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Extreme Physics by Jon Larsen, Jeff Colvin

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5 Shocks

In Chapter 4 we introduced the concept of shock waves. There we discussed how, when a fluid or plasma is set into motion at a particular spatial position by a pressure pulse that increases with time, the resulting acceleration can be approximated as a sequence of small velocity jumps. Each small jump in velocity launches a compression wave that travels into the fluid or plasma at the local adiabatic sound speed. As the pressure and hence the fluid velocity increases, each successive compression wave that is launched travels faster than the one before. Eventually all these compression waves “pile up,” forming a single wave, a shock wave, that has a narrow wave front. The wave front is simply the narrow spatial region over which the flow ...

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