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Electric charge



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A basic property of elementary particles of matter. One does not define charge but takes it as a basic experimental quantity and defines other quantities in terms of it.

According to modern atomic theory, the nucleus of an atom has a positive charge because of its protons, and in the normal atom there are enough extra-nuclear electrons to balance the nuclear charge so that the normal atom as a whole is neutral. Generally, when the word charge is used in electricity, it means the unbalanced charge (excess or deficiency of electrons), so that physically there are enough "non-normal" atoms to account for the positive charge on a “positively charged body” or enough unneutralized electrons to account for the negative charge on a “negatively charged body.”

In line with this usage, the total charge q on a body is the total unbalanced charge possessed by the body. For example, if a sphere has a negative charge of 1 x 10-10 coulomb, it has 6.24 x 108 electrons more than are needed to neutralize its atoms. The coulomb is the unit of charge in the meter-kilogram-second (mks) system of units.

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Updated: Friday, 2007-11-16 17:26 PST