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The table top experiment results suggest that a dipole magnetic field may trap charge, which would provide support for the proposed QNC mechanism responsible for field-aligned flows observed by Earth-orbiting spacecraft. The interpretation of the observed collimated beams as induced by space charge is supported by a collisionless plasma calculation, which predicts to within a factor of two the beam to injected ion energy ratio. The robust nature of the laboratory discharges, observed over a decade of pressure change, (and many more decades if extrapolated to Earth orbit) suggests that the phenomenon may be quite common in the many regimes of space and astrophysical plasmas. Consideration of a simple saturation mechanism gives the correct order-of-magnitude estimate for the jet energies of two very different scale astrophysical systems, YSO and AGN jets. Thus the energy source for many astrophysical plasma processes may turn out not to be shocks, the current favorite mechanism, but the ubiquitous parallel electric field. Future work will present a quantitative description of this vacuum magnetic capacitor and dependence of the parallel field on boundary conditions.

Rob Sheldon 2001-03-09