7R43. Multi-Media Fluid Mechanics. - GM Homsy, J Koseff, C Robertson (Stanford Univ) H Aref, S Thoroddsen (Univ of Illinois, Urbana IL), K Breuer (Brown Univ), S Hochgreb (Sandia Natl Labs), B Munson (Iowa State Univ), K Powell (Univ of Michigan). Cambridge UP, Cambridge, UK. 2000. CD-ROM. ISBN 0-521-78748-3. $19.95.

Reviewed by TF Balsa (Dept of Aerospace and Mech Eng, Univ of Arizona, Tucson AZ 85721).

This CD-ROM is a superb rendition of some of the most important concepts in fluid mechanics, including an excellent library of flow visualization pictures (mostly short movie clips and computer animations). The CD is designed to complement, either at the undergraduate or intermediate graduate levels, traditional instructor-based courses in fluid mechanics. It can also be used as a stand-alone source by a mature student, researcher, or practicing engineer to facilitate the review some of the key ideas in the subject.

The CD is very attractively produced, quick and easy to install, and runs well on a mid-priced PC ($1300–$1500 price range, about one year old; this reviewer tried it on three different computers including a laptop of the same vintage).

The CD is very moderately priced (under $20). This reviewer estimates the ratio (educational value to cost) to be (almost) infinite and has purchased three CDs for departmental use and plan to purchase another five for student use. As the reader may guess, this reviewer highly recommends the CD to both instructors as well as students. The CD enables the subject of fluid mechanics, where flow-visualization historically played an important role, to come alive to impart lasting visual impressions and images, most of them in color.

This reviewer will introduce his own terminology to describe the contents of the CD. At the outset, one should know that there is no audio. This reviewer did not find this to be a problem, but perhaps in a new release audio can be included (this is probably not as simple as it sounds). Audio would help to draw the viewers’ attention to certain aspects of the visualizations. It is worth reemphasizing that the CD is meant to be a companion to a course on fluid mechanics (so the audio could come from a qualified instructor).

The CD contains five chapters (Dynamics, Kinematics, Boundary Layers, History, and Video Library). Each chapter contains numerous sections (eg, Reynolds Number: Inertia and Viscosity in the chapter on Dynamics); sections are further subdivided into topics (eg, Simple Flows with and without Inertia in the aforementioned section). A topic may be several pages long. A page is equivalent to a large “window” of information on the computer monitor. The left hand side of the page contains a verbal description of the topic, generally clearly written. The right hand side contains a visual image, usually a short and relevant movie clip.

Navigation is done by a mouse-pointer acting on pull-down menus, page tabs, or tool bars. The verbal information on a page often contains “hot links” to other topics. For example, still referencing the aforementioned section, one finds another topic on Dynamic Similarity. It is described on three pages (each can be brought to the foreground via tabs). A hot link in color on the second page is Vortex Shedding; a mouse click on this takes the reader to a different part of the CD; namely, the topic on Flow over Cylinder: unsteady motion. One can get “lost” in the book; special icons are provided for “Home,” “Return,” “Help,” and “Quit.” I think a small printed pamphlet would provide a helpful reference for the basic organization of the CD, that is, the layout of all the chapters, sections, and topics.

Compressible flow (eg, shock waves) and transport phenomena (eg, convective heat transfer) are not covered in detail. For example, the internal search-engine acting on Shock Wave produced one entry. The search on Supersonic yielded no entries. On the other hand, for incompressible flows, the entire Reynolds number range is discussed.

The CD contains a number of simulators that open up in separate java application windows. These are: 1) boundary layer solver (ie, the user provides the external steady flow for which the boundary layer development is calculated numerically), 2) a potential flow simulator that can be used to calculate the flow pattern for arbitrary combination of elementary building blocks (eg, point sources, vortices, uniform stream, etc), and 3) a molecular dynamics simulator to track the motion and interaction of many (on the order of 100) particles to develop a feel for the continuum hypothesis. This reviewer should also mention the historical material on the “greats” of fluid mechanics (15 in number; from Couette to von Karman) and the extensive video library containing 256 animations. The collection in the library is directly accessible without opening the other chapters.

There is a lot of material on this CD. Even an experienced researcher can spend hours(!) browsing around and viewing classic animations, either experimental or numerical. This reviewer thoroughly enjoyed this activity. Many of the video clips are also available from other sources. However, this CD is a compact (no pun intended) source of reference. The verbal descriptions are longer and much more informative than typical captions in a photo album of flow visualizations.

This reviewer is no computer expert, yet had no problem navigating through the various topics. However, this reviewer was unable to print any information from the CD or minimize the window when the CD was running. These may be minor shortcomings.

The verbal commentary is generally clear and good. There are some instances where greater precision should be exercised. For example, it is stated that the flow outside a boundary layer is irrotational. An experienced reader will immediately recognize the implicit meaning (ie, irrotational upstream flow). A student, however, may be confused. Here is where the instructor must step in. Another instance is in the potential (irrotational) flow simulator in which there is an option to view the motion of a small line of fluid particles of fixed identity. The line rotates. Again, an experienced reader will immediately understand this. A student, on the other hand, may be puzzled. Audio would also help to explain things.

Few things are perfect in life. This CD, Multi-Media Fluid Mechanics, is an excellent study-companion. This reviewer recommends it enthusiastically. It is also a bargain. CUP: please do not raise the price!