Magnets are so cool

Magnets are possibly the coolest thing on this planet. Einstein was fascinated by them, as is every kid who comes across them. Not only in Junior Cert but also in Leaving Cert. We just don’t do enough with them.

I have to admit to being just a tad obsessed with them myself.
There is a Junior Cert activity where you hang a bar magnet so that it aligns itself North-South. I never bothered with this because hanging the magnet from a retort stand meant that the magnet became attracted to the metal in the stand. Hanging it anywhere in the lab would have resulted in it being attracted to nearby metal (or so I thought) and getting a saddle for the  magnet to sit in was also a pain.
Then there is the issue of the magnets losing strength and becoming less effective.

 Discussing it with my Chemistry colleague Peter O Boyle, he showed me a simple way to hang the magnet, so I tried it with a recently purchased bar magnet, and just let it hang form my hand. And to my great amazement it worked a treat!

I know plotting compasses do this anyway, but there is something very weird about holding a piece of metal on a string, and no matter what way you turn around, the metal continues to stay still (or nearly so). Something very weird indeed. And it’s a feeling you don’t experience with a textbook

Apologies to everyone I have ever taught for not trying this before

‘Course nowadays there is a new generation of magnets of  which Neodymium seem to be the easiest to get hold of. There must be a bucket load of cool things to do with these.

 They certainly make the demonstrations in ElectroMagnetic Induction work a lot more smoothly.

One impressive application is ‘The World’s Simplest Motor’. Nobody should be allowed teach magnets again without getting the students to make these (there are even easier alternatives – do a search for ‘homopolar motors’ on youtube).


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