Experiments with magnets interacting with other magnets

More cool magnetic toys you can buy

Please note:  the information at the end of each article refers to the part number of that item at the source indicated.  Arbor is Arbor Scientific, ScientificsOnline is ScientificsOnline, AS&S is American Science and Surplus, EdIn is Educational Innovations.  Today, some of these items are no longer being made and are not available.



Each rotor has three arms, each containing a magnet with its North pole facing out.  As you give one rotor a gentle spin, the other one will eventually begin to interact with it and the angular momentum will begin to bounce back and forth between the two rotors, one stopping and the other abruptly starting, then reversing.  It is great fun in the office.  See Patent #5135425. This costs about $12.
Arbor P8-1160, ScientificsOnline 81-452, AS&S , EdIn





This demonstrates a magnetic bearing, since the spinner floats on magnetic fields.  There is a Plexiglas wall at one end on which a steel point pushes against and minimizes the friction seen by the spinner.  There is some windage (friction between the spinner and the air as it rotates) but it will continue to spin for 3 or 4 minutes after you give it a good spin.  It isn't balanced real well so sometimes is wobbles as it slows down, but not too bad.  It also is great for your desk in the office.  See Patent #5182533.  This costs about $15.
Arbor P8-6000, ScientificsOnline 53-435, AS&S 89340, EdIn

Make your own:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5NrqN6gDFA



This is a great toy which is a real attention getter.  The spinning magnetic top will float above its base for about 3 minutes before it slows down too much and stops.  There are some great web sites which discuss the physics of this exhibit.  It does take some practice to get the top to spin smoothly, and it takes several tries to determine the proper amount of weight to place on the top so that it will just barely stay afloat.  If the top is too light, it will not stay on top of the magnetic field of the base.  If the top is too heavy, it will not float at all.

The way to make it work is to start the top spinning in the middle of the plastic plate while it is sitting on the base.  Then you gently lift the plastic plate, with the top still spinning on it, about 1" upward, so that the top now finds a place in the air above the base where it will remain.  If things are not right, the top will fall to one side or another, like a ball rolling off of another ball.  To fix this, the base has to be tipped very slightly up on the side where the top falls off.  Another thing to keep in mind is that as it warms up (due to room temperature changes or playing with it), some of the weights need to be removed for it to still be able to float.

Also check out these sites about how this toy works:
    Patent #5404062
    Patent #4382245
This costs about $40 (but it's really cool!).
This is hard to find, now, since the Super Levitron is available.

Super Levitron

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This is a super, stronger, higher flying version of the original Levitron above.   I just purchased this, and am getting this to work.  This costs about $50.
Arbor P8-3000, ScientificsOnline 81-525, AS&S 89942, EdIn M-3

Levitron Perpetuator:

levperp.jpg (2160 bytes) perpet1.jpg (2464 bytes) perpet2.jpg (1553 bytes)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8d8FTadr03g

This is for the person who does not want to see his Levitron stop spinning and floating in mid-air.  It has an electromagnet in the base which keeps the top spinning indefinitely.  The power adapter is rated for 15.0Vdc, 0.50A, with + on the inner pin, - on the outside.  It took a while to make mine work with my Super Levitron, and it will stay put for a max of about 15 minutes before something happens to make it fall off to the side.  It's a bit tricky to set up.  Costs about $60.
Arbor P8-3100, ScientificsOnline 81-527, AS&S , EdIn M-4


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This has 5 pendulums, very similar to a toy which uses five steel balls.  The difference is that each pendulum has a magnet in it, oriented so that they repel each other.  Start one swinging, and watch the others bounce around.  The motion continues for a long time since there is no energy lost in the collisions, and little energy lost in windage and friction on the wire supports.  This is a real nice toy!    See Patent #5026314.  (Fascination Toys & Gifts, Inc., Seattle, WA)   This costs about $14.
Arbor , ScientificsOnline 81-551, AS&S 91213, EdIn

Decision Maker, ROMP:

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A novel way to make decisions or selections which are somewhat random.  There's a magnet in the pendulum, and you place the other colored magnets on the base, without knowing what their polarity is.  Swing the pendulum and see which colored magnet on the base it ends up pointing to.  Similar to the Herky-Jerky.   The one on the right is called the Randomly Oscillating Magnetic Pendulum (ROMP) from Hog Wild, Inc.  This cost about $8.
Arbor , ScientificsOnline 82-172, AS&S 91379, EdIn

Magnetic Earrings:

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A new way to attach earrings to your ears; using magnets!  There is a small pair of NIB magnets for each earring, one attached to the back of the decorative flower, and the other loose.  They are strong enough to attract each other when they are about 1/2" away from one another.  The 3/16" thickness of an earlobe is no problem for this.  (And you don't have to have your ears pierced, either.)  They cost about $5 at an earring shop in the mall.
Arbor , ScientificsOnline , AS&S , EdIn

Magnaprobe and Magnetic Earth:

magprob2.jpg (3269 bytes)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVKd8h30tCY

