How Magnets Work?

Image Credit: Flickr User sparr0, via CC

Have you ever played with magnets? Magnets are objects that have an invisible force acting between them. Take two magnets and bring them closer and click! – they stick together. However, sometimes you feel an invisible force acting between them pushes them away from each other. If you keep two magnets far away from each other, each in a separate room, will the invisible force of the push or pull still exist among them? No. The magnets have to be close to each other for the invisible force to work. What is going on here? Let’s see.

The two ends of every magnet are called poles. One end is the North pole, and the other is South pole. If two magnets are kept close to each other with the north pole and the south pole facing each other, they will get attracted to each other. If like poles are facing each other, magnets will try to move away from each other. Like poles repel each other while unlike poles attract each other!

Image Credit: Flickr User AJC1, via CC
Image Credit: Flickr User AJC1, via CC

Reminds me of a joke.

One magnet to the other – Are you attracted to me?
The other one – Only if we are poles apart!

Ha ha!!

Every magnet has an area around it that is referred to as the magnetic field. Magnetic field is the area where the magnetic force exists. This field is invisible. But there is one way to see it – using iron filings. Iron is a metal that gets attracted to a magnet. If we sprinkle some iron filings around a magnet, they exactly trace the magnetic field. Let’s look at the video to understand better.

Two magnets out of each other’s magnetic field will not attract each other. That explains magnets kept in separate rooms would not attract each other.

Why do magnets behave the way they do? We know that atoms make up everything. Atoms get further divided into tinier particles known as electrons and protons. Magnets behave so because electrons and protons arranged in their atoms differently compared to other metals. Sometimes metals like iron can become a magnet if kept for long enough in the magnetic field of another magnet. Why? Iron atoms due to the magnetic force exerted on them, change their structure and become like magnet atoms. This process is called the magnetization.

Some people have a very powerful personality that other people get drawn towards instinctively. Such people are known to have a ‘magnetic personality’.

Other than iron, nickel and cobalt are also attracted to magnets. Most of the metals do not get attracted by magnets.

The center of our earth is believed to be an alloy (a mixture of metals) of iron and nickel. For this reason, our Earth also acts like a magnet. The north pole and south pole are the two poles of this enormous round magnet. Earth also has a magnetic field that stretches out in the space. When high-energy radiation from the sun interacts with the magnetic field of the earth, we get magnificent Auroras. Do you know there exist many magnetic hills all over the world? There is one in Ladakh, India.

Image Credit: Flickr User Beverly & Pack, via CC
Image Credit: Flickr User Beverly & Pack, via CC

Are there magnets in space? – Yes. After a massive star collapses, it becomes a huge magnet hanging in space!

The ancient Greeks were the first to know about magnets. They probably discovered the naturally magnetized pieces of the mineral magnetite which is called lodestone. The word magnet in Greek means “stone from Magnesia”, a part of ancient Greece where magnetite was found.

Can you find out where do we use magnets in our daily lives?

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