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An alternative to the concept of continuous medium

Abstract

Discrete mechanics proposes an alternative formulation of the equations of mechanics where the Navier–Stokes and Navier–Lamé equations become approximations of the equation of discrete motion. It unifies the fields of fluid and solid mechanics by extending the fields of application of these equations to all space and time scales. This article presents the essential differences induced by the abandonment of the notion of continuous medium and global frame of reference. The results of the mechanics of continuous medium validated by fluid and solid observations are not questioned. The concept of continuous medium is not invalidated, and the discrete formulation proposed simply widens the spectrum of the applications of the classical equations. The discrete equation of motion introduces several important modifications, in particular the fundamental law of the dynamics on an element of volume becomes a law of conservation of the accelerations on an edge. The acceleration considered as an absolute quantity is written as a sum of two components, one solenoidal, the other irrotational, according to a local orthogonal Helmholtz–Hodge decomposition. The mass is abandoned and replaced by the compression and rotation energies represented by the scalar and vectorial potentials of the acceleration. The equation of motion and all the physical parameters are expressed only with two fundamental units, those of length and time. The essential differences between the two approaches are listed and some of them are discussed in depth. This is particularly the case with the known paradoxes of the Navier–Stokes equation or the importance of inertia for the Navier–Lamé equation.

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Correspondence to Jean-Paul Caltagirone.

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J.-P. Caltagirone was responsible for physical modeling, conceptualization, methodology, research code, validation, writing—original draft preparation, reviewing and editing. The paper has been checked by a proofreader of English origin.

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Caltagirone, JP. An alternative to the concept of continuous medium. Acta Mech (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00707-021-03070-w

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MSC codes:

  • 35Q30; 65N22; 74F10; 76A02; 76D05