# Understanding Gauss's Law: Derivations and Applications

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## Introduction

Understanding Gauss's Law is crucial for anyone delving into electromagnetism and electrostatics. This law not only describes how electric fields behave but also aids in calculating these fields due to various charge distributions. In this article, we will explore the underlying principles of Gauss's Law, its derivation, and practical applications, making use of diagrams, equations, and intuitive explanations.

## What is Gauss's Law?

Gauss's Law states that the electric flux through a closed surface is proportional to the enclosed electric charge. Mathematically, it is expressed as:

[
\Phi = \oint E \cdot dA = \frac{Q_{enc}}{\epsilon_0}

]

Where:

- (\Phi) is the electric flux.
- (E) is the electric field.
- (dA) is a differential area on the closed surface.
- (Q_{enc}) is the enclosed charge by the surface.
- (\epsilon_0) is the permittivity of free space.

### The Importance of Symmetry in Gauss's Law

One of the fundamental aspects of applying Gauss's Law lies in the symmetry of the charge distributions. For instance, when dealing with point charges, spherical symmetry allows for easy calculations of electric fields. The use of symmetrically chosen Gaussian surfaces, such as spheres or cylinders, simplifies the evaluation of the surface integrals involved in applying Gauss's Law.

## The Derivation of Gauss's Law

To derive Gauss's Law, we begin by considering the electric field due to a point charge (Q). The electric field, according to Coulomb's Law, is given by:

[
E = \frac{Q}{4\pi \epsilon_0 r^2}

]

Where (r) is the distance from the charge. To visualize how many electric field lines penetrate a surface surrounding a charge, we can consider a spherical surface of radius (r).

### Counting Electric Field Lines

We intuitively observe that the number of field lines crossing the surface is equal, given the symmetry; thus:

[

\text{Lines crossing surface} = \text{Total Lines}

]

We then define line density as electric field lines per unit area, which varies inversely with the square of the radius. This leads us to the proportional relationship between electric field and distance from the charge, reinforcing that:
[
E \propto \frac{Q}{r^2}

]

### Final Formulation of Gauss's Law

Upon performing surface integrals for both a spherical and generic shaped surface, we derive the relationship:
[
\Phi = E \cdot A = \frac{Q_{enc}}{\epsilon_0}

]

From here, we solidify our understanding that Gauss's Law can encapsulate all electric fields produced by a given charge distribution.

## Applications of Gauss's Law

### Electric Field of Symmetrical Charge Distributions

**Spherical Charge Distribution**: The electric field outside a uniformly charged sphere acts as if all charge were concentrated at the center of the sphere, allowing for straightforward calculations.**Charged Infinite Plane**: For an infinite plane of charge with surface charge density (\sigma), the electric field is given by: [ E = \frac{\sigma}{2\epsilon_0}

]**Cylindrical Charge Distribution**: For an infinitely long charged cylinder, the electric field observed at a distance (r) is: [ E = \frac{\lambda}{2\pi \epsilon_0 r}

]

Where (\lambda) is the linear charge density.

### Conductors and Electric Fields

Gauss's Law asserts that:

**E = 0**inside a perfect conductor, meaning electric fields do not penetrate conductive materials.- Charges reside solely on the surface of conductors; hence, internal charge density is zero.

#### Understanding Electric Field Patterns in Conductors

When an external electric field penetrates a conductor, free electrons redistribute until the internal electric field cancels the external influences. This balance leads to a zero electric field within the conductor, a crucial detail in electrostatics.

## Conclusion

Gauss's Law is a powerful tool in the field of electrostatics, providing insights into the behavior of electric fields produced by various charge distributions. Its reliance on symmetry simplifies complex calculations, leading to quick resolutions for many electrostatic problems while reinforcing foundational principles in physics. Understanding and applying Gauss's Law lays the groundwork for more advanced studies in electromagnetism, enabling physicists to tackle increasingly intricate concepts with confidence.

Prof: Let's start with a brief recall of Gauss's Law. It is so important I wanted to make sure you guys understand not only how it is used but how it's derived.

I derived it for you last time, but I thought the presentation could be improved a little bit, so I'm going to do it one more time, just this time only hitting the

highlights. The content of Gauss's Law is very easy to visualize, so I'm going to draw you a picture that'll tell you the

You take one charge q and you draw the lines of force coming from the one charge. It's a point charge.

Therefore, you have no freedom but to draw lines that look like this. Now, how many lines you draw is a matter of convention.

You can draw eight or twelve, whatever it is, but you've got to agree that the number per coulomb should be fixed.

So we'll fix some number. So I'm going to pick for whatever charge is here these lines.

You cannot have a distribution of lines in which it's suddenly more dense in just this direction, for example. That's not allowed, because if I take this point

charge and I rotate it, it looks the same, but if I took the line distribution with more dense here than other places if I rotate it,

it looks different. So if the cause of the field lines looks the same after rotation, the effect, which is the field lines,

should not change. You can only have a distribution of lines with respect to symmetry of the source of the cause of the field

distribution, if you turn it around, looks exactly the same. So we draw those lines, and the content of Gauss's Law

is really the following. We are going to count the lines crossing a sphere, S, and we're going to count the lines crossing some generic

surface S'. You can see at a glance without doing any calculations that the following is true.

Lines crossing S = lines crossing S', right? That's clear to everybody? You don't need to do any equation for that.

