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A few questions about a magnet and a paperclip:

  1. What do you call a material that attracts another material via magnetism? (i.e. the magnet)
  2. What do you call the material that is attracted in #1? (i.e. the paperclip)
  3. What properties make #1 (the magnet) and #2 (the paperclip) get along so well? Electron configurations?

These are pretty elementary...please be gentle.

I think I'm looking for basic answers that might be found in a level 200 course.

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Sorry, couldn't resist. – Raskolnikov Dec 3 '10 at 14:06
  1. well, a magnet... If its magnetic properties are permanent it is called a permanent magnet.

  2. again just magnet or if you want to be more precise a magnetizable material. This material need not be a permanent magnet on its own but when external magnetic field is applied its internal magnetic configuration realigns with the external field and this makes the material exhibit its own magnetic field. When the external field is turned off, material may lose its magnetic properties (depending on precise material and temperature). You can see for yourself that if you magnetize the paperclip, it itself starts to act like a permanent magnet and you can attract other paperclips. But after a little while its magnetic field will fade away because the ordered internal configuration will slowly be disturbed by random thermal fluctuations.

  3. When put together, permanent magnet's field magnetizes the paperclip (as explained above). The rest is just a simple magnetic interaction.

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Also, magnetic source could be appropriate as it would include both magnets and coils. – Sklivvz Dec 2 '10 at 15:40
@Sklivvz: I think I never heard that term. Also, OP didn't mention anything about electromagnets. I assumed he wants to hear just about ferromagnetism. – Marek Dec 2 '10 at 16:05
Thank you, @Marek. I found this supplementary article to be quite helpful, too – Michael Haren Dec 2 '10 at 16:40
@Marek, I found it on Wikipedia. – Sklivvz Dec 2 '10 at 19:35
@Sklivvz: sure, I wasn't arguing with you; it's perfectly possible that the term exists and is widely used. I was just stating the reason why I didn't include it in my answer :-) – Marek Dec 2 '10 at 19:54
  1. Magnet
  2. A ferromagnetic material,more rarely a paramagnetic one. Other materials can be diamagnetic, antiferromagnetic. You can see Wikipedia for a review
  3. Actually, they go along so well because they interact the same way with the magnetic field, which mediates the interaction. As you guessed, it is related to their electronic configuration and how they interact inside the material. This interaction defines the nature of the magnetism of the material. If you have a diamagnetic material, for example, it is (slightly) repelled by a magnet. If you have a strong enough magnet, you can levitate a diamagnetic object (e.g. a frog).
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