# Understanding Electric Fields and Gauss's Law in Physics

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## Introduction

In physics, understanding the interactions between charges is fundamental, especially in electrostatics. This article delves into the concepts surrounding electric fields, dipoles, and Gauss's law, which together provide a framework for analyzing electric forces and fields generated by charged objects.

## Electric Fields

### What is an Electric Field?

An **electric field** is a region around a charged particle where other charged particles experience a force. To better visualize this, consider placing a hypothetical charge of one coulomb in the vicinity of multiple other charges—each charge will exert a force, resulting in a net force that can be computed as the sum of all individual forces acting on the one-coulomb charge. This net effect is defined as the electric field, denoted by **E**. Its strength and direction can be represented through **electric field lines**.

### Visualizing Electric Fields

Electric field lines provide a powerful visualization tool. They illustrate:

**Direction**: The lines indicate the direction of the force that a positive test charge would experience at any point in space.**Strength**: The density of electric field lines is proportional to the strength of the electric field. Closer lines indicate a stronger field, while lines that are farther apart indicate a weaker field.

### Electrical Field Magnitude and Distance

Even being aware of the formula defining an electric field helps in understanding its behavior. Generally, for point charges, the electric field **E** decreases in strength as you move away from the charge and is inversely proportional to the square of the distance (**E ∝ 1/r²**). However, for distributed charges, such as those found along a wire or across a plane, this relationship changes accordingly.

## Electric Dipoles

### What is a Dipole?

An **electric dipole** consists of two equal and opposite charges separated by a distance. The dipole moment, denoted as **p**, quantifies the strength of the dipole, calculated as:
**p = q × d**

where **q** is the magnitude of the charge, and **d** is the distance separating the charges.

### Behavior of a Dipole in an Electric Field

When a dipole is placed in an external electric field **E**, it experiences forces in opposite directions due to its opposite charges. While the net force can be zero (if the dipole is oriented perfectly in an electric field), the dipole will experience a torque that tends to align it with the electric field. The torque (
τ) can be calculated as:
**τ = p × E**,

where **×** indicates a cross product.

### Potential Energy in an Electric Field

When discussing electric dipoles, another important concept is the **potential energy (U)** associated with the dipole in an electric field. This can be expressed as:
**U = -p · E**.

This formula highlights how the configuration of the dipole in relation to the electric field influences its stored potential energy.

## Gauss's Law

### Definition and Concept

**Gauss's law** relates the electric field distribution (flux) through a closed surface to the charge enclosed within that surface. Mathematically, it can be expressed as:
**Φ_E = ∮ E · dA = q_enc/ε_0**

where **Φ_E** is the electric flux through the surface, **E** is the electric field, **dA** is the area element on the closed surface, and **q_enc** is the enclosed charge.

### Application of Gauss's Law

#### Example: Electric Field of a Point Charge

To illustrate Gauss's law, consider a point charge **q** placed at the center of a spherical Gaussian surface of radius **r**. The electric field **E** on the surface will be constant and can be calculated as:

- The total electric flux through the sphere is given by:
**Φ_E = E × 4πr²**. - The enclosed charge is equal to
**q**. - Therefore, according to Gauss's law:
**E × 4πr² = q/ε_0** - This results in:
**E = q/(4πε_0r²)**.

This illustrates that the electric field due to a point charge behaves as if all the charge were concentrated at that point, demonstrating the power of symmetry in electrostatics.

#### Example: Electric Field of an Infinite Plane of Charge

An interesting application of Gauss's law arises from a sheet of charge with uniform surface charge density **σ**. For any point outside this infinite plane:

- The electric field
**E**produced by the infinite plane is constant and does not depend on the distance from the plane:**E = σ/(2ε_0)**.

## Conclusion

In conclusion, the concepts of electric fields, dipoles, and Gauss's law provide a robust framework to analyze and solve problems related to electrostatics. Understanding how charges interact through electric fields, coupled with the insights provided by Gauss's law, allows for the simplification of complex electric field calculations in various scenarios. These principles remain fundamental in the study of physics and electrical engineering.

Prof: All right, class, I thought I'd start as usual by telling you what happened last time. Not the whole thing, but just the highlights so you

can follow what's happening today. The main things I did last time were the notion of an electric field, which is going to be with you from now till the end of the

q_2, q_3, instead of worrying about the force they exert on each other, you ask yourself, at a generic point where

there's nothing, if I put 1 coulomb here, what will it experience? What force will it experience?

so maybe it will exert a force that way. You add all these vectors, they add up to something. That something is called the electric field at that point.

There is nothing there except the electric field, but it's very real, because if you put something, something happens to it.

So the electric field is everywhere. The charges are in a few places. Electric field is defined everywhere, except right on top

of the charges, which is where it probably is infinite. Once you know the electric field anywhere,

if you put another charge q, a real charge, it will experience a force equal to qE, because electric field was the

force you would have had on the 1 coulomb, and if you put q coulombs, it will be qE. That's the electric field.

So you can imagine computing it for any given distribution of charges, because you know what each one of them does. Then I said there's one nice way to visualize the electric

field, which is to draw the field lines. You go to each point and you ask, if I put a charge here, a positive test charge, which way will it move?

