A continuum is a series or range of things that changes gradually and has no clear dividing points or lines, although its extremes are quite different from each other. Continuums are used in science to describe natural phenomena that change slowly and without any abrupt transitions or discontinuities.
Continuums can be used to explain the variation of physical and chemical properties. They are based on the idea that variations can be explained in terms of gradual quantitative transitions rather than abrupt and qualitatively different states.
This idea is important in many areas of modern physics and biology, especially in the field of fluid mechanics. In this field, a continuous model of the fluid is constructed, in which every space point is occupied by a mathematical point that contains exactly the same amount of material at all times.
In this model, the resolution of physical properties is achieved by resolving a macroscopic scale of the fluid using a representative elementary volume (REV). This is a geometric volume of infinitesimally small size; it is as small as necessary to resolve spatial variations in the fluid properties, but considerably larger than the scale at which molecular action occurs.
The REV is the smallest resolvable quantity in the fluid, and its properties are precisely homogeneous within the sampling volume. Because it has a one-to-one correspondence with the spatial properties of the fluid, it is a perfect approximation to the true behavior of the fluid under investigation.
The concept of the continuum has a long and colorful history in set theory, with Kurt Godel being a major figure in the development of this problem. As a member of the Institute’s School of Mathematics, Godel was active in the work of resolving this problem from the 1930s until 1976.