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    NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.

    This project was supported by the Department of Energy under Grant No. DE-FG02-98ER54508.

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    National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet <>; and

    Board on Physics and Astronomy, National Research Council, HA 562, 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20418; Internet <>.

    Cover images: The three images on the cover illustrate the commonality of fundamental processes, such as for magnetic reconnection in astrophysical and laboratory plasmas. The top image, soft x-ray data from the TRACE (Transition Region and Coronal Explorer) satellite, shows loops of million-degree plasma in the solar corona. The heating of plasma in these loops is believed to result from the release of magnetic energy during magnetic reconnection. The four plots in the center of the cover are a sequence of electron temperature measurements from the core of the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor during an “internal disruption.” The topological change in the magnetic field resulting from magnetic reconnection facilitates the expulsion of the 50-million-degree plasma core. In the bottom image, the Magnetic Reconnection Experiment explores the basic physics of magnetic reconnection. Superimposed is a snapshot of the measured magnetic field. Courtesy of NASA and the Stanford-Lockheed Institute for Space Research (top) and M. Yamada, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (middle and bottom).

    Copyright 2001 by the National Academy of Sciences . All rights reserved.

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