Plasma state

No, this definitely isn't about plasma TV screens as you hopefully might have anticipated. I believe there's a common stereotype these days which describes geeks merely as gadget wizards always getting the latest and most exotic technology available in the market. In my view this couldn't be further away from what a real geek is all about, technology is certainly embedded into our life style but what we really enjoy is the physics and electronics behind our gadgets, understanding how the internals work.

Back to our topic here... How may states of matter do you know? Sane people would laugh about this question and promptly answer that there are three states of matter, solid, liquid and gaseous. Tough these are the most commonly known ones nature was a lot more creative, among a myriad of other sates the plasma state should be well understood by any geek.

When talking about plasma one generally means a gas which has become electrically active after its atoms have lost electrons turning into ions following intensive heating. This ionization (adding or removing charged particles from an atom) produces large amounts of free electrons thus making the plasma a unique state of matter highly responsive to electromagnetic fields. In other words a plasma is a good gaseous electrical conductor much like a metal is a good solid electrical conductor, this property is significant enough since it distinguishes it from a gas which typically acts like a good electrical insulator. Therefore always keep a certain distance from plasmas, specially the ones striking the skies during foul weather as explained below.

For those few geeks reading this article who were totally surprised by the fact that plasma is in fact considered another state of matter there's more to come. The ubiquity of plasma in our universe makes it the most common state of matter... That's right you guessed it, stars are no more than huge balls of plasma containing astronomic amounts of helium and hydrogen gases hot enough to produce plasma. Lightning during thunderstorms is also plasma, as well as the stuff inside plasma TV screens I mentioned in the beginning or even fluorescent lamps.