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Posted by on Sep 30, 2015 in Tell Me Why |

How Does a Magnet Get Its Magnetism?

How Does a Magnet Get Its Magnetism?

All things, including magnets, are made of tiny atoms. Atoms are made of even tinier particles, among them things called electrons. Electrons spin around the center of each atom. In most objects, electrons spin every which way.

But in metals that can be magnetized, such as iron, the electrons can be made to spin in the same direction. When this happens, they build up a magnetic field that attracts other iron objects. “Non-magnetic” metals, such as copper, are so weakly magnetic that the force they exert is not noticeable.

Almost everyone knows these six basic facts about how magnets behave:

.A magnet has two ends called poles, one of which is called a north pole or north-seeking pole, while the other is called a south pole or south-seeking pole.

.The north pole of one magnet attracts the south pole of a second magnet, while the north pole of one magnet repels the other magnet’s north pole. So we have the common saying: like poles repel, unlike poles attract.

.A magnet creates an invisible area of magnetism all around it called a magnetic field.

.The north pole of a magnet points roughly toward Earth’s north pole and vice-versa. That’s because Earth itself contains magnetic materials and behaves like a gigantic magnet.

.If you cut a bar magnet in half, you get two new, smaller magnets, each with its own north and south pole.

.If you run a magnet a few times over an unmagnetized piece of a magnetic material (such as an iron nail), you can convert it into a magnet as well. This is called magnetization.

Content for this question contributed by Kimberly Laramee, resident of Ludlow, Hampden County, Massachusetts, USA