Why Rivers Move

Errata: At 11:54, the slope equation is inverted.

We have teamed up with @emriver , a company that makes physical river models called stream tables, to create a two-part series on the technology and engineering behind why river channels shift and meander and what contraptions engineers use to take charge of the process.

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Practical Engineering is a YouTube channel about infrastructure and the human-made world around us. It is hosted, written, and produced by Grady Hillhouse. If you enjoyed the video, hit that ‘like’ button, give us a comment, or watch another of our videos!

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This is not engineering advice. Everything here is for informational and entertainment purposes only. Contact an engineer licensed to practice in your area if you need professional advice or services. All non-licensed clips used for fair use commentary, criticism, and educational purposes.

Thanks to Emriver for hosting our crew. Check them out at Emriver.com!

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  1. Practical Engineering

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    🌊Huge thanks to Emriver for having me at their headquarters. Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss the second video in the series!

    • @Jerry Krovich Drvlof Yeah, the “water wars” on the Spanish costas lol “not one drop more” lol

    • ​@Dimitrios I swear to God, I’m going to stab myself if youtube and samsung keep conspiring to stop me from posting a comment.


      Yeah, actually. There’s tons of active research into sediment transport, erosion, and the modeling thereof. If you want, look up the Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System project (CSDMS). It’s essentially a crowdsourced, collaborative project to model all of the earth surface dynamics (weather, erosion, plant life, sediment transport in rivers, climate, ocean processes, etc etc). It’s run by Greg Tucker (and others, but he’s the one I got pointed to when I wanted to contribute!) at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and it provides some of the best modeling we have for things in the earth sciences.

      I’d provide a link, but I think that’s a no-no. Just search CSDMS.

      As far as actual interactive simulations go, I don’t know of any off the top of my head, but I can ask some professors if they know of anything if you’d like. ^.^

    • @Keysight Hands-On I watched both the Smith Cart (exceedingly well done) and the DVM (what a HOOT) videos…ya I’m hooked!

    • @S118 wow, thank you very much, rip my weekend digging through code 🙂

    • Keaton Blomquist

      It’s always funny seeing Keysight advertisements as my dad works for Keysight

  2. Killer graphic for demonstrating the equation, super intuitive!!

  3. Do river scientists/engineers use control theory equations to model rivers? I’m thinking of PID controls to prevent damage to bridges or dams etc. by controlling flow parameters.

  4. Fantastic video, honestly this make me wanna go to university to learn more about that

  5. Absolutely fascinating. Well presented and explained so even a geezer, with a somewhat aged hardened brain like me, can understand!

  6. I wanna see a colab with you and the youtube channel real civil engineer.

  7. For a fun educational fact the rivers in Yellowstone actually changed course just because they reintroduced wolves. It’s really fascinating.

  8. Okay wow, i’m hella impressed. Not only are the visual representations really nice to look at, you’re explanation for everything was really clear and interesting to listen to. While i may not dabble in engineering or geology, this was such a worth watch and i can’t wait for the second part!

  9. 14:48 Is that really a fair characterization? In the model you showed it wasn’t high/low flow, it was high flow / no flow.

    So since the equation doesn’t really have a time element, it would be more sensible to compare a river with high constant flow vs high intermittent flow, to see if pulsed flow actually changes the system much, no?

    As is you are trying to claim that getting a month’s worth of water flow in a day should somehow be at all the same as getting it over a month, when that doesn’t make sense, as the formula isn’t concerned at all with total flow, only flow RATE which you are dramatically changing between the two models.

  10. If rivers didn’t move, wouldn’t they just be very long lakes?

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