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Physics 15b - Exam coming up!

This problem set in normal. But the next problem set will be the take-home version of the
mid-term exam. The in-class part of this will be in class on Thursday March 24. Here is the way
this will work. You can work on the take-home portion just as you would on any other problem
set, with your usual study groups. As usual, you should write up the problem on you own, and you
should list your group on your problem set. Now on Thursday, March 24, you will wake up bright
and early, and bring your problem set to class. At at the beginning of class, you will get a packet of
followup questions. You can keep your problem set while you work on the followup questions in
class, but you should not add anything or otherwise change your solutions. At the end of cless, you
will hand in the packet with your followup answers and your problem set together. The followup
questions should be similar in style to the ones we have been doing on ordinary Thursdays. Now
back to this week’s reality.

Assignment #6
By Monday March 14, read Chapter 5 and Appendix A of Purcell. One slight quarrel that I
have with Purcell’s treatment of special relativity is his use of the term “rest mass” for the mass
of a particle. The only concept of mass that makes any sense for a relativistic particle is the
mass measured at small velocities using Newtonian mechanics. This is equal to the rest mass.
But it continues to be the mass of the particle whatever it’s velocity. The particle’s energy and
momentum change with ~v , but its mass doesn’t change any more than its particle identity changes.
An electron in motion is still an electron and its mass is the mass of the electron. The term “rest
mass” should never be used and you should banish it from your vocabulary. Instead, you should
remember the two fundamental relations of relativistic mechanics:

E2 p~ 2 c2 = m2 c4 c2 p~ = ~v E (1)

All of particle dynamics can be derived from these relations. I hope that if you use them consis-
tently, you won’t get so confused.

Q&A questions to be answered on the Physics 15b website before 11pm on Monday,
March 14:

6QA-1. Which pair below is the best answer to the two questions in Problem 5.2 in Purcell?

A: 12 statvolts/cm and 5:25 statvolts/cm

B: 12 statvolts/cm and 27:5 statvolts/cm
C: 24 statvolts/cm and 10:5 statvolts/cm
D: 24 statvolts/cm and 55 statvolts/cm
E: None of the above.

In addition, there are some survey questions and feedback questions.

Problems due at the beginning of class on Thursday, March 17 —
6-1. Problem 5.5 in Purcell.
Fixed in the frame F is a sheet of charge, of uniform surface charge density  , which
bisects the dihedral angle formed by the xy and the yz planes. The electric field of
this stationary sheet is of course perpendicular to the sheet. How will this be described
by observers in a frame F 0 that is moving in the x direction with velocity 0:6c with
respect to F ? What is the surface charge density  0 and what is the direction and
strength of the electric field in F 0 ? Is it perpendicular to the sheet?

6-2. Problem 5.10 in Purcell.

In the rest frame of a particle with charge q1 another particle with charge q2 is ap-
proaching, moving with velocity ~v not small compared with c. If it continues to move
in a straight line, it will pass a distance d from the position of the first particle. It is
so massive that its displacement from the straight path during the encounter is small
compared to d. Likewise, the first particle is so massive that its displacement from its
initial position while the other particle is nearby is also small compared to d. Note:
The statement of the problem is a little confusing. Assume that what the penultimate
sentence means is that the deflection angle of the moving particle is very small.
(a) Show that the increment in momentum acquired by each particle as a result of
the encounter is perpendicular to ~v and in magnitude 2q1 q2 =vd. (Gauss’s law can be
useful here.)
(b) Expressed in terms of the other quantities, how large must the masses of the
particles be to justify our assumptions.

6-3. Problem 5.13 in Purcell.

In the figure you see an electron at time t = 0:0 and the associated electric field at that
instant. Distances in centimeters are given in the diagram.

(a) Describe what has been going on. Make your description as complete and
quantitative as you can.

(b) Where was the electron at the time t = 7:5  10 10 sec?

(c) What was the strength of the electric field at the origin at that instant?


A relativistic hedgehog can be described approximately in its rest frame as a rigid hemispher-
ical object (the flat part is down — along the ground) with rigid quills sticking out everywhere on
the hemisphere perpendicular to its surface with a constant density  per unit solid angle (nonrela-
tivistic hedgehogs have cute little faces and their quills may not be exactly radial, as in the picture
above, but we will ignore these unimportant features). Suppose now that the hedgehog is moving
along the x-axis at velocity v in the lab frame.

a. When the center of the hedgehog is at the origin in the lab frame, find the density of quills
per unit solid angle on a hemisphere centered at the origin with a radius larger than the radius of
the hedgehog as a function of the angle from the x axis. Hint: Only the quills, not the hedgehog
are important, so you could forget the hedgehog entirely and imagine that the quills just extend
into the center. Hint 2: It is convenient to work in polar coordinates. Let r,  and , be polar
coordinates in the rest frame of the hedgehog, where the polar angle  is defined with respect to
the direction of motion of the moving frame. Then in the rest frame, the number density of quills
per unit solid angle can be written as
= (6-4.1)
sin  d d

Let r0 , 0 and 0 , be polar coordinates in the frame in which the hedgehog is moving, where again
the polar angle  is defined with respect to the direction of motion. We can take the azimuthal angle
 = 0 to be unchanged, and we are not concerned about r and r0 because we are only interested
in angles. You should figure out what the polar angle 0 looks like in the moving frame, and find
the quill density
sin 0 d0 d0
as a function of 0 in the moving frame.

b. Discuss the connection of your result with equation (12) in chapter 5 of Purcell.