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Activities

Computational Activity

120 min.

Electric field for a waffle cone of charge
Students integrate numerically to find the electric field due to a cone of surface charge, and then visualize the result. This integral can be done in either spherical or cylindrical coordinates, giving students a chance to reason about which coordinate system would be more convenient.
  • electric field cone
    Found in: Computational Physics Lab II course(s) Found in: Computational integrating charge distributions sequence(s)

Problem

5 min.

Electric Field and Charge
Consider the electric field \begin{equation} \vec E(r,\theta,\phi) = \begin{cases} 0&\textrm{for } r<a\\ \frac{1}{4\pi\epsilon_0} \,\frac{Q}{b^3-a^3}\, \left( r-\frac{a^3}{r^2}\right)\, \hat r & \textrm{for } a<r<b\\ 0 & \textrm{for } r>b \\ \end{cases} \end{equation}
  1. (4pts) Use step and/or delta functions to write this electric field as a single expression valid everywhere in space.
  2. (4pts) Find a formula for the charge density that creates this electric field.
  3. (2pts) Interpret your formula for the charge density, i.e. explain briefly in words where the charge is.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Electric Field Due to a Ring of Charge

Students work in small groups to use Coulomb's Law \[\vec{E}(\vec{r}) =\frac{1}{4\pi\epsilon_0}\int\frac{\rho(\vec{r}^{\,\prime})\left(\vec{r}-\vec{r}^{\,\prime}\right)}{\vert \vec{r}-\vec{r}^{\,\prime}\vert^3} \, d\tau^{\prime}\] to find an integral expression for the electric field, \(\vec{E}(\vec{r})\), everywhere in space, due to a ring of charge.

In an optional extension, students find a series expansion for \(\vec{E}(\vec{r})\) either on the axis or in the plane of the ring, for either small or large values of the relevant geometric variable. Add an extra half hour or more to the time estimate for the optional extension.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Charged Sphere
Students use a plastic surface representing the potential due to a charged sphere to explore the electrostatic potential, equipotential lines, and the relationship between potential and electric field.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Work By An Electric Field (Contour Map)
Students will estimate the work done by a given electric field. They will connect the work done to the height of a plastic surface graph of the electric potential.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Electric Field of Two Charged Plates
  • Students need to understand that the surface represents the electric potential in the center of a parallel plate capacitor. Try doing the activity Electric Potential of Two Charged Plates before this activity.
  • Students should know that
    1. objects with like charge repel and opposite charge attract,
    2. object tend to move toward lower energy configurations
    3. The potential energy of a charged particle is related to its charge: \(U=qV\)
    4. The force on a charged particle is related to its charge: \(\vec{F}=q\vec{E}\)

The electrostatic potential due to a point charge at the origin is given by: \begin{equation*} V=\frac{1}{4\pi\epsilon_0} \frac{q}{r} \end{equation*}

  1. (2pts) Find the electric field due to a point charge at the origin as a gradient in rectangular coordinates.
  2. (2pts) Find the electric field due to a point charge at the origin as a gradient in spherical coordinates.
  3. (2pts) Find the electric field due to a point charge at the origin as a gradient in cylindrical coordinates.

  • Found in: Static Fields, AIMS Maxwell, Problem-Solving course(s) Found in: Gradient Sequence sequence(s)

(4pts) Find the electric field around an infinite, uniformly charged, straight wire, starting from the following expression for the electrostatic potential: \begin{equation*} V(\vec r)=\frac{2\lambda}{4\pi\epsilon_0}\, \ln\left( \frac{ s_0}{s} \right) \end{equation*}

  • Found in: Static Fields, AIMS Maxwell, Problem-Solving course(s) Found in: Gradient Sequence sequence(s)

Problem

5 min.

Electric Field from a Rod
(4pts) Consider a thin charged rod of length \(L\) standing along the \(z\)-axis with the bottom end on the \(xy\)-plane. The charge density \(\lambda\) is constant. Find the electric field at the point \((0,0,2L)\).
  • Found in: AIMS Maxwell, Static Fields, Problem-Solving course(s)
Students write python programs to compute the potential due to a square of surface charge, and then to visualize the result. This activity can be used to introduce students to the process of integrating numerically.

