Questions tagged [plasma-physics]

Theory, lab and space experiments, and calculations related the physics of plasmas, i.e., matter constituted by ionized atoms.

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91
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7answers
28k views

What is the speed of sound in space?

Given that space is not a perfect vacuum, what is the speed of sound therein? Google was not very helpful in this regard, as the only answer I found was $300\,{\rm km}\,{\rm s}^{-1}$, from Astronomy ...
59
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5answers
26k views

Is fire plasma?

Is Fire a Plasma? If not, what is it then? If yes why, don't we teach kids this basic example? UPDATE: I probably meant a regular commonplace fire of the usual temperature. That should simplify the ...
32
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6answers
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Why does only one side of a neon lamp glow?

When applying DC to a neon lamp, only the negatively-charged electrode glows: The voltages across the lamps are left: DC (left lead positive), middle: DC (right lead positive), and right: AC. But... ...
29
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3answers
2k views

What are these alternating bright and dark rings in fluorescent lamp?

I'm quite surprised by these regularly spaced rings of alternating brightness in a fluorescent tube. These are also moving along the tube and only appear when the voltage is low. What are these and ...
28
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5answers
3k views

Why do we deal only with large scale magnetic fields in astrophysics, and not electric fields?

In astrophysics there is a lot going on about strong, large scale magnetic fields: in stars (prominences), magnetic dynamos, compact accretors collimating jets, etc. There's even a special ...
22
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1answer
2k views

Why is a stellarator-type nuclear fusion reactor so oddly-shaped?

My first impression: It's a mess. Why is it shaped like that? I can't find any info about its shape other than it's a special arrangement of magnetic coils.
19
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4answers
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How can a star emit light if it is in Plasma state?

I understand that star is in Plasma state (all nucleus and electrons are not bound to each other and moving around freely) Photon is emitted when an excited electron moves back to lower orbit. So in a ...
18
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1answer
1k views

Why all the orifices, protuberances, hinged/bolted panels, etc. on a stellarator?

My question was inspired by this one - in particular the image it has (also shown here): Why does the external casing of the Stellarator (in particular, the Wendelstein 7-X shown in the above image) ...
18
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2answers
2k views

What is the safe distance to a supernova explosion?

In other words, what stars near the Sun may have an impact on the Solar system equilibrium or the Earth life if they become supernova ? Is SN 1987 A too far ?
18
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4answers
17k views

Does Fire Conduct Electricity? Why?

Recently, I have stumbled upon a YouTube video by Veritasium describing the conductivity of fire. My question is: how exactly does fire conduct electricity? I am a high school student; therefore ...
17
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3answers
613 views

Why were space physicists wrong about the location of the heliopause?

The heliopause is now estimated to be something around 100 AU (1 AU = Astronomical unit = about the earth sun distance). See the wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heliosphere From ...
17
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2answers
21k views

What causes fluorescent light bulb to light up when it is near a plasma globe? Can this phenomenon be used to generate electricity in a circuit?

When a fluorescent light bulb is placed near a plasma globe, despite the fact there isn't a closed circuit, a part of the light blulb would light up. I tried measuring the voltage of the air ...
16
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3answers
36k views

What's the difference between gas and plasma?

A friend stated that stars are hot balls of gas, however we know that technically stars are plasma. Is his statement entirely incorrect? Can a plasma be considered a form of gas or should be referred ...
14
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1answer
4k views

Why can’t you see at the start of the Big Bang?

I’m quite confused with regards to photon emission throughout the creation of the universe. From what I’ve heard, there was no light (of any frequency) in the universe until 300,000 years after the ...
14
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2answers
970 views

How large can you make a tokamak?

I've seen questions on how small you can make a tokamak. But I haven't yet seen any "physical" upper limit on the tokamak design. If you take a wind turbine for example, doubling the linear ...
13
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4answers
46k views

Transverse Magnetic (TM) and Transverse Electric (TE) modes

I'm reading and working my way through "Plasmonics Fundamentals" by Stefan Maier and I've come across a step in the workings that I'm struggling to understand when working out the electromagnetic ...
13
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4answers
3k views

Conserved quantities and total derivatives?

