Research Paper: Physics of Magnetism

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[. . .] The Laplace equation, "2" = 0, defines the field's potential strength and direction at any point as shown in the example in the Excel spreadsheet in Table 1 and Figure 4 below.

Table 1. Excel Spreadsheet for Solving Laplace's Equation

[Source: Denker, 2004].

Figure 4. Contour Intervals of Fields [Source: Denker, 2004].

According to Denker, in this spreadsheet (active copies of which are available at, the cells that are not electrodes are called vacuum cells; the cells contain a formula that is used to calculate their potential, in accordance with Laplace's equation, subject to the specified boundary conditions which can be changed according to the desired configuration; two additional spreadsheets are used by Denker to calculate the following table:

Charge in universe


Charge on boundary of box


Charge on central object discrepancy


Although much remains unclear about magnetic fields and their underlying processes, scientists continue to take advantage of the phenomenon anyway and have made some remarkable discoveries along the way. For instance, as early as 1824, Arago discovered that a disk of nonmagnetic metal had the power of bringing a vibrating magnetic needle suspended over it rapidly to rest; and that on causing the disk to rotate the magnetic needle rotated along with it. "When both were quiescent, there was not the slightest measurable attraction or repulsion exerted between the needle and the disk; still when in motion the disk was competent to drag after it, not only a light needle, but a heavy magnet."

In 1997, scientists succeeded in using this technique to levitate a living frog. This feat was accomplished by taking advantage of the fact that almost all everyday materials, including water and living tissues, are weakly magnetic and are said to exhibit "diamagnetism," which is a slight tendency to become magnetized in the direction opposite to an applied magnetic field. According to Schneider (1999), "A diamagnetic object placed in an intense magnetic field that is configured to diminish in strength with height will experience an upward force. So the field of a sufficiently powerful electromagnet can balance the downward tug of gravity -- at least over a small volume."

Future applications of this phenomenon may help mankind conquer interplanetary or even interstellar travel.

From a personal perspective, magnets have always been one of the most fascinating aspects of nature and, notwithstanding the body of knowledge that says perpetual motion machines are not possible, appear to represent an inexhaustible source of power for mankind if its secrets can be unlocked. For example, permanent magnets exert a constant force that is used in all electric motors; if this force could be harnessed without the need for the intervention of a mechanical apparatus, there would appear to be free energy available for the taking. While the underlying physics involved may preclude such an innovation, refinements in how magnetism is used in the future may help scientists better understand the underlying processes, and a unified theory of the forces of the universe could result. In fact, the most popular theories today involving strings, M theory and the "Big Loaf," all involve the fundamental forces of magnetism in one fashion or another. Only time will tell if scientists will be able to succeed in unlocking these keys to the universe in the future, but in the meantime, magnets and magnetic fields continue to make cosmos from chaos.

Works Cited

Denker, J.S. (2004). Electric Potential and Charge. (2004). Spreadsheets for Solving

Laplace's Equation. Available:

Fuller, Mike, Emilio Herrero-Bervera and Carlo Laj. (November-December 1996). The

Reversal of the Earth's Magnetic Field. American Scientist, 84(6):552.

Gooding, David C. (1996). Scientific Discovery as Creative Exploration: Faraday's

Experiments. Creativity Research Journal, 9(3):189.

Hoadley, Rick. (June 26, 2004). What do magnetic fields look like? Available: http://

Krauss, Lawrence M. Fear of Physics: A Guide for the Perplexed. New York: Basic Books,


The Magnetic Field. (2004). University of Winnipeg Physics Department. Available:

Schneider, David. (March-April 1999). Some levity in physics. American Scientist, 87(2):122.

Tyndall, John. Faraday as a Discoverer. New York, 1961.

Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia. (1958). Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand.

Rick Hoadley (June 26, 2004), What do magnetic fields look like?

The Magnetic Field, 2004.

Mike Fuller, Emilio Herrero-Bervera and Carlo Laj (1996), The Reversal of the Earth's Magnetic Field, p. 553.

Fuller et al., p. 553.

David C. Gooding (1996), Scientific Discovery as Creative Exploration: Faraday's Experiments, p. 189.

Fuller et al., p. 553.

Ibid., p. 554.


Fuller et al., p. 553.

Ibid., p. 555.

Lawrence M. Krauss (1993), Fear of Physics: A Guide for the Perplexed, p. 107.

Krauss, p. 108.


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APA Format

Physics of Magnetism.  (2004, December 30).  Retrieved April 25, 2019, from

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"Physics of Magnetism."  30 December 2004.  Web.  25 April 2019. <>.

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"Physics of Magnetism."  December 30, 2004.  Accessed April 25, 2019.