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  • In fluid mechanics, the Reynolds number is a dimensionless quantity that is used to help predict similar flow patterns in different fluid flow situations. The concept was introduced by George Gabriel Stokes in 1851, but the Reynolds number is named after Osborne Reynolds, who popularized its use in 1883. The Reynolds number is defined as the ratio of inertial forces to viscous forces and consequently quantifies the relative importance of these two types of forces for given flow conditions. Reynolds numbers frequently arise when performing scaling of fluid dynamics problems, and as such can be used to determine dynamic similitude between two different cases of fluid flow. They are also used to characterize different flow regimes within a similar fluid, such as laminar or turbulent flow: laminar flow occurs at low Reynolds numbers, where viscous forces are dominant, and is characterized by smooth, constant fluid motion; turbulent flow occurs at high Reynolds numbers and is dominated by inertial forces, which tend to produce chaotic eddies, vortices and other flow instabilities. In practice, matching the Reynolds number is not on its own sufficient to guarantee similitude.

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