That's because the lines have nowhere to go but out, and you can count them on this circle, that circle as long as you enclose the whole thing,

the solid surface. Enclosing this charge you're going to get the same lines. That's the heart of Gauss's Law, but that's not the final

form, but that's the part that starts everything. Now I'm going to calculate the left hand side, and I'm going to calculate the right hand side.

I'm going to equate them. From that I will get almost everything I want. Now, how many lines are coming out of S?

We know--first the notion of line density. I've got to remind you what a line density is. Line density is the lines per area, but it's not enough to say

area. I'm going to put a perpendicular symbol there. That means the lines are going, say, from left to right like

this. You want to put an area that intercepts it perpendicularly, or if you like, the area vector which is always

normal to the area should be parallel to the lines. So it's the number of lines crossing unit area perpendicular to the lines.

That's called the line density. If you tilted this area; the same area, but at a bad angle, it'll intersect fewer lines.

That you know. Okay, so this is the meaning of line density. What's the line density going to look like in this problem?

Line density is going to be proportional to the charge you have because we agreed we'll put some number of lines per coulomb, and it's inversely proportional

to the radius because the area of a sphere of radius r is 4Πr^(2). So if you cut it with a bigger sphere of bigger radius the

density, lines per area, will go like 1/r^(2). So it's proportional to q. It's proportional to 1/r^(2),

okay? So let me write not equal to but proportional to. You have to stop me if you don't follow anything I'm

saying. There's no reason why you shouldn't follow this argument. Then I say how about the electric field?

The strength of the electric field, not the direction, the electric field E at radius r is also proportional to q and

also proportional to 1/r^(2). Because from Coulomb's Law the field is the force on a unit test charge, it is q_1q

From this we may conclude that the line density is proportional to the electric field because they are both proportional to q/r^(2).

Therefore, we can say line density is equal to some constant c times the electric field in magnitude; direction of the lines is along E, but the magnitude.

Do you understand that? This guy is proportional to this. This may have some proportionality constant,

this may have another one, but nothing changes the fact that this expression's proportional to that one. The constant will depend on details.

Let me just call it some number c. c is up to you. It really depends on how many lines you want to draw per

but you don't have to make that to prove the law. So this time I'm just assuming the lines is proportional to charge, but you pick your own proportionality constant.

So I've got this line density that's proportional to electric field. Now I'm going to go back and I'm going to calculate the left

hand side. Now, let's give this equation a number, equation number 1. I'm going to calculate the left hand side of 1.

Left hand side of 1 is the number of lines crossing this sphere, S. So that's going to be equal to--let me call it

Φ_S is equal to number crossing S, crossing this sphere S. Φ is the standard symbol for flux.

So what is it? Well, Φ_S = line density times area of sphere, because on a sphere the lines are uniform in density so the

total number crossing the sphere is the line density times area of the sphere. But the line density is a constant times the electric

field at radius r (if you like) times area of the sphere which is 4Πr^(2). That's the lines crossing the inner surface which is this

sphere of radius r. Now, Φ_S' is lines crossing S'. Now you've got to be a little careful when you find the lines

crossing S'. You understand why that's more difficult? What are the two complications in finding the lines crossing S'

Student: The normal to the surface isn't parallel to the ________. Prof: Okay, the surface is not--surface

vector at each point is not parallel to the electric field. For example, if you've got a crazy surface like this-- I'll try to replicate that

surface, but I don't remember what I drew, some weird object like this. Then the electric field point this way, but the normal to the

surface will point that way. See, E points that way. Tiny area there, which I'm calling vector

dA, points in a different direction. So each region has a different direction. Secondly, the strength of the field itself is varying on the

surface. Unlike on a sphere where everything is at the same distance r some are further, some are closer.

But it is still true that if you want the number of lines cross a patch, if you pick a little area here, if you want to know how many lines cross that you take the

normal to the area, call it a vector dA, and you multiply by line density. Therefore, this is equal to the integral of the electric field

at some point r dot product with a tiny area which is there. At each region you've got to draw a different dA.

So you take the surface, you chop it up into tiny little tiles. Each tile is small enough to be considered a plane.

Then the area vector is perpendicular to the plane, outward from the surface, and of magnitude equal to the numerical area of the plane.

So the lines crossing every tiny little square on the big surface is the number of lines per unit area times the area times the cosine of the angle which you need,

because the area vector may not be parallel to the flow. I have explained many times why the flow there, the flow vector and the area vector are not parallel you've

got to put in a cosθ. That's what comes into this dot product. And we write the symbol like this to tell you not only is it

a double integral, meaning integral over a two-dimensional region, but it's over a closed two-dimensional region.

That symbol is to remind you. So now, Φ_S equal to Φ_S' is what I'm going to write.

So I'm going to write--oh, I made one mistake. Can anybody see one thing missing in this equation here? This equation's not correct.

To find the lines crossing S' I took E times dA. It's a constant c because the line density is not simply the electric field it's the constant.

So I forgot the constant, but I knew that I would need it because when I now equate Φ_S to Φ_S' I get constant times the electric

field at r times 4Πr^(2) is equal to constant times the surface integral of E⋅dA on some surface S'.

I'm not going to write the details. So that is equal to c times surface integral of E⋅dA.

Now you see the constant does not matter, so whatever the constant is I can make the following statement and that's going to be the beginning of Gauss's Law.

So Gauss's Law tells me that if you took a charge and you sat under it with any surface whatsoever--I'm not going to put a prime on this anymore.