Then you follow that thing as it moves and you get that line and you get that line and you get that line. You can draw these lines.

The lines give you one piece of information which is very obvious, namely, if you are here, the force is along that line.

But I also pointed out to you, you get more than just the direction of the force. You also can understand the strength of the force.

The strength of the force is contained in the density of these lines. Now density has to be defined carefully.

It's not like mass per unit volume. It's an area density. That means if you get yourself 1 square meter,

you know, meter by meter piece of wood, like a frame, and you hold it there, perpendicular to the lines and see how many lines go through,

that's called the area density of lines. That you can see will fall like 1/r^(2), because if you draw a sphere of radius r,

that area is 4Πr^(2), and the same number of lines are going through that as any other sphere, so it will be proportional to 1/r^(2).

But so is the electrical field proportional to 1/r^(2), and I said, let us agree that we will draw 1/ε_0 lines per coulomb.

This is a necessity; it's just a convenience. It's like saying I want to measure distances in inches and centimeters for daily life.

You can measure them in parsecs and angstroms, but you'll be dealing with nasty numbers. So it's a convenience, and the convenience here is,

let's pick 1/ε_0 lines per coulomb. You'll see the advantage of that, because if you ask,

what's the density of lines here on a sphere of radius r, if there's charge q at the center, I got that many lines,

and the area of the sphere is 4Πr^(2), so the density of lines per unit area, you see, is precisely equal in magnitude to the electric field

lines, then the line density will be 5 times the electric field. It will still represent the electric field,

but we don't want to simply represent it. We want it to be the electric field. It makes it easier.

Then I said, let's take a slightly more complicated situation, two charges. This is called a dipole, one pole and another pole,

and you can draw the field lines here. You can see if you put a test charge, it'll run away from the plus to the minus.

If you leave it somewhere here, it'll go like that and loop around and come back, and you can calculate them. This is no longer guesswork.

If you had enough time, I hope you all agree, you can go to any point you like and find the force of attraction due to this one, the force of repulsion due to

that one, add them up and you will get an arrow that direction. So one can draw these lines, and the lines tell you a story.

Student: I have a question about the dipole. If you put a test particle going in the positive direction of the x axis, would it also _________?

It's always going to be closer to this guy, so it's never going to come back. This line will go like that and this line will go like this.

But anything else at any other angle will loop around and come back. All right, now the field strength, if you want to

calculate it, you can use the formula for E due to this one and E due to that one and add them, and I did that for you.

I don't want to go into the details, but I remind you in all cases, the electric field fell like 1/r^(3), because the field of each

charges goes like 1/r^(2). And if these were on top of each other, they will completely cancel each other.

So the reason you have a non-zero field is thanks to a. Therefore the answer has to contain an a in front of

it, at least n the first approximation. But that a, from dimensional analysis, has to come with a 1/r so that the whole thing has the

same dimension as before. That's where you get a/r^(3). That a times q times 2 and so on,

Later on, we'll verify it everywhere, because there are easier ways to calculate than what I'm using. Then I said, forget about the field due to

charges. Let's look at what charges do when you put them in a field. So I took two examples.

One was a very simple example. These are two parallel plates. They are not two lines; they are plates coming out of

the blackboard. They're filled with charge and this has got charge on it. This has got - charge on it.

And therefore, the electric field will look like this, right? Because if you leave a test charge, it will go away from the

positive, towards the negative. Then I said, suppose there really is a particle here with some velocity, v_0,

E is pointing down. If you divide by the mass, that's the acceleration, also pointing down, and it's constant.

So that's like a particle in a gravitational field, except g is replaced by this number. So it will just curve like that, and you can calculate the

trajectory. The final thing I did was, what happens when you put a dipole in a uniform field.

Here as well, I think I was rushing near the end, and even I couldn't read my stuff in the corner. So I will go over that.

If there's something that you didn't follow, then I will be happy to repeat that part for you. But you should understand what the question is.

There is an electric field which is pointing like this, as if you have two plates here, charge is here, - charge is there.

They're producing a constant electric field in the horizontal direction. In that environment, I take an electric dipole whose

- charge and charge, q and -q, happen to be oriented like that. Question is, what will happen to this guy?

If you want, you can imagine that it's a little massless stick, and one end you glue q coulombs, other end you glue -q

coulombs, and your let it sit there. What will it do? First of all, it won't feel any net force,

because the force in this direction is q times E and the force that direction is also q times E, if you want,

it's -q times E and they cancel. But that doesn't mean it won't react. It will react, because you can all see

intuitively, it's trying to straighten this guy out and applying a torque like that. You follow that?

That's what it will do. And the way to find the torque, the torque is the product of the force and the distance between the point of rotation

What the sine of the angle does is to take the component of the force perpendicular to this axis, because if you resolve the force into that part and that

part, this part is no good for rotation. That's trying to stretch the dipole along its own length.

It's the perpendicular part that's going to rotate something, so you get that times sine theta. That you can write now as the vector equation

I forgot the 2, because this charge will have a torque and that charge will have a torque and the two torques are additive.

