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HSC Physics

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  1. Module 1: Kinematics
    1.1 Motion in a Straight Line
  2. 1.2 Motion on a Plane
  3. Module 2: Dynamics
    2.1 Forces
  4. 2.2 Forces, Acceleration and Energy
  5. 2.3 Momentum, Energy and Simple Systems
  6. Module 3: Waves and Thermodynamics
    3.1 Wave Properties
  7. 3.2 Wave Behaviour
  8. 3.3 Sound Waves
  9. 3.4 Ray Model of Light
  10. 3.5 Thermodynamics
  11. Module 4: Electricity and Magnetism
    4.1 Electrostatics
  12. 4.2 Electric Circuits
  13. 4.3 Magnetism
  14. Module 5: Advanced Mechanics
    5.1 Projectile Motion
  15. 5.2 Circular Motion
  16. 5.3 Motion in Gravitational Fields
    2 Topics
  17. Module 6: Electromagnetism
    6.1 Charged Particles, Conductors and Electric and Magnetic Fields
  18. 6.2 The Motor Effect
    1 Topic
  19. 6.3 Electromagnetic Induction
  20. 6.4 Applications of the Motor Effect
    1 Topic
  21. Module 7: The Nature of Light
    7.1 Electromagnetic Spectrum
    3 Topics
  22. 7.2 Light: Wave Model
  23. 7.3 Light: Quantum Model
    2 Topics
  24. 7.4 Light and Special Relativity
  25. Module 8: From the Universe to the Atom
    8.1 Origins of the Elements
    5 Topics
  26. 8.2 Structure of the Atom
    3 Topics
  27. 8.3 Quantum Mechanical Nature of the Atom
    2 Topics
  28. 8.4 Properties of the Nucleus
    2 Topics
  29. 8.5 Deep Inside the Atom
    4 Topics
Lesson 21, Topic 1
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Maxwell’s Contributions to Electromagnetism

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Unification of Electricity and Magnetism

Maxwell combined the ideas that a moving point charge (current) generates a magnetic field, while a changing magnetic field generates an electromotive force (voltage).

Here are his main ideas:

  • If a changing electric field is produced, this will produce a magnetic field at right angles to itself.
  • The changing magnetic field would, in turn, produce a changing electric field.
  • The cycle would repeat, creating two mutually propagating fields.
EM Wave
A visualisation of a self-propagating electromagnetic wave. The vector E represents the electric field while B represents the magnetic field.

Maxwell was able to unify the theories of electricity and magnetism by showing that they were intrinsically related to each other through his prediction of the electromagnetic wave.

Prediction of Velocity

Maxwell’s calculations provided a predicted value for the speed of an electromagnetic wave (through empty space). This value closely matched experimental measurements of the speed of light, which suggested light may be a form of electromagnetic radiation.