In this book, a distinguished expert introduces plasma physics from the ground up, presenting it as a comprehensible field that can be grasped largely on the basis of physical intuition and qualitative reasoning, similar to other fields of physics. Plasmas are ionized gases that can be found in a hydrogen bomb explosion, the confinement chamber of an experimental fusion reactor, the solar corona, the aurora borealis, the interstellar medium, and the immediate vicinity of a gravitational black hole. Not surprisingly, plasma physics appears to consist of numerous topics arising independently from astrophysics, fusion physics, and other practical applications, and hence it remains a field poorly understood even by many astrophysicists. But, in fact, most of these topics can be approached from the same perspective, with a simple, physical intuition.
Selecting simple examples and presenting them in a simultaneously intuitive and rigorous manner, Russell Kulsrud guides readers through a careful derivation of the results and allows them to think through the physics for themselves. Thus, they are better prepared for complex cases and more general results. The first eleven chapters present topics by their importance to plasma physics while the last three chapters emphasize the field's astrophysical applications, applying the results accrued earlier. Throughout, many problems illustrate the field's applications. Based on a course the author taught for many years, Plasma Physics for Astrophysics is intended for graduate students as well as for working astrophysicists.