Conservation is one of the basic assumptions of physics. The basic assumption is that for any kind of “stuff,” the amount of stuff going into any region is equal to the increase in stuff in that region. Using the formalism of vector calculus there is a clear way of stating this conservation law for the specific case of charge.
Let be a charge density function, dependant on position and time . represents the rate of change of charge density with respect to time. Using the standard basis vectors the spatial partial derivatives represent the rate of change in the respective directions.
The basic statement of the Continuity Equation makes a statement about any region. It says that the sum of all of the partial derivatives is zero, or:
If we call time , then we can write this a simpler way:
If we assume that any greek index is being summed from 0 to 3, and any latin index is being summed from 1 to 3, we can get a more compact continuity equation:
Now, let’s look at the laws of nature that Maxwell learned in his physics classes.
The first one was that the partial derivatives of the electric field coming out of a region is proportional to the charge density.
Using our new, compact notation where latin indices represent summing over all the spatial variables (1 to 3), we can express this as:
Other authors often use the notation , but I don’t.