plasma

I am officially banned from the local plasma donation centers

Oh, excuse me… “permanently deferred”. After spending nearly five hours in there on my day off, I was finally told that my being trans made me ineligible to donate. You know, because of the hormones? You know, the hormones that everyone has? The ones that probably aren’t even in plasma because plasma is just a liquid medium with no cells? I’m not a scientist, but that seems like fucking bullshit to me.

So, can I take them to task for this shit? Like, where’s the ACLU when I need them? Or the HRC? Guess they’re too busy patting themselves on the back while eating rainbow wedding cake.

Plasma: Your Universe Isn’t Made of What You Think

If I asked you to name the fundamental states of matter, more than likely you’d reel off solid, liquid, and gas. But if you’re a bit savvier, you’d know that those three aren’t the only states that matter can take—in fact, they’re not even the most abundant.

Plasma is the fourth fundamental state of matter. It’s a lot like a gas, except its atoms have been ionised: the electrons have been stripped from their nuclei, creating a sea of distinct, positively and negatively charged particles. In gases, electrons are bound to their nuclei, but in plasma, they’re free to move about. For this reason, plasmas are often called ionised (or electrically charged) gases.

Plasma can be created by heating gases or by subjecting them to strong electromagnetic fields. Though it doesn’t naturally make up the things we see, eat, breathe or live in, man-made plasmas can be found quite readily on Earth in fluorescent light bulbs and neon signs, which use electricity to ionise the gas inside of them, creating glowing plasma. Very hot flames and lightning are also examples of plasma. But most significantly, plasmas are naturally found in stars, thanks to their incredibly hot temperatures, and in enormous gas clouds in the spaces between galaxies, often stretched into huge webs and filaments. Because of this, plasma is the most abundant state of matter in the universe.

Fun fact: the states of matter don’t end with plasma. Bose–Einstein condensates and neutron-degenerate matter also exist, which are only observable in extreme conditions, as well as a couple of theoretical states.

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Make Your Own Plasma Cutter!


Build your own tiny metal-slicing plasma cutter at home. All it takes is a pencil lead, a couple of batteries, some alligator clips and aluminum foil. The National Science Foundation series Little Shop Of Physics presents a simple science experiment anyone can complete to learn about this common manufacturing process. 

While this little device is only powerful enough to slice through foil, industrial-sized units can cut through 6-inch-thick steel plates. Big or small, the process works by sending an electrical arc through gas to ionize it and turn it into a super-hot plasma.  

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This mid-level (M1.2) solar flare was accompanied by a magnificent prominence (filament, if observed on the solar disk) eruption that turned into an impressive coronal mass ejection (CME) on June 18, 2015.

During the rising phase of eruptions, prominences often exhibit complex pre-flare disturbances, typically showing short-lived helical structures in the lower corona. 

Watch the video

Credit: NASA/GSFC

Lasers Tame Unpredictable Electric Arcs, Steer Current Around Obstacles

If you’ve taken a high school physics class or have seen an old horror film featuring a mad scientist, then you’re familiar with an electric arc. The current that moves through air from one electrode to another unpredictably dances and slithers on its own accord. A viewer is treated to a mesmerizing light show when the electricity ionizes the gas it touches, turning it into a glowing plasma.

(Jacob’s ladder and a plasma globe shown in the 1931 film Frankenstein.)

Now researchers say they have been able to tame the undulating electric arc. Using lasers, they have been able to guide an electric discharge through midair and even steer it around obstacles. Their work isn’t just a cool update to Dr. Frankenstein’s lab–it could be used for advances in machining, electric welding, electromagnetic jamming and delivering current through the air to specific targets. Read more and see images below.

Keep reading

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For those of us who are Earthbound, it’s easy to think of liquids and gases as being the most common fluids. But plasma–the fourth state of matter–is a fluid as well. Plasmas are essentially ionized gases, which, thanks to their freely flowing electrons, are electrically conductive and sensitive to magnetic fields. Their motions are described by a combination of the Navier-Stokes equations–the usual equations of motion for a fluid–and Maxwell’s equations–the equations governing electricity and magnetism. Studies of plasma motion often fall under the subject of magnetohydrodynamics and can include topics like planetary auroras, sunspots, and solar flares. (Video credit: SciShow)

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Plasma, The Most Common Phase of Matter in the Universe

Get to know plasma, the most common, but probably least understood, phase of matter in the universe!