Book Review: Principles of Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics

I used this book by Cathie Clarke and Bob Carswell to study for the fluid dynamics portions of my Astrophysical Dynamics and Fluid Dynamics course, and found it very useful. The authors base the book on lectures they have given to third year students at Cambridge. For me, the level was about right. It assumes no fluid dynamics but expects reasonable proficiency in vector analysis. Nearly all physics equations are carefully derived, usually with no missing steps that were too difficult for me to fill in.

Most of the book is devoted to inviscid compressible fluids, with a strong focus on astrophysical applications, although the last three chapters (which I haven't studied) treat viscous astrophysical fluids and plasmas. I worked my way through much of the book, usually deriving every equation, and it's pretty amusing if you like that sort of thing. There is always a payoff in physical insight.

Convection, hydrostatic equilibrium, sound waves, supersonic flow, shock waves, blast waves, fluid instabilities and accretion flows are among the topics treated. It's a short book, only a bit over 220 pages, but it has a lot of content. More advanced books treating similar topics include Astrophysical Flows by Pringle and King and Gas Dynamics (The Physics of Astrophysics) by Frank Shu. There are a few others but I haven't looked at them.

My only real gripe with the book is that the font is a bit small, and inline equations are in such a tiny font that it's almost impossible to tell a "p" for pressure from a "rho" for density. Needless to say, both are ubiquitous.


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