In recent decades, the concepts and applications of chaos, complexity, and nonlinear dynamics have profoundly influenced scientific as well as literary thinking. Some aspects of these concepts are used in almost all of the geophysical disciplines. Chaos and Structures in Nonlinear Plasmas, written by two respected plasma physicists, focuses on nonlinear phenomena in laboratory and space plasmas, which are rich in nonlinear and complex collective effects. Chaos is treated only insofar as it relates to some aspects of nonlinear plasma physics.
At the outset, the authors note that plasma physics research has made fundamental contributions to modern nonlinear sciences. For example, the Poincare surface of section technique was extensively used in studies of stochastic field lines in magnetically confined plasmas and turbulence. More generally, nonlinearity in plasma waves and wave-wave and wave-particle interactions critically determines the propagation of energy through a plasma medium. The book also makes it clear that the importance of understanding nonlinear waves goes beyond plasma physics, extending to such diverse fields as solid state physics, fluid dynamics, atmospheric physics, and optics. In space physics, non-linear plasma physics is essential for interpreting in situ as well as remote-sensing data.