Scalar and vector potentials in electromagnetism. The scalar potential is potential energy per unit charge. For potential energy, use the potential-energy tag.

learn more… | top users | synonyms

29
votes
5answers
1k views

In quantum mechanics, given certain energy spectrum can one generate the corresponding potential?

A typical problem in quantum mechanics is to calculate the spectrum that corresponds to a given potential. Is there a one to one correspondence between the potential and its spectrum? If the ...
23
votes
4answers
8k views

Birds sitting on electric wires: potential difference between the legs

We have seen birds sitting on uninsulated electric wires of high voltage transmission lines overhead without getting harmed, because sitting on only one wire doesn't complete any circuit. But what ...
19
votes
6answers
2k views

Why can we treat quantum scattering problems as time-independent?

From what I remember in my undergraduate quantum mechanics class, we treated scattering of non-relativistic particles from a static potential like this: Solve the time-independent Schrodinger ...
14
votes
11answers
15k views

What is the difference between electric potential, potential difference (PD), voltage and electromotive force (EMF)?

This is a confused part ever since I started learning electricity. What is the difference between electric potential, potential difference (PD), voltage and electromotive force (EMF)? All of them have ...
12
votes
6answers
976 views

Gibbs free energy intuition

What is Gibbs free energy? As my book explains: Gibbs energy is the energy of a system available for work. So, what does it want to tell? Why is it free? Energy means ability to do work. What is ...
11
votes
1answer
2k views

How to interpret the magnetic vector potential?

In electromagnetism, we can re-write the electric field in terms of the electric scalar potential, and the magnetic vector potential. That is: $E = -\nabla\phi - \frac{\partial A}{\partial t}$, ...
11
votes
3answers
479 views

Motivation for Potentials

This is a hypothetical question about "pedagogy". Let's say I am trying to take someone who has just a very small amount of knowledge about Newtonian mechanics and convince them that the Lagrangian ...
10
votes
1answer
2k views

3D Delta Potential Well

The 1D delta potential well $V(x) = -A\delta(x - a)$ always has exactly one bound state. The same is true for the 3D delta potential well $V(\vec{r}) = -A\delta(\vec{r}-\vec{a})$. I can show this for ...
10
votes
1answer
1k views

In the Lennard-Jones potential, why does the attractive part (dispersion) have an $r^{-6}$ dependence?

The Lennard-Jones potential has the form: $$U(r) = 4\epsilon\left[ \left(\frac{\sigma}{r}\right)^{12} - \left(\frac{\sigma}{r}\right)^{6} \right]$$ The (attractive) $r^{-6}$ term describes the ...
10
votes
3answers
361 views

Bound states of the $V(x)=\pm \delta'^{(n)}(x)$ potential?

The $\delta(x)$ Dirac delta is not the only "point-supported" potential that we can integrate; in principle all their derivatives $\delta', \delta'', ...$ exist also, do they? If yes, can we look for ...
8
votes
2answers
521 views

Why do we like gauge potentials so much?

Today I read articles and texts about Dirac monopoles and I have been wondering about the insistence on gauge potentials. Why do they seem (or why are they) so important to create a theory about ...
8
votes
1answer
525 views

Anharmonic oscillators: why is $F=-k x-k' x^3$, with no quadratic terms?

The equation of motion of a general anharmonic oscillator includes a position-dependent force that can be expanded in a Taylor series as $$m\ddot{x}+2\mu\dot{x}+k_0+k_1x+k_2x^2+k_3x^3\ldots=F.$$ I ...
8
votes
5answers
807 views

Why doesn't a quantum particle in an attractive 1D potential accumulate at the center?

I have two questions regarding (possibly counter intuitive results) Schrodinger equation and its application to two (strictly hypothetical) scenarios. Consider the 1D potential $V(x) = - ...
7
votes
4answers
1k views

Why the statement “there exist at least one bound state for negative potential” doesn't hold for 3D case?

