It has often been said that 99% of the matter in the universe is in the plasma state; that is, in the form of an electrified gas with the atoms dissociated into positive ions and negative electrons. This estimate may not be very accurate, but it is certainly a reasonable one in view of the fact that stellar interiors and atmospheres, gaseous nebulae, and much of the interstellar hydrogen are plasmas. In our own neighborhood, as soon as one leaves the earth’s atmosphere, one encounters the plasma comprising the Van Allen radiation belts and the solar wind. On the other hand, in our everyday lives encounters with plasmas are limited to a few examples: the flash of a lightning bolt, the soft glow of the Aurora Borealis, the conducting gas inside a fluorescent tube or neon sign, and the slight amount of ionization in a rocket exhaust. It would seem that we live in the 1% of the universe in which plasmas do not occur naturally.
KeywordsSolar Wind Glow Discharge Collective Behavior Electromagnetic Force Stellar Interior
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