Plasma physics is experiencing a certain renaissance around the world. This is particularly because of the renewed impetus on research into fusion energy brought about by concerns on the global impact of current energy sources.
But plasma physics, out of all the major areas of physics, is short of high-quality textbooks. Hence, any attempt to increase this pool of primary textbooks should be applauded.
In Fundamentals of Plasma Physics , the basics of the field are laid out in the standard format that first introduces the different formalisms of plasma physics, the kinetic, fluid and magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) approaches. Single particle motion is dealt with before waves in plasmas and MHD stability are dealt with in depth.
Towards the end of the book, Paul Bellan introduces us to the relatively novel and particularly topical areas of magnetic reconnection, non-neutral plasmas and dusty plasmas. These topics tend not to be covered in standard plasma physics texts, clearly demonstrating just how crucial is the need for an updated textbook in this area.
Throughout the book, Bellan covers each topic in a mathematically rigorous manner, and in many cases covers the prerequisite maths before launching into the physics. Though this has the advantage of completeness, it does mean that many of the sections become onerously long.
The mathematical rigour may be off-putting to those looking for an introduction to the subject. Indeed, the level of mathematics appears too advanced for an undergraduate course in this area. Even at an advanced level, the book will have more appeal to those of a theoretical bent. This is a pity, as there are many nuggets of enlightening information in the book for those patient enough to read the text closely.
Nevertheless, the book will undoubtedly be valued by those doing postgraduate work in this field, for whom it provides a useful bridge to the scientific literature. It is also highly recommended to researchers looking to widen their horizons to other areas of plasma physics outside their area of expertise.
Zulfikar Najmudin is lecturer in physics, Blackett Laboratory, Imperial College London.
Fundamentals of Plasma Physics. First Edition
Author - Paul M. Bellan
Publisher - Cambridge University Press
Pages - 628
Price - £45.00
ISBN - 0 521 82116 9