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Suggested Citation:"Turbulence." 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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Page 168

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THEORETICAL AND COMPUTATIONAL PLASMA PHYSICS 168 Specifically, it identified six areas of research as important to develop the basic understanding of space plasmas and, therefore, of fundamental intellectual value to plasma physics. The areas are magnetic reconnection, turbulence, the behavior of large-scale flows, particle acceleration, plasma confinement and transport, and collisionless shocks. Substantial progress has been made in each area over the intervening 14 years. Examples are cited here and in Chapter 6, which is devoted specifically to space plasma physics. All of these areas offer significant research opportunities in theoretical and computational plasma physics during the next decade. Future research opportunities in space plasma theory are summarized below. Magnetic Reconnection Magnetic reconnection is a process by which stored magnetic energy can be converted explosively into plasma kinetic energy. It is invoked ubiquitously as a mechanism in space and astrophysical problems—in solar and stellar flares, which occur commonly in stressed bipolar magnetic regions; in flux transfer events, which intermittently erode the outer layer of Earth's day-side magnetic field and add the flux to a stressed antisunward magnetotail; and in the magnetospheric substorm, where the calamitous relaxation of the magnetotail is accompanied by pronounced auroral brightenings, enhanced electrical currents in the ionosphere, and the antisunward escape of a large blob of accelerated plasma. Observation of the reconnection process itself is fragmentary, and evidence is circumstantial. The mechanism occurs readily in models based on the magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) equations but is due to resistivity, externally postulated or spuriously generated by numerical discretization. Space plasmas are collisionless to a high degree, and reconnection is significant only when the resistivity due to classical two-body interactions is enhanced by anomalous collective processes. Candidate mechanisms such as the lower-hybrid-drift instability have been suggested. Further research needs to be carried out to investigate the microphysics and integrate the results into an MHD description of large-scale behavior. In turn, quantitative MHD predictions must benefit from the enhanced numerical capabilities of new computer architectures and algorithms that maximize their effectiveness. Turbulence Space plasmas are characterized by turbulence on all scale lengths. Hydrodynamic turbulence occurs in the convection zone of the Sun and, through coupling to rotation, may play an important role in the dynamo mechanism and global oscillation modes. Models that explore these processes on an elementary scale are being developed but are limited by numerical considerations. Magnetohydrodynamic turbulence is generated in the solar wind by the intersection of

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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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