PLASMA PHYSICS @OXFORD

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PLASMA PHYSICS @OXFORD

THE FOURTH STATE

OF MATTER

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It is perhaps not a very well known fact that the existence of the fourth state of matter – plasma – was first posited by Anaximenes of Miletus (Άναξιμένης), who lived in the 6th century BC and was the third of the three great Milesian philosophers (and a PhD student of the second, Anaximander). Anaximenes devised the first modern theory of phase transitions and proposed that all substances could exist in four states: solid (“earth”), liquid (“water”), gaseous (“air”) and the fourth, “fiery state,” or plasma. We are still studying it.

Plasmas and Plasma Physics in Today’s World

Information about plasma reflecting the modern state of affairs in its understanding, study and uses can be obtained from a variety of sources – you do not need our help in locating them if you have access to Google: for example, here is a as good a place to start as any.

If you want to follow the example of Anaximenes and study the subject seriously, go to our Courses page, which offers links to some lecture notes available on-line – although we do not claim that they are either comprehensive or the best there are, they are simply the ones that happened to come to our attention.

Anaximenes of Miletus

2,500 Years Later: Some Latter-Day Plasma Physicists