A New Direction in Hydrodynamic Stability: Beyond Eigenvalues
Trefethen, Lloyd N.; Trefethen, Anne E.; Reddy, Satish C.; Driscoll, Tobin A.
Fluid flows that are smooth at low speeds become unstable and then turbulent at higher speeds. This phenomenon has traditionally been investigated by linearizing the equations of flow and looking for unstable eigenvalues of the linearized problem, but the results agree poorly in many cases with experiments. Nevertheless, it has become clear in recent years that linear effects play a central role in hydrodynamic instability. A reconciliation of these findings with the traditional analysis can be obtained by considering the "pseudospectra" of the linearized problem, which reveal that small perturbations to the smooth flow in the form of streamwise vortices may be amplified by factors on the order of 10**5 by a linear mechanism, even though all the eigenmodes are stable. The same principles apply also to other problems in the mathematical sciences that involve non-orthogonal eigenfunctions.
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