, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 285-296

The no-slip condition of fluid dynamics

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Abstract

In many applications of physics, boundary conditions have an essential role. The purpose of this paper is to examine from both a historical and philosophical perspective one such boundary condition, namely, the no-slip condition of fluid dynamics. The historical perspective is based on the works of George Stokes and serves as the foundation for the philosophical perspective. It is seen that historically the acceptance of the no-slip condition was problematic. Philosophically, the no-slip condition is interesting since the use of the no-slip condition illustrates nicely the use of scientific models. But more importantly, both the use and justification of the no-slip condition illustrate clearly how theories can holistically approach the world through model construction. Further, since much of the debate over scientific realism occurs in the realm of models, a case is made that an understanding of the role of the no-slip condition has something to offer to this debate.