Previously I thought this is a universal theorem, for one can prove it in the one dimensional case using variational principal. However, today I'm doing a homework considering a potential like ...
7
votes
6answers
364 views

Origins of many-particle interactions

The internal potential energy of an $N$ particle system is a general function of the coordinates of the particles: $U(r_1,...,r_N)$. In some approximations and expansions - e.g. virial expansion - it ...
7
votes
2answers
727 views

Infinite and Finite Square Wells

For the infinite square well in the first region, outside the well: $$\frac{-\hbar^2}{2m}\frac{d^2 \psi}{dx^2} + V(x) \psi (x) = E \psi (x),$$ where you set $V = 0$. Rearranging gives $$\frac{d^2 ...
7
votes
2answers
347 views

Is there a time delay during tunnelling?

A particle hitting a square potential barrier can tunnel through it to get to the other side and carry on. Is there a time delay in this process?
7
votes
2answers
251 views

Triangular barrier in infinite potential well

Suppose I am looking to solve the wavefunction for the following 1D potential: $$U(x) = \begin{cases}V_0\frac{a-|x|}{a}&\quad\text{for}\quad|x|<a ...
6
votes
4answers
961 views

Why can't we ascribe a (possibly velocity dependent) potential to a dissipative force?

Sorry if this is a silly question but I cant get my head around it.
6
votes
3answers
3k views

Pn junction voltage drop?

This image from wikipedia, explains that there occurs a potential drop across a pn semiconductor junction, and an electric field confined to the depletion region. I already know the reason for the ...
6
votes
5answers
1k views

Infinite Wells and Delta Functions

In considering a delta potential barrier in an infinite well, I can just enforce continuity at the potential barrier-it doesn't have to go to zero. Why then does it need to go to zero at the walls of ...
6
votes
2answers
3k views

How electric currents can flow between 2 points at the same potential?

According to Ohm's law, if there is a potential difference, $V$, across a resistor then there is a current, $I$, flowing through it. Since we assume that points along the connecting wire are at the ...
6
votes
2answers
216 views

Is there an equivalent of a scalar potential for torques?

For a given scalar potential $V$, it is known that the corresponding force field $\mathbf{F}$ can be computed from $$ \mathbf{F} = -\nabla V $$ Suppose a rigid body is placed inside this ...
6
votes
2answers
128 views

Infinite square well that suddenly decreases in size

A well known exercise in basic quantum mechanics is the sudden (diabatic) increase of the length of an infinite square well. Now consider a particle in an eigenstate of an infinite well that is ...
5
votes
4answers
7k views

Why is electric potential scalar?

I can't conceptually visualize why it would be so. Say you have two point charges of equal charge and a point right in the middle of them. The potential of that charge, mathematically, is proportional ...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

Why does a capacitor discharge?

Suppose a charged capacitor (parallel plates), the negative and positive charges on two plates attract each other. Which force cause the negative charge carriers (electrons) move through the circuit ...
5
votes
1answer
141 views

Is there any good reason/argument/heuristic why one can approximate forces by approximating the potentials?

My question Is there any good reason/argument/heuristic why one can approximate forces by approximating the potentials? (As a concrete example, in Electrostatics.) Motivation for the question I am ...
5
votes
1answer
275 views

Kaluza-Klein Christoffel Symbols

I have a question regarding the connection coefficients as they pertain to the following paper: http://www.weylmann.com/kaluza.pdf . When I try to calculate the 4D Christoffel symbols from the 4D part ...
5
votes
4answers
4k views

How electron movement produces current,instead of having a slow drift speed

Just need a clarification here, how the current is produced due to the movement of electrons, in an external circuit,having a very slow drift speed. Normally in a battery there is high potential ...
5
votes
1answer
180 views

How do aspherical gravitational monopoles look like?

I was recently pointed by laboussoleestmonpays to a beautiful paper from some time ago, Aspherical gravitational monopoles. Alain Connes, Thibault Damour and Pierre Fayet. Nucl. Phys. B 490 no. ...
5
votes
2answers
137 views

Potential generated by a hollow sphere with a hole

The sphere has radius $R$ and is missing its "pole" - meaning that in the area $\theta\leq\alpha$ there is nothing. The object has a homogenous charge density $\sigma=\frac{Q}{\pi R^2}$ I'm trying to ...
5
votes
3answers
7k views

Force as gradient of scalar potential energy

My text book reads If a particle is acted upon by the forces which are conservative; that is, if the forces are derivable from a scalar potential energy function in manner $ F=-\nabla V $. I ...
5
votes
1answer
128 views

Apparent contradiction between calculations and intuition?

