6 Things I Learned While Studying Fluid Mechanics

6 Things I’ve Learned While Studying Fluid Mechanics

I’m an engineering student. I can’t help it. Fluid mechanics is my favourite among the engineering subjects. I’m not going to discuss Bernoulli’s theory, the Reynolds number or the steady flow energy equation. I think that looking at your academic subject in a different perspective opens up new paths of thoughts that you could never imagine. Although only a few, I do feel that these points are worth sharing with everybody.

1. You can’t know everything

There are tons of postulates in fluid mechanics. This shows that some knowledge is just beyond our reach. Experiments which are supposed to prove certain theories never really show exact-to-theoretical reading. They are close to exact, which is good enough in the imperfect world that we live in. They may show similar trend lines and we take these as proof that the theory is acceptable.

You’re never going to have all the knowledge in the world to yourself before you die. I can guarantee that. The best we can do for the benefit of mankind is to share with everybody else. You may be reading books now, but one day you might write a book. You may be listening to lectures now but in the not-so-distant future you might be giving a mighty-good one.

Share your knowledge because the people you enlighten might just turn out to be significant people in the development of knowledge.

2. There are many ways to solve a problem

Don’t like the Lagrangian method? It’s OK, there’s the Eulerian method. When analysing fluid flow you can always take any point to analyse accordingly. You’re not always restricted to one pattern of solution. There are always multiple solutions to a problem.

Can’t reach the ceiling to change the light bulb? You can use a ladder if you’d like to or you could get a strong friend to give you a lift. You can even build a jet-pack to levitate while changing the light bulb. You can always choose the solution which suits you best. This brings us to the next point…

3. The complexity of a problem depends on how you approach it

You might have tons of solutions to a simple problem, but which is the easiest to commit?  Which solution is the most suitable for the situation that you are in? How do you set the boundaries of your control volume? Some boundaries make the analysis a lot easier for you and some just make the problem seem a lot more complicated than it really is. Why build a jetpack when you can use a ladder? If the solution saves you a lot of trouble, go for it.

4. Keep your mind on the objective

When you want to change a light bulb, you will need a light bulb. What’s the point of getting up to it and later realising that you don’t have a spare? Yes, you’ve built an amazing ladder or jet pack to get to it but you wanted the change the light bulb in the first place. Sometimes we get too carried away while solving a problem and lose track on the initial objective. It’s OK, I’ve done that too. But we have to learn from our mistake because there is no use in providing an elaborate solution without solving the problem in hand.

5. Collaboration is important

When you look at the answers at the back of the book, we call it cheating. In the real world, that’s collaboration*. If we were to not allow room for collaboration, we would not be able to function as a society. No seriously, if we keep our knowledge to ourselves like we do during tests we would collapse as a civilisation. We’re not saying that exams are bad but the every-man-for-himself attitude should only be in the exam hall. Why trouble yourself changing the light bulb when your brother can do it for you?

6. Always minimise your losses

In piping, we try our best to minimise pressure losses. Get the pipe with least loss coefficient and use those ball valves. Use rounded edges and not those globe valves. We should learn to minimise losses in our daily life too – loss of time and money. Don’t waste your money and time on pointless things. You’re smart enough to figure out what they are.

*As quoted by Ken Robinson in a video.

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