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Electric Field Lines

  1. Jun 18, 2004 #1
    This site has a typical representation of the electric field lines between a negative and positive charge:

    Electric Field Lines

    Although the lines emerge from one particle and converge on the other, they bow out in between. They don't take the straightest path right from one particle to the other.

    This is a drawing, but of course this very same thing can be seen in the electrfied grass seeds floating on oil demonstration some may have seen.

    Not particularly surprisingly, magnetic field lines behave the same way. The sprinkled iron powder "fingerprint" of the magetic field reveals that the lines bow out on their way from a North to a South magnetic pole. They don't take the straightest route.

    I once had a stack of soft iron rectangles taken from the core of an automobile spark coil. They were all the same size and shape and thickness. they were about a half inch wide by 4 inches long. When I put one end of this stack up against a magnet the end that was in contact with the magnet stuck tight. The other end of the stack spread open. The permanent magnet had induced the same magnetic pole in the other end of all the pieces of metal such that they all repelled each other.

    It seems safe to say that the reason that electric and magnetic lines of force bow out in between opposite poles is that, at any given point they all have the same charge (in the electric field) or polarity (in the magnetic field) and therefore repell each other laterally. They will only come back together when the opposite pole or charge overwhelms the lateral repulsion and pulls them together.

    So, for the people who know Maxwell's equations, is my assessment correct, or is this bowing of the electric and magnetic fields between charges and poles caused by something else?
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2004
  2. jcsd
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