Introduction and General Results
Hydrodynamic stability theory is concerned with the response of a laminar flow to a disturbance of small or moderate amplitude. If the flow returns to its original laminar state one defines the flow as stable, whereas if the disturbance grows and causes the laminar flow to change into a different state, one defines the flow as unstable. Instabilities often result in turbulent fluid motion, but they may also take the flow into a different laminar, usually more complicated state. Stability theory deals with the mathematical analysis of the evolution of disturbances superposed on a laminar base flow. In many cases one assumes the disturbances to be small so that further simplifications can be justified. In particular, a linear equation governing the evolution of disturbances is desirable. As the disturbance velocities grow above a few percent of the base flow, nonlinear effects become important and the linear equations no longer accurately predict the disturbance evolution. Although the linear equations have a limited region of validity they are important in detecting physical growth mechanisms and identifying dominant disturbance types.
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