Lectures on Physics has been derived from Benjamin Crowell's Light and Matter series of free introductory textbooks on physics. See the editorial for more information....

Homework Problems 1

A resistor has a voltage difference ΔV across it, causing a current I to flow. (a) Find an equation for the power it dissipates as heat in terms of the variables I and R only, eliminating ΔV. (b) If an electrical line coming to your house is to carry a given amount of current, interpret your equation from part a to explain whether the wire's resistance should be small or large.
(a) Express the power dissipated by a resistor in terms of R and ΔV only, eliminating I. (b) Electrical receptacles in your home are mostly 110 V, but circuits for electric stoves, air conditioners, and washers and driers are usually 220 V. The two types of circuits have differently shaped receptacles. Suppose you rewire the plug of a drier so that it can be plugged in to a 110 V receptacle. The resistor that forms the heating element of the drier would normally draw 200 W. How much power does it actually draw now?

As discussed in the text, when a conductor reaches an equilibrium where its charge is at rest, there is always zero electric force on a charge in its interior, and any excess charge concentrates itself on the surface. The surface layer of charge arranges itself so as to produce zero total force at any point in the interior. (Otherwise the free charge in the interior could not be at rest.) Suppose you have a teardrop-shaped conductor like the one shown in the figure. Since the teardrop is a conductor, there are free charges everywhere inside it, but consider a free charged particle at the location shown with a white circle. Explain why, in order to produce zero force on this particle, the surface layer of charge must be denser in the pointed part of the teardrop. (Similar reasoning shows why lightning rods are made with points. The charged stormclouds induce positive and negative charges to move to opposite ends of the rod. At the pointed upper end of the rod, the charge tends to concentrate at the point, and this charge attracts the lightning.)

Use the result of problem 3 in ch. 1 to find an equation for the voltage at a point in space at a distance r from a point charge Q. (Take your V=0 distance to be anywhere you like.)

Referring back to the homework problem in chapter 1 about the sodium chloride crystal, suppose the lithium ion is going to jump from the gap it is occupying to one of the four closest neighboring gaps. Which one will it jump to, and if it starts from rest, how fast will it be going by the time it gets there? (It will keep on moving and accelerating after that, but that does not concern us.) [Hint: The approach is similar to the one used for the other problem, but you want to work with voltage and potential energy rather than force.]

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Referring back to our old friend the neuron from the homework problem in chapter 1, let's now consider what happens when the nerve is stimulated to transmit information. When the blob at the top (the cell body) is stimulated, it causes Na+ ions to rush into the top of the tail (axon). This electrical pulse will then travel down the axon, like a flame burning down from the end of a fuse, with the Na+ ions at each point first going out and then coming back in. If 1010 Na+ ions cross the cell membrane in 0.5 ms, what amount of current is created? Simplify the units of your answer.

If a typical light bulb draws about 900 mA from a 110-V household circuit, what is its resistance? (Don't worry about the fact that it's alternating current.) Simplify the units of your answer.
Today, even a big luxury car like a Cadillac can have an electrical system that is relatively low in power, since it doesn't need to do much more than run headlights, power windows, etc. In the near future, however, manufacturers plan to start making cars with electrical systems about five times more powerful. This will allow certain energy-wasting parts like the water pump to be run on electrical motors and turned off when they're not needed - currently they're run directly on shafts from the motor, so they can't be shut off. It may even be possible to make an engine that can shut off at a stoplight and then turn back on again without cranking, since the valves can be electrically powered. Current cars' electrical systems have 12-volt batteries (with 14-volt chargers), but the new systems will have 36-volt batteries (with 42-volt chargers). (a) Sup-pose the battery in a new car is used to run a device that requires the same amount of power as the corresponding device in the old car. Based on the sample figures above, how would the currents handled by the wires in one of the new cars compare with the currents in the old ones? (b) The real purpose of the greater voltage is to handle devices that need more power. Can you guess why they decided to change to 36-volt batteries rather than increasing the power without increasing the voltage?
(a) You take an LP record out of its sleeve, and it acquires a static charge of 1 nC. You play it at the normal speed of 33 1/3 r.p.m., and the charge moving in a circle creates an electric current. What is the current, in amperes? (b) Although the planetary model of the atom can be made to work with any value for the radius of the electrons' orbits, more advanced models that we will study later in this course predict definite radii. If the electron is imagined as circling around the proton at a speed of 2.2x106 m/s, in an orbit with a radius of 0.05 nm, what electric current is created?
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10 We have referred to resistors dissipating heat, i.e. we have assumed that P=IΔV is always greater than zero. Could IΔV come out to be negative for a resistor? If so, could one make a refrigerator by hooking up a resistor in such a way that it absorbed heat instead of dissipating it?

