Oh god why won’t this meme die?! Every time anyone refers to the infamous lyrics, we end up paying attention to the worst people in the world.
but it dawns on me that the problem here might be that most people don’t know how magnets work. So when we keep making fun of Scrabbly Jay and Mooman 4 Weed (no, i’m not going to look up their names), we’re actually wondering aloud about them. For instance, it topped one of the Lists of things people want famous physicist Sean Carroll to explain. Recently I’ve even come across a video of Physics King Richard Feynman stumbling over the question.
Dick’s point, in brief, is that asking how magnets work is too difficult a question to answer. It demands a concise description of a completely unfamiliar system in terms of super familiar things. It’s like asking, “how does japan work”. what?
Anyway, i’m throwing my F*cking hat into the F*cking ring, in hopes that we can all forget about Scrabbly J and mooman 4 Weed.
Uhhh. so how much don’t you know about magnets?
Let me premise the explanation:
Okay. so if you have never run around with a couple fans as a kid, blowing wind at stuff (and making yourself sound like a dalek), then the explanation will not make any sense to you.
ok. so what’s a magnet? it’s a thing that emits a magnetic field.
every magnet has a north and south pole. magnetic field lines go from the north pole to the south pole. The result of this convention is that the geographic north pole of the earth has a magnetic south pole on it!
okay, so how does a magnetic field work? why does it give magnets their strange properties?
So a magnetic field goes through and around a magnet the way wind-flow lines move through and around a fan.
We can use this metaphor to explain a LOT of different electromagnetic phenomena, but… lets focus on two MAGNET SPECIFIC phenomena. how Like poles repel each other, and how opposite poles attract.
Pretty much, magnetic field lines, like air flow lines, DON’T LIKE GETTING ALL SQUISHED UP. so you held two fans on pivots, and tried to walk them together face-to-face (or butt-to-face), the two fans would rather turn away from each other than kiss. I’d draw this but i’m lazy, and it’s more fun to play with in person.
Okay, so like poles repel. how do we explain opposites attracting?
Pushing two fans together face-to-butt causes a kind of suction between the two fans, and they get drawn together. a similar thing happens with magnetic poles, explaining why “opposites attract”.
Okay, so now you know how magnets work. they have a behaviour analagous to a very common system which you are familiar with on hot stuffy afternoons in your living room because you have to practice trumpet instead of going swimming with your sister.
Incidentally, if you really what a magnetic field “is”? Do you remember when i introduced the relativity corrections to how different people at different velocities see things? it turns out that magnetic fields are just the electric fields of electrons that are moving at different speeds to us. the 4-dimensional nature of our universe turns those moving electric fields into magnetic fields! cool!
also, to those of you who want me to say “charges” instead of “electrons”… you’re right, but i figured on not introducing too much information too quickly for explanation sake. also, if you know that, you probably already know how magnetic fields work. so, whatever, dude.
Hey, so people want to know about permanent magnets. like. how come a piece of iron is just a piece of iron, but then if you put it in a big magnet it turns into a magnet.
So yeah, if you can get all of the little magnetic domains in a lump of iron to line up, they’ll stay lined up, and you’ll end up with a permanent magnet.
sorry the scan sucks.