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I think Dr. Lavelle just wanted us to conceptualize the equation. Q1 and Q2 represent the magnitude of the charges while r represents the distance between the two particles. If the Ep comes out as negative, that means the particles are attracted to each other since they are opposite signs. If Ep comes out positive, they are of the same charge and are not attracted to each other.
Furthermore, he wanted us to understand the relationship between the charges and the electrostatic potential energy as well as the relationship between the distance of the charges and the electrostatic potential energy. From the equation E=(q1)(q2)/r, we see that the energy is directly proportional to q1 and q2 and inversely proportional to r. That goes to say that when there is an increase in the magnitude of the charges, the energy will also increase and when there is an increase in the distance between the charges the energy will decrease.
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