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Classical Electromagnetism

Classical Electromagnetism

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Published by: Na2ry on Aug 09, 2010
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Classical Electromagnetism
an upper-division undergraduate level lecture course given by 
Richard Fitzpatrick
Assistant Professor of Physics
The University of Texas at Austin
Fall 1997 
Email: rfitzp@farside.ph.utexas.edu, Tel.: 512-471-9439Homepage: http://farside.ph.utexas.edu/em1/em.html
1 Introduction
1.1 Major sources
The textbooks which I have consulted most frequently whilst developing coursematerial are:
Introduction to electrodynamics:
D.J. Griffiths, 2nd edition (Prentice Hall,Englewood Cliffs NJ, 1989).
I.S. Grant and W.R. Phillips (John Wiley & Sons, Chich-ester, 1975).
Classical electromagnetic radiation:
M.A. Heald and J.B. Marion, 3rd edi-tion (Saunders College Publishing, Fort Worth TX, 1995).
The Feynman lectures on physics:
R.P. Feynman, R.B. Leighton, and M.Sands, Vol. II (Addison-Wesley, Reading MA, 1964).1
1.2 Outline of course
The main topic of this course is
Maxwell’s equations
. These are a set of 
first order partial differential equations which constitute a
descriptionof electric and magnetic phenomena. To be more exact, Maxwell’s equations con-stitute a complete description of the behaviour of electric and magnetic
.You are all, no doubt, quite familiar with the concepts of electric and magneticfields, but I wonder how many of you can answer the following question. “Doelectric and magnetic fields have a real physical existence or are they just the-oretical constructs which we use to calculate the electric and magnetic forcesexerted by charged particles on one another?” In trying to formulate an answerto this question we shall, hopefully, come to a better understanding of the natureof electric and magnetic fields and the reasons why it is necessary to use theseconcepts in order to fully describe electric and magnetic phenomena.At any given point in space an electric or magnetic field possesses two proper-ties, a
and a
. In general, these properties vary from point topoint. It is conventional to represent such a field in terms of its components mea-sured with respect to some conveniently chosen set of Cartesian axes (
axes). Of course, the orientation of these axes is
. In other words,different observers may well choose different coordinate axes to describe the samefield. Consequently, electric and magnetic fields may have different componentsaccording to different observers. We can see that any description of electric andmagnetic fields is going to depend on two different things. Firstly, the nature of the fields themselves and, secondly, our arbitrary choice of the coordinate axeswith respect to which we measure these fields. Likewise, Maxwell’s equations, theequations which describe the behaviour of electric and magnetic fields, depend ontwo different things. Firstly, the fundamental laws of physics which govern thebehaviour of electric and magnetic fields and, secondly, our arbitrary choice of coordinate axes. It would be nice if we could easily distinguish those elements of Maxwell’s equations which depend on physics from those which only depend oncoordinates. In fact, we can achieve this using what mathematicians call
vector  field theory 
. This enables us to write Maxwell’s equations in a manner whichis
completely independent 
of our choice of coordinate axes. As an added bonus,Maxwell’s equations look a lot simpler when written in a coordinate free manner.2
In fact, instead of 
first order partial differential equations, we only requirefour such equations using vector field theory. It should be clear, by now, that weare going to be using a lot of vector field theory in this course. In order to helpyou with this, I have decided to devote the first few lectures of this course to areview of the basic results of vector field theory. I know that most of you havealready taken a course on this topic. However, that course was taught by some-body from the mathematics department. Mathematicians have their own agendawhen it comes to discussing vectors. They like to think of vector operations as asort of algebra which takes place in an abstract “vector space.This is all verywell, but it is not always particularly useful. So, when I come to review this topicI shall emphasize those aspects of vectors which make them of particular interestto physicists; namely, the fact that we can use them to write the laws of physicsin a coordinate free fashion.Traditionally, an upper division college level course on electromagnetic theoryis organized as follows. First, there is a lengthy discussion of electrostatics (
,electric fields generated by stationary charge distributions) and all of its applica-tions. Next, there is a discussion of magnetostatics (
, magnetic fields generatedby steady current distributions) and all of its applications. At this point, there isusually some mention of the interaction of steady electric and magnetic fields withmatter. Next, there is an investigation of induction (
, electric and magneticfields generated by time varying magnetic and electric fields, respectively) and itsmany applications. Only at this rather late stage in the course is it possible towrite down the full set of Maxwell’s equations. The course ends with a discussionof electromagnetic waves.The organization of my course is somewhat different to that described above.There are two reasons for this. Firstly, I do not think that the traditional courseemphasizes Maxwell’s equations sufficiently. After all, they are only written downin their full glory more than three quarters of the way through the course. I findthis a problem because, as I have already mentioned, I think that Maxwell’s equa-tions should be the principal topic of an upper division course on electromagnetictheory. Secondly, in the traditional course it is very easy for the lecturer to fallinto the trap of dwelling too long on the relatively uninteresting subject matter atthe beginning of the course (
, electrostatics and magnetostatics) at the expenseof the really interesting material towards the end of the course (
, induction,3

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