Magnetism--Uses Beyond ImaginationIt was sixth hour of a hot day in May. My physics kids were in a crabby mood. They had complained about everything from the heat to the English teacher, and my attempts to get them to understand the complexities of magnetism were being greeted with eye rolling and lung collapsing sighs. "What is all this magnetism stuff good for?" growled one of my more vocal students. "I quit playing with scottie magnets when I was five and I see no reason to start in again." I love to hear a challenge like that because it opens the door for an opportunity to let my students see why what I am doing in my classroom is relevant to their lives.
In reality, magnetism is a carefully designed property of matter that is still not fully understood. Electrons have a magnetic orientation so every electron has a north and a south pole. This is a contributing factor for chemical bonding because, if two electrons are near each other, their polarities will cause a magnetic force that either pushes them apart or pulls them together (see figures A and B). This pairing helps electrons to form the huge number of varieties of molecules that allow all the things we are dependent upon. There are three classifications of materials as far as their magnetic properties are concerned--para- magnetic, diamagnetic, and ferromagnetic--based upon how easily the materials can be magnetized and how long they will retain their magnetism. The earth's core is believed to be made of heavy elements which turn out to be ferromagnetic. This design allows the earth to have a magnetic field, and this field shields us from dangerous radiation which would otherwise pose problems for living things.
In recent years it has been discovered that many migrating forms of life have a section of their brains which have ferromagnetic materials in them. These sections allow the animals to use the earth's magnetic field as a navigating tool which is independent of weather or time of day. Mankind has used magnets to generate electricity, produce motors, step electricity up and down, produce radio and television, and even to look into the human body and see things not visible with x-rays or ultrasound.
Magnetism is a vital part of our lives, and it exists because
it is designed into the very fabric of matter. God's creation
is amazingly usable for a unimaginable variety of purposes. Truly
we can know God is through the things He has made (
Back to Contents Does God Exist?, SepOct98.