S is going to be the surface. Then the surface integral of the electric field due to that charge over a surface is equal to the charge that is sitting

Okay, everybody should know in principle how to do the surface integral. If I give you a surface, and at the surface at every

point I give you a vector E, which is electric field, you should know how to numerically calculate it.

You may not know how to do the integral analytically, but operationally you should know the meaning of this, okay?

If E were actually the velocity of some stuff running out of the volume you're counting in each region how many guys are escaping per second and you're adding it all up.

And to find how many guys are leaving a tiny area, you multiply the area by the velocity of flow times the cosine of the angle between the velocity in the area.

That's it. Okay, now we do the next thing. Let's call this charge q_1 because I'm

now going to put a second guy q_2 here. If you now think in terms of lines of force you're going to get into a big mess because lines of force,

due to two charges is a complicated thing, you remember drawing some pictures. But now here's the beauty.

Forget the lines of force completely, not interested. I'm interested in the electric field. Focus on the electric field for which there's a very simple

rule. The electric field due to two charges 1 and 2 is the electric field due to 1 plus the electric field due to 2.

That's the great principle of superposition. Therefore, on the left hand side you might say if both charges are inside the surface integral of

E_1,2_ meaning when both are present is equal to surface integral of E_1 ⋅dA surface integral of E_2

Once you can do two charges you can do any number of charges. And now we write Gauss's Law almost in its final form. The final form is that if you took the total electric field,

I'm not going to put total, E will stand for the total, on a surface S that is equal to the sum of all the charges,

i from 1 to whatever many charges you have, divided by ε_0. The condition is these are charges inside the volume

bounded by the surface. You do not count the charge here. You only count charges which are inside not charges which are

And this surface is the boundary of the volume V. This partial derivative symbol is the universal convention for the boundary of any region.

Okay, if you draw a real circle, this is the circle. The boundary of the circle is this. If you a have a cube, or if you have an orange the

boundary of the volume orange is the skin of the orange. That's the definition of boundary. You can see this is like the skin of the solid region,

and the surface integral on the skin of the electric field is a charge inside the volume whatever be the shape of the volume.

And it works for all kinds of surfaces. I mean, here's one example. Suppose you have a charge here.

You take a surface that kind of intersects itself and so on. Then what can happen is if I put a charge here the lines may go like this.

It doesn't matter because over this when it switches back on itself some lines leave, some lines enter, and some lines leave again.

So it might as well be that surface because double entering and leaving doesn't matter. So the rule is if q is inside it contributes to the

surface integral, if q is outside it doesn't. The last variation is what if q is not made up of a

discrete set of charges, which you can say one is here one is there, but there's some continuous blob, some lump of charge where the charge density--

so then we say suppose q is continuous. You've got to realize in real life it's never continuous. Real charges are made up of electrons and protons.

They are discrete, but if your eye is not looking at it in great detail the charge can appear to be continuous. For example, if you take a glass of water

the water is really made up of point molecules, water molecules, but to your eye it looks like a continuous medium.

So for certain purposes we can replace a discrete distribution by a continuous one. For a continuous distribution what you have to tell me is the

I take a tiny cube whose sides are dx, dy and dz, and ρ of x, y, and z times dxdydz is equal to charge

in that little cube. In other words, like the usual density with this mass per unit volume the ρ is the charge per unit

So if you have a solid region then the charge density could be varying from point to point, so. Oh, let's keep it here.

In that case you will write the surface integral of E⋅dA over a surface that binds a volume V would be 1/ε_0 times

Now, how many people have ever done integrals in more than one dimension? Great, very good, made my day because I didn't

have Plan B. But I did--no actually I had a Plan Tiny B which is to give you a quick refresher.

If there is time at the end of the class I will remind you of how the multiple integrals are done. But right now I'm going to show you the efficacy of this law and

that doesn't require doing complicated integrals. All the integrals will be so trivial you can just read them off.

So when we have time we'll do questions of how to do these integrals, but I'm assuming this symbol means something to you. In words it means all the charge inside.

So, again, by taking the volume, dividing into tiny regions, multiplying each volume, tiny volume, by the density to get the

charge there, and summing over all the volumes inside the big volume V. That's a charge.

So Gauss's Law still says the surface integral of E is the charge inside over epsilon 0. All right, so this is the great law.

Now we're going to get some mileage out of it to solve certain problems which normally would be very difficult. The first problem, I think I probably did that

last time but it's worth going over, is what is the electric field of a uniform density of charge. Suppose there's a charge Q and this is sphere of

radius r, and it is a ball of radius r. You take all these charges and you pile them on top of each

You've got a ball of charge Q. You want the field due to that. It's the same problem Newton had with gravity.

The earth is a solid ball. It's got mass everywhere and you would like to find the force on an apple.

And it's not so evident that the force of the earth on the apple is as if the entire mass of the earth but at the center. You have to prove that.

You have to prove that by dividing the earth into little pieces and finding the gravitational force of every little piece on the apple and adding all those vectors up.

And when you do all the hard work you will find, in fact, that it's true, but it took Newton several years to prove that even though he was pretty certain that was

true. That's very important because when you do the force law for apple versus the earth the distance you use for

A similar law is true for electric forces. In other words, if you've got a spherical distribution of charge the field due to that outside that ball is

as if all the charge were at the center. That's what we want to prove, but we want to prove that without doing any difficult integrals, and the trick is the

following. You are going to use Gauss's Law, and you can use Gauss's Law on any surface you like.

