This paper is concerned with rigorous results in the theory of turbulence and fluid flow. While derived from the abstract theory of attractors in infinite-dimensional dynamical systems, they shed some light on the conventional heuristic theories of turbulence, and can be used to justify a well-known experimental method.\ud \ud Two results are discussed here in detail, both based on parametrization of the attractor. The first shows that any two fluid flows can be distinguished by a sufficient number of point observations of the velocity. This allows one to connect rigorously the dimension of the attractor with the Landau–Lifschitz ‘number of degrees of freedom’, and hence to obtain estimates on the ‘minimum length scale of the flow’ using bounds on this dimension. While for two-dimensional flows the rigorous estimate agrees with the heuristic approach, there is still a gap between rigorous results in the three-dimensional case and the Kolmogorov theory.\ud \ud Secondly, the problem of using experiments to reconstruct the dynamics of a flow is considered. The standard way of doing this is to take a number of repeated observations, and appeal to the Takens time-delay embedding theorem to guarantee that one can indeed follow the dynamics ‘faithfully’. However, this result relies on restrictive conditions that do not hold for spatially extended systems: an extension is given here that validates this important experimental technique for use in the study of turbulence.\ud \ud Although the abstract results underlying this paper have been presented elsewhere, making them specific to the Navier–Stokes equations provides answers to problems particular to fluid dynamics, and motivates further questions that would not arise from within the abstract theory itself
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