What is a magnet? Why there are only a few metals that are attracted to magnets?


What is a magnet? Why there are only a few metals that are attracted to magnets?

In: Physics

Magnets are objects that produce a magnetic field. The reason why only a few metals are magnetic is because they have a structure that more easily lines up electrons and create a magnetic field. The more electrons there are lined up, the stronger the magnetic field they produce.

Magnets are all objects that can produce magnetic fields. Some can do so permanently (so we call them permanent magnets) and some when induced by electric currents (electromagnets). Magnetic fields arise because the electrons in the material of many atoms are arranged in the similar way, so the whole object will have a distinct polarity (I.e. more negative /positive charges in one direction than another). They will attract some materials (mostly metals) because in those materials there’s an abundance of electric charges that are relatively free to move (in many metals electrons sort of hang around), so they’ll be attracted to the opposite charges in a magnet.

When atoms form molecules they sometimes form spots that are positively or negatively charged and when you have a thing that can line up these spots and keep them lined up you end up with a magnet. The combined electric charges form a magnetic field, an area where those charges have influence.

Now, when some metals come in contact with a magnetic field the like charges are repelled and the opposite charges are attracted and because magnetic fields are stronger when closer the net result is a pull. We call this ferromagnetism because ferro- means iron and iron is the first metal we saw do this.

This is the best ELI5 that I could came up with, it’s not the full explanation and it’s not 100% accurate but should give you an idea of how things work. First of all magnetism in materials happens because of electrons, their spinning motion around the atom’s nucleus generates tiny magnetic forces. Now you can have a material in which all atoms are pretty much ordered so most electrons spin in the same direction and the magnetic forces add up to form a large magnet, or they can be a mess and all the magnetic forces cancel each other out. The materials that are attracted to magnets fall somewhat in between these two categories: their atoms are a bit messy but if you put a natural magnet near them they can somehow find an order and became magnets themselves.

How can one magnet pull another towards it without having a string or other piece of material connecting them. Don’t say “fields” because I will then ask why they do that.

Something has to be reaching acroooss the room.

Hi, it looks like you’ve just asked a question humans have yet to get a clear answer to.

You’ll find descriptions of what magnets DO, how they BEHAVE, or what we use them for, but we still don’t know what magnets ARE.

it seems everything is a magnet. We experience magnetism in some metals not because they are the only metals with magnetism, but that the magnetism is unbalanced, and so interacts with other nearby objects.

The magnetic and electric fields are properties of spacetime, and depending on your velocity will measure certain values. Spacetime is 4 dimensional, and 4 dimensional rotations can appear in 3d space as translations, so where in 3 dimensions, two magnets look as if they are moving apart or together, in 4 dimensions they are simply rotating.

Don’t worry if you’re confused by this, it took me years of studying physics to get an understanding of it.

A magnet is a like a hole in the ground with sloped sides. And the metals that stick to it are like round objects.

This is nothing like the proper explanation, but it highlights the fact that it’s to do with the configuration of stuff causing certain objects to behave differently. And also, that it’s not really that weird of a thing, aside from the causes being invisible.

This also explains why magnets aren’t an energy source. Stuff rolls down hill, but you have to put stuff at the top of the hill to get anything out. This can be a way to store energy, but it’s not free energy.

This doesn’t explain poles, electricity, or how magnets interact with other magnets. But if you want that kind of detail, it’s hard to stay 5yo level.