Lectures on Physics has been derived from Benjamin Crowell's Light and Matter series of free introductory textbooks on physics. See the editorial for more information....

Conservation of mass

Conservation of mass, example 1

In the figure, the stream of water is fatter near the mouth of the faucet, and skinnier lower down. This is because the water speeds up as it falls. If the cross-sectional area of the stream was equal all along its length, then the rate of flow through a lower cross-section would be greater than the rate of flow through a cross-section higher up. Since the flow is steady, the amount of water between the two cross-sections stays constant. The cross-sectional area of the stream must therefore shrink in inverse proportion to the increasing speed of the falling water. This is an example of conservation of mass.

Last Update: 2009-06-21