In this paper, two-dimensional problems of the diffraction and stability of shock waves are investigated using an approximate theory in which disturbances to the flow are treated as a wave propagation on the shocks. These waves carry changes in the slope and the Mach number of the shock. The equations governing the wave propagation are analogous in every way to the non-linear equations for plane waves in gas dynamics, and their solutions can be deduced by the same mathematical techniques. Since the propagation speed of the waves is found to be an increasing function of Mach number, waves carrying an increase in Mach number will eventually break and form what we may call a ‘shock’, corresponding to the breaking of a compression wave into a shock in the ordinary plane wave case. Such a ‘shock’ moving on the shock is called a shock-shock. The shock-shock is a discontinuity in Mach number and shock slope, and it must be fitted in to satisfy the appropriate relations between these are interpreted as the trace of cylindrical sound waves in the flow behind the shock. In particular a shock-shock is the trace of a genuine shock in the flow behind, and thus corresponds to Mach reflection.
The general theory of the wave propagation is set out in § 2. The subsequent sections contain applications of the theory to specific problems, including the motion of a shock along a curved wall, diffraction by a wedge, stability of plane shocks and the instability of a converging cylindrical shock.
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