Topic 6: Fields and Forces
Revision on Electrical Fields, Gravitational Fields and Magnetic Fields

Revision on Topic 6 of the IB Physics course for both SL and HL. Based on the what the syllabus says you need to know

Fields and Forces
What is a Field?
A field is a mathematical construct that allows for the visualisation of what will happen to an object that is placed at a certain point. These fields can be visualised by the use of field lines which show the direction of a field at a certain point. Fields can take either of two forms, a vector field, which attaches a vector to every point, such as a gravitational field, which shows the force at any point for a particle and the direction of that force. The second type of field is a scalar field, which simply attaches a number to every point without a direction. An example of this would be a field that gives the temperature at any point. The three types of field that require description in the IB Physics course are Gravitational Fields, Electrical Fields and Magnetic Fields. The first of these two are very similar and the only real difference between them is the constant in the front of them and the physical quantity that is entered into them.

Electrical and Gravitational Forces
The force between two point masses (all the mass concentrated at a point) is given by the expression.

The force between two point charges (all the charge concentrated at a point) is given by the expression.

As can be seen both of these expressions are almost identical, the only difference being the constants. However the Coulomb Constant is twenty orders of magnitude larger than the Gravitational Constant. The reason however that gravity is the dominant force on the macroscopic scale is that gravity is always attractive, whereas due to there being two types of charge (positive and negative), Charges can repel and attract each other, and due to everything in nature being overall neutral, causes these charges to cancel each other out and thereby mean we do not see the effects of it as much as we see gravity.

Defining Electric and Gravitational Fields
Both of these fields come as a result of two very similar equations that give the force between two objects depending on the relevant parameters. This is done by placing a test object of a certain value of the parameter being tested at a certain point and finding the force exerted on the test object and then dividing by the value of the test parameter. This gives the forms to determine the fields of the gravitational and electric fields as follows. Where G is the Gravitational constant, M is the mass of the main object in the field, and r is the distance from this main object. The proper name for this value is the Gravitational Field Strength.

Where Q is the charge and k is Coulombs Electrical Constant. For both of these fields, a like field can be added to a like field, as long as you have defined your objects in your field to be at the correct locations. However, doing this is not required by the IB.

Electric and Magnetic Field Diagrams
An electrical or Magnetic field diagram is used to visualise the field due to an arrangement of charges. To do this, certain rules are followed.       Field lines come out at 90° from the surface The density of the field lines signifies the strength of the field in that region. Field lines do not cross The direction of field lines go from positive charge to negative charge for Electrical Field Diagrams The direction of field lines go from North Pole to South Pole for Magnetic Field Diagrams For Magnetic Fields the Field lines always form a closed loop. This is due to there being no such thing as a magnetic Monopole.

Magnetic Fields
A magnetic field is caused by moving charges or currents. There are a couple of equations to note about this. The Magnetic Field due to a current

Where B is the magnitude of the magnetic Field, μ is the permeability of free space, I is the current and r is the distance from the wire. A major thing that is different about this field is that the direction is determined completely differently and the direction can exhibits a property of handedness. For example in the case above the direction of the field is found by finding the direction of conventional current and pointing the thumb of your right hand in that direction and then curling your fingers, and the direction of the curling of your fingers will show the direction of the field. Another convention is to show the direction of vectors or current is called the arrow rule. In the instance that a vector or the current is going into the page, a cross is drawn signifying the back of an arrow. However, when the vector or current is coming out of the page, a dot is drawn signifying the point of the arrow coming out of the page. Drawings with wires are shown below.

In/to left Wire in/out of page

Out/to right

Magnetic Field In/Out

Lorentz Force
The force on a moving charge in a magnetic field, is given by

Where q is the charge of the moving charge, v is the velocity of the moving charge and B is the Magnetic Field, and the x signifies the cross product. In this case the theta signifies the angle between the direction of motion and the magnetic field. The direction of the force is given by the right hand rule, where the thumb is direction of the force, then pointer is the direction of the magnetic field and the middle finger is the direction of motion.

Force on a wire in a magnetic Field
The force on a wire is given by

Where I is the current and L is the length of the wire and θ is the angle between the magnetic field and the wire. The direction is given by the left hand rule, where the force is the thumb, the magnetic field is the pointer and the middle finger is the direction of the current. In both this case and the case above, if the wire is parallel to the field or the charge is moving parallel to the field, then there will be no force upon the charge.

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