I am having a bit of a crisis in understanding of the physical meanings of total derivatives. When a quantity $\rho$ (be it a vector or a scalar) is said to be conserved, then (mathematically) $$\...
12
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4answers
2k views

Is solar wind positively charged?

Many times I heared that the solar wind consists of protons and alpha particles. The both are positively charged, but are there electrons in solar wind?
12
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1answer
341 views

The interstellar medium reflects extremely low-frequency radio waves. Could we use this fact to build a more efficient photon rocket?

According to the equations of MHD, electromagnetic waves cannot propagate in a plasma if they are below the plasma frequency. (For more information, see this question about astronomical-wavelength ...
10
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2answers
2k views

Do stars remain electrically neutral? [duplicate]

How electrically neutral do stars remain through their lifetime? As an example, I could imagine processes such as coronal mass ejections leaving the Sun in a slightly charged state. Are there such ...
10
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4answers
1k views

Is a plasma necessarily made of monoatomic ions?

Is it possible to have a plasma made of polyatomic ions instead of monoatomic ions? I want to know all the details why such a thing may be attainable or not and, if possible, what methods we can use ...
10
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2answers
741 views

How does the sun's surface conduct thermal energy from the convective zone to the corona?

How does the surface of the photosphere conduct thermal energy from the convective zone to the corona, while remaining at such a relatively low temperature itself? It seems odd to me that the ...
10
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1answer
571 views

Does matter found at densities of white dwarfs “feel” more like a solid, liquid or gas?

I'm wondering what it would be like to touch or interact with very dense degenerate matter like this found at white dwarfs. I understand that white dwarfs are initially very hot, but for the sake of ...
10
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3answers
13k views

Is there a phase transition between a gas and plasma?

Does a phase transition occur as a gas is heated to create a plasma? If so, is this a first or second order phase transition? Also, does the presence of a phase transition depend on the pressure or ...
10
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0answers
464 views

Who invented the term “Coulomb logarithm”?

Who is the author of the term "Coulomb logarithm"? In fact, Coulomb logarithm was computed by Langmuir in his paper of 1928 where the term "plasma" was introduced into physics, but the term "Coulomb ...
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2answers
1k views

Plasma and Stars

I have read that most stars are made mostly of plasma. My questions in this statement are: Are there stars not made of plasma? In what percentage stars are made of plasma?
9
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2answers
30k views

How hot can plasma get?

I remember reading about an experiment where fine rods of tungsten were super-heated with millions of amps of electricity, melting them into ionised gas and were then compressed (by magnetic fields?) ...
9
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3answers
317 views

Magnetic confinement in a tokamak

I have a question about why exactly the twisting of the field lines in a Tokamak solves the magnetic confinement issue. My understanding is that the magnetic confinement issue arises in the toroidal ...
9
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2answers
302 views

Does the solar wind correspond to a net electrical current?

The solar wind is a stream of ions emitted from the sun. Are there more positive than negative charges released? That is, is there any imbalance in the charge emitted from the sun in the solar wind?
9
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1answer
2k views

Would an octahedral magnet work as a magnetic bottle?

First, let me see if I understand all this: Charged particles are curved by magnetic fields, so if the magnetic field is strong enough, the particles "follow" the magnetic field lines, in N or S ...
8
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2answers
95k views

Is Keshe's technology for real?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrN99RELqwo (Video Title: "Keshe Foundation Promo Intro Video (english with multiple subtitles) === PLEASE SHARE ===") In this video they claim that they can create ...
8
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1answer
570 views

Camp Fire Crackle

I was sitting around the camp fire and there was a periodic sound of cracking and pieces of the burning wood flew off. My question is what is the mechanism for the cracking of the wood? I was thinking ...
8
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3answers
801 views

Nuclear fusion scaling with reactor size

Thinking about the physics of thermonuclear fusion, I have always had an intuitive sense that making fusion feasible is matter of reactor size. In other words I feel like: If the fusion reactor is ...
8
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4answers
2k views

Tokamaks and the reason they are still not efficient

I'm curious about why tokamaks are inefficient as generators. In laymans terms, what is the main reason(s) tokamaks still cannot be used as generators? My limited understanding of tokamaks tells me ...
8
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4answers
54k views

Can Gases conduct Electricity?