Consider the finite line with a uniform charge density from class.

  1. Write an integral expression for the electric field at any point in space due to the finite line. In addition to your usual physics sense-making, you must include a clearly labeled figure and discuss what happens to the direction of the unit vectors as you integrate.Consider the finite line with a uniform charge density from class.
  2. Perform the integral to find the \(z\)-component of the electric field. In addition to your usual physics sense-making, you must compare your result to the gradient of the electric potential we found in class. (If you want to challenge yourself, do the \(s\)-component as well!)

Students work in small groups to use the Biot-Savart law \[\vec{B}(\vec{r}) =\frac{\mu_0}{4\pi}\int\frac{\vec{J}(\vec{r}^{\,\prime})\times \left(\vec{r}-\vec{r}^{\,\prime}\right)}{\vert \vec{r}-\vec{r}^{\,\prime}\vert^3} \, d\tau^{\prime}\] to find an integral expression for the magnetic field, \(\vec{B}(\vec{r})\), due to a spinning ring of charge.

In an optional extension, students find a series expansion for \(\vec{B}(\vec{r})\) either on the axis or in the plane of the ring, for either small or large values of the relevant geometric variable. Add an extra half hour or more to the time estimate for the optional extension.

Students work in small groups to use the superposition principle \[V(\vec{r}) = \frac{1}{4\pi\epsilon_0}\sum_i \frac{q_i}{\vert\vec{r}-\vec{r}_i\vert}\] to find the electrostatic potential \(V\) everywhere in space due to a pair of charges (either identical charges or a dipole). This activity can be paired with activity 29 to find the limiting cases of the potential on the axes of symmetry.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Electric Potential of Two Charged Plates
Students examine a plastic "surface" graph of the electric potential due to two charged plates (near the center of the plates) and explore the properties of the electric potential.

Kinesthetic

10 min.

Acting Out Current Density
Students, pretending they are point charges, move around the room so as to make an imaginary magnetic field meter register a constant magnetic field, introducing the concept of steady current. Students act out linear \(\vec{I}\), surface \(\vec{K}\), and volume \(\vec{J}\) current densities. The instructor demonstrates what it means to measure these quantities by counting how many students pass through a gate.
Consider a column of atoms each of mass \(M\) at temperature \(T\) in a uniform gravitational field \(g\). Find the thermal average potential energy per atom. The thermal average kinetic energy is independent of height. Find the total heat capacity per atom. The total heat capacity is the sum of contributions from the kinetic energy and from the potential energy. Take the zero of the gravitational energy at the bottom \(h=0\) of the column. Integrate from \(h=0\) to \(h=\infty\). You may assume the gas is ideal.
Consider the magnetic field \[ \vec{B}(s,\phi,z)= \begin{cases} 0&0\le s<a\\ \alpha \frac{1}{s}(s^4-a^4)\, \hat{\phi}&a<s<b\\ 0&s>b \end{cases} \]
  1. (2pts) Use step and/or delta functions to write this magnetic field as a single expression valid everywhere in space.
  2. (4pts) Find a formula for the current density that creates this magnetic field.
  3. (2pts) Interpret your formula for the current density, i.e. explain briefly in words where the current is.
  • Found in: AIMS Maxwell, Static Fields, Problem-Solving course(s)

The gravitational field due to a spherical shell of matter (or equivalently, the electric field due to a spherical shell of charge) is given by: \begin{equation} \vec g = \begin{cases} 0&\textrm{for } r<a\\ -G \,\frac{M}{b^3-a^3}\, \left( r-\frac{a^3}{r^2}\right)\, \hat r & \textrm{for } a<r<b\\ -G\,\frac{M}{r^2}\, \hat r & \textrm{for } r>b \\ \end{cases} \end{equation}

This problem explores the consequences of the divergence theorem for this shell.

