NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ1160692
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017-Nov
Pages: 2
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0031-921X
Simple Pencil-and-Paper Notation for Representing Electrical Charge States
Morse, Robert A.
Physics Teacher, v55 n8 p470-471 Nov 2017
In Benjamin Franklin's one fluid theory of electrification, ordinary unelectrified matter consisted of a matrix of matter suffused with a certain amount of "electrical fluid." Electrical effects were due to an excess or deficit of electrical fluid, hence the terms positive and negative. Before the development of a modern view of the atom, diagrams showing charged objects would simply have "+" or "-" signs to indicate the charged state. As physicists we know how to interpret these diagrams and understand what they are telling us about the underlying atomic model of charging. However, novice students may not readily make the connection between the atomic model, in which a charged solid object either gains or loses electrons but does not gain or lose positive charges. Furthermore, when isolated objects become charged, the total number of electrons must be accounted for as charge is a conserved quantity. To really understand the changes that occur in charging by contact, conduction, or induction, it is useful for students to visually represent the processes in a way that emphasizes the atomicity of the processes, including the induced polarization of objects, and the requirement that charge be conserved.
American Association of Physics Teachers. One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740. Tel: 301-209-3300; Fax: 301-209-0845; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A