Fluid statics

Fluid statics

Fluid statics (also called hydrostatics) is the science of fluids at rest, and is a sub-field within fluid mechanics. The term usually refers to the mathematical treatment of the subject. It embraces the study of the conditions under which fluids are at rest in stable equilibrium. The use of fluid to do work is called hydraulics, and the science of fluids in motion is fluid dynamics.

Due to the inability to resist deformation, fluids exert pressure normal to any contacting surface. In addition, when the fluid is at rest that pressure is isotropic, i.e. it acts with equal magnitude in all directions. This characteristic allows fluids to transmit force through the length of pipes or tubes, i.e., a force applied to a fluid in a pipe is transmitted, via the fluid, to the other end of the pipe. If the forces are not balanced, the fluid will move in the direction of the resulting force.

This concept was first formulated, in a slightly extended form, by the French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal in 1647 and would later be known as Pascal's law. This law has many important applications in hydraulics.


Any body of arbitrary shape which is immersed, partly or fully, in a fluid will experience the action of a net positive vertical force originating from the depth-dependent liquid pressure. This vertical force is termed buoyancy or buoyant force and is equal in magnitude, but opposite in direction, to the weight of the displaced fluid.

In the case of a ship, for instance, its weight is balanced by a buoyant force from the displaced water, allowing it to float. If more cargo is loaded onto the ship, it would sink more into the water - displacing more water and thus receive a higher buoyant force to balance the increased weight.

Discovery of the principle of buoyancy is attributed to Archimedes.


A floating object is stable if it tends to restore itself to an equilibrium position after a small displacement. For example, floating objects will generally have vertical stability, as if the object is pushed down slightly, this will create a greater buoyant force, which, unbalanced against the weight force will push the object back up.

Rotational stability is of great importance to floating vessels. Given a small angular displacement, the vessel may return to its original position (stable), move away from its original position (unstable), or remain where it is (neutral).

Rotational stability depends on the relative lines of action of forces on an object. The upward buoyant force on an object acts through the centre of buoyancy, being the centroid of the displaced volume of fluid. The weight force on the object acts through its center of gravity. An object will be stable if an angular displacement moves the line of action of these forces to set up a 'righting moment'. See also Angle of loll.