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MasteringPhysics:Ch21HW

PhETTutorial:ChargesandElectricFields
LearningGoal:
Tounderstandthespatialdistributionoftheelectricfieldforavarietyofsimplechargeconfigurations.
Forthisproblem,usethePhETsimulationChargesandFields.Thissimulationallowsyoutoplacemultiplepositive
andnegativepointchargesinanyconfigurationandlookattheresultingelectricfield.

Startthesimulation.Youcanclickanddragpositivecharges(red)ornegativecharges(blue)intothemainscreen.If
youselectShowEfieldinthegreenmenu,redarrowswillappear,showingthedirectionoftheelectricfield.Faintred
arrowsindicatethattheelectricfieldisweakerthanatlocationswherethearrowsarebrighter(thissimulationdoesnot
usearrowlengthasameasureoffieldmagnitude).
Feelfreetoplayaroundwiththesimulation.Whenyouaredone,clickClearAllbeforebeginningPartA.

PartA
SelectShowEfieldandgridinthegreenmenu.Dragonepositivechargeandplaceitnearthemiddleofthe
screen,rightontopoftwointersectingboldgridlines.Youshouldseesomethingsimilartothefigurebelow.

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ANSWER:
Theelectricfieldproducedbythepositivecharge

wrapscircularlyaroundthepositivecharge.
isdirectedradiallytowardthechargeatalllocationsnearthecharge.
isdirectedradiallyawayfromthechargeatalllocationsnearthecharge.

Correct
Thismeansthatanotherpositivecharge,ifplacedneartheoriginalcharge,wouldexperienceaforcedirected
radiallyawayfromtheoriginalcharge.

PartB
Now,let'slookathowthedistancefromthechargeaffectsthemagnitudeoftheelectricfield.SelectShow
numbersonthegreenmenu,andthenclickanddragoneoftheorangeEFieldSensors.Youwillseethe
magnitudeoftheelectricfieldgiveninunitsofV/m(voltspermeter,whichisthesameasnewtonspercoulomb).
PlacetheEFieldSensor1mawayfromthepositivecharge(1mistwoboldgridlinesawayifgoingina
horizontalorverticaldirection),andlookattheresultingfieldstrength.
Considerthelocationstotheright,left,above,andbelowthepositivecharge,all1maway.
ANSWER:

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thesame.
greatestbelowthecharge.
Forthesefourlocations,themagnitudeoftheelectricfieldis

greatestabovethecharge.
greatesttotheleftofthecharge.
greatesttotherightofthecharge.

Correct
Thisresultimpliesthatthestrengthoftheelectricfieldduetoonepointchargedependssolelyonthe
distanceawayfromthecharge.Mathematically,wesaytheelectricfieldissphericallysymmetric.

PartC
Whatisthemagnitudeoftheelectricfield1mawayfromthepositivechargecomparedtothemagnitudeofthe
electricfield2maway?

Hint1.Howtoapproachtheproblem
UseanEFieldSensortodeterminethefieldstrengthbothat1mawayandat2mawayfromthecharge.
Then,taketheratioofthetwofieldstrengths.
ANSWER:
onequarter
equalto
Themagnitudeoftheelectricfield1mawayfromthepositivechargeis

twotimes
onehalf
fourtimes

themagnitudeoftheelectricfield2maway.

Correct
Themagnitudeofthefielddecreasesmorequicklythantheinverseofthedistancefromthecharge.The
magnitudeoftheelectricfieldisproportionaltotheinverseofthedistancesquared(E 1/r 2 ,wherer is
thedistancefromthecharge).Youshouldverifythisbylookingatthefieldstrength3or4metersaway.This
isconsistentwithCoulomb
s law,whichstatesthatthemagnitudeoftheforcebetweentwochargedparticles

2
isF = kQ 1 Q 2 /r .

PartD
IfthefieldstrengthisE =9V/m adistanceof1mfromthecharge,whatisthefieldstrengthE adistanceof
3mfromthecharge?
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Hint1.Howtoapproachtheproblem
Themagnitudeoftheelectricfieldisinverselyproportionaltodistancesquared(E 1/r 2 ).Soifthe
distanceisincreasedbyafactorofthree,thefieldstrengthmustdecreasebyafactorofthreesquared.
Youcouldusethesimulationtomakeameasurement(youmighthavetodragthechargeawayfromthe
centersoyouhaveenoughroomtoget3maway).
ANSWER:
E

= 1 V/m

Correct
Correct.SinceE
factorofnine.

1/r

,ifthedistanceisincreasedbyafactorofthree,theelectricfieldisdecreasedbya

PartE
Removethepositivechargebydraggingitbacktothebasket,anddraganegativecharge(blue)towardthemiddle
ofthescreen.Determinehowtheelectricfieldisdifferentfromthatofthepositivecharge.
Whichstatementbestdescribesthedifferencesintheelectricfieldduetoanegativechargeascomparedtoa
positivecharge?
ANSWER:
Theelectricfieldchangesdirection(nowpointsradiallyinward),buttheelectricfieldstrengthdoesnot
change.
Nothingchangestheelectricfieldremainsdirectedradiallyoutward,andtheelectricfieldstrength
doesn
tchange.

