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I've read a classbook on the field theory (including EM): it perfectly describes quantitive patterns in EM-theory, but I have no luck understanding how and why it works.

I mean, magnetic substances are described mainly by magnetic moments of electrons, but all explanations of the phenomenon I've found are rather of deep high-level focus on fields exclusively, than on explanation why it works and what underlying mechanisms bring all those ideas to life (including explanation of what field is, except that it is an abstraction).

So, the question is: may anyone try to give (or point to) a popular and thorough explanation of magnets and on low-level mechanisms, which unifies and explains how this long-distance interaction really works (i.e., not only modelled and described mathematically)?

p.s.: also, I'd like to see some papers on computing magnetic properties of bodies (iron ball, for example, finite plane, NeoCube's ball chains, etc).

Thanks in advance!

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Perhaps a grammatically correct title would be "How does magnetism work" or "How do magnets work". If you were going for a subtle pop culture reference then use "magnets, how do they work?" –  AlanSE Mar 21 '12 at 21:34
possible duplicate of How does a magnet work? –  Dimensio1n0 Aug 31 '13 at 3:39

3 Answers 3

I don't think we can embed youtube - but here is Feynman explaining why he can't answer this

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Yes, you are right. As Feynman says, to answer that type of question there should be "some framework, which you take as true". By "why?" I asked "how, if you take quantum mechanics, string theory and etc. as a basic framework?". –  Mixo123 Mar 20 '12 at 5:15
@Mixo123 - I think his point is that you can explain it in terms of another more complex model/theory and then that in terms of another more complex model/theory etc –  Martin Beckett Mar 20 '12 at 5:18
@MartinBeckett a teacher in highschool used to say : problem number one has been reduced to problem number two :). –  anna v Mar 20 '12 at 5:21
It seems to me like that too. But there is some kind of "limit theory of our days" nowadays. I suppose, it is some sort of quantum and particle physics. They form the view, from which I want my question to be answered. –  Mixo123 Mar 20 '12 at 5:24
It seems to be a really really long answer that would take years to explain to the layman. –  raindrop Feb 24 '13 at 7:30

Khan academy is definitely the most popular learning site on the web right now.

Sal's magnetism unit is good but definitely not the complete story.

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You probably want an explanation of how and why string theory works, Quantum Electrodynamics (QED) arises from string theory and QED makes magnets work.

That's a very long answer.

It would take years to give a thorough explanation of how magnets work to a layman, since we'd have to teach him/her lots of Physics, assuming we accept string theory as true. Of course once we hit string theory, if you ask why string theory is true (assuming it's true; see the last 7 paragraphs), the answer is we just accept nature to be true. See You don't like it? Go somewhere else! by Richard Feynman, the QED Lecture at University of Auckland - Youtube

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