Nun's Walk, Nr Tufton, Hampshire. Reported 4th August. Map Ref: SU4575346172 This Page has been accessed Updated Friday 30th August  2019

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 “Magnets” explained in 3 easy pictures  What are “magnets”? Everything we see around us is made of electron-magnets, proton-magnets or neutron magnets (particles with “magnetic moment”). Yet almost all of their energies cancel in a pairwise fashion, so that we do not usually see such strong, hidden forces at work!   In some elements such as iron or neodymium, a few of the electron-magnets do not cancel. If we make certain materials from those elements, and also get the forces from each tiny electron-magnet to add in-line with one another, then we call those materials “permanent magnets”. If instead we pass some electron-magnets through a current-carrying copper wire over many circular turns, we call those “electromagnets”.  Although scientists prefer to discuss magnets in term of abstract symbols or equations (which are almost incomprehensible to the average person), all magnets seem to behave just like the red-blue double-vortex which we can see drawn schematically below:   In the vertical or axial direction, each end of this double-vortex either shoots energy out (say the “North pole”) or sucks energy in (say the “South pole”). Both shooting-out and sucking-in actions may be seen clearly in this real image of a magnet, made using small probes called “ferrofluids”:   Now we can understand why two identical axial ends (say “shooting out-shooting out” or “sucking in-sucking in”) will repel, just as two identical “North-North” or “South-South” poles of a permanent magnet repel. Also we can understand why any “shooting out” end will attract a “sucking in” end, just as two different “North-South” poles of a permanent magnet attract. Although oversimplified, this gives you an easy way to think about it.   Another strange property of magnets (as a double-vortex) is that the energy around one end spins clockwise, while the energy around the other end spins anti-clockwise. In the real picture of a magnet shown below, we can see both clockwise and anti-clockwise flows of energy around the North and South poles superimposed:   We can’t photograph the clockwise or anti-clockwise flow around each end (or pole) of a magnet separately, because no single isolated poles (called “monopoles”) seem to exist. Nobody knows why every kind of magnet is built in such a strange yet elegant way. Images of this kind have been drawn in crop circles regularly, and resemble the “Seed of Life”.   How can we use magnets to generate useful electricity for our industries and homes? Naively one might try to place a copper or aluminum wire near either end of a double-vortex magnet, which seems to be spinning either clockwise or anti-clockwise. Then perhaps the fast-swirling energy near each end of the magnet might drive or push single electrons sideways through that copper wire, just as if small pellets or balls came into contact with the outer edges of a fast-spinning top?  A great idea, but nature does not seem to work in that way. In order to make use of the fast-swirling energy near either North or South pole of a magnet, we have to move the magnet rapidly either towards or away from a nearby copper wire (or wire coil). We can also move a magnet sideways (with North or South pole up) past a conductive wire, and make many of the tiny electron-magnets within that wire move as “electric current”.   It is important to realize that the fast-moving magnet is not “hitting electrons” in a copper wire, like someone might hit a baseball with a bat, or a golf ball with a club. Instead the magnet somehow uses its swirling, spinning-top-like energy near either pole to send the electrons sideways, perpendicular to any direction in which the magnet might be moving. You can study Newton’s Laws of motion all day, and never be able to understand this!   Put in another way, we can only detect the fast-spinning energy from either pole of a permanent magnet, when it is in rapid motion to a wire which lies in our three-dimensional space. This suggests that the fast-swirling motion of a magnet might lie in some other spatial dimensions relative to our own? When any magnet moves relative to a wire, the copper wire then “sees” a slightly different aspect of the fast-spinning magnet, which it could not see for the magnet at rest. This is also why Einstein said that only relative motion between a magnet and a copper wire would decide whether it produces electricity. Some deep thoughts indeed!   And that concludes our simple, general introduction to “magnets” in 3 easy pictures. All of the electricity made on Earth today is based on these simple principles, which even grade-school children should be able to understand.

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Mark Fussell & Stuart Dike