Dynamo Theory

Coordinators: Christopher Andrew Jones, Daniel Perry Lathrop, Steven Michael Tobias, Ellen G. Zweibel

This program is designed to further our knowledge of the mechanisms that lead to the generation of magnetic fields in astrophysical bodies. Most of the planets in the solar system (including the Earth), the Sun and many other stars, galaxies, accretion disks and compact objects such as neutron stars and white dwarfs have magnetic fields on a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. Understanding the origin and the nature of astrophysical and geophysical magnetic fields is a major scientific challenge. The aim of this workshop is to bring together experts from many diverse fields, from experimentalists to astrophysicists, to compare and contrast their experiences of dynamo problems. This is a truly interdisciplinary program, but one that is focused on a well-defined problem. We expect that by bringing together physicists and mathematicians with different expertise it will be possible to make significant progress in this field.

Among the dynamo theory topics explored will be: (i) the nonlinear saturation mechanism for dynamos; (ii) how experiments and observations constrain dynamo theory; (iii) how dynamos can operate in extreme parameter configurations, such as very low magnetic Prandtl number; (iv) the role of helicity and how energy can cascade from small to large scales, and the effect of anisotropic small scale motion on this process; (v) progress on sub-grid scale modeling in MHD.

For the Earth and the Sun there is a large literature on their dynamo processes, but there are many objects such as other planets, rapidly rotating stars, accretion discs and galaxies which are relatively unexplored. We hope that cross-fertilization from those with expertise in the more established areas of dynamo theory, including plasma and liquid metal experiments, will enable progress to be made in these newer problems.

There will be a related conference during the week of July 14-18, 2008. Further details will be posted here as they become available.