Whether it’s trying to push them together or pull them apart, playing with magnets is FUN! But what exactly are magnets and how do they work? Simply put, a magnet is any object that has a magnetic field around it and has the ability to attract ferrous objects (meaning they’re made mostly of metal) like iron, steel, nickel or cobalt.
Magnets can come in many different shapes and sizes and be found in many items. Take for example a compass – the needle inside is a tiny magnet and has one end that points north and one that points south at all times. The end that points north is called the “north pole” of the magnet and the end that points south is called the “south pole”.
A magnetic field refers to the space surrounding a magnet in which magnetic force is exerted and these are created by the motion of electrical charges in and around the magnetic object. Magnetic fields are outlined by something called the magnetic line of force. So, when a small north magnetic pole is put into a magnetic field created by a magnet, it will be subjected to a force and move (assuming there is nothing holding it in place).
The path that the north magnetic pole traces is then called the magnetic line of force, whereby the line is drawn in a magnetic field along which the north magnetic pole moves. The magnetic lines of force always originate from the north pole of a magnet and end at its south pole, which is why a compass needle always points north.
Ready to blow your mind? Watch and learn about the incredible magnetic putty!
Inquiry – Digging Deeper
Now that you understand the basic concepts of magnets and how they work, why not dig a little deeper and look at some of the more intricate details on what makes magnets so mystifying! Check out the video below for all you need to know: