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Visualizing Electrostatic Potentials

Keywords: Small Group Activity, Computer Visualization, Maple, Mathematica, Electrostatic Potential and Potential Energy, Scalar Field


Highlights of the activity

  1. This computer visualization activity is designed to provide students with a geometric understanding of a variety of ways to represent scalar fields, including equipotential surfaces.
  2. Students use Maple/Mathematica to create geometric representations of electrostatic fields produced by multiple charge densities.
  3. The whole class discussion focuses on the affordances and constraints of different representations.

Reasons to spend class time on the activity

In mathematics courses, most examples of multivariable functions are functions of only two variables, so that their graphs can be plotted and examined. In physics, many quantities are functions of space, three variables. This Maple worksheet allows students to explore different ways of representing such functions geometrically. The context is electrostatic potentials from a small number of discrete point charges.


Instructor's Guide

Maple Worksheet (Maple 13)

vfvisv.mws (Maple 11 Classic)

Mathematica Notebook


Authors: Corinne Manogue
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