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A Study of Multiscale Density Fluctuation Measurements

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Intriguing parallels between density fluctuation power versus wavenumber on small (in millimeter) and large (in megaparsec) scales are presented. The comparative study is carried out between fusion plasma measurements and cosmological data. Based on predictions from classical fluid turbulence theory, we argue that our observations are consistent with 2-D turbulence. The similar dependencies of density fluctuations on these disparate scales might indicate that primordial turbulence has been expanded to cosmological proportions.
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arXiv:astro-ph/0602452v4 11 Dec 2007
A Study of Multiscale Density Fluctuation
Nils P. Basse, Member, IEEE
AbstractIntriguing parallels between density fluctuation
power versus wavenumber on small (mm) and large (Mpc) scales
are presented. The comparative study is carried out between
fusion plasma measurements and cosmological data. Based on
predictions from classical fluid turbulence theory, we argue that
our observations are consistent with 2D turbulence. The similar
dependencies of density uctuations on these disparate scales
might indicate that primordial turbulence has been expanded to
cosmological proportions.
Index TermsCosmology, density fluctuations, fusion plasmas,
turbulence, wavenumber spectra.
It is a very human trait to compare new observations to
previous experience. Our chance encounter with measurements
of the spectral power of density fluctuations on Mpc scales
lead us to the conclusion that corresponding mm scale mea-
surements in fusion plasmas have surprisingly similar features
[1]. We are of the opinion that this correspondence could have
a significant impact on current ideas regarding the formation
of the universe.
Let us briefly present our reasoning: Fusion plasmas are
turbulent, whereas density fluctuations on cosmological scales
are not. However, the cosmological fluctuations might be what
has been dubbed ”fossilized turbulence” [2], [3], i.e. static
images of primordial turbulence. This original hot big bang
turbulence is in our picture represented by fusion plasma
turbulence. So the emerging understanding is as follows: (i)
turbulence was generated before the inflationary expansion of
the universe, (ii) as the universe cooled and expanded, the
primordial turbulence fossilized and is visible on cosmological
scales today. The theoretical basis of this hypothesis is outlined
in Refs. [4], [5].
We show in this paper that both sets of measurements fit the
shape expected from 2D fluid turbulence theory. According to
our interpretation, this implies that early turbulence was 2D.
The fusion plasma measurements presented in this paper are
of fluctuations in the electron density. Phase-contrast imaging
(PCI) [6] is being used in the Alcator C-Mod tokamak [7] and
small-angle collective scattering (SACS) [8] was used in the
Wendelstein 7-AS (W7-AS) stellarator [9].
We specifically study density fluctuation power P versus
wavenumber k (also known as the wavenumber spectrum) in
C-Mod and W7-AS. These wavenumber spectra characterize
Manuscript submitted August 23, 2007. This work was supported by the
U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Fusion Energy Sciences.
N. P. Basse was with the Plasma Science and Fusion Center, Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA-02139, USA. He is now with ABB
Switzerland Ltd., Corporate Research, Segelhofstrasse 1, CH-5405 Baden-
D¨attwil, Switzerland (e-mail:
the nonlinear interaction between turbulent modes having dif-
ferent length scales. Our explicit assumption is that turbulence
in stellarators and tokamaks is comparable.
The second part of our measurements, a cosmological
wavenumber spectrum constructed from a variety of sources,
has been published in Ref. [10] and was subsequently made
available to us [11]. The measurements were used to constrain
cosmological variables, e.g. the matter density
and neu-
trino masses - for further details see Refs. [10], [12].
The paper is organized as follows: In Sec. II we analyze
fusion plasma and cosmological wavenumber spectra. There-
after we treat the dimensionality of the measurements in Sec.
III. We discuss the hot big bang turbulence theory in Sec. IV
and conclude in Sec. V.
We begin by studying the fusion plasma wavenumber spec-
trum shown in Fig. 1. The plot shows PCI measurements along
with a fit to
P (
) (kρ
, (1)
where ρ
is the ion Larmor radius at the electron temperature
and m is a constant. The measurements were made in a
low confinement mode C-Mod plasma, see Fig. 11 in Ref.
