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Always keep in mind that field lines serve only as a convenient way to visualize the electric field; they are not physical entities. Although the direction and relative intensity of the electric field can be deduced from a set of field lines, the lines can also be misleading. For example, the field lines drawn to represent the electric field in a region must, by necessity, be discrete. However, the actual electric field in that region exists at every point in space.

Field lines for three groups of discrete charges are shown in [link] . Since the charges in parts (a) and (b) have the same magnitude, the same number of field lines are shown starting from or terminating on each charge. In (c), however, we draw three times as many field lines leaving the + 3 q charge as entering the q . The field lines that do not terminate at q emanate outward from the charge configuration, to infinity.

Three pairs of charges and their field lines are shown. The charge on the left is positive in each case. In part a, the charge on the right is negative. The field lines are represented by curved arrows starting at the positive charge on the left, curving toward and terminating at the negative charge on the right. Between the charges, the field lines are dense. In part b, the charge on the right is positive. The field lines represented by curved arrows start at each of the positive charges and diverge outward. Between the charges, the field lines are less dense, and there is a black region midway between the charges. In part c, the charge on the right is negative. The field lines start at the positive charge. Some of the lines, those that start closest to the negative charge, curve toward the negative charge and terminate there. Lines that start further from the negative charge curve toward it but then diverge outward. There is an area with very low density of lines to the right of the pair of charges.
Three typical electric field diagrams. (a) A dipole. (b) Two identical charges. (c) Two charges with opposite signs and different magnitudes. Can you tell from the diagram which charge has the larger magnitude?

The ability to construct an accurate electric field diagram is an important, useful skill; it makes it much easier to estimate, predict, and therefore calculate the electric field of a source charge. The best way to develop this skill is with software that allows you to place source charges and then will draw the net field upon request. We strongly urge you to search the Internet for a program. Once you’ve found one you like, run several simulations to get the essential ideas of field diagram construction. Then practice drawing field diagrams, and checking your predictions with the computer-drawn diagrams.

One example of a field-line drawing program is from the PhET “Charges and Fields” simulation.

Summary

  • Electric field diagrams assist in visualizing the field of a source charge.
  • The magnitude of the field is proportional to the field line density.
  • Field vectors are everywhere tangent to field lines.

Conceptual questions

If a point charge is released from rest in a uniform electric field, will it follow a field line? Will it do so if the electric field is not uniform?

yes; no

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Under what conditions, if any, will the trajectory of a charged particle not follow a field line?

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How would you experimentally distinguish an electric field from a gravitational field?

At the surface of Earth, the gravitational field is always directed in toward Earth’s center. An electric field could move a charged particle in a different direction than toward the center of Earth. This would indicate an electric field is present.

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A representation of an electric field shows 10 field lines perpendicular to a square plate. How many field lines should pass perpendicularly through the plate to depict a field with twice the magnitude?

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What is the ratio of the number of electric field lines leaving a charge 10 q and a charge q ?

10

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Problems

Which of the following electric field lines are incorrect for point charges? Explain why.

Figure a shows field lines pointing away from a positive charge. The lines are uniformly distributed around the charge. Figure b shows field lines pointing away from a negative charge. The lines are uniformly distributed around the charge. Figure c shows field lines pointing away from a positive charge. The lines are denser on the right side of the charge than on the left. Figure d shows field lines pointing toward a positive charge. The lines are uniformly distributed around the charge. Figure e shows field lines pointing toward a negative charge. The lines are uniformly distributed around the charge. Figure f shows two positive charges. Field lines start at each positive charge and point away from each. The lines are uniformly distributed at the charges and bend away from the midline. Some lines intersect each other. Figure g shows a positive 5 micro Coulomb charge and a negative micro Coulomb charge. Several field lines are shown. Long the line connecting the charges is a field line that points away from the positive charge and toward the negative one. Another field line forms an ellipse that starts at the positive charge and ends at the negative charge. Another field line also forms an ellipse that points away from the positive and ends at the negative charge but appears to envelop the charges rather than start and end at the charges.
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In this exercise, you will practice drawing electric field lines. Make sure you represent both the magnitude and direction of the electric field adequately. Note that the number of lines into or out of charges is proportional to the charges.

(a) Draw the electric field lines map for two charges + 20 μ C and −20 μ C situated 5 cm from each other.

(b) Draw the electric field lines map for two charges + 20 μ C and + 20 μ C situated 5 cm from each other.

(c) Draw the electric field lines map for two charges + 20 μ C and −30 μ C situated 5 cm from each other.


Figure a shows a positive 20 micro Coulomb charge on the left, a negative 20 micro Coulomb charge on the right, and the field lines due to the charges. The field lines come out of the positive charge and converge coming into the negative charge. The outer field lines extend beyond the drawing area and so we see them bending to the right, toward the negative charge, but only see part of the line. The density of lines coming out of the positive is the same as the density going into the negative. Figure b shows a positive 20 micro Coulomb charge on the left, a positive 20 micro Coulomb charge on the right, and the field lines due to the charges. The field lines come out of the positive charges and diverge, bending away from the far charge. The density of lines is the same near each of the charges. Figure c shows a positive 20 micro Coulomb charge on the left, a negative 30 micro Coulomb charge on the right, and the field lines due to the charges. The field lines come out of the positive charge. More lines go into the negative 20 micro Coulomb charge than come out of the positive 20 micro Coulomb charge. All of the lines coming out of the positive charge terminate at the negative, while the outer lines going into the negative start at infinity.