  1. Using the given description of the gravitational field, find the divergence of the gravitational field everywhere in space. You will need to divide this question up into three parts: \(r<a\), \(a<r<b\), and \(r>b\).
  2. Briefly discuss the physical meaning of the divergence in this particular example.
  3. For this gravitational field, verify the divergence theorem on a sphere, concentric with the shell, with radius \(Q\), where \(a<Q<b\). ("Verify" the divergence theorem means calculate the integrals from both sides of the divergence theorem and show that they give the same answer.)
  4. Briefly discuss how this example would change if you were discussing the electric field of a uniformly charged spherical shell.

  • Found in: Static Fields, AIMS Maxwell, Problem-Solving course(s)

Nuclei of a particular isotope species contained in a crystal have spin \(I=1\), and thus, \(m = \{+1,0,-1\}\). The interaction between the nuclear quadrupole moment and the gradient of the crystalline electric field produces a situation where the nucleus has the same energy, \(E=\varepsilon\), in the state \(m=+1\) and the state \(m=-1\), compared with an energy \(E=0\) in the state \(m=0\), i.e. each nucleus can be in one of 3 states, two of which have energy \(E=\varepsilon\) and one has energy \(E=0\).

  1. Find the Helmholtz free energy \(F = U-TS\) for a crystal containing \(N\) nuclei which do not interact with each other.

  2. Find an expression for the entropy as a function of temperature for this system. (Hint: use results of part a.)

  3. Indicate what your results predict for the entropy at the extremes of very high temperature and very low temperature.

  • Found in: Energy and Entropy course(s)

Students work in small groups to use the superposition principle \[V(\vec{r}) =\frac{1}{4\pi\epsilon_0}\int\frac{\rho(\vec{r}^{\,\prime})}{\vert \vec{r}-\vec{r}^{\,\prime}\vert} \, d\tau^{\prime}\] to find an integral expression for the electrostatic potential, \(V(\vec{r})\), everywhere in space, due to a ring of charge.

In an optional extension, students find a series expansion for \(V(\vec{r})\) either on the axis or in the plane of the ring, for either small or large values of the relevant geometric variable. Add an extra half hour or more to the time estimate for the optional extension.

Students work in small groups to use the superposition principle \[V(\vec{r}) = \frac{1}{4\pi\epsilon_0}\sum_i \frac{q_i}{\vert\vec{r}-\vec{r}_i\vert}\] to find the electrostatic potential \(V\) everywhere in space due to a pair of charges (either identical charges or a dipole). Different groups are assigned different arrangements of charges and different regions of space to consider: either on the axis of the charges or in the plane equidistant from the two charges, for either small or large values of the relevant geometric variable. Each group is asked to find a power series expansion for the electrostatic potential, valid in their group's assigned region of space. The whole class wrap-up discussion then compares and contrasts the results and discuss the symmetries of the two cases.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Total Charge
In this small group activity, students integrate over non-uniform charge densities in cylindrical and spherical coordinates to calculate total charge.

Students work in small groups to use the superposition principle \[\vec{A}(\vec{r}) =\frac{\mu_0}{4\pi}\int\frac{\vec{J}(\vec{r}^{\,\prime})}{\vert \vec{r}-\vec{r}^{\,\prime}\vert}\, d\tau^{\prime}\] to find an integral expression for the magnetic vector potential, \(\vec{A}(\vec{r})\), due to a spinning ring of charge.

In an optional extension, students find a series expansion for \(\vec{A}(\vec{r})\) either on the axis or in the plane of the ring, for either small or large values of the relevant geometric variable. Add an extra half hour or more to the time estimate for the optional extension.

Lecture

120 min.