I am rather confused because it would seem that mathematical conclusions I have drawn here goes against my physical intuition, though both aren't too reliable to begin with. We have a potential step ...
5
votes
2answers
204 views

How does current flow in a irregularly shaped heterogeneous resistor?

The motivation for my question is understanding how electricity gets through your skin as opposed to running along it, and how the presence of things like water on the skin affect the relative ...
5
votes
2answers
93 views

Why do we not require higher derivatives to match at boundary when solving the Schrödinger equation in a given potential?

When solving the time independent Schrödinger equation for a given potential in 1D, the main part of the solving involves matching boundary conditions. Usually, we require the value and the first ...
4
votes
6answers
758 views

Is electromagnetic vector field a sum of E and B?

I have a hard time to fully understand (classical) electromagnetic field theory with respect to Helmholtz's decomposition. Let me start from Helmholtz's theorem: Any vector field of class ...
4
votes
3answers
506 views

What exactly is a bound state and why does it have negative energy?

Our professor hasn't explained what bound states are. Could you give me an idea of what they mean and their importance in quantum-mechanics problems with potential (e.g. a potential described by a ...
4
votes
2answers
752 views

Potential functions

Can someone please explain what a potential is? Example. velocity potential in ideal flows, acoustic potential (gradient of which gives the particle velocity in a sound wave). Whenever I see potential ...
4
votes
2answers
6k views

Why is the electric field perpendicular to every point on the surface of a conductor?

I am reading Berkeley Physics Course, Volume 2 (Electricity and Magnetism by Edward M. Purcell). I am in chapter $3$, page $92$, and the book discusses conductors. The following is from the book: ...
4
votes
2answers
10k views

How does electricity flow in conductor when potential difference is applied?

Electrons move from higher potential to lower potential. When a conductor is connected to battery, electron move from negative terminal to positive terminal. But the battery itself forms a Electric ...
4
votes
2answers
191 views

Meaning of “Grounded”

In my opinion, "grounded" means having the same potential as the potential at infinity, which is usually set to zero. Now if we consider a conductor inside a uniform electric field, what is the ...
4
votes
3answers
9k views

How can you have a negative voltage?

How can you have a negative voltage? I don't really understand the concept of negative voltage, how can it exist?
4
votes
4answers
6k views

Infinitely charged wire and Differential form of Gauss' Law

I have tried calculating the potential of a charged wire the direct way. If lambda is the charge density of the wire, then I get $$\phi(r) = \frac{\lambda}{4 \pi \epsilon_0 r} \int_{-\infty}^\infty ...
4
votes
1answer
339 views

What maintains constant voltage in a battery?

I know there's lots of questions that address similar situations, (Batteries connected in Parallel, Batteries and fields?, Naive Question About Batteries, and the oft-viewed I don't understand ...
4
votes
3answers
157 views

What is the meaning of $U''(x)=0$?

Most potentials with a minimum can be described approximately as a harmonic oscillator. So the procedure is to Taylor expand $U(x)$: $$U(x)=U(0)+U'(0)x+\frac{1}{2}U''(0)x^2 +...$$ If we suppose ...
4
votes
2answers
82 views

Need help on electric potential definition

I'm having trouble understanding electric potential. In my book it says "an electric force acts on a charge situated in an electric field." I understand this part. Then it goes on to say "If a charge ...
4
votes
1answer
186 views

What is physical meaning of $|\phi|^2$ in quantum field theory and pedagogical spontaneous symmetry breaking?

If wavefunction is $\phi$, we know that $|\phi (x)|^2$ represents probability of finding a particle at $x$. Now let us talk about some pedagogical example in spontaneous symmetry breaking in QFT, ...
4
votes
2answers
159 views

Definition of quantum anharmonicity

I have been reading research papers in mathematical physics for some months now, and I've seen the the term "anharmonic oscillator" quite frequently. At first I assumed that given a Schrodinger ...
4
votes
1answer
346 views

Linear dependence of magnetic potential on current density

I'm a mathematician learning physics to provide some background for my mathematical work (especially pde's!). I have been reading through Jackson's Classical Electrodynamics (3rd edition), and I was ...
4
votes
1answer
144 views

Loopless voltage measurement

I think we are all very well familiarized with the classical voltmeter. Classical voltmeter has two conducting wires that bring two potentials into the box. In the box we have well controlled ...