Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Gauss's Law & Electric Fields

  1. Oct 15, 2011 #1
    Hi. My question is straightforward: how do I know when the charge inside a surface is zero?

    I've read my textbook chapter twice, but it doesn't offer any explanation on this. In one example problem with a hollow shell, it simply makes the automatic assumption that "there's no charge inside the hollow shell and therefore none inside the guassian surface." I'm baffled as to how they arrived at that conclusion. Am I to assume that anytime a surface has a hollow/empty space in it, the enclosed charge equals zero?

    Worse yet, my textbook appears to contradict itself: it states that "the electric field exists at every point in space." But if in some surfaces there's no charge (like the hollow shell), how can the electric field exist!?

    Any clarification would be greatly appreciated, especially if it's dumbed down. I feel like this is an elementary concept, but I'm struggling to understand it. :frown:
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 16, 2011 #2
    In a conductor the free charge will be on the surface. And when say that the E field is every where in space, my guess is that they mean its like a continuous fluid and there are no jumps in it.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook