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Force exerted by a fluid stream on any obstacle in its path or felt by an object moving through a fluid. Its magnitude and how it may be reduced are important to designers of moving vehicles, ships, suspension bridges, cooling towers, and other structures. Drag forces are conventionally described by a drag coefficient, defined irrespective of the shape of the body. Dimensional analysis reveals that the drag coefficient depends on the Reynolds number; the precise dependence must be elucidated experimentally and can be used to predict the drag forces experienced by other bodies in other fluids at other velocities. Engineers use this principle of dynamic similarity when they apply results obtained with a model structure to predict the behaviour of other structures. See alsofriction; streamline.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on drag, visit Britannica.com.