[13]. The wavenumbers measured have been multiplied by ρ
which for this case is 0.6 mm. This is the value at 80 % of
the plasma radius where the electron temperature is 400 eV,
the toroidal magnetic field is 6.4 T and the working gas is
Our fit to the indicated PCI data yields m = 1.0 ± 0.03.
All fits shown in this paper have a normalized χ
ensuring a satisfactory quality. The error bars are standard
deviations and the semi-transparent rectangles indicate which
points are included to make the fits.
In Fig. 2 we show SACS measurements at somewhat larger
wavenumbers compared to the PCI data. Again, the measured
wavenumbers have been multiplied by ρ
, which in this case
is 1 mm. This value is also at 80 % of the plasma radius where
the electron temperature is 300 eV, the toroidal magnetic field
is 2.5 T and the working gas is Hydrogen.
The SACS measurements are fitted to
P (
1 + (kρ
, (2)
where p = 2.8 ± 0.6 and q = 5.7 ± 1.3 are constants. The
functional form in (2) is taken from Ref. [15]. Basically this
equation describes two power-laws, where P (kρ
for medium wavenumbers and P (kρ
Fig. 1. Wavenumber spectrum of broadband turbulence in C-Mod. Squares are measured points. The dashed line is a fit to (1); the semi-transparent rectangle
indicates which points are included to make the fit. The measurements are taken from Fig. 11 in Ref. [13].
Fig. 2. Wavenumber spectrum of broadband turbulence in W7-AS. Squares are measured points. The dashed line is a fit to (2); all points are included to
make the fit. The measurements are taken from Fig. 12 in Ref. [14].
for large wavenumbers. The transitional (kρ
in our case 3.7. The W7-AS data have been taken from Fig.
12 in Ref. [14].
It is at this point relevant to note that the medium wavenum-
ber fusion plasma exponent is not always three (or 2.8), it
typically varies between three and four depending on specific
plasma conditions [16], [17], [18]. Presumably this is due to
different instabilities driving turbulence for varying operating
conditions, leading to forcing centered at changing scales.
The cosmological wavenumber spectrum is shown in Fig.
3. The measurements are fitted to (2), but using k instead
of kρ
; in this case, p = 1.2 ± 0.1 and q = 1.4 ± 0.05 are
constants. Here, P k
= k
for small wavenumbers
and P k
= k
for medium wavenumbers. The
transitional wavenumber k
is 0.3 h Mpc
. Here, h =
/(100 km/s/Mpc) 0.7, where H
is the Hubble parameter
observed today.
Fig. 3. Wavenumber spectrum of the combined cosmological measurements. Squares are measured points. The dashed line is a fit to (2); the semi-transparent
rectangle indicates which points are included to make the fit. The measurements are taken from Fig. 38 in Ref. [10].
We begin Sec. III by summarizing our findings on the
dependencies of power on wavenumber in Sec. II:
Small wavenumbers :
P (k) k
(fusion) or P (k) k
Medium wavenumbers :
P (k) k
(fusion) or P (k) k
Large wavenumbers :
P (k) k
(fusion). (3)
Our measured density fluctuation power is equivalent to the
d-dimensional energy spectrum F
(k) [19], [20], [21]
P (k) = F
(k) =
= 2 A
= 2πk A
= 4πk
, (4)
where A
is the surface area of a sphere having radius k and
dimension d.
We can convert our results in (3) either under the 2D
turbulence assumption:
Small wavenumbers :
E(k) k
(fusion) or E(k) k
Medium wavenumbers :
E(k) k
(fusion) or E(k) k
Large wavenumbers :
E(k) k
(fusion). (5)
or under the 3D turbulence assumption:
Small wavenumbers :
E(k) k
(fusion) or E(k) k
Medium wavenumbers :
E(k) k
(fusion) or E(k) k
Large wavenumbers :
E(k) k
(fusion). (6)
The established picture of 2D fluid turbulence is: (i) tur-
bulence is forced on an intermediate scale k
, (ii) energy
is transferred to larger scales by the inverse energy cascade,
E(k) k
[22], and enstrophy is transferred to smaller
scales by the forward enstrophy cascade, E(k) k
and (iii) enstrophy is dissipated at the smallest scales [24].
