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We use electric field lines to visualize and analyze electric fields (the lines are a pictorial tool, not a physical entity in themselves). The properties of electric field lines for any charge distribution can be summarized as follows:

  1. Field lines must begin on positive charges and terminate on negative charges, or at infinity in the hypothetical case of isolated charges.
  2. The number of field lines leaving a positive charge or entering a negative charge is proportional to the magnitude of the charge.
  3. The strength of the field is proportional to the closeness of the field lines—more precisely, it is proportional to the number of lines per unit area perpendicular to the lines.
  4. The direction of the electric field is tangent to the field line at any point in space.
  5. Field lines can never cross.

The last property means that the field is unique at any point. The field line represents the direction of the field; so if they crossed, the field would have two directions at that location (an impossibility if the field is unique).

Phet explorations: charges and fields

Move point charges around on the playing field and then view the electric field, voltages, equipotential lines, and more. It's colorful, it's dynamic, it's free.

Charges and Fields

Section summary

  • Drawings of electric field lines are useful visual tools. The properties of electric field lines for any charge distribution are that:
  • Field lines must begin on positive charges and terminate on negative charges, or at infinity in the hypothetical case of isolated charges.
  • The number of field lines leaving a positive charge or entering a negative charge is proportional to the magnitude of the charge.
  • The strength of the field is proportional to the closeness of the field lines—more precisely, it is proportional to the number of lines per unit area perpendicular to the lines.
  • The direction of the electric field is tangent to the field line at any point in space.
  • Field lines can never cross.

Conceptual questions

Compare and contrast the Coulomb force field and the electric field. To do this, make a list of five properties for the Coulomb force field analogous to the five properties listed for electric field lines. Compare each item in your list of Coulomb force field properties with those of the electric field—are they the same or different? (For example, electric field lines cannot cross. Is the same true for Coulomb field lines?)

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[link] shows an electric field extending over three regions, labeled I, II, and III. Answer the following questions. (a) Are there any isolated charges? If so, in what region and what are their signs? (b) Where is the field strongest? (c) Where is it weakest? (d) Where is the field the most uniform?

Five field lines represented by long arrows horizontally from left to right are shown. Two arrows diverge from other three, one arrow runs straight toward right and two arrows end abruptly.
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Problem exercises

(a) Sketch the electric field lines near a point charge + q . (b) Do the same for a point charge –3.00 q .

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Sketch the electric field lines a long distance from the charge distributions shown in [link] (a) and (b)

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[link] shows the electric field lines near two charges q 1 size 12{q rSub { size 8{1} } } {} and q 2 size 12{q rSub { size 8{2} } } {} . What is the ratio of their magnitudes? (b) Sketch the electric field lines a long distance from the charges shown in the figure.

Field lines between a positive and a negative charge represented by curved lines is shown
The electric field near two charges.
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Sketch the electric field lines in the vicinity of two opposite charges, where the negative charge is three times greater in magnitude than the positive. (See [link] for a similar situation).

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Questions & Answers

What is Boyce law
Sly Reply
how to convert meter per second to kilometers per hour
grace Reply
Divide with 3.6
Mateo
multiply by (km/1000m) x (3600 s/h) -> 3.6
Muhammad
2 how heat loss is prevented in a vacuum flask
Abdullah Reply
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Helen
logical reasoning for a particular phenomenon.
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Adarsh
due to non in contact mean no conduction and no convection bec of non conducting base and walls and also their is a grape between the layer like to take the example of thermo flask
Abdul
dimensions v²=u²+2at
Lagben Reply
what if time is not given in finding the average velocity?
Alan Reply
the magnetic circuit of a certain of the flux paths in each of the long and short sides being 25cm and 20cm reprectielectrove. there is an air gap of 2mm long in one the long sides if a flux density of 0.8weber/m is to produce in the magnet of 1500 turns..
Daniel Reply
How do you calculate precision
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Fillemon
Chemisty 1A?
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Sacky
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Fillemon
Friday bro... But the topics we did are in this app... Just try to master them quickly before the test dates... Are you done with the Maths sheet
Sacky
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I'll work on the maths sheet tomorrow bra @Sacky Malyenge but I'll try mastering them
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Anderson
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Anderson
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Emi
There are very large numbers of charged particles in most objects. Why, then, don’t most objects exhibit static electricity?
Bilkisu Reply
Because there's an equal number of negative and positive charges... objects are neutral in nature
NELSON
when a ball rolls on a smooth level ground,the motion of its centre is?
Mary Reply
what is electro magnetic field?
Mary
electromagnetic field is a special type of field been produced by electric charges..!!! like the word electro from Electricity and the word magnetic from Magnetism.. so it is more of a join field..!!!
NELSON
Electromagnetic field is caused by moving electric charge
Muhammad
when a ball rolls on a smooth level ground,the motion of its centre is?
Mumeh
what's the relationship btw displacement and position
Declan Reply
displacement is the change of position 8======✊=D 💦💦
Anderson
what is the meaning of elasticity
Pele Reply
is the ability of a material to or any object to expand to a limit point
king
this is about kinematics you bonk
Emi
what does emf/R mean
Eze Reply
What is work
Wisdom Reply
work is the product of force and perpendicular distance
DAVID
Pls explain simple harmonic motion
Olaiya Reply
Any to and from motion of a fluid or any elastic object
Sacky
a current of 5.5mA is flowing through a 3.3k resistor.compute th p.d developed across the resistor
Clifford Reply
A p.d of 24 volts exist across a 15 OHM'S resistor.calculate the current flowing the resistor
Clifford
a current of 5.5mA is flowing through a 3.3kOHM'S resistor.compute th p.d developed across the resistor
Clifford
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Festus
Practice Key Terms 4

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Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
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