For example, you can take that surface and you can say surface integral of E on the surface is Q/ε_0, but that's not very helpful

because what you're trying to find out is not the electric field integrated over a whole region, but the electric field at each point.

You want to know what's going on right there. So even though it's a true statement that whatever E is doing its integral on any surface is

Q/ε_0 that doesn't tell you what is E at every point, and we're going to find that by the following trick.

The trick is to first decide. This surface S, by the way, it's called a Gaussian surface.

It's not a real surface. In real life there are no Gaussian surfaces. You draw them for a calculation, and you can move it

around in your mind anyway you like, for each surface you'll get a different answer. We'll pick a Gaussian surface equal to a sphere of radius

r. So I'm going to pick a Gaussian surface of radius r. I'm going to argue two things and you have to follow the

reasoning because all the work is in the argument. You don't do any integrals, but you do some serious arguing.

The arguing says it's a ball, positive charge. It's going to repel a test charge. Which way is the repulsion going to be at this point?

It has to be radially away from the center. That's your argument. At each point the repulsion has to be away from the center.

In other words the electric field has to have this distribution. We're not saying how it varies with distance,

but it has to be radial. Again, the argument is the radially outgoing thing like a hedgehog.

It's the only distribution of lines which will look the same if you rotate them because then one line will go to another line.

The hedgehog will look exactly the same. And that is a necessary requirement because if you took this ball of charge you all understand that if you rotate

the ball the field lines have to rotate due to any calculation you did, but if you rotate the ball it looks the same.

So the field lines have to look the same. So the distribution you draw must be invariant under that rotation.

This is a very powerful principle of symmetry and invariance. The principle says if something is the cause of something,

and if I do something to the cause that leaves it alone, namely it looks the same, the effect has to look the same.

It's a very reasonable argument. And the cause here is a ball of charge which is completely isotropic and spherical.

You turn it, it looks the same, so the field distribution looks the same. That's all you need to proceed because that distribution then

is going to have radial lines of unknown strength, but the strength can vary only with r, but not at a given r.

At a given r the direction varies, but the strength is some E of r, and we're asking what is E of r?

So we know that E looks like r, which is the vector of length in the radial direction times E of r.

And sometimes I also write this as e_r times E of r, and we just want to know what E is a function of r.

But now we can use Gauss's Law. So the left hand side is a surface integral of this radial E on a sphere of radius r.

That's going to be E times 4Πr^(2), because E is a constant on the surface. The integral of a constant on the surface is the constant

times the area of the surface. It's like saying if you want to integrate a function which is constant from here to here it's the constant height multiplied

by the interval over which you're integrating. There's no integral to do. It's very trivial.

It's a rectangle. Similarly a constant function integrated on a sphere is the area times this, but E is the function

of, of course, r. That's going to be charge enclosed. The charge enclosed is Q and you've got to put the

And if you want to put all the vectors back you can write here times e_r. So by this trick one can show that the field of a sphere is as

if the charges were at the center, provided you are talking about a point outside the sphere. As long as this field is outside the real ball no matter

what its radius is, the charge enclosed is always Q. The right hand side doesn't vary with Q.

The left hand side looks like r squared times electric field so E goes like 1/r^(2). But now I'm going to do some variations on this.

The first variation is what if I want the electric field at some point here, in here? You're allowed to ask that.

You can take an instrument and put it there and ask what field you have. You have to calculate that too, so let's calculate it for a

sphere. The formula is the same, same formula. Everything is the same, but Q is now the charge

times E(r) is the charge enclosed over ε_0. What is the charge enclosed in this sphere, now,

which is a mathematical sphere with radius as little r, but it's smaller than big R? Can you make a guess?

How much charge do you think that is in a smaller sphere? Yeah? Student: The charge density times volume.

Prof: Right. So he said it's the charge density times the volume. I'm going to write down the answer without going through the

intermediate step, but it'll coincide with what he said. The answer I'm going to write down is the total charge is

Q on the whole ball. The charge is proportional to the volume. Then the volume of this little guy is r^(3) and the

volume of the big guy big R^(3). That's how much charge will be enclosed. Can you see that?

If you take a square, and you take a part of the square that's inside that's half as big, the area of it will be ¼,

because areas go like 1 over the distance squared. Volumes go like 1 over distance cubed. But we can also do what he just said.

Then you can multiply the density by the volume of the little sphere 4/3Π little r cubed, and all I'm saying is forget these 4 thirds pis.

It's just little r^(3) over big R^(3). Therefore, the electric field now, E(r), looks like Q over 4Πε

We'll find out. What do you expect? You've got to get the same answer at the field at a certain

point no matter how we approached it, right? You'll find that's true in this formula,

because if you put little r equals big R and big R over big R^(3) you'll get 1 over big R^(2) and this will also give you 1 over big

Student: So can you say again why we can assume that we don't have to do the integral ________________________? Prof: Why did I not do the integral?

E⋅dA, right? If I did that it'll be fine with you, correct? This is what you're saying I should do, right?

You asked me why I didn't do this integral, why I just wrote 4Πr^(2), is that your question?

Right. The assumed form for E is the function that depends on r times unit vector in the radial direction.

And since I surrounded it with this sphere the tiny area vector is also e_r times the value of the tiny area.

In other words, dA and E are both parallel if the surface is a sphere, right? So when you take the dot product this will just become

E(r) times dA times cosine of 0 which you don't care about. That's the first thing.

You still have to integrate over this sphere, but E of r is a constant on this sphere because it depends only on r.

