# How does repulsion and attraction of a magnet work?

How does repulsion and attraction of a magnet work? I have a hypothesis. We all know that repulsion works when people throw balls at each other. This is used as an analogy of how virtual particles are used to explain how magnets repel each other in some cases. The other idea is that virtual particles have momentum and anti-momentum to explain attraction and repulsion. Is it possible to explain attraction by virtual particles leaving the south pole of one magnet at some angle, let's say less than 45 degrees and arriving at the second magnet's south pole at around 90 degrees?

As an after thought, the 45 degree angle would be obtained if the north pole particles were repelled by the south pole particles but now I seem t be creating a loop in my thinking.

• Relevant: Feynman on magnets – David H Dec 14 '13 at 2:47
• @DavidH Great interview. Feynman, although so scornful of philosophers and would never have admitted this, was a formidable philosopher of science himself. – WetSavannaAnimal Dec 14 '13 at 3:44
• @david, loverly link, adds to the why and how question for a bonus:-) – Jitter Dec 14 '13 at 4:14
• @Jitter Yes, it's quite relevant to that question as well! In fact it's almost worthy of being submitted as an answer. – David H Dec 14 '13 at 5:13

To invoke Feynman in the interview, it can be rather unsatisfying to invoke virtual particles to explain forces in terms of something else more wonted to you. Virtual particles are wholly internal to the analysed system and so individually do not heed normal conservation laws - they are "off-shell" (i.e. off the light cone defined by $E^2-p^2 c^2 = m^2 c^4$) - but their nett effect yields the conservation of momentum laws, which manifest themselves as "force" (i.e. impulse transfer needed to uphold momentum conservation).