Theelectricfieldchangesdirection(nowpointsradiallyinward),andthemagnitudeoftheelectricfield
decreasesatalllocations.

Correct
Theelectricfieldisnowdirectedtowardthenegativecharge,butthefieldstrengthdoesn
tchange.The

electricfieldofapointchargeisgivenbyE = (kQ/r 2 )r^ .Becauseofthesignofthecharge,thefield


producedbyanegativechargeisdirectedoppositetothatofapositivechargebutthemagnitudeofthefield
isthesame.

PartF
Now,removethenegativecharge,anddragtwopositivecharges,placingthem1mapart,asshownbelow.

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Let
s lookattheresultingelectricfieldduetobothcharges.Recallthattheelectricfieldisavector,sothenet

electricfieldisthevectorsumoftheelectricfieldsduetoeachofthetwocharges.
Whereisthemagnitudeoftheelectricfieldroughlyequaltozero(otherthanveryfarawayfromthecharges)?
ANSWER:
Theelectricfieldisnonzeroeverywhereonthescreen.
Theelectricfieldiszeroatanylocationalongaverticallinegoingthroughthepointdirectlybetweenthe
twocharges.
Theelectricfieldisroughlyzeronearthemidpointofthetwocharges.

Correct
Directlybetweenthetwocharges,theelectricfieldsproducedbyeachchargeareequalinmagnitudeand
pointinoppositedirections,sothetwovectorsadduptozero.

PartG
Considerapoint0.5mabovethemidpointofthetwocharges.Asyoucanverifybyremovingoneofthepositive
charges,theelectricfieldduetoonlyoneofthepositivechargesisabout18V/m .Whatisthemagnitudeofthe
totalelectricfieldduetobothchargesatthislocation?
ANSWER:

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zero
25V/m
36V/m

Correct
Noticethatthisnumberislessthantwicethemagnitudeofthefieldduetoeachcharge.Thisoccursbecause
thehorizontalcomponentsoftheelectricfieldduetoeachchargeexactlycancelout(addtozero).Onlythe
verticalcomponentsofthefieldsaddtogether.

PartH
Makeanelectricdipolebyreplacingoneofthepositivechargeswithanegativecharge,sothefinalconfiguration
lookslikethefigureshownbelow.

ANSWER:
zero.
Theelectricfieldatthemidpointis

directedtotheleft.
directedtotheright.

Correct
Theelectricfieldduetothepositivechargeisdirectedtotheright,asistheelectricfieldduetothenegative
charge.Sothenetelectricfield,whichisthesumofthesetwofields,isalsototheright.

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PartI
Makeasmalldipolebybringingthetwochargesveryclosetoeachother,wheretheyarebarelytouching.The
midpointofthetwochargesshouldstillbeononeofthegridpointintersections(seefigurebelow).

Measurethestrengthoftheelectricfield0.5mdirectlyabovethemidpointaswellas1mdirectlyabove.Does
thestrengthoftheelectricfielddecreaseas1overdistancesquared(1/r 2 )?

Hint1.Howtoapproachtheproblem
Ifthestrengthofthefieldisdecreasingas1/r 2 ,thentheratioofthemagnitudesoftheelectricfield
measuredattwodistances,say0.5mawayand1maway,wouldbe
Er=0.5 /Er=1 = (1/0.5)

/(1/1)

= 4

ComparethisvaluetothevalueyoumeasurewithanEFieldSensor.
ANSWER:
No,itdecreasesmorequicklywithdistance.
No,itdecreaseslessquicklywithdistance.
Yes,itdoes.

Correct
Infact,itturnsoutthatthestrengthoftheelectricfielddecreasesroughlyas1/r 3 !Sothefield1mabove
themidpointisroughlyeighttimesweakerthanat0.5mabovethemidpoint.Theimportantlessonhereis
that,ingeneral,adistributionofchargesproducesanelectricfieldthatisverydifferentfromthatofasingle
charge.

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PartJ
Makealonglineofpositivecharges,similartothatshowninthefigurebelow.Trytoplaceallofthecharges
centeredalongahorizontalgridline.Feelfreetolookattheelectricfield,asitisinteresting.

Measurethestrengthoftheelectricfield1mdirectlyabovethemiddleaswellas2mdirectlyabove.Doesthe
strengthoftheelectricfielddecreaseas1overdistancesquared(1/r 2 )?
ANSWER:
No,itdecreaseslessquicklywithdistance.
Yes,itdoes.
No,itdecreasesmorequicklywithdistance.

Correct
Infact,itturnsoutthatthestrengthoftheelectricfielddecreasesroughlyas1/r.Sothefield1mabovethe
midpointisroughlyhalfthestrengthat0.5m.Thisisanotherexampleshowingthatadistributionofcharges
producesanelectricfieldthatisverydifferentfromthatofasinglecharge.

PhETInteractiveSimulations
UniversityofColorado
http://phet.colorado.edu

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