So throughout the whole sphere if it's a constant, it's like the number 19, you just pull it and then you get E of r times integral dA and that is

my 4Πr^(2). So in general you have to do an integral, but if you're lucky and the integrand is a constant then the integral is trivial.

So for a charge at the center of the spherical ball, and if you went to a sphere then the integrant is a constant.

Okay, so this is what you get. If you draw a picture of this it looks like this. Electric field as the function of r it will grow with

Student: What if it were hollow and all the charges were on the outside ________? Prof: We'll come to that.

Prof: Why don't we count it? Student: Uh-huh, did you explain that already? Prof: Yeah, well it's a very interesting

We said if you're outside the earth the entire ball is pulling you in, but the claim I'm making is if you're inside the earth, if you're here,

only the ball underneath your feet is pulling you, but not these guys, right? That's the question, why don't they exert a force,

So we are going to do the hollow sphere, but you followed the solid sphere now? So why is the field getting stronger as you leave the

center, why is it falling like 1/r^(2) once you leave the sphere? You've got to think about that.

Why is it growing when you leave the origin? Yep? Student: Because there is more charge _________.

Prof: Right. The charge you are enclosing grows like r cubed, and the distance from the center of that charge is r

squared which comes downstairs. So as you go further out inside the ball you are gaining, but once you reach the surface of the ball and you go further

out you're getting more area for Gauss's Law, but not more charge which is stuck at capital Q. That's why once you leave the sphere it starts declining,

but if you're inside the sphere it increases. This is also true for the gravitational force. The gravitational force if you go to the center of the earth

and you move away by 1 inch you'll be pulled back with an extremely weak force that's proportional to the distance from the center of the earth.

Okay, then we come to another question which came up, which is let's take a hollow sphere. I take a sphere and I scoop a hole in it and I want the field

here. Okay, so if you want the field here you take a Gauss's Law for a circle like that, or a sphere like that and

Prof: Nothing. So the electric field inside a hollow sphere is 0. In other words, if you took the earth and you

scooped a big hole in the middle you can float. It won't pull you at all. So inside a hollow sphere there is no electric field.

Even though there's charge everywhere there's no electric field. We can understand that in some cases, and other cases require a

little more thought. Let me first show you that for a very, very thin shell why that happens.

Once it's true for a very, very thin shell and it doesn't do anything you can put one shell inside another and make it as thick as you like because 0 is going to be the contribution

So remember, this is not a ball. This is a shell whose thickness is the thickness of the chalk here.

I think you will agree that at the center of this sphere the force has to be 0. You agree with that?

Because which way should it go? For every guy pushing, say from here in that direction, there's another one from there pushing in this

direction. They all cancel. It's very clear that at the center you don't feel a force.

But what is truly amazing is that even when you're off center you don't feel a force. So I'm going to give you the argument for that one,

argument for that namely I'm once again going to pair off canceling charges, okay? I'm going to cancel one thing against another thing.

When you were at the center you canceled a little charge here with a little charge here, right? When you are here here's what you do.

Take a cone like that. It is not two lengths. It is a three dimensional cone, but I'm able to show you only a

slice right down the middle, you understand? This is really a cone that'll cut the sphere there; it'll cut the sphere there.

Take all these guys. They have a certain charge, which is some charge density which is uniform, times the area of this thing

divided by the square of the distance r_1. Here, these charges here will push you to the right with a force which is the area of density,

the charge density per unit area times the area of the smaller circle divided by r_2 squared. But now I claim that I can equate these two.

I can equate these two if this area of vector and this area of vector were radiating outwards, and this is actually a true statement.

This area is proportional to r_1 squared. This area is proportional to r_1 squared, therefore they will cancel.

But this is a very subtle argument. Sometimes even textbooks get it wrong. And generally if you take two cones like this you can see that

the area vector points that way, but the electric field vector points this way. They are not the same.

The area vector, area on the sphere, right, will point in one direction, but the r vector is different.

So you have to take the cosine θ on both sides, but it turns out cosine θ is also the same because if you took a line and you cut it this way that angle

will equal that angle. So that's a subtly we don't need, but that's how you really prove for every shell.

There's a cancellation. If you know what a solid angle is it's very easy to say. This is called, with the cosine thetas in it,

it's called a solid angle enclosed by this point, and the two things have the same solid angle and they cancel.

But if you don't want the most complicated proof you can take points like this where it's clear that this area vector and this area vector are both perpendicular,

and to the radial direction, and therefore the electric field and this vector are parallel. Then you don't need the cosine thetas.

They are clearly equal at possibly even 1. Then A/r^(2) being the same is the reason it works. In other words, if the force of gravity or the

electric force did not fall exactly like 1/r^(2) the field inside a hollow sphere will not be 0. So this is how people tested the 1/r^(2) force law in

the old days. They went inside a hollow sphere and tried to see if there is any field inside by putting test charges and finding they

Student: Can you explain again why the A over r squareds are equal? Prof: Well, you can see that if you took a

cone and if you just did similar triangles you can see that this area is growing like that radius square. It's a matter of how areas grow when you scale anything.

Take a cone, okay, and you slice it at some point, and slice it even higher. Here's a cone.

You slice it there and you slice it there, and my claim is this area is to that area that distance squared is to that distance squared.

Why is that, right? That's your question. The area of this cone is something, something radius

The radius of this circle and the radius of that circle are growing linearly as you go out. If you go distance r here, and you get a radius here,

if you go distance r there you get another radius. Is it clear to you that the radii are proportional to the distance from the center in this cone?