They are both going the same way. Then 2q times a is p, and this is E and the sinθ comes in the

cross product. I'm assuming all of you know about the cross product. Okay, final thing I did, which is, if you have a force,

you can associate with that force a potential energy. Again, this is something you must have seen last time, but I will remind you.

As long as it's not a frictional force, you can say the force is connected to potential energy in this following fashion.

Or the potential energy at x minus potential energy at some starting point x_0 -- I'm sorry, x_0 - x is the integral of

potential, and the potential is the integral of the force. For example, for a spring, U is ½kx^(2),

Actually, this is not the unique answer. Do you know why? Given this formula, can I immediately say this guy

because if I said that, that certainly works. If I add 92 to both, it still works, because the 92 extra doesn't matter when you take the

difference. So it's conventional to simply pick the constant so that the formula looks simple.

Coming to other expression, if you had a torque, which is pEsinθ, you can ask--that's the torque--it's minus,

because it's trying to reduce the angle θ-- you can ask what U leads to that. And you can see it's -pEcosθ.

See that, take the -U and take the derivative, you'll get the torque. But if you got two vectors, p and E and you

see the cosθ, I hope you guys know that you can write it as a dot product. So that's the end of what I did last time, okay?

The potential energy is proportional to the dot product of p with E. The torque is equal to the cross product of p with

It will look like this. This is Π and this is 0. That means it likes to sit here and if you deviate a little bit

and let it go there, it'll rattle back and forth, just like a mass spring system. In fact, you can very easily show, near the bottom of the

well, the potential energy is proportional to θ^(2). That's because cosθ can be written

If you just keep that term, you will find it looks like this. Not very different from U = kx^(2).

So what x does with forces, θ does with rotations. All right, so this is what we did last time.

Now I'm going to do the new stuff. So new stuff is going to give you--I think it's useful, because it tells you the level at which you should be able to

do calculations. So here's a typical problem. You have an infinite line of charge, of which I will show

that part, and somebody has sprinkled on it λ coulombs per meter. So it is not a discrete set of charges;

it's assumed to be continuous and it's everywhere. I'm just showing a few of them, and if you cut out one meter, you'll find there's λ coulombs there.

And you want to compute the electric field you will get due to this distribution, everywhere. So you want to go somewhere here and ask what's the electric

You will see why. Now first of all, you've got to have an intuition on which way the electric field will point.

Another argument from symmetry is that if anybody can give you a reason why it should tilt to the left, I can say, "Why don't you use the same argument to say it

will tilt to the right?" Because this is an infinitely long wire and things look the same if you look to the left and if you look to the right.

And the field you get should have the same property. If this was a finite wire, I wouldn't say that, because in a finite wire, that can be a tilt,

somewhere here. But infinite wire, it cannot tilt to the left or to the right, because each point has the same

symmetric situation to its right and to its left. In a finite wire, it's not true. Life to the left is different from the life to the right,

but for infinite wire, you know it cannot be biased one way or the other. It's got to go straight up.

Secondly, you can find the field here, here, here or at anywhere at the same distance, you've got to get the same answer.

Again, because if you move two inches to the right, it doesn't make any difference with an infinite wire. You've still got infinite wire on either side.

So we'll pick a typical point and calculate the field and we know that answer is going to be good throughout that line. So now I take this point here.

I want the field here. I'm going to make that my origin. Then I take a piece of wire of length dx.

dx is so small that I can treat it as a point. Now the dx I've drawn is not a point, but in the end, we're going to make dx arbitrarily small so that it's

good enough. It's like a point and it is at a distance x from the origin, and let's say that distance is a.

How much charge is sitting here? I hope you all agree, the charge sitting in this region is just λ times dx.

That's just the definition. If you've got that many coulombs, imagine a test charge of 1 here.

Well, it will push it this way, and the field due to that, I'm going to draw as infinitesimal, so I'm going to call it dE.

You can call it E, but dE is to remind you, it's a tiny field, due to a tiny section dx.

Now that electric field is biased to the left, but for every such section you find here, I'll find a section on the other side that's precisely

biased to the right by the same amount. Therefore the only part that's going to survive due to this guy, combined with this,

will be the portion here, which is the vertical part of that force. So let me find the contribution first, only from this one,

then we will add the contribution for this one. For that one, you just find the vertical projection.

So how much is that? Remember, the Coulomb's law for the electric field is q/4Πε _0r^(2).

a^(2). That's really like the field of a point charge at that distance. But now this is the magnitude of the electric field vector at

this angle, but I want the part along the y direction. So I've got to take cosine of that θ. You guys follow that?

But that angle and that angle are equal, and cosθ for this triangle, you can see, is a divided by

(a^(2) x^(2))^(½). So this is the electric field in the y direction. I'm going to call it dE,

in the y direction, due to the segment dx. The total electric field is obtained by adding all the dEs or adding all the contributions from all the

segments on this line. And that goes from - infinity to infinity. All right, so now it's a matter of just doing this integral.

Now I can make life a little easier by saying that this function is an even function of x. That means when you change x to -x,

it doesn't care. Therefore the contribution from a positive x region is the same as the contribution from a negative x region.

