Physics of Life 3. Fluids
What you'll learn
- An understanding of what fluids are, their properties, and what makes them distinct from solids.
- The interaction of inertia and viscosity in determining type of flow.
- What the Reynolds number is, and how this determines the flow regime, including drag.
- The different types of drag that operate on an organism, and how diverse creatures, like spiders, exploit drag to fly.
- How body size constrains swimming, ranging from bacteria to blue whales.
- How viscous drag helps animals live in burrows that might otherwise get stuffy.
- The basic physics of swimming and flying.
- Why our popular models of lift in wings is almost certainly wrong.
- How animals glide and fly.
- You should have had high school physics and introductory college-level biology
This course deals with life in fluids. Fluids are anything that flows, and nearly all living things inhabit a fluid environment of some sort, either water, air, or a self-created fluid such as mucus. Inhabiting a fluid world means being able to make fluids move, which requires work, which comes out of the creature's metabolic energy budget. Dealing with fluids means managing inertia and viscosity, and life is almost infinitely ingenious in clever ways of doing that.
Physics of Life Fluidsis the third of a four module series in the series Physics of Life. Physics of Life Thermodynamics was the first. Physics of Life Biomechanics was the second. Following Physics of Life Fluids will be Physics of Life Wave Phenomena, which is concerned with sound and light.
Who this course is for:
- Biology students who want to understand how life works in the physical world.
I am a Professor of Biology at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York.
I am a physiologist by training but with a deep interest in the interface of physiology, ecology, adaptation and evolution. You can read some of my thoughts in two books I have published: The Extended Organism: The Physiology of Animal-Built Structures (2000) and The Tinkerer's Accomplice: How Design Emerges from Life Itself (2007), both published by Harvard University Press. I have completed a third book, Purpose and Desire: What Makes Something Alive and Why Modern Darwinisms Fails to Explain It, which was published in September 2017 by HarperOne. You can find out more about me at my web site (link above).
My current research focuses on the problem of emergent physiology in social insect colonies. specifically the mound building termites of southern Africa.