Liquid electrolytes ionize and hence a current can pass through them. So if a gas can ionize, can it conduct electricity too? If so, what are a few such gases?
8
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2answers
2k views

Can the High beta fusion reactor work?

Are the claims made about the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_beta_fusion_reactor realistic? Can such a small fusion reactor really work?
8
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1answer
3k views

Why does the majority of smoke leave when flames appear?

When I burn wood, paper, or other plant matter, where there is a flame, there generally isn't too much smoke, but it I blow the fire out, smoke starts billowing up. It billows thicker and thicker as ...
8
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1answer
3k views

How to tell theoretically whether an electron behaves as wave or particle

I have seen many questions on SE on the dual nature of electrons behaving in certain circumstances as particles and as waves in some other circumstance. There is one thing I couldn't get a clear ...
8
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1answer
166 views

What happens to Hydrogen-Boron plasma at 3 billion Kelvin?

A recent popular report states (beware, I believe it is not peer reviewed and this slightly smells like a PR stunt) that a private company TriAlpha has made some notable progress towards Hydrogen-...
8
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3answers
430 views

Jupiter radiation belt: where >MeV particles comes from?

When I read some discussion about exploration of Jupiter moons, or possibility of life there, a common argument is high dose of radiation in Jupiter's radiation belt (several orders of magnitude ...
8
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1answer
1k views

Child-Langmuir space charge law for non-zero cathode potential (non-zero initial electron velocity)

I'm trying to reconcile some conflicting results that I've found in publications that address the idea of the current in a vacuum diode in the case where the cathode has a non-zero potential, in other ...
8
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1answer
92 views

Voyager 1 cosmic ray strips

In the last months Voyager 1 has experienced a dramatic drop in the cosmic ray radiation, which was been exceptionally uniform for the last 10 years, except for the past july 28 and august 14 events, ...
8
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0answers
89 views

Do radio beams self-focus in the interstellar medium?

Summary: In a plasma, electromagnetic waves create a ponderomotive force that pushes electrons and ions out of the way. Thus, in an intense laser beam, electrons tends to move away from the areas ...
7
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6answers
45k views

Where on Earth can you find plasma?

Ok, so not that 'where on earth', like literally - 'Where on Earth'. Where on Earth, can you find matter in the 4th state, i.e. the plasma state?
7
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9answers
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Can plasma turn back into gas, solid, or liquid?

I wanted to know if, since basic chemistry teaches you that states of matter can be changed, I was wondering particularly about plasma. I know that virtually all of the Sun is plasma, so I was ...
7
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1answer
6k views

What's the relationship between glow and arc discharge?

I'm trying to understand the differences between an arc and glow discharge. Most texts I have found on the Internet only describes the observed differences but doesn't really explain what happens on ...
7
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2answers
519 views

Why is the top of the aurora red?

When the solar wind is strong enough, the top part of the aurora appears. It is often red: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File%3AAurora_Australis.ogv. The aurora is the product of ...
7
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1answer
118 views

What's the loss of information in taking the moments of the Vlasov equation for the Particle-In-Cell method

I know that when deriving the hydrodynamic equations from Boltzmann's equation we take the first three moments along momentum space to get the conservations laws. Taking infinitely many moments would ...
7
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2answers
1k views

Difference between irreversibility and entropy?

Cedric Villani recently wrote an article on Landau damping in collisionless plasmas, where at least one topic discussed confused me. Besides discussing the issue of how a process can be ...
7
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1answer
182 views

Astronomical-wavelength radio (AWR) transmissions between cosmic plasmas?

My son asked me if electromagnetic waves longer than radio exist. I told him that even though physics permits such waves, there are no antennas long enough to radiate or detect them. However, on ...