When a liquid flowing in a pipe is observed carefully, it will be seen that the pattern of flow becomes more disturbed as the velocity of flow increases. Perhaps this phenomenon is more commonly seen in a river or stream. When the flow is slow the pattern is smooth, but when the flow is more rapid, eddies develop and swirl in all directions and at all angles to the general line of flow.
At the low velocities, flow is calm. In a series of experiments, Reynolds showed this by injecting a thin stream of dye into the fluid and finding that it ran in a smooth stream in the direction of the flow. As the velocity of flow increased, he found that the smooth line of dye was broken up until finally, at high velocities, the dye was rapidly mixed into the disturbed flow of the surrounding fluid.
From analysis, which was based on these observations, Reynolds concluded that this instability of flow could be predicted in terms of the relative magnitudes of the velocity and the viscous forces that act on the fluid. In fact the instability which leads to disturbed, or what is called "turbulent" flow, is governed by the ratio of the kinetic and the viscous forces in the fluid stream. The kinetic (inertial) forces tend to maintain the flow in its general direction but as they increase so does instability, whereas the viscous forces tend to retard this motion and to preserve order and reduce eddies..