Strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force, gravity, and…

In the mail today, I got some neodymium magnets from my brother Sasha as a birthday gift. They are good fun – largely because of how fundamentally counterintuitive magnetism is. Is just seems odd that things are repelled and drawn together by an invisible force that manifests itself at short distances. The danger to nearby magnetic stripe cards and hard drives is trivial when compared to their enjoyment potential.

The only downside of nickel-plated rare earth magnets is their tendency to snap together violently if you aren’t quite careful. Given how brittle they are, this can send tiny shards flying in all directions. This afternoon’s messing about only had one casualty – one of the four smallest magnets among the fifty found its way between the two largest. The larger fragments of the small magnet are now holding papers to my filing cabinet.

On the plus side, I have worked out how to build a reasonably effective magnetic canon using most of the magnets in the set and the barrel from a Bic four-colour pen. It is also trivially easy to make a compass using all fifty magnets in a line, hanging from a piece of floss.

One day, I want to get a full-sized, absurdly powerful supermagnet of the kind at the bottom of this page. At $50 to $275 apiece, they may have the lowest cost-to-danger ratio of anything you can buy online.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

12 thoughts on “Strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force, gravity, and…”

  1. Mica,

    Nicely made video, but your brother doesn’t work for Parliament. He works for the bureaucracy of the federal government.

    The two are quite distinct.

  2. Do you really want one of those?

    The supermagnets? Definitely not while I am living somewhere I consider temporary. They may also be really hard to import into Canada.

    I would like a couple of very powerful sphere magnets embedded in tough elastic plastic. That would both reduce the changes of shattering and the negative consequences if it happens anyhow.

  3. Mica,

    What sort of scholarship?

    Has Caity Sackeroff seen this?

    P.S. I do work for a line department of the civil service, rather than for Parliament, Bureaucrats provide apolitical advice, while Parliament provides political representation on the basis of a democratic mandate.

  4. Skinner:

    [talking with his teachers]
    Just think what we can buy with that money…
    History books that know how the Korean War came out.
    Math books that don’t have that base six crap in them!
    And a state-of-the-art detention hall [holds up a scale model]
    where children are held in place with magnets.


    [to no one in particular] Magnets. Always with the magnets…

  5. It sounds like a ‘bouncy ball’ type plastic coating for strong magnets would be a good idea.

    Does anyone make such things?

  6. SuperMagnetMan

    For the past five years, I have been ordering my magnets from “Mr. George the SuperMagnetMan,” unequivocally the best source today. His prices are the best on the net. His selection is vast: no one else has the stock he has or the variations in size of commonly available shapes. This is no exaggeration or hype. He’s got stuff you can’t get anywhere else and is constantly adding new items, like axially- and diametrically-magnetized NIB wedding rings and radially-magnetized ring magnets. He has magnets so large they are dangerous (fortunately he has put videos on YouTube that show you how to safely handle these monsters — with large leather welding gloves and a special wooden wedge and a 2×4!). He also sells magnetic hooks, pyramid shaped magnets, magnetic jewelry, teflon coated magnets, heart, star, and triangle magnets. You can even get powdered magnets that act like iron filings on steroids! You name it he’s got it. Most magnets are N45-N50 grade, the highest strength you can buy.

    Some of the products I have ordered are the magnet powders, radially-magnetized ring magnet, various size sphere magnets, conical magnets, large rectangular magnets, cubes, and many others. Shipping charges are reasonable. Service is great. One time I ordered a bunch of stuff and never completely checked what I got. I went to use one of the magnets months later and found out it was the wrong size. He sent me the right size in the mail a few days after I emailed him.

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