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How Magnets Are Made
Your Kid Will Ask Eventually…
“How are magnets made??”
Here’s a little bit of information that might be useful in a report, or just for general knowledge!
Where it All Began.
Legend has it that roughly 4,000 years ago, on the island of Crete, a shepherd named Magnes was herding his sheep when all of the sudden his shoes (which had nails in the soles) and the metal tip of his staff stuck to the rock below him. When he dug deeper (literally) to find out what was going on, he found Iodestones, which contain magnetite.
For a long time, nobody understood the physics of it, and magnets were thought to have magical powers. They were used to heal the sick, get rid of evil spirits, and in some cases dissolve ships made of iron! There were probably some islands which contained lots of lodestones, so when ships were mysteriously attracted to them, and then shipwrecked, the people of the times didn’t know who else to blame, so they called it a natural phenomenon. Somebody eventually got curious enough, though, because now we know what’s really going on.
Under the Microscope
The details are nerdier than we’re going to get into here, but suffice it to say that when certain materials (such as nickel, iron or cobalt) are exposed to a magnetic field, their internal structure changes. Their makeup changes on a microscopic level, and rearranged in polarized lines. When there’s enough polarized material, boom, you have a magnet.
Okay, okay, here’s a little bit more detail.
All material has really small magnetic fields. These fields are called domains. Most of these domains are completely independent, and don’t attract to another domain. In fact, they face different directions. But when they’re exposed to that strong magnetic field we mentioned earlier, those domains get rearranged to form an even stronger magnetic field.
Different Types of Magnets
There are two major types of magnets – permanent magnets and temporary magnets. Obviously, the difference between the two is that the temporary magnet will lose its magnetic field over time, and the domains will go back to their original positions.