What Is Magnetism 101?

Cultures throughout time have been intrigued by the mystery of Magnets. Science tells us much, lets start here with a simple explanation. In a recent physics forum, the following question was asked.

What Exactly is Magnetism? Asked by a 13year old

Hi there,

I will try to put this concept simple. Let me know it I go to far.

To understand magnetism at its root, you must look deep into the matter. You must go as far as the atom.

The atom is the smallest entity of matter possible.

Now, if we look even deeper, you will find that the atom is composed of a core (nucleus) and tine particles spinning around the core (electrons). A bit like planets orbit around the sun.

In an atom, the components (electrons and so on) are electrically charged, just like the electricity that runs in your home.

If you have followed me, than we can start talking about magnetism.

A little bit of history to put things back into place. Magnetic effects have been noticed a long time ago. But these effects were not very well understood. We needed to wait for a guy called Michael Faraday to explain the basic of magnetism.

Faraday found out that magnetism is closely related to the electricity. He noticed, through a series of experiments, that if you run electricity in a wire, a magnetic field is developed from it, just like with permanent magnets. If you stop running the electricity, the magnetic field disappears.

This is important to understand the basic concept of it. In short (because I already wrote long enough), a magnetic field is produced when charged particles are in motion.

Now to come to what you probably had in mind at first. A magnet, being composed of atoms, which are composed of charges particles in motion, creates a magnetic field. In a permanent magnet, the magnetic field developed by each atom align itself with the others. Therefore, the magnetic field developed by the magnet is only the sum of the magnetic field created into each atom.

In reality, any type of matter can become a magnet, as long as the magnetic field created by each atom aligns to the next one.

I hope you followed my explanation. And don't hesitate to ask some more questions. This is a great place for you to learn. As a reminder, specifying your age is probably a good idea, since we know that we are not talking to a Dr. in physics.