For 3D turbulence the following process occurs: (i) turbu-
lence is forced on a large scale k
, (ii) energy is transferred
to smaller scales by the forward energy cascade, E(k)
, and (iii) energy is dissipated at the smallest scales.
It is interesting to note that in Ref. [25], two dependencies
of the 3D energy spectrum on wavenumber in the dissipation
range are considered: One is an exponential falloff, the other
claims that E(k) k
and was proposed by W. Heisenberg.
This power-law is quite close to the one we found for fusion
plasmas at large wavenumbers.
To determine whether 2D or 3D turbulence is observed,
we consider the power-laws for medium wavenumbers: The
exponents should roughly be in the range [-3, -5/3] for 2D
turbulence and about -5/3 for 3D turbulence. Equations (5)
and (6) indicate that the observed 2D slopes are close to the
expected power-laws and that the 3D slopes are too shallow.
We note that the 2D slopes are closer to the value for the
inverse energy cascade than for the forward enstrophy cascade.
The reason for this is not understood.
Turbulence in fusion plasmas is approximately 2D, since
transport along magnetic field lines is nearly instantaneous.
For this reason, fluctuations are measured parallel to the major
radius of the machine, i.e. perpendicular to the confining
magnetic field.
The reason we chose to analyze fusion plasma data was sim-
ply a matter of having available measurements and expertise
in that field. Any turbulent 2D plasma should display similar
In Ref. [1] we suggested that the observed plasma turbu-
lence might originate during an early phase in the formation
of the universe. Recent theoretical work on the role of hot big
bang turbulence in the primordial universe [5] lends support
to this assumption:
In this theory, turbulence observed today was created before
cosmological inflation by inertial-vortex forces leading to an
inverse big-bang turbulence cascade with a -5/3 power-law
exponent. Turbulence in the plasma epoch has low Reynold’s
numbers 10
according to this picture and the preceding
quark-gluon plasma has a large gluon viscosity that acts to
damp the big bang turbulence. The claim is that hot big bang
temperature turbulence is fossilized before the universe cools
to the Grand Unified Theory strong force freeze-out tempera-
ture 10
K. Later, during nucleosynthesis, fossil temperature
turbulence was converted to fossil turbulence patterns in e.g.
density turbulence [4].
Analysis of power spectra of cosmic microwave background
radiation temperature anisotropies shows that they most likely
have a turbulent origin, supporting the idea of turbulence
generated in the big bang or the plasma epoch [26].
The fact that density fluctuations on small (fusion plasma)
and large (cosmological) scales can be described by similar
functional dependencies, approximately consistent with 2D
fluid turbulence, might indicate that (plasma) turbulence at
early times has been fossilized and expanded to cosmological
Our conjecture concerning the primordial turbulence re-
flected in our wavenumber spectra can be described as follows:
Forcing occurs at an intermediate scale k
. The inverse
energy cascade leads to spectral condensation at large scales
and the forward enstrophy cascade leads to enstrophy transfer
towards smaller scales. At very small scales, enstrophy is
Our interpretation of the measured wavenumber spectra is
consistent with the theoretical framework on hot big bang
turbulence presented in Ref. [5] and references therein.
This work was supported at MIT by the Department of En-
ergy, Cooperative Grant No. DE-FC02-99ER54512. We thank
M. Tegmark for providing the cosmological measurements
analyzed in this paper.
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Nils P. Basse received the B.Sc., M.Sc., and Ph.D.
degrees from the Niels Bohr Institute, University
of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1996,
1998, and 2002, respectively. He is a Scientist
with ABB Switzerland Ltd., Corporate Research.
He was a Postdoctoral Associate at the Plasma
Science and Fusion Center, Massachusetts Institute
of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, from 2002 to
2005. His present research interests include plasmas
in medium- and high-voltage circuit breakers.
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