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Q & A: plasma matter

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Most recent answer: 03/13/2018
Q:
Dear Physics Van, I was in your show on EOH. It was the last show on Saturday. You asked us what are the states of matter. I said �plasma�. You did not like my answer and said: �you can not experience it� .I wanted to tell you that if we can not experience plasma then we wouldn�t be warmed up by a fire or the sun!
- Benny (age 5)
Urbana, IL, USA
A:

Our team here at Ask the Van doesn't know why someone told you that. Plasmas are quite common. When you heat up a gas, atoms fall apart into charged particles, and that gas of charged particles is what we call a plasma. They're used in various types of lights.

Our only quibble is that plasmas are not usually sharply distinct phases than ordinary gases, because the fraction of atoms that have fallen apart gradually increases as the temperature increases. Real phase changes, like water freezing or boiling, have distinct phases rather than gradual changes from one form to the other.

Mike W.


(published on 03/13/2018)

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