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Can anybody provide a good intuitive explanation of what the characteristics of a PDE represent?

What does it mean for the initial data to "propagate" along the characteristic curves?

I understand how to find the characteristic curves of a PDE, but I have trouble understanding their physical meaning.

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marked as duplicate by rschwieb, Dennis Gulko, Amzoti, Davide Giraudo, Stefan Hansen Apr 11 '13 at 15:24

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