computer Mathematica Activity

30 min.

Using Technology to Visualize Potentials
Static Fields 2022 (4 years)

electrostatic potential visualization

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 demonstrates several different ways of plotting the potential.

assignment Homework

Linear Quadrupole (w/o series)
Static Fields 2022 (3 years) Consider a collection of three charges arranged in a line along the \(z\)-axis: charges \(+Q\) at \(z=\pm D\) and charge \(-2Q\) at \(z=0\).
  1. Find the electrostatic potential at a point \(\vec{r}\) on the \(x\)-axis at a distance \(x\) from the center of the quadrupole.

  2. A series of charges arranged in this way is called a linear quadrupole. Why?

group Small Group Activity

30 min.

Electrostatic Potential Due to a Pair of Charges (without Series)
Static Fields 2022 (3 years) 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.

assignment Homework

Potential vs. Potential Energy
Static Fields 2022 (4 years)

In this course, two of the primary examples we will be using are the potential due to gravity and the potential due to an electric charge. Both of these forces vary like \(\frac{1}{r}\), so they will have many, many similarities. Most of the calculations we do for the one case will be true for the other. But there are some extremely important differences:

  1. Find the value of the electrostatic potential energy of a system consisting of a hydrogen nucleus and an electron separated by the Bohr radius. Find the value of the gravitational potential energy of the same two particles at the same radius. Use the same system of units in both cases. Compare and the contrast the two answers.
  2. Find the value of the electrostatic potential due to the nucleus of a hydrogen atom at the Bohr radius. Find the gravitational potential due to the nucleus at the same radius. Use the same system of units in both cases. Compare and contrast the two answers.
  3. Briefly discuss at least one other fundamental difference between electromagnetic and gravitational systems. Hint: Why are we bound to the earth gravitationally, but not electromagnetically?

group Small Group Activity

30 min.

Electrostatic Potential Due to a Ring of Charge
Static Fields 2022 (6 years)

electrostatic potential charge linear charge density taylor series power series scalar field superposition symmetry distance formula

Power Series Sequence (E&M)

Ring Cycle Sequence

Students work in groups of three 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.

assignment Homework

Linear Quadrupole (w/ series)

Power Series Sequence (E&M)

Static Fields 2022 (4 years)

Consider a collection of three charges arranged in a line along the \(z\)-axis: charges \(+Q\) at \(z=\pm D\) and charge \(-2Q\) at \(z=0\).

  1. Find the electrostatic potential at a point \(\vec{r}\) in the \(xy\)-plane at a distance \(s\) from the center of the quadrupole. The formula for the electrostatic potential \(V\) at a point \(\vec{r}\) due to a charge \(Q\) at the point \(\vec{r'}\) is given by: \[ V(\vec{r})=\frac{1}{4\pi\epsilon_0} \frac{Q}{\vert \vec{r}-\vec{r'}\vert} \] Electrostatic potentials satisfy the superposition principle.
  2. Assume \(s\gg D\). Find the first two non-zero terms of a power series expansion to the electrostatic potential you found in the first part of this problem.

group Small Group Activity

60 min.

Electrostatic Potential Due to a Pair of Charges (with Series)
Static Fields 2022 (4 years)

electrostatic potential multipole charge symmetry scalar field superposition coulomb's Law

Power Series Sequence (E&M)

Ring Cycle Sequence

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.

assignment Homework

Line Sources Using the Gradient
Static Fields 2022 (4 years)
  1. 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}

group Small Group Activity

30 min.

Electric Field Due to a Ring of Charge
Static Fields 2022 (6 years)

coulomb's law electric field charge ring symmetry integral power series superposition

Power Series Sequence (E&M)

Ring Cycle Sequence

Students work in groups of three 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.

accessibility_new Kinesthetic

10 min.

Acting Out the Gradient
Static Fields 2022 (4 years)

gradient vector fields electrostatics

Students are shown a topographic map of an oval hill and imagine that the classroom is on the hill. They are asked to point in the direction of the gradient vector appropriate to the point on the hill where they are "standing".

group Small Group Activity

120 min.

Equipotential Surfaces

E&M Quadrupole Scalar Fields

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.

group Small Group Activity

30 min.

Magnetic Vector Potential Due to a Spinning Charged Ring
Static Fields 2022 (4 years)

compare and contrast mathematica magnetic vector potential magnetic fields vector field symmetry

Power Series Sequence (E&M)

Ring Cycle Sequence

Students work in groups of three 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.

group Small Group Activity

30 min.

Charged Sphere

E&M Introductory Physics Electric Potential Electric Field

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.

group Small Group Activity

30 min.

Magnetic Field Due to a Spinning Ring of Charge
Static Fields 2022 (5 years)

magnetic fields current Biot-Savart law vector field symmetry

Power Series Sequence (E&M)

Ring Cycle Sequence

Students work in groups of three 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.

group Small Group Activity

30 min.

A glass of water
Energy and Entropy 2021 (2 years)

thermodynamics intensive extensive temperature volume energy entropy

Students generate a list of properties a glass of water might have. The class then discusses and categorizes those properties.

assignment Homework

The Gradient for a Point Charge
Static Fields 2022 (4 years)

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

accessibility_new Kinesthetic

10 min.

Acting Out Charge Densities
Static Fields 2022 (4 years)

density charge density mass density linear density uniform idealization

Ring Cycle Sequence

Integration Sequence

Students, pretending they are point charges, move around the room acting out various prompts from the instructor regarding charge densities, including linear \(\lambda\), surface \(\sigma\), and volume \(\rho\) charge densities, both uniform and non-uniform. The instructor demonstrates what it means to measure these quantities. In a remote setting, we have students manipulate 10 coins to model the prompts in this activity and the we demonstrate the answers with coins under a doc cam.