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The key is to separate the various meanings of symbols. '-' has a number of different meanings. In algebra, it can be a unary or a binary operator.

As a unary operator, '-' represents the operation of "opposite": -x is the opposite of x.

As a binary operator, '-' represents the operation of "subtraction": x - y is the operation of subtracting y from x.

There is no value attached to "opposite".

You seem to have a value attached to addition and subtraction: addition:good, subtraction:bad. I can't help you there, you have to learn to separate domains by, every time you catch yourself making the association, consciously telling yourself that's not right. Eventually you just won't make the association.

One way to think about positive and negative charge is that they are related to clockwise and counter-clockwise rotation. But notice that if you look at a rotating disk from the other side, clockwise and counter-clockwise trade places. So there is not a preferred sense of rotation: there are just two opposite senses of rotation. You can choose to associate the words "positive", "clockwise" and "right-handed" to one of them and "negative", "counterclockwise" and "left-handed" to the other.

Now, if you accept as a given that net charge has energy, then you will see that putting together two similar charges will have more energy than putting together two dissimilar charges. That is: n + m or n + m have more energy than n + m. Mechanical forces tend to go towards lower energy states, so it follows that similar charges don't like to be together (more energy) and dissimilar charges do like to be together (less energy).

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 10:48:21 AM EST
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