They're just similar triangles. Therefore, this height is what I'm calling r_1 and this height is what I'm calling r_2.

Therefore, if this radius is proportional to r_2 the area of that circle is Πr_2^(2). This is Πr_1^(2).

So that'll go like that distance squared is to that distance squared. Okay, whenever you scale things for an area by factor of 2 it'll

go like the square of that factor. You can already see that if you draw these cones this'll intersect the circle, the sphere on the small circle.

This will intercept it on a bigger circle. That much is clear, but the extra is not linearly proportional.

it is quadratic because the circle has two dimensions both of which are growing linearly with the distance from the apex of the cone.

That's why it's r squared. All right, another thing one can calculate is the electric field due to an infinitely long wire.

Here's an infinitely long wire with lambda coulombs per meter. So you want to find the electric field. By the way, I should tell you that Gauss's Law--let me do this

one example. I'll tell you what the restriction of Gauss's Law is. So we come to this problem and we can again argue by symmetry

the field lines have to be radially away from the axis of their line, and if you look at it from the edge, from one edge it'll look like

It's like a hedgehog but it's cylindrical. It's not in all three dimensions. It's radial in this direction.

And the question is and the field has to be constant along the length of the infinite wire at each point at the same distance because if you move the wire horizontally it looks the

same so the field distribution cannot vary. If it is a finite wire you cannot make the argument. In a finite wire as you come near the edges lines will start

tilting. But a finite wire doesn't look the same when you move it; an infinite wire does.

Therefore, for an infinite wire if you don't stop here the lines will always look the same, so that if you shift them over they should look the same.

So the only unknown question is - I know the field is in this direction radially away from the wire in all directions whose magnitude is fixed at a distance r,

but I want to know what the magnitude is. Again, I'm going to take Gauss's Law and I'm going to apply to the following surface.

Surface is a cylinder and the cylinder has some length l, and it's got some radius r and the flat faces of the cylinder are parallel,

so if you really want to give the nice picture here they look like this. So Gauss's Law can be applied only to a closed surface.

You understand that? You cannot do it for an open surface because only if you trap the charge completely in all directions will you count every

line. If you've got holes in your surface then stuff can escape and you cannot promise anything.

So I need a closed surface and my closed surface is the cylinder. So I'm going to write, once again, the surface

integral of the electric field on that cylinder is the charge enclosed. The charge enclosed is the easiest part.

I'm going to give you 10 seconds to think in your head. What is a charge enclosed by the cylinder? Okay?

It's charge per unit length times the length of wire trapped inside the cylinder and then, of course, I have this 1/ε_0.

It still is a statement about the integral of E on the surface, and it could be any surface, but the beauty of this surface is the following.

There are contributions to E⋅dA from the curvy side of the cylinder and from the flat side. In the flat side the surface vector, area vector dA

for any small portion, or in fact for the entire face, is like that. The electric field runs along that face so the dot product is

0. So I got 0 from the left side, 0 from the right side, then I got non-zero from the curvy cylinder.

On the curved cylinder you can, I hope, see that every area vector is actually parallel to the field lines. So just like on a sphere this integral will be E(r) times the

surface of the curvy part of the cylinder which is 2Πr times L. That's the area of the curved part of the cylinder.

So you see L cancels out, and it better cancel out because L is an artificial construction. We made up L.

The answer should not depend on the Gaussian surface you picked. I told you it's a figment of our imagination, so it doesn't depend on it, and we find E(r)

= λ/2Πε _0r, which is the result we got earlier on by doing all the brute force integration.

Remember we took a point here. We took some segment. We drew the arrows, did the integrals,

sine thetas and whatnot, but you can get that in one shot. So it looks like Gauss's Law is the easy way to do stuff,

and you may wonder why we bother to do any difficult integrals. The reason is that if I change the symmetry of the problem in

the slightest way I cannot calculate the field. For example, if on the spherical charge distribution instead of a sphere I made a little blip here,

maybe did a little surgery and put that guy here. We're dead. I mean, there's a formula for the field, but no one can

calculate it in any simple way. You can, again, take a Gaussian surface and it'll still be true that the integral of the electric field

on that surface will be the same Q/ε _0, but the problem is the E on the surface is no longer constant.

You understand? Not every point is symmetric any more. E may be stronger where there's a bulge.

E may be weaker where there is hole, so and also its direction is changing in a crazy way. So you can make one true statement about the integral of

that crazy function over the whole region. That cannot be used to deduce the value of E at every point.

So you still need the integral. You may have to do the integral maybe on a computer, but that's the answer to all problems,

but for simple problems with a great deal of symmetry we can use Gauss's Law to get these things very easily, okay?

That's the Gauss. Now, I'm going to introduce you to a second notion which is pretty important to study electricity, and that's the

notion of conductors. So we're going to divide the world into two things, conductors and insulators.

As you know, matter is made up of positive and negative charges and the negative charges circle the positive charges, and they pretty much stay near

their parent atoms, near the parent nuclei, and you cannot separate them. But in a metal at least some of the electrons from each atom

They don't belong to any one nucleus. So that's a conductor. In a conductor the negative charges, if you like,

That really follows from the meaning of the word conductor. If you took a chunk of perfect conductor, maybe copper is good enough; they'll be no electric field

this electric field, then the charges that I said are free to move will respond to the electric field and they'll be moving.