That also makes sense in this picture here, because if you look at the field I'm computing, this section and this section give equal contributions in the

y direction. But even if you did not know any of that background, as a mathematician, if you see this integral,

you would say, "Hey, put a 0 there and put a 2 here" namely,integrate over half the region, because the second half is

giving you the same answer. So you double the integral, but cut the region of integration in half.

So at this point, you are free to look up a book, if it was an exam, but maybe not even if it was an exam at your level.

You should be able to do this integral. So integrals have been around from the time of Newton and the question of an integral is, find the area of some graph

with this particular functional form. And the answer to any integral is that function whose derivative is the integrand.

So what you have to do is guess many answers until you get the right one. But people have been guessing for hundreds of years,

and there's big tables of integrals with all the integrals you want. But you should still be able to do some integrals from scratch

and I'm going to tell you how to do this one. But before you do the integral, you've got to have some idea what the answer is going to look like.

I want you to get some feeling about this. Answer depends on what, is the first question. What's the answer going to depend on?

infinity are not going to be present as part of the answer. If the lower limit was 5, it can depend on 5, but it doesn't depend on any other thing, other than

a. Then from dimension analysis, I got a length squared to the 3/2, that's length cubed,

and a length on the top, so whole thing should look like something over length squared. The only length I have is a, so it's going to look

like 1 over a^(2) times a number. Once you got the number, you're done. So I'm going to do all the work now to show you that the number

is actually just 1. This number will turn out to be 1, in which case, you will find it's λ/2Πε

_0a. Well, let's see how we get the number to be 1. So does anybody know what trick you use to do this integral?

I know the answer because I've seen it, but if I have to work on it, I'll try for a while before I got it right. The whole idea is, we don't like all these 3

_______ here. We want to turn that into something nice. So I'll tell you what the answer is.

You can all marvel at how wonderfully it works. So what we are going to do is to introduce an angle theta--nothing to do with the angle in the problem--so that x

= tanθ. That means instead of going over all values of x, I'll go with the suitable values of θ--

I'm sorry, this would not even be correct dimensionally. x = atanθ. You can see that every x that I want,

I can get by some choice of theta, because tanθ goes from 0 to infinity when θ goes from 0 to Π/2.

If x is acosθ, the biggest x you can get is a, whereas I want this x to go from 0 to infinity.

So when you make the change of variables, you've got to make sure that for every x you want, there is some θ that will do it.

Then you write that as dx = that. What that means is an integral dx is related to an integral dθ by this factor.

Therefore going to the integration here, I'm just doing that part, which is going to be a sec^(2)θ dθ.

So what do we get? You can see as promised I get a 1/a^(2) and I get integral of 1/secθ, which is

sinθ from Π/2 to 0. That just happens to be 1. So the final answer is what I gave you here,

what the direction is. The direction is away from the wire. So if you like, if you look at this wire from

the end, the lines will look like this. If the infinite wire is coming out of the blackboard towards you and you look at it this way, if you go too close,

you'll poke your eyes out. Look from here, you'll see the lines are going out radial everywhere.

The question is, how do the fields get weak? How does it weaken with distance? It weakens like 1/a.

That's a big of a surprise, right? The field away from the wire doesn't fall like 1 over distance squared, but falls like 1 over distance.

The reason is that every individual portion of the wire has a contribution that does fall like 1 over distance squared, but it is an infinite wire.

When you add it all up, the net answer goes like 1 over the distance. The field away from a wire falls like the distance from the

wire, on the perpendicular from the wire and there's pointing away from the wire. That's it.

Okay, so that's one calculation. Then I'm going to do one more and that's going to be the end of the tough calculations.

Second calculation is going to be an infinite sheet. On the infinite sheet, the appropriate quantity is called the charge density, which is coulombs per meter

squared. That means if you cut out a tiny piece, the charge on it will be sigma times the area of that piece.

So there is positive charge everywhere here, and the number of coulombs per unit area is called sigma. These are standard.

λ is coulombs per meter, σ is used for coulombs per unit area. The question is, what's going to be the electric

field at some point away from that plane? Once again, I think we can all agree that the electric field at some point from the plane will not depend on where in front of

the plane you are standing. Are you standing here or are you standing there? It doesn't matter, because it's an infinite plane.

If I moved 1 inch--I'll tell you why it won't matter. If I moved 1 inch and the answer changed, I should get the same change if I didn't move and somebody moved

the sheet 1 inch the other way. But when I move an infinite sheet the other way by 1 inch, it looks exactly the same.

It's got to produce exactly the same field. So you can always ask, what will happen if I move to the left, the same as what will happen if the sheet moves to the

The answer won't change, therefore the answer won't change for you if you move to the left. I've got infinite plane below you.

As long as you don't change the distance from the plane, you navigate perpendicular to it, no matter where you are, you will get the same answer.

Same answer, meaning same direction of the field, same magnitude. And that direction has to be perpendicular to the plane,

again for symmetry reasons. If you tilt it in any one direction, you have no reason to do it.

