Hi williams.dpw, thanks for the question. Yes, I suppose that's an interesting point to consider, although things are not quite as simple as they might seem. Taking the two points in isolation (considering a case that is simple first), it's true that $E = \dfrac{kQ}{r^2}$ which means the field strength is directly proportional to the charge. This means that a point with three times the charge of another point will have an electric field strength 3 times as strong, and yes, in that case the number of field lines should be three times as well. When the two charges are near each other, as in this question, and their fields are interacting, then this interaction changes the number of field lines you would expect compared to the case when they're in isolation. Nevertheless I would agree that the picture could use more field lines going into the $-3Q$ charge. When considering a position very close to a point charge, the effect of the other point charge becomes negligible since their field strengths are inversely proportional to distance from the point charge. What this means is that, close to one point charge, the other point charge doesn't matter, and if you zoom in on any point charge it will be possible to find a "zoom level" at which the field lines look the same as a point charge in isolation.

I suppose I'm arguing both for and against your excellent point. The only way to get a quantitatively correct picture is to use a computer to create the vector field by calculating the resultant electric field (which is not a trivial calculation since these fields add as vectors) at every point. The hand drawn picture is meant just to show an approximation. I think an important feature of the drawing is to show the field emanating left of the left point charge bending around to the right hand charge, which would happen only if the right hand charge has a greater magnitude of charge. Also, yes, I would agree for the most part that the density of field lines around the right hand charge should be nearly 3 times that of the left hand charge, but not exactly so since the left hand charge reduces the field strength around the right hand charge.

## Comments

Should there be 3x's as many field lines going into the -3Q charge compared to the +1Q charge?

Hi williams.dpw, thanks for the question. Yes, I suppose that's an interesting point to consider, although things are not quite as simple as they might seem. Taking the two points in isolation (considering a case that is simple first), it's true that $E = \dfrac{kQ}{r^2}$ which means the field strength is directly proportional to the charge. This means that a point with three times the charge of another point will have an electric field strength 3 times as strong, and yes, in that case the number of field lines should be three times as well. When the two charges are near each other, as in this question, and their fields are interacting, then this interaction changes the number of field lines you would expect compared to the case when they're in isolation. Nevertheless I would agree that the picture could use more field lines going into the $-3Q$ charge. When considering a position very close to a point charge, the effect of the other point charge becomes negligible since their field strengths are inversely proportional to distance from the point charge. What this means is that, close to one point charge, the other point charge doesn't matter, and if you zoom in on any point charge it will be possible to find a "zoom level" at which the field lines look the same as a point charge in isolation.

I suppose I'm arguing both for and against your excellent point. The only way to get a quantitatively correct picture is to use a computer to create the vector field by calculating the resultant electric field (which is not a trivial calculation since these fields add as vectors) at every point. The hand drawn picture is meant just to show an approximation. I think an important feature of the drawing is to show the field emanating left of the left point charge bending around to the right hand charge, which would happen only if the right hand charge has a greater magnitude of charge. Also, yes, I would agree for the most part that the density of field lines around the right hand charge should be nearly 3 times that of the left hand charge, but not exactly so since the left hand charge reduces the field strength around the right hand charge.

Hope that helps!

Mr. Dychko