# How to prove using symmetry that electrostatic force acting parallel to the line joining two charges?

The unit vector $\hat{r}_{21}$ shows that the force is parallel to the line joing the charges. It could be otherwise unless space itself has some built-in directional property. . . This can be predicted by logical arguments from symmetry. - Berkely Physics Course Vol. 2 by Edward M Purcell.

Now, the question seems to be totally nonsense; but I do actually want to know why is the force acting parallel to the line joining charges. Or what led to assume(??) that the force is acting in that direction; it could be anywhere acting. How can I use symmetry to prove this? Plz help.

• We're gonna need a bit more of context here. For exemple a drawing of your charge distribution. Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 13:33
• What do you mean by "cause"? We define the electric field such that $\vec E = q\vec F$, so by definition the force is parallel to the field line joining a positive and negative charge. Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 13:37
• @ACuriousMind: Actually, sir, don't take it too literally. I only want to know is it a consequence of experimental verification or assumed(to - be - correct) empirical law. That's all:)
– user36790
Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 13:48

Now, if the electric force on one of the charges has a component perpendicular to the line, then that component will be affected by the rotation, and thus the force acting on the charge will be different after the rotation than before it. But this means that two different forces ($\vec{F}_\text{after}$ and $\vec{F}_\text{before}$) are produced by the exact same physical system. There is a uniqueness theorem in electromagnetism that says this is impossible: any given configuration of charges produces exactly one electromagnetic field. So either space is not isotropic, or the electric force on each charge has no component perpendicular to the line.