When we think of magnetism and magnets, we rarely think of them as the center of our universe or things that would cause the world to end if they were not around. However that is what many scientists and researchers believe. Magnetism is more than just the magnets that we see on the refrigerator door. It has a long history and is truly is the center of our universe expanding in various areas of our daily lives.
The study of magnetism started before the dark ages and was considered as a small miracle as the people of Miletus marveled at a stone that attracted iron with an unseen force. The stone was called lode stones and the beginning of our study of magnetism. Lode stones are iron ores has natural iron deposits found in Greek city of Magnesia and where we magnets gets their names from. The stones were considered healing stones that could cure a multitude of diseases. Lode stones were also rumored to cause ships to sink because the nails of the ships were pulled out whenever they were near lode mountains. This lead scientist Petrus Peregrinus to study of the mysteries of lode stones.
In 1269, Peregrinus discovered that if left alone, lode stones would naturally rotate in the same direction and could transfer its magnetic properties to an iron needle. This discovery led to the invention of the compass and a way of ships to navigate their way across the oceans and seas. Peregrinus’s discovery led to other scientists study of magnetism, including William Gilbert. In 1600 Gilbert made two important discoveries about magnetism. One was if you pounded on hot iron, you would produce magnetism in the metal and the other was when floated on water, a magnetized needle would point downward. This lead researchers to believe that magnetism had something to do with the Earth’s core.
Scientists found that magnetism came from currents found in the Earth’s core originating from atoms. Atoms consists of electrons and a nucleus. The electrons creates electrical charges that moves around the nucleus creating an electric field. When the direction of the electrical charges are disturbed they can can cause the electric field to achieve zero gravity. Domains can also be created when a group of atoms’ poles are pointed in the same direction. Studying atoms have allowed scientists to discover how the Earth’s magnetic field works by channeling particles from the sun and acting like a barrier to protect the Earth. As the sun’s particles reach the Earth they gravitate toward the poles, become ionized, and create a weak plasma. When electrons are stripped from its nucleus by extremely heated gas, it creates a plasma. An example of a naturally occurring plasma field is the Northern Lights that is seen in Alaska.
The quest for information about the Earth’s magnetic field has lead to a variety of studies. One study involves studying Earth’a magnetic field in rocks. As rocks form, it’s magnetic particles lines up with the planetary magnetic field. Scientists can also learn if the magnetic field has changed direction, which is known as a magnetic reversal. Volcanic activity is another way that researchers learn about the Earth’s magnetic field. As a volcano’s lava cools, it becomes magnetic and encloses the magnetic direction which is generally parallel to the Earth’s field. Once the lava cools and enters the ocean, it adds layers to the sea floor and creates a timeline of the Earth’s magnetic field. It also creates strips that push apart forming new landforms and what we know as plate tectonics.
The study of magnetism has also lead to a variety of other research and inventions. Biologist are now studying how several species of animals and bacteria have internal magnetics that uses the Earth’s magnetic field as a way of navigation. MRI’s are also a creation based on magnetism, enveloping a person in an electromagnetic field that is five times stronger than the Earth’s field causing the body to act as a human compass. Magnetism has also been a major component in the development of data storage, electronic equipment, generators, and transportation.