As one of the 4 fundamental forces of the universe, electromagnetism is a key component of our physical reality. Permanent magnets, which don’t require electricity to stay magnetic, are a common commodity in everyday life Magnets work by exerting a force when they repel or attract other magnets or metals. This force is called magnetism. Because certain metals contain the right kind of atoms, they are affected by the repelling and attracting forces of a magnet’s magnetism. Magnetism is possible because magnets create a directional field around them that affects some of the atoms of metals in their immediate environment. This field is called the magnetic field. This magnetic field pours out of the north pole at the end of a magnet and re-enters at the south pole on the other end.
Magnets repel each other when two of the same poles come in contact. For example, if two north poles are put together, they repel each other. Opposite poles, like a north and a south pole, attract each other The strongest magnets known to man are neutron stars called magnetars. The strongest known magnetar is named Soft Gamma Repeater 1806-20, and it is one of over 20 known magnetars. Magnetars are often referred to as Soft Gamma Repeaters because they emit special types of gamma rays and x-rays repeated at irregular intervals.
Soft Gamma Repeater 1806-20 is the most magnetic neutron star and thing in the known universe. These magnetars come into being when huge stars much bigger than our sun explode and leave cores that collapse under self-created gravitational stress. The insides of magnetars are so dense from this gravity that one tablespoon of its core weighs billions of tons.
Magnetars are different from other neutron stars because they produce a huge magnetic field. This magnetic field is a trillion times stronger than Earth’s magnetic field. The magnetic field of these specific neutron stars is so strong that it could render all credit card magnetic stripes useless from about 115,000 miles away. The magnetism of magnetars is so powerful that even the energy that makes up the vacuum of space is polarized. Atoms become hundreds of times narrower than their electrons which means that the reality we know is completely altered. The strongest commercially produced magnet known to man is the neodymium magnet. These magnets are found in common products like e-cigarettes, cordless tools, electric car motors, wind turbines, and headphones.
Neodymium magnets contain their namesake rare earth element. That is part of the lanthanide series on the Periodic Table. Neodymium, the rare earth element, is combined with boron and iron to create a strong and versatile magnet.
Neodymium magnets are so strong that magnets no bigger than a few centimeters can break human bones. These magnetics are almost always plated with non-corrosive materials like nickel or zinc because, without protection, they quickly fall apart when in contact with the atmosphere. Most of the neodymium magnets created in the world originate from China since most of the rare earth in the world is mined within the country.
Grinders are people that augment their bodies with technology by inserting neodymium magnets into their fingertips. The idea is that these magnets and their pulling effects provide an extra level of sensory perception that didn’t exist previously. These altered individuals hope to see if a modified human can physically perceive magnetic fields. The strongest naturally occurring magnet on Earth known to man is a lodestone. Lodestones are magnetites that became magnetized through natural processes. Magnetite is an iron ore that appears black to the naked eye. It’s responsible for the black sand beaches found in various spots around the world.
When magnetite contains a special iron oxide called maghemite, it has the potential to become naturally magnetic. Though most magnetite on Earth is not magnetic in any form, it is attracted to magnets in the same manner that iron is drawn by magnetism.
It’s thought that lodestones are created when the magnetite being observed is struck by lightning. The shallow earth affected by a lightning strike is the only place where scientists have seen lodestones created. The most common household magnets, like refrigerator magnets, are made with ceramic magnets. Also called ferrite magnets, ceramic magnets are cheap because they’re easy to manufacture. They’re made using metal alloys called barium ferrite and strontium.
Common ceramic magnets are used by crafters, in security systems, as part of changeable signage, in retail displays, and as refrigerator kitchen magnets. They aren’t as strong as some of the magnets used in technology, but they’re more durable. They are also effective enough for most amateur applications. Lodestones found by ancient human beings introduced the idea of magnetism to humanity. They were first mentioned by a Greek philosopher sometime after 500 BCE. The word magnet may originate from Magnesia, Anatolia, as this is one of the main sources of lodestones in ancient times.
By 300 BCE, Chinese sources were referencing magnetic stones. Lodestones may have been in use by the Olmec a thousand years before the Greeks and Chinese because some things scientists have found are made of materials that have been de-magnetized.
In the Middle Ages, lodestones were used to magnetize the iron used in compasses though this practice probably existed earlier in ancient China. The lodestone name is derived from the Old English word lode, which means journey. It’s rumored that Isaac Newton had a ring containing a lodestone powerful enough to lift objects 200 times heavier than the ring itself. Using magnets to create the energy that humans need to live a modern life is necessary for today’s society. Magnets create electrical charges when interacting with some metals though it wasn’t until 1917 that magnets strong enough to create big charges were created.
Between 1930 and 1980, the technology supporting power generation is made much better using these artificial magnets. Energy production went up 50 times by the end of the twentieth century.