Magnetic lines of force of a bar magnet shown by iron(Fe) filings on paper
A magnetized needle is floating in the air next to a metal ball

In physics, magnetism is a force that can attract (pull closer) or repel (push away) objects that have a magnetic material like iron inside them (magnetic objects). In simpler words, it is a property of certain substances which pull closer or repel other objects.


Magnetism can be made by a permanent magnet, or by electricity in a wire. This is called an electromagnet. When magnets are put near magnetic objects, the magnet and the object are pulled toward each other. This is called magnetic attraction. Magnets can also repel (push away) other magnets. Most objects that are attracted to magnets have iron in them. Most other metals, such as aluminium, are not attracted to magnets.

Magnetic fields

Magnets have an unseen area around them called a "magnetic field". Magnetic objects inside this unseen field are attracted to the magnet. Magnetic things outside the magnetic field are not attracted to the magnet. This is why a magnet must be close to an object to attract it.

The poles of two magnets repel or attract each other. Different poles attract each other. For example, if the south pole of one magnet is put near the south pole of another magnet, the magnets will repel each other. This will also happen with two north poles that are put near each other. If a north pole is put near a south pole, the magnets will attract each other until they stick to each other and can be hard to pull apart.

Magnetic domains

Magnetism is caused by electrons (the negative particles in atoms that are also electric charges) spinning. The more a group of electrons spin in the same direction, the stronger the magnetic force. In a magnet, many electrons are spinning in the same direction.

We can magnetize a small piece of iron by 'rubbing' it with a magnet. The electrons in the iron get 'spun' by the passing magnet just like a basketball player spinning a basketball.

Uses of magnets

Magnets have many uses. One of them was found long ago when explorers found that a magnet could be used as a compass to show the direction of north & south.

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