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Suggested Citation:"Space Plasmas." National Research Council. 1995. Plasma Science: From Fundamental Research to Technological Applications. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4936.
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Page167

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THEORETICAL AND COMPUTATIONAL PLASMA PHYSICS 167 Current-Carrying Plasmas with Flow One research opportunity in laboratory plasma physics, which is synergistic with space and astrophysical plasmas (see next section, ''Space Plasmas"), is the investigation of current-carrying plasmas with flow. In these plasmas, global and/or turbulent flows are essential to the physics. By contrast, magnetic fusion plasmas are effectively stationary. Flowing plasmas present a new challenge to the experimentalist to design facilities in which the desired phenomena occur and to develop scaling arguments that laboratory plasmas are representative of the physics of space and astrophysical systems. To the theorist and applied mathematician, flowing plasmas are no less of a challenge because of the presence of several varieties of discontinuities, which must be understood as isolated, often collisionless processes and then incorporated self-consistently into the overall model just as hydrodynamicists incorporate shocks into supersonic flows. Discontinuities abound in plasmas. Even flows with velocities well below the Alfvén speed lead to singular current sheets in tokamaks and in the solar corona. And one need look no further than the solar photospheric magnetic field, which is concentrated into small regions of high intensity, to recognize that any theoretical understanding of dynamo generation of magnetic fields must accommodate an extraordinary degree of spatial intermittency. There has yet to be a successful laboratory demonstration of a hydromagnetic dynamo. With adequate support, visualization diagnostics can be implemented that promise to yield insights into magnetohydrodynamic flows comparable to those observed in hydrodynamic experiments. Engineering Design Tools The next decade should also see the development from the results of well- founded theories of simpler but robust tools for engineering design in the several areas of application of plasma physics, such as magnetic and inertial fusion, microwave devices, high-efficiency lamps, plasma processing, and particle accelerators. Space Plasmas In 1978, the National Research Council report Space Plasma Physics:The Study of Solar System Plasmas, prepared by a Space Science Board study committee headed by Stirling A. Colgate, strongly endorsed space plasma physics as "intrinsically an important branch of physics."2The Colgate report is widely considered to be the impetus for the present programmatic emphasis in the field. 2 National Research Council, Space Science Board, The Study of SolarSystem Plasmas, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1978.

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Plasma science is the study of ionized states of matter. This book discusses the field's potential contributions to society and recommends actions that would optimize those contributions. It includes an assessment of the field's scientific and technological status as well as a discussion of broad themes such as fundamental plasma experiments, theoretical and computational plasma research, and plasma science education.

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