So I should say E equal to 0 inside a conductor in a static situation. In other words, once the charges have stopped

moving the electric field will be 0 in a conductor. Let me explain to you a little more what's going on so it's not a big mystery.

Suppose there is a uniform electric field going from left to right? In that uniform field I take a chunk of copper like a nice

rectangular chunk and I stick it in there. What will happen? In the beginning the electric field will penetrate the copper

and the field lines say to the positive charges, "You go to the right," and to the negative charges, "You go to the left."

Negative charges will race to the left until they cannot go anymore without leaving the solid, and that they're not allowed to do,

leaving behind some deficit on the other side. But look what's happening now. These guys produce their own electric field which goes from

here to here. Therefore, inside the conductor, the electric field by the superposition principle is the field due to whatever

outside agency produced this field, plus the field due to these guys, and they will not stop until the field they produced exactly cancels the external

They are not that smart, right? But the point is once they've produced the potential, I mean, once they produce the field that cancels the external

field there'll be no field inside the bulk to encourage charges to move any more and that's when they stop moving. Okay, so a conductor, at least in this case,

not so hard to understand what they have to do. Negative charges go to one side. Positive go to the other side until the field they produce is

an arrow going to the left of the same magnitude as this one then E is 0 inside. But what's amazing about these metals is that if you take a

potato shaped metal it's not so easy to see what charge arrangement will exactly neutralize the field everywhere in sight.

Here it's easy to see. I want a right moving one canceled with a left moving one. I draw a line, a plane of charges here and

here, and you can see they will cancel. But even this oddball object, I claim, will eventually acquire some density of charges,

they're not uniform or anything, in some complicated fashion until the field inside the solid becomes 0. So these particles will always figure out a way to make the

field 0 inside, because it's the definition. If it's not 0 they've got more work to do, and the charges have to separate even more until there

is no hunger for the separation because they managed to produce a field inside that is 0. Then nobody else will join this flow and it'll stop.

So that's a very short period, 10 to the minus something, when charges rearrange when you put a conductor in the field, then quickly it'll stop.

If you put an alternating field going back and forth then, of course, it depends on how rapidly it's oscillating, and charges may not be able to keep up with that.

That's called a plasma frequency, and beyond that a field would start penetrating because charges cannot keep in step.

But a DC field, where you've got all the time in the world to settle down, they will very quickly come to this arrangement.

They will stop. So remember field in a conductor is 0 by definition. Okay, now the next thing I will show you is that charge inside a

conductor equal to 0. By that I mean the following. If you took a conductor and you threw some charge on it where

Well, the 10 million electrons don't like each other. They will try to run away from each other. In the end they will all sit somewhere here,

but they will sit in such a way that the field inside is 0, because you cannot have an electric field. If the electric field is 0 everywhere then the charge is

also 0 everywhere, because you can take any surface, any volume you like with the integral of E⋅dA, you're going to get 0.

If you can get E⋅dA is 0 for every possible surface then the charge enclosed by every possible surface is 0, therefore there is no charge in

Once they're at the boundary of the metal the metal starts calling you back because there is something called a work function.

It's like all the electrons in a swimming pool. If they don't like each other they can go to the edge of the pool, but to leave the pool they've

got to climb up over the vertical walls, and they cannot scale the walls. If you rip them hard enough they will.

If you put enough charges, charges will start flying from here and maybe land there; that we call lightening. For that they'll have to break the air and produce a conducting

path, but if you don't put such strong fields the charges will remain on the surface. Now, it turns out we can actually relate the electric

field at the surface to the charge density of the surface by a following trick. Let's go to the surface here and ask, "What's the

electric field? Which way can it point?" I claim the electric field can only point perpendicular to the

surface, because if you had parallel components then the charges can move along the surface. No one says you cannot run it on the edge of the swimming

pool, you just cannot leave it. So the electric field lines must point radial, I mean, normal to the surface.

And I claim that we can actually calculate the electric field here if you knew the charge density here. So let's do that.

So here's some surface, and I have--take a tiny region here and I'm going to take a Gaussian surface that looks like this.

It's a cylinder, very tiny cylinder, and the field lines are like that there. There is no field lines here because there's no field inside.

And the field here all of these things are 0, and the field here is parallel to the cylinder so it doesn't contribute.

It's a mathematical Gaussian surface. It's got following faces, flat face, no E because there's nothing inside the metal,

this part of the curvy-face, no E, nothing inside the metal. Here E is parallel to the sides of the cylinder,

so there's no flux. The top end, if the area's A or dA, the top end will have a flux

which will be the E that I'm trying to calculate times dA. That's going to be equal to the charge enclosed is

Then you can see the dA cancels. The electric field is σ/ε_0. Do you remember ever seeing a formula like this sigma or

Let me remind you where you saw it. I showed you that if you took an infinite plane of charge density σ the electric field was

I took rings and so on. Now, you don't have to do that. Let's use Gauss's Law again to calculate it.

Once again, you argue that if you're in front of an infinite plane the only distribution of field lines that makes sense is if the field line's always perpendicular to the surface.

They can get weaker as you go away, but at a given distance from the plane they should have the same value, because if you slide the plane

up and down it shouldn't matter. So let's take the side view of the plane. There are your charges.

And I'm going to take a Gaussian cylinder that looks like this. The field lines are going like that.

They're going like that. There is some charge trapped here. And the area of that guy is some dA.

So again, I apply Gauss's Law here. Of the cylinder I got the curvy sides with no contribution, because the field is parallel to the curvy side.