For example, if you tilt it this way, I can take the infinite plane and rotate it, then the tilt will be in some other direction,

maybe like that, but the rotated infinite plane looks the same. In other words, if the cause does not change,

the effect should not change. If I can do certain things to the infinite plane that leave it invariant, then I can do the same

transformation to the location of the point, and that shouldn't have a different answer. So the plane has the property that when you slide it up and

down parallel to itself, or twist it and turn it, it looks the same, therefore the field pattern should have that property.

Therefore the field has to be the same at all distances from the plane anywhere on top of the plane, and it's going to point this way.

But you can also find out in a minute--by the way, you don't need any of the symmetry arguments. You just do the calculation by brute force, it will have these

properties. But it's good to know what to anticipate, because maybe you made a mistake somewhere.

It's good to know some broad features. So none of this is needed to calculate, even in that problem. Go ahead and find the electric field not where I found it,

but 2 inches to the right. You'll find the answer looks the same. So those symmetry properties will come out of the wash,

but it's good for you to anticipate that, and that's where you should look at the symmetry of the source.

For example, the source was a ball of charge. You know if you rotate the ball, when I'm not looking to

rotate the ball, it's going to look the same. That means the field pattern should have the property, when you rotate it, it looks the same,

because the same cause should produce the same effect. Anyway, going to this problem now, let's find the electric field here.

Okay, now this is going to be a stretch for me to draw, so I'm going to try, but you'll have to go look at some textbook if you want a really nice looking picture,

I take an annulus, and I ask, what will that ring do to this point? So let's take a tiny part of that ring, this guy.

Well, for that, you just did what you did, you draw the line here. You'll produce a dE that looks like this.

What is its magnitude? Magnitude is just given by Coulomb's law. The q there is sigma times the tiny area,

σ times dA is the name for a small charge. That charge will produce a force, 1/4Πε_0, square of the distance,

r^(2) a^(2). Finally, here is where the symmetry comes in, can you see that for every section here,

I can find an opposite section that will cancel everything but the part perpendicular to the plane? So I should only keep this portion of it.

Namely, I should take the cosθ. The cosine of that θ is the distance a, just like in the other problem,

Student: Do you need to multiply by 2 again, because you're __________? Prof: Let's be careful.

Her question was, should I multiply by 2, because of this guy here, right? In fact, I should multiply by all kinds of other numbers,

because so far, I've found the field only due to this segment here. I've got to add the field due to that and that and that and so

(r^(2) a^(2))^(3/2) is the same. They all contribute to the same factor, so when I added the shaded region, I'll just get the area of the

It will be sigma over 4Πε _0. Now you've got to ask yourself, what's the area of an annulus

of radius r and thickness dr? So take that annulus, take a pair of scissors and you cut it, and you stretch it out like that, it's going to look

So the sum of all these areas is 2Πr dr and then I've got here (r^(2) a^(2))^(3/2). But now this is the dE, due to annulus of thickness of

So do you understand what I did? I broke the plane into concentric rings and I took one ring and looking head on at that ring,

I took a portion of that ring and see what field is produces. And I know that even though the field due to that is at an angle, the only part that's going to

remain is the part perpendicular to the plane, because the counterpart to this one on the other side will produce a similar field with the opposite angle here that will

cancel, so only the part perpendicular will survive. Then I found out that the contribution from every

dA had exactly these factors. They all had the same r and they all had the same a, so some of all the dAs,

all I have to add is 2Πr dr. And that's the contribution from this annulus, then I still have to look at annulus of every radius,

but I'm always happy when you do that. That's correct. Okay, so now about how this integral.

but you've got to go a little beyond that. Student: Substitute r^(2) a^(2) for the ________.

If you didn't have the r, you couldn't do that, but now you can. I'll tell you how it works.

The tanθ substitution, if you put it here, it will still work. You can go home and verify that, but I will do it a

w also goes from 0 to infinity, but now I get (w a^(2))^(3/2). Now this is simple integral, dx/x some number

divided by (w a^(2))^(-½), divided by -½, which is -2 on the top, and that goes from infinity to 0.

So I'm not going to do this much slower than this. This is the kind of integral that you can see right away, or you can go and work out the details.

This is something you should do. If you have trouble with such integrals, then you should work harder than people who don't have

trouble with such integrals, because you should be able to do x^(n 1)/(n 1), and know that n 1 is -½, and when it comes upstairs, it becomes -2.

Now if you look at this integral, in the upper limit omega's infinity, you get 1 over infinity, which is 0.

The lower limit when omega is 0, you get 1/a, and that will cancel the a here, and you will get σ/2ε_0.

So that's the final answer. So the electric field of this infinite plane, if you look at it from the side, looks like this.

The σ/2ε_0. So what do you notice about this one that's interesting? Student: It doesn't depend on the distance.

Prof: It doesn't fall with distance. No matter how far you go from this infinite plane, the field is the same.

Again, each part of it makes a contribution that falls like 1 over distance squared. As you go further and further out, you might think the field

should get weaker, right? How could it not get weaker? They're moving away from everything.

At least with the line charge, it didn't go weaker like 1/r^(2), but it did get weaker. How can you go further and further from a plane?

