Student handout: Using Technology to Visualize Potentials

Static Fields 2024
Begin by prompting the students to brainstorm different ways to represent a three dimensional scalar field on a 2-D surface (like their paper or a whiteboard). The students use a pre-made Sage code or a Mathematica worksheet to visualize the electrostatic potential of several distributions of charges. The computer algebra systems demonstrate several different ways of plotting the potential.
What students learn
  • How to represent 3-d scalar fields in several different ways;
  • The symmetries of a some simple charge distributions such as a dipole and a quadrupole.
  • Brainstorm several different ways in which you might visualize a scalar field in three dimensions, using graphs. You might want to use the electrostatic potential \(V\) due to some simple configurations like a quadrupole of charges as examples.
  • After you have brainstormed ideas of your own, open this Sage code or this Mathematica worksheet and explore some of the ways implemented there. If you have a different visualization, please bring it to the attention of the teaching team and we may incorporate it next year!

Author Information
Corinne Manogue
electrostatic potential visualization
Learning Outcomes