom of the wing and this pushes the whole plane upwards. Without a knowledge of fluid mechanics we definitely wouldn’t have the amazing huge planes that we have today.

As you can see, fluid mechanics has a lot of important applications, which makes it pretty interesting. Plus, it's pretty cool to be able to say that you really are studying rocket science!


  1. I would have to agree with you. Fluid Mechanics is pretty awesome. I remember doing a lab where I have to calculate the drag coefficient over a cylinder in an air tunnel. I pretty much used every principle in the book. I do have to admit, I had a tough time recalling all the stuff I learned in Calculus that I thought was useless, such as Green's and Gauss'theorems.

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