Goal: Link potential energy with work needed to assemble a charge configuration.
Source: 283-460 Lowest potential energy
Which of the following charge distributions has the lowest potential
(2) Encourage students to reason to the answer rather than write
formal expressions for each case. They should be able to perceive that
cases #1, #3 and #5 all have positive PE. Situation #4 has zero energy
as can be seen by assembling subunits, then moving the two positive
charges along the zero equipotential of the charges on the y-axis.
Finally, situation #2 is clearly negative.
A good follow-up question is to ask students to order the cases
according to increasing potential energy.