Unit: Electrostatic Potential of Point Charges


Prerequisite Ideas Introduction

"Write down the electrostatic potential due to a point charge"; write down the gravitational potential due to the earth. 10 min

Fields concept (Lecture)

  1. scalar fields are a number at every point in space
  2. think of temperature as an example
  3. electrostatic and gravitational potential are other examples
  4. we bring in a voltmeter with attached wires and actually point to various points in space stating that it would measure a value at every point in space. We return to this visual aid often, but at some stage (perhaps this first day) it is important to point out two things:
    • How a voltmeter actually works and that you have to set the zero of potential somewhere.
    • The fact that voltmeters do NOT work the way you theoretically want them to may be an issue, especially for experimentalists. Nevertheless, we have found that STUDENTS often miss the fact that what a voltmeter measures and what you mean by electrostatic potential have anything to do with each other, even in principle.
    • GVC § Voltmeters


This section can follow “The Distance Between Two Points”

Prerequisite Ideas

The Distance Between Two Points

Prerequisite Ideas

Two Charges (without Power Series)

Prerequisite Ideas

  • If you feel like your students need some physics right away, part 1 of the next activity now. You can then come back and do part 2 of the activity after you have covered power series (or skip it if you are not covering power series). Alternatively, skip this whole activity now and cover it immediately after power series.

Power Series

Prerequisite Ideas

Two Charges

Prerequisite Ideas

Unit: Potential Due to Continuous Distributions


Prerequisite Ideas

Integrating Charge Densities

Calculating Potentials

Prerequisite Ideas

Unit: Electric Field

Derivatives of Scalar Fields

Prerequisite Ideas

Electric Field

Unit: Electrostatic Energy

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