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Conceptually understanding conductors

Keywords: conductor, voltage, Faraday Ice Pail, Leyden Jar, Gauss, Gauss's and Ampere's Laws


Highlights of the activity

Students learn the behavior/properties of conductors by analyzing a variety of situations with charges. They also consider voltage in these problems. Then, based on their previous answers, they predict the charge configurations of a Faraday’s Ice Pail demo. In the end they debate the puzzling Leyden Jar demo.

Reasons to spend class time on the activity


  • Understand both how and why charges and conductors behave
  • Apply Gauss’s Law conceptually (rather than mathematically)
  • Consider potential differences for various situations
  • Test predictions experimentally (and resolve any disagreements)
  • See the connection between physics and real life.


Instructor's Guide


Authors: Darren Tarshis, Dr. Stephanie Chasteen, Dr. Steven Pollock --- CU Boulder
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