For example, if you go very close to the plane, what happens? If you go really close to the plane what happens is,

the field in each section here looks like this. Therefore the part that's useful is very small. If you go further away, you get things like that.

Maybe it's a little weaker, but the part that's useful, this one, is getting bigger. So by magic, these tendencies cancel in the

end. It doesn't depend on distance. Now unless you do the integral, you will not know it doesn't

depend on the distance, because you can give arguments for why it'll get weaker, arguments for why it'll get stronger.

The fact that it'll precisely be independent of distance, you have to do the calculation. Yes.

Prof: All right. Now here's the third problem, and the good news is, I'm not going to solve it for you, but I'll tell you what it

is. Here is a solid ball of charge. It's got some charge density ρ coulombs per meter cubed.

So ρ is the standard name. You use density for mass over volume and you use the same symbol rho for charge per unit volume.

So somebody's assembled a blob of electrical charge, and 1 cubic meter of that has ρ coulombs. You want to find the field due to this one.

Now when you do a similar problem in gravitation, it is generally assumed that when you're outside the sphere, the whole sphere acts like a point charge with the entire

charge sitting at the center. But you actually have to prove that. That's what took Newton a long time to prove.

He knew it was true but he couldn't prove it, because for that, you've got to be able to do integral calculus.

And even today, to find the field due to a sphere using integration is quite difficult. Think about what you have to do.

You want to sit somewhere here. First of all, for a sphere, we know the field is going to be radial.

It doesn't matter where you pick, everything looks the same. You can decide to be horizontally here at that point. Then you've got to divide the sphere into tiny pieces,

tiny little cubes, each with some charge rho times the volume of the cube, and that will exert a force like this.

And you've got to integrate over the volume of the sphere, but each portion is at a different distance and a different angle.

You've got to add it all up. That's why it's a tough problem. So to solve that tough problem, we're now going to use a very

powerful trick and that trick is called Gauss's law. So we're going to learn today about the Gauss's law. Now a prelude to that, you need a little more

mathematical definitions, but they're not bad. I just have to tell you what the definition is. Suppose I have in three dimensions a tiny little area,

like a snowflake, but it's flat and it's rectangular, let's say. I want to tell you everything about it.

I want you to be able to visualize the area. What can I do to specify this little thing? First I have to tell you how big it is.

If it's a tiny area, let this area be dA meters squared, but that doesn't tell me the orientation of this area, because that area could be like

this, it could be like this, it could be tilted in many ways. So I want to tell you it's an area in a certain plane,

Student: Define the vector that's perpendicular to that surface. Prof: Define a vector normal to that surface,

because if you draw that vector, then there's only one plane perpendicular to it. Then we can follow, we can then form a vector,

dA. It's a tiny vector whose direction is perpendicular to its area and whose magnitude is the value of the area itself.

So areas can be associated with vectors. You may not have thought about it that way, but you can by this process.

I've told you, there's only one ambiguity even now. Do you know what that one-- yes?

We've got an area like this, it can come out towards you or go away from you. Therefore simply drawing that rectangular patch is not enough

Similarly, this area has to be specified some more and here is what you're supposed to do. You take that area here, I'm just drawing it another

place, draw some arrows, then circulate around it in one sense or another. I picked a particular sense in which they're going around.

Then use the famous right hand rule, where your fingers curl along the arrow and your thumb points in some direction, that is the direction,

the area of the vector. If the arrows are running round the opposite way, then your thumb will point into the blackboard.

So an area like this is like a vector without a head. Area like this is a signed area. It's an area that's got a magnitude and unique direction.

So get used to the notion that a tiny planar area can be represented as a vector. Another way to see that is, if you took any area,

a rectangular area like this--square is a special case-- if you took two vectors A and B that form the two edges, then A x B is

just double the area. It's the fact that given two vectors, I can find the third vector perpendicular to them,

up to a sign, is what makes a cross product possible, only in three dimensions. You cannot have a cross product of two vectors and four

dimensions because in four dimensions, if I pick two vectors, they'll be two other directions perpendicular to that plane.

Only in 3D, there's only one direction left. The question is, is it in or out? That you pick a sign in the cross product,

A x B is something that goes from A to B. Or for an area, you draw arrows around the edge in a certain direction.

So area is a vector. You have to get used to that notion, along with all the other vectors you know.

Now I'll tell you why that becomes useful. So we're going to take--let's see-- there is a rectangular tube which has got a height h

and a width w, and some fluid is flowing along the tube with the velocity v along the length of the tube.

It's got a rectangular cross section. The cross section area is hw. If the fluid is going velocity V along the length of the

tube, what is the flow rate, which is equal to meter cubed of stuff flowing per second. I'm going to denote it by the symbol Φ.

If I wait 1 second and I watch all the fluid go by me, past any cross section, how much stuff goes by? I think you can all see, if I wait 1 second,

the fluid whose front was here would have advanced to here, and the volume here will be v times 1, because in 1 second, it goes a distance v.

The faster it's going, the more stuff you get. The bigger the cross section, the more stuff you get. This doesn't depend on a rectangular cross section.