Phase transformations
These lecture notes from the ninth week of https://paradigms.oregonstate.edu/courses/ph441 cover phase transformations, the Clausius-Clapeyron relation, mean field theory and more. They include a number of small group activities.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Visualization of Curl
Students predict from graphs of simple 2-d vector fields whether the curl is positive, negative, or zero in various regions of the domain using the definition of the curl of a vector field at a point as the maximum circulation per unit area through an infinitesimal box surrounding that point. Optionally, students can use computer algebra to verify their predictions.
  • Found in: Static Fields, AIMS Maxwell, Vector Calculus II, Surfaces/Bridge Workshop, Problem-Solving course(s) Found in: Geometry of Vector Fields Sequence sequence(s)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Visualization of Divergence
Students predict from graphs of simple 2-d vector fields whether the divergence is positive, negative, or zero in various regions of the domain using the geometric definition of the divergence of a vector field at a point as flux per unit volume (here: area) through an infinitesimal box surrounding that point. Optionally, students can use computer algebra to verify their predictions.
  • Found in: Static Fields, AIMS Maxwell, Vector Calculus II, Surfaces/Bridge Workshop, Problem-Solving course(s) Found in: Geometry of Vector Fields Sequence, Flux Sequence sequence(s)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Flux through a Cone
Students calculate the flux from the vector field \(\vec{F} = C\, z\, \hat{z}\) through a right cone of height \(H\) and radius \(R\) .
  • Found in: Static Fields, AIMS Maxwell course(s) Found in: Integration Sequence, Flux Sequence sequence(s)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

DELETE Navigating a Hill
In this small group activity, students determine various aspects of local points on an elliptic hill which is a function of two variables. The gradient is emphasized as a local quantity which points in the direction of greatest change at a point in the scalar field.
  • Found in: Static Fields, AIMS Maxwell course(s)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Number of Paths
Student discuss how many paths can be found on a map of the vector fields \(\vec{F}\) for which the integral \(\int \vec{F}\cdot d\vec{r}\) is positive, negative, or zero. \(\vec{F}\) is conservative. They do a similar activity for the vector field \(\vec{G}\) which is not conservative.

Mathematica Activity

30 min.

Using Technology to Visualize Potentials
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.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Vector Integrals (Contour Map)
Students explore path integrals using a vector field map and thinking about integration as chop-multiply-add.

Small White Board Question

30 min.

Magnetic Moment & Stern-Gerlach Experiments
Students consider the relation (1) between the angular momentum and magnetic moment for a current loop and (2) the force on a magnetic moment in an inhomogeneous magnetic field. Students make a (classical) prediction of the outcome of a Stern-Gerlach experiment.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

The Hill
In this small group activity, students determine various aspects of local points on an elliptic hill which is a function of two variables. The gradient is emphasized as a local quantity which points in the direction of greatest change at a point in the scalar field.
  • Gradient
    Found in: Vector Calculus II, Vector Calculus I, Surfaces/Bridge Workshop course(s) Found in: Gradient Sequence sequence(s)

Small Group Activity

5 min.

Acting Out Flux
Students hold rulers and meter sticks to represent a vector field. The instructor holds a hula hoop to represent a small area element. Students are asked to describe the flux of the vector field through the area element.
  • flux electrostatics vector fields
    Found in: AIMS Maxwell, Static Fields, Surfaces/Bridge Workshop, Problem-Solving course(s) Found in: Gauss/Ampere Sequence (Integral Form), Flux Sequence sequence(s)

Small Group Activity

120 min.

Equipotential Surfaces
Students are prompted to consider the scalar superposition of the electric potential due to multiple point charges. First a single point charge is discussed, then four positive charges, then an electric quadrupole. Students draw the equipotential curves in the plane of the charges, while also considering the 3D nature of equipotentials.

Computer Simulation

30 min.

Visualizing Flux through a Cube
Students explore the effects of putting a point charge at various places inside, outside, and on the surface of a cubical Gaussian surface. The Mathematica worksheet or Sage activity shows the electric field due to the charge, then plots the the flux integrand on the top surface of the box, calculates the flux through the top of the box, and the value of the flux through the whole cube.
  • Found in: Static Fields, AIMS Maxwell, Surfaces/Bridge Workshop, Problem-Solving course(s) Found in: Gauss/Ampere Sequence (Integral Form), Geometry of Vector Fields Sequence, Flux Sequence sequence(s)