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My notes for edX 8.02x "Electricity and Magnetism"

# My notes for edX 8.02x "Electricity and Magnetism"

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My notes, mostly from the lectures. Not 100% is covered, and they are absolutely not a substitute for the lectures themselves.
Also contains (my own) homework and exam solutions.
My notes, mostly from the lectures. Not 100% is covered, and they are absolutely not a substitute for the lectures themselves.
Also contains (my own) homework and exam solutions.

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10/17/2015

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We now know that charge distribution is non-uniform on all non-spherical surfaces (surfaces, since we also
know that all charge will reside at the surface for solid conductors).
More speciﬁcally, the charge density will be higher at regions of higher curvature, which we will now show.

Imagine two conducting spheres, far apart, but connected with conductive wire. The two spheres are

20

together an equipotential, because of the connection between them.
Let’s call one A, with radius RA and charge QA, with the other being B with radius RB and charge QB.

Because of the large separation between the two, the potential around A is not dependent upon B. That
is, the work required to bring a charge from inﬁnity to A is essentially the same with or without B.
Therefore, we can calculate the potential of A to be:

VA = QA
4π 0r

... but since the two are an equipotential, that must also be the potential of B, which also must follow the
same formula itself:

VB = QB
4π 0RB

= QA
4π 0RA

Therefore,

QA

RA

= QB
RB

This must be true regardless of the radii involved, so imagine B having a radius that is 5 times larger than
A. This implies that there is also 5 times more charge on B than there is on A. However, the surface area
of B is 25 times larger than that of A.

The surface charge density σ is the total charge on the sphere divided by the surface area, so

σ = Q
4πR2

For these facts to be able to co-exist - that the surface area is 25 times more, but the charge is only 5
times more, we get that

σB = 1

5σA
merely because of the larger radius of B. Therefore, the smaller the radius, the higher the local charge
density. And, via Gauss’s law, we can show that this also implies that the local electric ﬁeld will be
stronger at such points of high curvature.

There results apply to all shapes. An otherwise spherical surface with a small, pointy outwards “tip” will
have a stronger electric ﬁeld at that tip, due to the higher charge density.

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