Characteristics of Magnets


From a refrigerator magnet to the magnetic strip on a debit card, magnets allow us to navigate the globe, run our computers, use most machines and drive from place to place effortlessly.

Magnetic Poles

  • Magnets have concentrations of force at their ends and a weaker force at their centers; one concentration is called north pole and the second is called south pole.

Permanent versus Temporary

  • Temporary magnets occur when magnetic items are rubbed onto iron, cobalt or nickel, creating a temporary force of attraction toward other like items; permanent magnets, however, do not lose their north/south molecular alignments.

Molecular Alignment

  • When metal is magnetized, magnetic properties are concentrated at either end of the metal, forming distinct northern and southern polar attractions.

Alignment to Earth's Poles

  • Magnets that are suspended from a string align themselves to the Earth's magnetic field.


  • Electromagnets receive their magnetic properties from the electric current flowing through the wires. When the wires are coiled, the magnetic properties concentrate; when the electricity is disconnected, the electromagnet returns to an inert piece of metal.

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  • Photo Credit Horseshoe Magnet with Iron Fillings by Oguraclutch:
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