Streak lines?

A common problem in hydrodynamics is to distinguish between all the different kinds of lines that characterize a flow field: Stream lines, streak lines, path lines, time lines, and probably more that I can’t think of right now.

A common way to think of streak lines is that they are similar to hairs caught in the flow of a blow dryer. So when I saw these long grassy things caught in a flow recently, I thought they would be a nice visualization of streak lines.

Algae showing streak lines in the water

But when you look at them moving, you realize that they are not actually showing streak lines. Streak lines would be visualized if, at the root of each of those blades of grass (or whatever they are, I’m not a biologist), dye was dispersed. The dye streak would be exactly showing the streak line. But looking at the grass move, you see that it is sometimes being jerked one way or another, when the direction of the flow changed and the blade is pulled in the new direction of the flow, even though the downstream end might still be caught up in some old flow.

So yes, there are points in time when a streak line is visualized by hairs in the air or grass in the river, but there are also times when they are not. Right?


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