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FLUID MOTIONS. [Proo. Roy. Inst. March, 1914; Nature, Vol. xcni. p. 364, 1914.]
THE subject of this lecture has received the attention of several generations of mathematicians and experimenters. Over a part of the field their labours have been rewarded with a considerable degree of success. In all that concerns small vibrations, whether of air, as in sound, or of water, as in waves and tides, we have a large body of systematized knowledge, though in the case of the tides the question is seriously complicated by the fact that the rotation of the globe is actual and not merely relative to the sun and moon, as well as by the irregular outlines and depths of the various oceans. And even when the disturbance constituting the vibration is not small, some progress has been made, as in the theory of sound waves in one dimension, and of the tidal lores, which are such a remarkable feature of certain estuaries and rivers.
The genera] equations of fluid motion, when friction or viscosity is neglected, were laid down in quite early days by Euler and Lagrange, and in a sense they should contain the whole theory. But, as Whewell remarked, it soon appeared that these equations by themselves take us a surprisingly little way, and much mathematical and physical talent had to be expended before the truths hidden in them, could be brought to light and exhibited in a practical shape. What was still more disconcerting, some of the general propositions so arrived at were found to be in flagrant contradiction with observation, even in cases where at first sight it would not seem that viscosity was likely to be important.' Thus a solid body, submerged to a sufficient depth, should experience no resistance to its motion through water. On this principle the screw of a submerged boat would be useless, but, on the other hand, its services would not be needed. It is little wonder that practical men should declare that theoretical hydrodynamics has nothing at all to do with real fluids. Later we will return to some of these difficulties, not yet fully surmounted, but for the moment I will call your attention to simple phenomena of which theory can give a satisfactory account.length.