Physics Study Guide/Fields

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Physics Study Guide (Print Version)
Units Linear Motion Force Momentum Normal Force and Friction Work Energy
Torque & Circular Motion Fluids Fields Gravity Waves Wave overtones Standing Waves Sound
Thermodynamics Electricity Magnetism Optics
Physical Constants Frictional Coefficients Greek Alphabet Logarithms Vectors and Scalars Other Topics


A field is one of the more difficult concepts to grasp in physics. A field is an area or region in which an influence or force is effective regardless of the presence or absence of a material medium. Simply put, a field is a collection of vectors often representing the force an object would feel if it were placed at any particular point in space. With gravity, the field is measured in newtons, as it depends solely on the mass of an object, but with electricity, it is measured in newtons per coulomb, as the force on an electrical charge depends on the amount of that charge. Typically these fields are calculated based on canceling out the effect of a body in the point in space that the field is desired. As a result, a field is a vector, and as such, it can (and should) be added when calculating the field created by TWO objects at one point in space.

Fields are typically illustrated through the use of what are called field lines or lines of force. Given a source that exerts a force on points around it, sample lines are drawn representing the direction of the field at points in space around the force-exerting source.

There are three major categories of fields:

  1. Uniform fields are fields that have the same value at any point in space. As a result, the lines of force are parallel.
  2. Spherical fields are fields that have an origin at a particular point in space and vary at varying distances from that point.
  3. Complex fields are fields that are difficult to work with mathematically (except under simple cases, such as fields created by two point object), but field lines can still typically be drawn. Dipoles are a specific kind of complex field.

Magnetism also has a field, measured in Tesla, and it also has field lines, but its use is more complicated than simple "force" fields. Secondly, it also only appears in a two-pole form, and as such, is difficult to calculate easily.

The particles that form these magnetic fields and lines of force are called electrons and not magnetons. A magneton is a quantity in magnetism.

Definition of terms[edit]

Field: A collection of vectors that often represents the force that an object would feel if it were placed in any point in space.

Field Lines: A method of diagramming fields by drawing several sample lines showing direction of the field through several points in space.