A magnet is any material or object that produces a magnetic field. This magnetic field is responsible for the property of a magnet: a force that pulls on other ferromagnetic materials and attracts or repels other magnets. A permanent magnet is an object made from a material that is magnetized and creates its own persistent magnetic field. Materials that can be magnetized, which are strongly attracted to a magnet, are called ferromagnetic. Although ferromagnetic materials are the only ones attracted to a magnet strongly enough to be commonly considered magnetic, all other substances respond weakly to a magnetic field.

 The mechanics of how do magnets work really breaks right down to the atomic level. When current flows in a wire a magnetic field is created around the wire. Current is simply a bunch of moving electrons, and moving electrons make a magnetic field. This is how electromagnets are made to work.

Some facts about magnets include: 

  • the north pole of the magnet points to the geomagnetic north pole (a south magnetic pole) located in Canada above the Arctic Circle.
  • north poles repel north poles
  • south poles repel south poles
  • north poles attract south poles
  • south poles attract north poles
  • the force of attraction or repulsion varies inversely with the distance squared
  • the strength of a magnet varies at different locations on the magnet
  • magnets are strongest at their poles
  • magnets strongly attract steel, iron, nickel, cobalt, gadolinium
  • magnets slightly attract liquid oxygen and other materials
  • magnets slightly repel water, carbon and boron