Just What is Magnetism?

Magnetism is the attraction of a magnetic field on certain metals. Over the years, you probably have played with magnets in school, or attached papers to the refrigerator by magnets. How does it work?

On the atomic level, magnetism is the attraction of protons to electrons. Protons have a positive charge, and electrons have a negative charge. We all know that opposites attract!

Magnets have a pair of poles, a north pole and a south pole. They have opposite charges. So, when a south pole comes in contact with another magnet's north pole, they attract; when a south pole comes into contact with another south pole (or a north pole with a north pole), they push away from each other.

How is something magnetized?

Some substances, such as lodestone, are permanently magnetized. Other substances can be made into magnets by aligning their domains. One such substance is iron. Domains are small regions within the object that have north and south poles. When they are not magnetized, the domains are not lined up. To magnetize them, you can heat them, stroke them several times with a magnet, or hammer them.
Take a moment to check your understanding with the quiz below.

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