Eli5: what’s the difference between electricity and magnetism?


How magnets generate electricity?

In: 1

**What is electricity?**

Atoms make up, well, just about everything.

Atoms can be thought of as being made of three parts: protons, neutrons and electrons.

Think of an atom as a tightly-wound bundle of neutrons and protons, with varying numbers of electrons floating around “in orbit” around that bundle.

Specific electrons aren’t necessarily bound to that bundle of neutrons and protons forever and ever. With enough force, the outer orbit of electrons can be nudged out of that orbit and become “free electrons”.

Do this on a large enough scale, and it allows you basically move charge, which is the tl;dr of electricity.

**What is magnetism?**

Objects being magnetic is due to what’s called electromagnetic force. Any moving electrical charge (see above) generates a magnetic field that runs perpendicular to it.

*Extremely* rough TL;DR, but this is eli5. To answer:

>How magnets generate electricity?

Moving magnetic fields, pushes/pulls electrons. That movement is what results in an electrical current.

> How magnets generate electricity?

What is electricity?

Electricity is electrons moving. That’s what it is. Metals in general have atoms that have very loose electrons; a chunk of metal basically has electrons that move [like a river among pebbles](https://o.quizlet.com/pUNp40EsHjg.unj29LmgPA.jpg) if you apply the slightest pull / force.

So the electromagnetic force is something that pulls or pushes on electric charges. All particles of matter have these fundamental properties, mass, charge, spin, etc., and then you have these forces, gravity pulls on mass, electromagnetism pulls on charges, and so on.

A particle that has a charge (like the electron for example) will generate an electrical force. If it’s moving, some of that electrical force will actually be felt as a magnetic force. That’s why we refer to it as “electromagnetism”, it’s two aspects of the same thing, like something that seems to be green or red just based on how you look at it.

Bottom line though, electrons are definitely affected by electromagnetic forces, and will start moving immediately if they can. In a chunk of metal, the electrons definitely can move, so the process is called [electromagnetic induction](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_induction). In something like a plastic, the atoms have [too much space](https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/99/Polypropylene_isotactic_mini_trp.png) between them so the electrons CANNOT move easily from atom to atom.

That’s why metals are conductors, and plastics are insulators.