Most people are familiar with three states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. However, scientists recognize a fourth state of matter called “plasma” (not to be confused with the liquid portion of the blood, which is also called “plasma”). To understand what plasma is, imagine a gas. It is made up of atoms that contain the normal complement of protons and electrons. Therefore the components of the gas are neutral, which means that they don’t have an electric charge. Plasma on the other hand is a gas made up of atoms that have been stripped of some of all of their electrons giving them a charge, and this alters the properties of the gas dramatically. Unlike regular gases, plasma can conduct electricity and be affected by magnetic fields. Natural examples of plasma are lightning, the northern lights (aurora borealis), and the material that makes up the sun and the stars, while human-made examples of plasma are fluorescent light bulbs or neon signs. In the video below, Derek Muller, of the YouTube channel Veritasium, describes the generation of plasma using grapes and a microwave oven, and provides the most up to date scientific explanation of how it happens.