My second grade teacher had a pair of supermagnets. She wowed us with them one day, lifting a metal barstool by just holding onto the tiny silver nub. We were allowed to play with them only when closely supervised. Apparently, a couple years back, a girl had pointed one magnet at the other from across a table, and it had zipped up and hit her in the face.
Reddit’s IAmA forums can be a regular source of BS, so when we came across this “Ask Me Anything” session in which a 24-year-old electrical engineer (and grad student) shares his experiences with having magnets implanted in his fingertips, we were skeptical. Then we read it, and it was kind of awesome. Moreover, it appears there are lots of people out there interested in the magnetic implant subculture--which apparently is a real thing.
Call it another victory for German design. Researchers in Dresden have set a new world record for the strongest magnetic field ever manufactured at the High Magnetic Field Laboratory Dresden (HZDR). Using a two-layer, 440-pound copper coil the size of a water bucket, they managed to coax 91.4 teslas from their creation for just a few milliseconds, surpassing the previous record of 89 teslas.
Miklós Zrínyi of Semmelweiss University in Budapest, Hungary, has created some gels that are anything but gellin’. In fact, these gels are moving, shaking, and otherwise getting around with a little help from magnetism. The gel “snakes”--made from a mix of polymer and metal particles--bend to match the shape of any magnetic field exerted upon them.
In a process much like the materials science equivalent of bioengineering, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Ames Lab have figured out how to replace individual atoms in a solid magnetic compund much as biologists tweak and replace individual genes to alter organisms. The result are magnets with markedly different properties, all from swapping in a few atoms here and there.
Modern technologies like GPS and cell signal triangulation have made the compass something of a novelty for most people simply trying to navigate their everyday lives. But super-sensitive compasses are necessary for many industrial and scientific applications, like oil and mineral exploration, seismology, or even maritime affairs (in emergencies, anyhow).
Maybe the moon isn't as inhospitable a place as we first thought when we landed there more than 40 years ago. First we found surface water at the lunar south pole, and now the the Indian spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 has found a miniature magnetic field on the moon's surface which could serve as a minimally protective barrier from the harsh solar winds that would greatly complicate habitation there.
Late last year, English scientists created the first real-world instance of spin ice, a long-hypothesized type of crystal that can behave as a magnet with only one pole. These monopole magnets could form the basis of quantum computing memory, so it was disappointing to find out that the spin ice only behaved as a monopole at -454 degrees Fahrenheit.
It's physics demo day, and here we have the old "television picture distorted by a magnetic field" trick. Many of you may have observed this phenomenon directly, or even perpetrated this electromagnetic prank yourself. However, let's use the experiment to clarify some basic electromagnetic principles that are fundamental to the universe in which we live, as well as excellent for small talk at cocktail parties.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.