Symbol |
Pronounced |
Mathematical Definition |
Input |
Output |
Meaning |

∇A |
"gradient A" "grad A" or "del A" |
vec3(∂A / ∂x, ∂A / ∂y, ∂A / ∂z) |
scalar |
vector |
The gradient vector points
in the direction of greatest change. |

∇ . A | "divergence A" or "div A" or "del dot A" |
∂A.x / ∂x + ∂A.y / ∂y + ∂A.z / ∂z |
vector |
scalar | Positive divergence indicates areas
where a vector field is leaving. Negative indicates convergence, where field is arriving. |

∇ . ∇ A or ∇ ^{2}A or ∆A |
"laplace A" or "div grad A" |
∂^{2}A / ∂x^{2} + ∂ ^{2}A / ∂y^{2} + ∂ ^{2}A / ∂z^{2} |
scalar |
scalar | The Laplace
operator shows
up in diffusion, and other energy minimization problems. |

∇ x A | "curl A" "vorticity A" or "rot A" |
vec3(∂A.z / ∂y - ∂A.y / ∂z, ∂A.x / ∂z - ∂A.z / ∂x, ∂A.y / ∂x - ∂A.x / ∂y) |
vector |
vector | The curl operator
measures local rotation, like an angular momentum vector. The magnitude of the curl indicates rotational speed. The direction of the curl indicates the rotational axis. |

The variables here are easy enough:

- v is the fluid velocity. It's a vector, and hence written in bold.
- ρ, the Greek letter rho, is the fluid density: mass/volume. It's there because this equation is actually "m * A = F" (rearranged F=mA).
- p is the fluid pressure.
- T is a stress tensor, used for viscous fluids. If
viscosity is zero, you can ignore this term.

- f are any other forces acting on the fluid, like gravity or wind. Calling these "body forces" makes them sound more mysterious and intimidating.

∇ p = del p = vec3(∂p / dx, ∂p / dy, ∂p / ∂z)

This converts a scalar pressure, into a vector pointing in the direction of greatest change. The magnitude of the vector corresponds to the pressure difference.

We've seen this "pressure derivatives affect velocity" business in our little wave simulation program, where we're updating the current velocity:

vel.x+=dt*(L.z-R.z); /* height difference -> velocity */

vel.y+=dt*(B.z-T.z);

vel.y+=dt*(B.z-T.z);

Written more mathematically, we're really doing this computation.

dv / dt = vec2(L.b-R.b,B.b-T.b)

Recall that from the Taylor series, we
can approximate the pressure derivative with a centered difference dp/dx
= (R.b-L.b)/grid_size. Say both the grid size and fluid
density ρ both equal one. This means our
simple wave simulation code is actually computingρ dv
/ dt = vec2(L.b-R.b,B.b-T.b) = -vec2(∂p/∂x,∂p/∂y) = - del p = - ∇
p

Hey, that's exactly the leftmost terms
on both sides in Navier-Stokes!We now move on to "v · ∇ v", the term of the Navier-Stokes equations that represents moving fluid--advection, which we covered last class.

Overall, the bottom line on Navier-Stokes is actually pretty simple:

density * ( acceleration + advection) = pressure induced forces + viscosity induced forces + other forces