Visualizing Magnetic Fields

Magnetic fields are invisible to the naked eye, so how do we know what they would look like if they were visible? And how would we even know they exist in the first place? One of the first humans ever to attempt to understand the nature of magnetic fields was the British scientist Michael Faraday in what's now considered to be a classic experiment (amusingly recreated here with Stephen Colbert). This discovery led Faraday to invent the very first motor in history, so we all owe him a huge thanks :)

Essentially, what we can observe is the direct effect of magnetic fields on physical matter and how the latter behaves in its presence. Yes, just like iron filings on a piece of paper resting on a magnet, except that these fields are three-dimensional and chaotic structures whose geometry can change radically and almost instantaneously. NASA has put together a fascinating animation that shows just how these ubiquitous magnetic fields behave:


Learn more about Faraday's amazing contributions to science.
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