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Draw the electric field for a system of three particles of charges + 1 μ C , + 2 μ C , and −3 μ C fixed at the corners of an equilateral triangle of side 2 cm.

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Two charges of equal magnitude but opposite sign make up an electric dipole. A quadrupole consists of two electric dipoles are placed anti-parallel at two edges of a square as shown.

Four charges are shown at the corners of a square. At the top left is positive 10 nano Coulombs. At the top right is negative 10 nano Coulombs. At the bottom left is negative 10 nano Coulombs. At the bottom right is positive 10 nano Coulombs.

Draw the electric field of the charge distribution.


Four charges are shown at the corners of a square. At the top left is positive 10 nano Coulombs. At the top right is negative 10 nano Coulombs. At the bottom left is negative 10 nano Coulombs. At the bottom right is positive 10 nano Coulombs. The field lines are also shown. They come out of the positive charges and curve toward and end at the negative charges. The lowest density is near the center of the square.

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Suppose the electric field of an isolated point charge decreased with distance as 1 / r 2 + δ rather than as 1 / r 2 . Show that it is then impossible to draw continous field lines so that their number per unit area is proportional to E .

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Questions & Answers

What is differential form of Gauss's law?
Rohit Reply
help me out on this question the permittivity of diamond is 1.46*10^-10.( a)what is the dielectric of diamond (b) what its susceptibility
OLUWA Reply
a body is projected vertically upward of 30kmp/h how long will it take to reach a point 0.5km bellow e point of projection
Abu Reply
i have to say. who cares. lol. why know that t all
Jeff
is this just a chat app about the openstax book?
Lord Reply
kya ye b.sc ka hai agar haa to konsa part
MPL Reply
what is charge quantization
Mayowa Reply
it means that the total charge of a body will always be the integral multiples of basic unit charge ( e ) q = ne n : no of electrons or protons e : basic unit charge 1e = 1.602×10^-19
Riya
is the time quantized ? how ?
Mehmet
What do you meanby the statement,"Is the time quantized"
Mayowa
Can you give an explanation.
Mayowa
there are some comment on the time -quantized..
Mehmet
time is integer of the planck time, discrete..
Mehmet
planck time is travel in planck lenght of light..
Mehmet
it's says that charges does not occur in continuous form rather they are integral multiple of the elementary charge of an electron.
Tamoghna
it is just like bohr's theory. Which was angular momentum of electron is intral multiple of h/2π
Aditya
determine absolute zero
OFERE Reply
The properties of a system during a reversible constant pressure non-flow process at P= 1.6bar, changes from constant volume of 0.3m³/kg at 20°C to a volume of 0.55m³/kg at 260°C. its constant pressure process is 3.205KJ/kg°C Determine: 1. Heat added, Work done, Change in Internal Energy and Change in Enthalpy
Opeyemi Reply
U can easily calculate work done by 2.303log(v2/v1)
Abhishek
Amount of heat added through q=ncv^delta t
Abhishek
Change in internal energy through q=Q-w
Abhishek
please how do dey get 5/9 in the conversion of Celsius and Fahrenheit
Gwam Reply
what is copper loss
timileyin Reply
this is the energy dissipated(usually in the form of heat energy) in conductors such as wires and coils due to the flow of current against the resistance of the material used in winding the coil.
Henry
it is the work done in moving a charge to a point from infinity against electric field
Ashok Reply
what is the weight of the earth in space
peterpaul Reply
As w=mg where m is mass and g is gravitational force... Now if we consider the earth is in gravitational pull of sun we have to use the value of "g" of sun, so we can find the weight of eaeth in sun with reference to sun...
Prince
g is not gravitacional forcé, is acceleration of gravity of earth and is assumed constante. the "sun g" can not be constant and you should use Newton gravity forcé. by the way its not the "weight" the physical quantity that matters, is the mass
Jorge
Yeah got it... Earth and moon have specific value of g... But in case of sun ☀ it is just a huge sphere of gas...
Prince
Thats why it can't have a constant value of g ....
Prince
not true. you must know Newton gravity Law . even a cloud of gas it has mass thats al matters. and the distsnce from the center of mass of the cloud and the center of the mass of the earth
Jorge
please why is the first law of thermodynamics greater than the second
Ifeoma Reply
every law is important, but first law is conservation of energy, this state is the basic in physics, in this case first law is more important than other laws..
Mehmet
First Law describes o energy is changed from one form to another but not destroyed, but that second Law talk about entropy of a system increasing gradually
Mayowa
first law describes not destroyer energy to changed the form, but second law describes the fluid drection that is entropy. in this case first law is more basic accorging to me...
Mehmet
define electric image.obtain expression for electric intensity at any point on earthed conducting infinite plane due to a point charge Q placed at a distance D from it.
Mateshwar Reply
explain the lack of symmetry in the field of the parallel capacitor
Phoebe Reply
pls. explain the lack of symmetry in the field of the parallel capacitor
Phoebe
Practice Key Terms 2

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Source:  OpenStax, University physics volume 2. OpenStax CNX. Oct 06, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col12074/1.3
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