In physics, Gauss's law, also known as Gauss's flux theorem, is a law relating the distribution of electric charge to the resulting electric field. Gauss's law states that:
The law was formulated by Carl Friedrich Gauss in 1835, but was not published until 1867. It is one of four of Maxwell's equations which form the basis of classical electrodynamics, the other three being Gauss's law for magnetism, Faraday's law of induction, and Ampère's law with Maxwell's correction. Gauss's law can be used to derive Coulomb's law, and vice versa.
Gauss's law may be expressed in its integral form:
where the left-hand side of the equation is a surface integral denoting the electric flux through a closed surface S, and the right-hand side of the equation is the total charge enclosed by S divided by the electric constant.
Gauss's law also has a differential form:
where ∇ · E is the divergence of the electric field, and ρ is the charge density.
The integral and differential forms are related by the divergence theorem, also called Gauss's theorem. Each of these forms can also be expressed two ways: In terms of a relation between the electric field E and the total electric charge, or in terms of the electric displacement field D and the free electric charge.
Gauss's law has a close mathematical similarity with a number of laws in other areas of physics, such as Gauss's law for magnetism and Gauss's law for gravity. In fact, any "inverse-square law" can be formulated in a way similar to Gauss's law: For example, Gauss's law itself is essentially equivalent to the inverse-square Coulomb's law, and Gauss's law for gravity is essentially equivalent to the inverse-square Newton's law of gravity.
Gauss's law can be used to demonstrate that all electric fields inside a Faraday cage have an electric charge. Gauss's law is something of an electrical analogue of Ampère's law, which deals with magnetism.
Full article ▸