Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

Additivity of charges

We have not as yet given a quantitative definition of a charge; we shall follow it up in the next section. We shall tentatively assume that this can be done and proceed. If a system contains two point charges q1 and q2, the total charge of the system is obtained simply by adding algebraically q1 and q2 , i.e., charges add up like real numbers or they are scalars like the mass of a body. If a system contains n charges q11, q2, q3, …, qn, then the total charge of the system is q1 + q2 + q3 + … + qn . Charge has magnitude but no direction, similar to the mass. However, there is one difference between mass and charge. Mass of a body is always positive whereas a charge can be either positive or negative. Proper signs have to be used while adding the charges in a system. For example, the total charge of a system containing five charges +1, +2, –3, +4 and –5, in some arbitrary unit, is (+1) + (+2) + (–3) + (+4) + (–5) = –1 in the same unit.