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A clearcut definition of Potential please

Richard Norman rsnorman at mw.mediaone.net
Fri Feb 5 21:03:10 EST 1999

Wookie wrote in message <36bb94b0.44628370 at news.casema.net>...
>I know that a difference in charge between intracellular and
>extracellular is responsible for the membrane potential.
>But I just can't grasp the idea of a potential, the only thing that
>you can measure is a difference.
>As I understand correctly the membrane potential is the force
>experienced by a charged particle that's within this electric field.
>Can please someone give a better definition
You have it, basically.  The most important idea is that the electric
potential is a measure of one of the forces that tends to make ions
move, the other force being diffusion measured by  the concentration
gradient (or difference).   What I tell students is that it potential
the number you get when you stick a voltmeter across the membrane.
For more details, take physics.

You also need a technical definition of "charge", but then you need
a definition of "force" and "energy" as well.  Where do your begin?
Where do you end?  Your definition is what you need.

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