Conceptual Understanding in Introductory Physics XVII

This question is straight to the point. It emphasizes terminology and associated conceptual understanding. Without using equations or numerical examples, describe the connections and differences among the following quantities or concepts: electric potential energy, electric potential, change in electric potential energy, change in electric potential, potential difference, and electromotive force. Electromotive force and potential difference […]

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Conceptual Understanding in Introductory Physics XVI

Superposition is a powerful principle in physics, especially in introductory electromagnetic theory. A charged particle’s electric field exists independently of the fields of any other particles. A thorough understanding of superposition can prevent the frequent misunderstanding that fields can somehow be “blocked,” which is subtly different from saying that the net field at a point […]

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Conceptual Understanding in Introductory Physics XV

Symmetry is part of the foundation┬áof contemporary physics, but it is seldom emphasized in introductory physics in proportion to its significance. There may be some value in discussing how symmetry applies to otherwise traditional introductory problems rather than just replicating numerical examples from a textbook (even a good textbook). These questions illustrate symmetry in electromagnetic […]

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Conceptual Understanding in Introductory Physics XIV

This post continues this series into second semester introductory calculus-based physics, usually electromagnetic theory. This question addresses basic DC circuits. In a traditional introductory e&m course, circuits are presented with so many idealizations that according to such treatments simple circuits shouldn’t work at all! Two of the most important idealizations are that potential differences along […]

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