You are given a battery, a flashlight bulb, and a single piece of wire. Draw at least two configurations of these items that would result in lighting up the bulb, and at least two that would not light it. (Don't draw schematics.) If you're not sure what's going on, borrow the materials from your instructor and try it. Note that the bulb has two electrical contacts: one is the threaded metal jacket, and the other is the tip. [Problem by Arnold Arons.]

12 In a wire carrying a current of 1.0 pA, how long do you have to wait, on the average, for the next electron to pass a given point? Express your answer in units of microseconds.

The figure shows a simplified diagram of an electron gun such as the one used in the Thomson experiment, or the one that creates the electron beam in a TV tube. Electrons that spontaneously emerge from the negative electrode (cathode) are then accelerated to the positive electrode, which has a hole in it. (Once they emerge through the hole, they will slow down. However, if the two electrodes are fairly close together, this slowing down is a small effect, because the attractive and repulsive forces experienced by the electron tend to cancel.) (a) If the voltage difference between the electrodes is ΔV, what is the velocity of an electron as it emerges at B? (Assume its initial velocity, at A, is negiligible.) (b) Evaluate your expression numerically for the case where ΔV=10 kV, and compare to the speed of light.


The figure shows a simplified diagram of a device called a tandem accelerator, used for accelerating beams of ions up to speeds on the order of 1% of the speed of light. The nuclei of these ions collide with the nuclei of atoms in a target, producing nuclear reactions for experiments studying the structure of nuclei. The outer shell of the accelerator is a conductor at zero voltage (i.e. the same voltage as the Earth). The electrode at the center, known as the "terminal," is at a high positive voltage, perhaps millions of volts. Negative ions with a charge of -1 unit (i.e. atoms with one extra electron) are produced offstage on the right, typically by chemical reactions with cesium, which is a chemical element that has a strong tendency to give away electrons. Relatively weak electric and magnetic forces are used to transport these -1 ions into the accelerator, where they are attracted to the terminal. Although the center of the terminal has a hole in it to let the ions pass through, there is a very thin carbon foil there that they must physically penetrate. Passing through the foil strips off some number of electrons, changing the atom into a positive ion, with a charge of +n times the fundamental charge. Now that the atom is positive, it is repelled by the terminal, and accelerates some more on its way out of the accelerator. (a) Find the velocity, v, of the emerging beam of positive ions, in terms of n, their mass m, the terminal voltage V, and fundamental constants. Neglect the small change in mass caused by the loss of electrons in the stripper foil. (b) To fuse protons with protons, a minimum beam velocity of about 11% of the speed of light is required. What terminal voltage would be needed in this case?


Three charges, each of strength Q (Q>0) form a fixed equilateral triangle with sides of length b. You throw a particle of mass m and positive charge q from far away, with an initial speed v. Your goal is to get the particle to go to the center of the triangle, your aim is perfect, and you are free to throw from any direction you like. What is the minimum possible value of v?

16 You have to do different things with a circuit to measure current than to measure a voltage difference. Which would be more practical for a printed circuit board, in which the wires are actually strips of metal embedded inside the board?S

Last Update: 2010-11-11