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I have already posted this in the past but it was closed because it was too vague, I wasn't able to formulate a good question and so no one really understood what I meant.

Since then I still haven't found a good answer to my question although I have taken the time to think about my question and have managed to come up with possible answers, although they were satisfying answers but I had no way to see if in fact the answers I came up with were true.

My question:

Electric charges having no physical body would not be able to move because movement would need a body to be displaced but if there is no body how can it be displaced?

Electric charges have no body its a physical property of matter but properties do not have bodies and therefore cannot move.. right?

I am completly aware of how trivial this question is but I like to be precise and its discomforting when I talk about this.

I have researched about this online but have not found anyone asking this question and have not found anyone explaining why we say electric charges move.

I have come up with my own explanation:

physcist don't care about whether a charge has a body or not they just pretend because it makes talking about stuff related to electromagnetism easier

My explanation is just a proposition as of now.

Edit: I would like to recieve feedback so that I can improve my questions.

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  • $\begingroup$ Do you feel the same way about mass? $\endgroup$ – WillO Dec 19 '18 at 7:31
  • $\begingroup$ Can temperature move? Can brightness move? Can stiffness move? Can acceleration move? Can heat capacity move?... They are properties. It doesn't make sense to ask if they can move. Objects, bodies, things, particles in the other hand can move. $\endgroup$ – Steeven Dec 19 '18 at 8:08
  • $\begingroup$ I think that the main reason that this question is likely to be closed is because it is what one would call "word salad". It's like saying that "thoughts have a frequency" or "the fundamental vibration of existence". When you say that "Electric charges have no body" it's not entirely clear what you mean. I think that once you define all of your terms so that somebody else knows what you're saying that your question will essentially answer itself. $\endgroup$ – InertialObserver Dec 19 '18 at 9:40
  • $\begingroup$ "because movement would need a body to be displaced" does it really? $\endgroup$ – Aetol Dec 19 '18 at 10:22
  • $\begingroup$ I don't understand what's true about the statement "electric charges have no body". Charge is always a property of something, like an electron or a proton or something more exotic. $\endgroup$ – Mitchell Porter Dec 19 '18 at 10:24
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A charge is not an object in itself - it is a property of a fundamental particle. For example the electron has a charge of $-e$. So the question:

Can a charge move

actually means:

Can a charged particle move

And of course all particles can move, so charged particles can move.

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Charges don't have stable independent existence in practice. Therefore it's a charged body which we talk about and off course charge bodies can move. For example a charged comb moving with some velocity. By a charged object one means that it has excess of one kind of charge over the other(positive over negative or negative over positive) because in neutral state these opposite charges are equal in number.

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  • $\begingroup$ The textbook I use clearly state that it is electric charges that move, charged bodies is not mentioned. $\endgroup$ – MinigameZ more Dec 19 '18 at 7:48
  • $\begingroup$ Your textbook poosibly implies the movement of electron or positron which carries this charge. When it says the charge moves it possibly undermines the identity of the electron or positron as a particle (that it has mass, wight, density, etc) over the fact that it carries - 1e charge which to some extent is justified since your major concern here is the charge which it carries and not its mass, density, etc. $\endgroup$ – Mathomania Dec 19 '18 at 9:47
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Electrical charge, at least in the way you mean it, consists of electrons, and a flow of electrons constitutes electrical current. Although electrons themselves do not have any internal structure that our instruments can measure- which means they behave as zero-dimensional points- they have easily measurable mass, and their charge has appreciable range. For practical purposes, then, they behave as very, very small clouds of charge which can be shot through a vacuum as if they were very, very small bullets. So the idea that they have no "body" and hence cannot move from place to place is not correct.

Neither is it true that physicists (and engineers!) "don't care about whether a charge has a body or not they just pretend because it makes talking about stuff related to electromagnetism easier". The properties of electrons as I described them above (which are simplifications) were deduced by over 100 years of experiments on them and are not fictitious.

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To say that electric charge moves from a surface to another is simply implying the movement of a charged particle from one to the other.

A charged particle will always be having that charge. Meaning, an electron always has a charge of $-e$. (Unless of course these subatomic particles collide). Charge itself cannot move, but only the particle carrying the charge can.

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  • $\begingroup$ To carry something it must have a body, so you cannot carry charges as well $\endgroup$ – MinigameZ more Dec 19 '18 at 7:50
  • $\begingroup$ Not really. You can carry many other things that do not have a body. @MinigameZmore $\endgroup$ – QuIcKmAtHs Dec 19 '18 at 7:54
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Indeed often they say something like "some charge was moved from body A to body B" or "total charge Q passed through". But it is always assumed that some charged particles moved, not only the charge.

If you have a charged body A and not-charged body B and then you connect the bodies with a conductor some electrons would go from body A to body B. But the number of these electrons is so small compared to the total number of electrons in the bodies that the only observable difference of the properties of these bodies would be the change of their charges. F.e. you wouldn't be able to detect the change of mass of the bodies.

It's not correct to say "physcist don't care about whether a charge has a body or not they just pretend...". It would be better to say "in a large number of cases physicists do not have to care ...". In other cases they do have to care what particles transfer the charge, and it's very important to understand when you have to take into something into consideration and when you have not. When you calculate how a thrown stone moves usually you do not have to account for Moon gravity.

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Electric charges having no physical body would not be able to move because movement would need a body to be displaced but if there is no body how can it be displaced?

Consider this question: Can temperature move?

Or: Can colour move?

Or: Can brightness move?

That's can't be answered. It doesn't make sense. Something with a temperature can move, yes. It is a body, an object. But asking if "temperature" can move, makes little sense. It is a property.

Similarly, something with a charge can move, yes, while "if charge can move" makes no sense.

You might hear it used colloquially from time to time though. It is not technically correct, but it is a convenient shortcut of speech when talking about these topics. You might say "the charge is moving..." in the same way that you would say "the mass is moving...", where it technically should rather have been "the charged particle is moving..." and "the object with mass is moving...". When said in these rather obvious ways, we clearly understand the meaning so it doesn't matter.

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  • $\begingroup$ There are charge carriers that are not physical particles, such as electron holes. $\endgroup$ – Aetol Dec 19 '18 at 10:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Aetol True. Good point. But the movement of such hole is a result of the movement of the surrounding electrons. An electron moving to "take over" the hole, leaves a hole where it came from, and that is how the hole "moves". It doesn't really carry any charge, but it is rather "missing" and electric charge compared to all the others; therefore it is equivalent to a positive charge. In general, all such particles, physical or not (although I am not fully aware of what makes a particle "physical" or "unphysical") are therefore described as if they can move. $\endgroup$ – Steeven Dec 19 '18 at 12:41

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