Why Does a Proton Have a Charge of One?

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A proton has a charge of one because it is a convenient measurement used in physics to describe the positive electronic charge given off by a proton. Learn how the charge of a proton is equal to the same negative charge of an electron with information from a math and science teacher in this free video science lesson.

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Video Transcript

Him I'm Steve Jones and I'm going to tell you why a proton has a charge of 1. Well, actually I'm not. I'm going to show you that actually a proton doesn't have a charge of 1 at all. But we just say it does. Overall when we're looking at different things in Physics, what we have to do is say how big something is. Now if I said to you, "Ah, you have a height of four and a half", you might say, "Well, what does that mean, I have a height of four and a half". Well, it means actually nothing. You could say you have a height of two meters. You could say you have a height of six feet. You could say you have a height of a hundred ninety centimeters. These are meaningful statements. So to say, a proton has a charge of 1 is not a meaningful statement. But it is meaningful if you define what you mean by 1. And really what the statement says, "A proton has a charge of 1, electronic charge". That is, it has the same charge as the charge on an electron. There is a big difference though and the big difference is that the proton has one positive charge and electron has one negative charge. And this charge of one for the proton is actually a charge of 1.6 X 10 to the -19 coulombs. That is the electronic charge; therefore, that is the charge also on the proton. So it is a convenient way to describe the charge. If I always have to write this number, do, am I going to remember it? I've got two protons. I've got two electronic charges or a total charge of well, 3.2 X 10 to the -19 coulombs. Now can you see why I say a proton has a charge of 1. So this is for our convenience. So for our convenience, a charge of 1, means one electronic charge, so this is why we say " A proton has a charge of 1".

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