It can be cylindrical pipe carrying oil. Again, the flow rate is area times velocity. But I'm going to write this in terms of vectors,

because I know the velocity is a vector. But now I have also learned area is a vector, because area vector here, you can draw a vector

perpendicular to this area, and I'll draw up this convention that it's area vectors along this way, rather than the other way.

Here we've got to be very careful. The velocity vector is like this. It's perpendicular to the plane but don't say it's cosine of 90

Do you understand that? When I take the dot product and I will ask for the angle between the area vector and the velocity vector, that angle is 0.

For the area, there's a little confusion. The vector representing it happens to be perpendicular to the plane of the area itself.

So if you remember that, then v⋅Ais vA times cos 0, so this indeed is one way to write the flow.

This flow is also called a flux. But now let us do the following. Let's take the same problem, and I have this area here.

Let me now take a tilted area like this. It also goes from the ceiling to the floor but still turned at an angle θ.

So it's a bigger area than the original one. How much bigger? That area prime, I claim, is equal to the base

It's a bigger area, but you all know that just because it's a bigger area, it doesn't intercept more fluid per second.

Any stuff crossing this guy also crosses this at the same rate. So how am I going to get the same rate?

The flux is not going to be v times A'. It's going to be vA'cosθ. But θ is the angle between the area vector and the

velocity vector, which is the same angle here. So the moral of the story is, v⋅A', or v⋅A in general is the flux or the flow,

off of any vector across an area. If it's a fluid that's flowing, then v⋅A is the fluid flow past that area.

If you need the dot product, you need the cosine of the angle, because the area, if it's not perpendicular to the flow, it's not useful.

In fact, you can take a huge area parallel to the flow and nothing goes through it. So area is most effective if the plane of the area is normal

to the fluid, or the area vector is parallel to the velocity of the fluid. So that's that lesson.

Okay, this had nothing to do with the electric field, but we're going to come to the electric field now. This is just a warm up.

Let's come to the electric field and see what's going on. So I take a charge q and I draw the lines coming out of it.

How many lines do I get crossing a sphere S? Well, we know that we have agreed to draw 1/ε_0 lines per coulomb,

so this q here, that many lines cross the sphere. I'm now going to relate it to something I can do with the

electric field as follows. I'm going to say that if I go to that sphere, I look at the electric field.

Electric field is in that direction, E. And any portion of the sphere--and I want this is where you got to __________ imagine--take a tiny part of the

Direction of the area vector is radial. You understand? The area is on the surface and normal to that is the radial

field vector. The two unit vectors are parallel. The dot product of that guy with itself is just 1.

So this is the number of lines crossing the tiny area, because electric field numerically is equal to the line density.

So those lines crossing this area, this is the number of lines crossing that patch, which is given by E⋅dA.

If you add up all the lines, you must add up all the dAs. Sum of all the dAs on a sphere of radius r is

and it's immediately obvious to you the lines crossing is q/ε _0 by construction, or you can remember, "Hey,

the electric field is a direct measure of the number of lines per unit area," and the electric field times area times the cosine of the angle between the area and the

electric field will count the lines going through a tiny area. If I add them all up, I'd better get q/ε _0,

and indeed you do. So the moral of this little exercise is that the surface integral, let's call it the surface

In other words, even if you've never heard of field lines, just take the electric field and do the surface integral, you get this.

So surface integral is a new concept. You probably have not done that before and I've got to remind you how it is done at least operationally.

If you've got a computer, you can find the surface integral of anything as follows. Take the surface over which you're doing an integration.

Divide it into tiny pieces, each is a little area dA. Take the dot product of the dA with the electric

field there, and sum over all the patches covering the sphere. Then take the limit in which every patch gets vanishingly small.

That is called the surface integral of the electric field and we see that if you do that, you get the charge inside divided by ε_0.

But that was on a sphere, and the interesting thing was, the answer was independent of the radius of the sphere, because the 1/r^(2) in the field canceled the

r^(2) in the area. But it is even better than that, because it's clear to you know, without any calculation,

that if I took some crazy surface like this, the lines crossing that is also the same. Because the lines leave the origin, they go radially

outwards. They don't terminate on anything. They're only supposed to terminate on other charges,

therefore you can count them anywhere you like. You can take a census here, you can take a census there or there.

You're always going to get the same number of lines. Therefore q/ε_0 is also going to be equal to the line count on some

weird surface enclosing the charge. So how am I going to count the lines on a weird surface? I take the surface, divide it into little pieces,

but now the area vector and the electric field vector may not be parallel, because it's not a sphere. But it is still true that if you're trying to count the lines

going through, just like in the velocity, you must take the dot product of these. Therefore you will again find E⋅dA

If you got lost in the mathematics, the physical picture is very clear. If you want to count how many lines leave the charge,

you can surround it with any surface you like. If it's a sphere, it's very easy for you to do the check.

If it's a crazy surface, it's harder but they all come from the fact that E⋅dA, count the number of lines and that's independent of the

surface at stake. So now that it what is called Gauss's law, so I'm going to write it down here.

What I've shown you is the following. Here is some strange closed surface that's a charge q inside.

This is not yet the theorem, but this is the case for 1 charge. If the charge were outside, suppose the charge were here,

then the lines would go like this, and the total number leaving the surface would actually be 0. You might say, "How is that?

