Streamlining and Aerodynamics

The meaning of the term streamlining was discussed in another past question. The dictionary defines streamlining as "reducing a shape's resistance to the flow of air." This concept can be better understood by observing the behavior of the flow past objects of differing shapes in the figure below. When the flow becomes turbulent and uneven, sometimes called "dirty flow," as in the top two examples, the resistance of the air flow against the object is high. But by properly shaping the object to maintain a smooth, laminar flow, as in the bottom two cases, that resistance can be substantially reduced. These latter shapes are what we would call streamlined shapes.

Effect of streamlining
Effect of streamlining

Meanwhile, aerodynamics is defined as "the branch of science dealing with the forces exerted by air or other gases in motion." I always think of streamlining as more of a qualitative term related to making a shape smoother and more sleek, but aerodynamics is a quantitative science that applies mathematical equations and experimental measurements to improving the lift and drag performance of a shape.
- answer by Jeff Scott, 15 September 2002

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