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What is magnetism?

Nuts, bolts and screws attracted to a magnetMagnetism is a force that attracts some objects to other objects. We cannot see it, but it is all around us since the Earth itself produces a magnetic field. A magnet is a piece of metal, usually made of iron, that can pull other metal objects towards it. The force is present as a magnetic field around a magnet.

Iron filings reveal the magnetic field around a magnet.

Magnetic poles

The magnetic field is strongest at two areas called the north and south poles. The north pole of one magnet attracts the south pole of another magnet. This called magnetic attraction. But it pushes away or repels the other magnet’s north pole. This is called magnetic repulsion. The general rule is that unlike poles attract, like poles repel.

Iron is not the only metal that can be easily magnetized when placed in a magnetic field. Other metals include nickel and cobalt.

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