I see all these lines penetrating the surface," but you've got to remember, if you take an area vector here, with the definition for a closed surface,

the area vector is the outward pointing normal. For a closed surface, every area is a vector pointing out from the closed surface.

Then you can see that in this surface, lines are coming out; on this surface, lines are going in. It's very clear what's going in is coming out,

because nothing is terminating. Therefore if you took a surface that did not enclose the charge, this answer would be 0, but if it enclosed the charge,

it will be the charge inside, but it won't matter where it is. You can also see that you can move this charge around anywhere

you like, you don't change the number of lines coming out. Then the most important generalization is, if instead of 1 charge, I have 2 charges,

The total electric field is the electric field due to the first charge on that surface, the electric field due to the second charge on the surface, thanks to superposition.

It's the fact that the electric field is additive over charges. But this one is q_1 /ε _0.

whether one draws a double integral with this thing, meaning it's a closed surface. You can also have an open surface, take the skin off an

orange and cut it in half. That hemispherical skin is also a surface, but to signify it's a closed surface, we do it like this.

q's. And sometimes we write this as follows. Suppose inside you don't have a discrete set of charges that you

can count, but a continuous blob of charge, and the charge has a certain density, ρ is the charge density.

What is the q_enclosed? I claim the answer is due to a volume integral of ρ or any point r inside, times dxdydz inside that

volume. You know, if you want to say how many coulombs are there, well divide the volume into tiny cubes of size

y and z, is the charge inside the cube. You add it all up, you get the charge enclosed in that funny shaped object.

So this is the final form of Gauss's law that we're going to use. I'm going to use the symbol, which is very useful.

Therefore if the potato is full of charge, it will emit some electric flux and the surface integral electric flux over the skin of the potato is the charge

enclosed inside it. The charge enclosed inside it is not simply some constant density times volume, if the charge density varies

from point to point. In each neighborhood inside their volume, you take a tiny section, a tiny little cube of size

dxdydz, see how much is in there, as the function of x, y and z, and you do the integral over the volume.

Now these integrals may be hard to do, but you should know at least what I'm saying. This is just a way of counting the total charge inside a volume

when the charge is continuously distributed. So I'm going to show you one application of this and we'll come back to more next time.

And the one application I'm going to show you is to find the electric field due to a solid ball, solid ball of charge. So I'm going to use Gauss's theorem to do that.

This is true for any surface you pick. It doesn't matter what surface you pick. So if I want to find the electric field here,

I'm going to pick a surface of radius little r. Let the sphere have a radius big R. I want to find the field here and I'm going to use Gauss's

On the right hand side, what is the charge enclosed? That region. Well, the charge enclosed is just some number q.

That's going to be the surface integral of the electric field on that sphere. E⋅dA on that sphere.

Now normally, if you knew the value of an integral over a region, you cannot deduce anything but the integrand, unless what?

There's one exception where if you know the integral of a function, you can find the integrand. You know when that might be?

Here's a function. I tell you its integral from here to here, but I don't show you the picture.

What's the integrand? You don't know. But if I also tell you the function is a constant,

and I tell you the integral, and you know the width of this region, you can find the integrand. So you're going to cook this up so that this whole integral is a

constant times the area of integration. And we argue that if you've got a spherical charge density, the electric field must be radial everywhere.

You've not proven this, but you argue that because it's the only distribution with lines coming out everywhere, invariant under every possible rotation of the sphere.

Because if you rotate the sphere, I won't know you rotated it, so the field pattern cannot look different. If the field pattern looked different when you rotated it,

then you have a problem because the cause looks the same, but the effect looks different. That's not allowed.

The only allowed this is the radially outgoing electric field. Therefore the electric field is radial and also constant

throughout the sphere, because all points on the sphere are equivalent. There's no reason why this is any better than that.

The sphere looks the same for all directions. Therefore this whole integral is going to be 4Πr^(2) times the electric field at that radius r,

because the area vector and the electric field vector are both parallel, so in this dot product, forget the dot product.

It's just E times dA. There's no cosθ, just 1. You can pull the E out of the integral,

because E is constant in magnitude on the sphere. And the integral of the dA is just 4Πr^(2).

It looks very simple, but it is true for not a point charge, but for the spherical distribution of charge. That the field goes like that of a point charge sitting at the

origin, is a consequence of Gauss's law. If the charge inside was not uniform, suppose it's a charge q, but there's more stuff here,

less stuff here, this theorem would still be true up to this point, but you can never deduce that E is a constant on a sphere,

because even though a sphere is nice and symmetrical, the charge distribution is not. It could be big here, it could be small here.

You know something about the integral over a surface of a varying function, then Gauss's law is no good, not useful.

True, but not useful. Gauss's law is useful only when in a given problem, there's only one number you don't know.

That number here happens to be, what's the strength of E at a radius r? I know it's direction is radial, I know it's magnitude is

constant on the sphere by symmetry, but what is the number? You can trade that one number for this one number on the left

hand side, q/ε_0, you can calculate it. I'll come back and do more examples for you guys next time.