I got the flat faces. So I get E times dA for one of them, and E times dA for the other one,

because both are outgoing. That is equal to charge enclosed with the σ times dA divided by ε_0.

If you cancel the dA you find E is σ/2ε_0. So the electric field on either side of the plane is

σ/2ε_0. You just get it from Gauss's Law. Again, there's no reason to do the complicated integral.

That's because we've reduced everything to one unknown, namely what was the magnitude of the electric field at a certain distance from the plane?

Direction is known to be perpendicular and to be constant on this line. Then the one number came out to be, in fact, independent of how

far you are. But now go back to the conductor. If you go back to the conductor you find the field at the

surface of a conductor is σ/ε_0 where σ is the charge density there, whereas for an infinite plane it's

Can anybody guess what may be happening? In other words, if you take a tiny area on a conductor and you go very, very, very close it should be

as if you're next to an infinite plane, because if you're very, very close to the surface you don't know if it's finite or infinite.

So you should get the same answer as for the infinite plane. Therefore, if you took only the charge sitting there it should

In other words, let me draw a picture here. That's my tiny area. I expect the field due to just the charge there to be like

this, σ/2ε_0, and σ/2ε_0. But that is not the whole story because I've got the rest of the

conductor that's got its own charge. It is going to produce a field. That field will have some value, and I claim I know the

value of that field. It'll be precisely enough to cancel it on the inside, but if you cancel it on the inside you'll double it on the

outside because it's got σ/2ε_0 pointing outwards to cancel this guy, but then it'll aid the one due to the little area by doubling

In other words, here is the full story. If you go to a conductor, if you pick a region here, the field at this point is due to what's here and what is

everywhere else. What is here does that as if it was an infinite plane. The rest of the guys do that and that cancels this here,

but adds there, so you can see more ε_0 outside. Okay, then there are other variations to this theme.

So here's a conductor, and I make a hole in it, and I put some charge. You can ask if I throw some charge on it where will it sit.

Well, some charges will sit here if you put some coulombs, but what will happen on the inner wall? This is a hole.

The claim is that there'll be no charges here. They'll all be outside even though you've got a hole in the middle.

Again, Gauss's Law tells you why. If I take a surface like this and do Gauss's Law, since the electric field is 0 inside the metal,

Q enclosed is 0. So the Q that's enclosed, which is 0, means that maybe some positive guys and some negative guys,

but there's nothing from stopping the positive guys from rushing to meet the negative guys and canceling. They will, for there is no reason they just stay on

opposite sides of the island. They'll just come together. Therefore, there is no stable equilibrium in which the charges

will be ever inside a conductor. So if you have a conductor and you put charge on it, it goes to the surface even if there are holes inside the

conductor. Now, that's a very interesting paradox. I showed you that the field inside a conductor even if

there's a hole is 0, but let's ask the following question. I take a conductor with the hole in it and I put a charge

Will you know from the outside there's a charge inside or will it get also shielded? Will there be any flux lines coming out here?

Student: Because there's a charge. Prof: Right. If there are no field lines here, and I do Gauss's Law on

q inside. So what's going to happen? I want the field lines to be present here and absent here.

So what'll happen is if you put a q here the material conductor will separate into -q's where these lines can terminate, and then out here will be some

compensating plus charges that'll produce the field that'll produce the lines going out. In other words, this is really like a chunk of

copper I showed you where it screens the field by polarizing into a negative part in this wall and positive contribution in the outer wall so that inside there is no field.

Okay, so these are different variations of this theme and you should be able to do a whole bunch of problems connected with that.

Okay, I've used up my board, so I think I'll give you guys a five minute tour on how to do these integrals in case it ever comes up.

I'm just going to do two very trivial integrals and stop, and I'm going to do them in two dimensions and you can worry about higher dimensions.

It's just generalization. Suppose you're in the xy plane and there's a function in the xy plane, f (x, y), and someone says find

What you do in Cartesian coordinates is you take a line y equal to something, y equal to something delta y, x equal to something,

x equal to something delta x, and that region (bounded) by these contours of constant x at different values and constant y at different

values, has an area dxdy. You multiply that area by this function. This could be the number of people living per square mile

and this could be the number of square miles, and you add up all the little squares over the area that was given to you.

So whoever tells you to do integrals better tell you over what range you're going to do that integral. Okay?

So let's find out the area for triangle by this process. Here's a triangle. Let's say there's one here and one here, 0,1;

Prof: Yes, thank you. That point is 1,1. You're supposed to take dxdy you write it like

The range of y is clearly 1 - x because this is a curve x y = 1. So y goes from 0 to 1 - x, and for every choice

All right, so here is x, goes up to x and the y integral you do it as lower limit, upper limit gives you an x and x goes from

If you had a function of x and y you wanted to integrate, in other words instead of just the number one, if you had a function of

x and y the rule is the following. You put the function here, and put x equal to a fixed value, don't take it as a variable,

and treat y as a variable and do dy from this limit to this limit. When you are done you will get some mass that depends only on

x that you integrate from 0 to 1. But the final thing I'm going to do is to do the same integral in polar coordinates, area of a triangle in polar

coordinates looks like this. In polar coordinates, as you know, you draw circles of r and r dr,

and lines at θ and θ dθ, and this shaded region here has got one side equal to rdθ and the other side equal to dr.

So area integral will look like rdrdθ times some function of r and θ over the allowed region, but I want to do now a triangle

of height 1 and base 1. Here's what I do. I'm going to pick theta first and hold it fixed,