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Attractive Stuff! Do these 2 simple experiments find out more about the force of magnetism and what it can do.


at least one magnet or as many kinds of magnet as you can get.
iron filings (keep these contained in closed, clear container such as a petri dish which is taped closed)
some objects to test for magnetism, including some made of metal
a hammer
a piece of scrap wood


Experiment 1
Take a magnet and find out which kind of things are attracted to it.
It seems all the things that the magnet will pick up are metal. But not all metal things are magnetic. Try the magnet with some kitchen foil (aluminium).
You can use iron filings to see that the effect is strongest nearest to the magnet and that a pattern forms between one end and the other.

What is going on?
All things that are magnetic contain iron.

Experiment 2
Take a nail and stroke it lengthways with one end of the magnet, lifting it away at the end alwyas using the same end of the magnet.
The new magnet won't be as strong as the one that made it but it can still pick things up!
Put the magnetised nail on a firm surface (the block of wood) and tap it with a hammer along its length. Try not to bend it.
We have destroyed the magnetism in the nail.

What is going on?
Nails are made of iron in which the molecules are like little magnets arranged randomly. The effect of all the little magnets is to cancel out each other's magnetism. A magnet works because its molecules are all pointing the same way. Stroking a piece of iron (the nail) with a magnet gradually lines up the molecules, magnetising it. Hitting the nail with a hammer jars the molecules back into their random arrangement, destroying the magnetic effect.

Source: "Experiements with Electricity and Magnetism" written by Trevor Cook
Added to OSM by Elisabeth VH Stevenson


  • experiments
  • Magnetism
  • Magnets

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