The Magnaprobe holds a small alnico magnet in jeweled gimbals so that it can orient itself in any direction as needed.  The ball which looks like earth has a strong magnet inside of it.  Bringing the probe close to the earth causes the probe to swing around to point to the magnetic north or south pole as you move it over the surface of the earth.  Great way to teach how the magnetic field on the earth works.   Purchased from Arbor Scientific.  The probe costs about $12, the earth costs about $5.
Arbor P8-8005, P8-1130, ScientificsOnline 42-217, AS&S , EdIn

Seal and Ball

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This is a cute toy where the seal can cause the ball to spin, or it can balance the ball on its nose.  Purchased from Arbor Scientific.  Costs about $6.
Arbor , ScientificsOnline , AS&S , EdIn

Moo Magnet

magmoo.jpg (4935 bytes) mgcow2.jpg (3689 bytes)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97XKLmJWac8

A very well put together kit with a set of ring magnets, washers, end-caps and a threaded rod.  Great ideas in the booklet which is a part of this!  Super!   Costs about $7.50.
Arbor , ScientificsOnline , AS&S , EdIn M-450

Perpetual Calendar

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This is a piece of art.  It is a calendar that uses magnets to set the month and the date.  Very sharp!  Costs about $35.
Museum of Modern Art

Diamagnetic Levitator

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This is a great item that demonstrates the diamagnetic property of certain materials.  A small magnet floats between two graphite disks.  No batteries, no wires, just magnets.  Very cool!  Costs less than $20.

Magnetoids or Uber Orbs




This is a new item in the stores today (2005).  They are two magnets, made of ferrite, and polished to look like hematite.  They are magnetized so that one side is North and its opposite side is South.  That's why the two are stuck together side-by-side as seen in the photo.  If you hold them apart about two inches in one hand and toss them into the air, they will be attracted to each other, bounce off of each other, and buzz as they vibrate.  If you have trouble catching them on the way down, stand over something soft like a bed or a carpeted floor so they won't smash into the concrete driveway and become hundreds of little pieces. Cost is about $8 - $22 for the pair.

The photo on the right is a variation on the magnetoids.  The two spheres are polished ferrite magnets.  They will do the same thing when you toss them into the air about 1-2 inches apart.  They will make a neat buzzing sound when then are attracted to each other and bounce together.  They seem to work much better than the ellipsoids.  Don't let them drop onto a hard floor!  Cost is about $5.

Arbor P8-1150 , ScientificsOnline #N31013-02, AS&S , EdIn Buzz-100, www.kjmagnetics.com,

Magnet Stones

I found some magnetized stones that looked like hematite but they would stick to each other!  I was at Wonderworks in Orlando, Florida when I spotted them.  You try to get as many into the bag for a single price.  I could get six into the bag.  Now, hematite cannot be permanently magnetized.  So, how do they do that?  They are actually ferrite magnets (the card that came with them called them ferric magnets) that have been polished to look like hematite and then magnetized.  These can make the same buzzing sound like the Magnetoids.  I had heard about spheres of these that would stick together making a bracelet, too.  Available at TeacherSource for a cost of $7 for 30.  Their catalog number is RM-150.  They call them Sticky Stones.

Dipole Dilemma - Magnetic Puzzle

This is a fairly new puzzle made up of 28 spherical magnets and a rectangular form into which you need to place all of them.  The difficulty is to figure out how to orient each magnet so they will all lay flat in the form and not pop out.  This was a tricky one to solve.  It was designed by Chris Morgan - good job!  I found this at TeacherSource for about $35.  The catalog number is PUZ-300.  Since the spheres are kind of small (only 1/4"), I made a larger one for myself using 1/2" spherical magnets.  I got the magnets from K&J Magnetics.  Makes a great conversation piece on your desk.

Extravaganza Puzzle Globe

A beautiful 72 piece jigsaw puzzle that is in the shape of the Earth.  Each puzzle piece is magnetized and fits together properly onto a sphere.  The continents have a matt finish, the oceans are shiny.  Made by Philippi in Europe.  It comes in two sizes - 7.5cm diameter and 12cm diameter.  Cost for the smaller one is about $50.  I received this as a gift.
Arbor , ScientificsOnline , AS&S , EdIn

Balancing Pen

A ballpoint pen balances itself within its base, ready for you to take out and use.  The chrome and the weight give a good feel.
Arbor , ScientificsOnline , AS&S , EdIn

Polarity Game


A very clever game using magnets in the black/white plastic housings, and a cloth game "board".  The goal is to balance magnets on their edges around one that is laying flat, as you see in the photos above.  It takes a some practice to accomplish this.  Can be obtained from www.polaritygame.com or from www.thinkgeek.com.  Costs about $23.  Great gift idea!
Arbor , ScientificsOnline , AS&S , EdIn

Ball of Whacks


A fun way to assemble these unusual shapes to make other shapes.  Each of the 30 pieces has a magnet inside their surfaces so they will stick to the other pieces.  Can be obtained from www.creativewhack.com or from www.thinkgeek.com.  Costs about $30.  Great gift idea!
Arbor , ScientificsOnline , AS&S , EdIn






A great way to basically "turn a magnet on and off" without using electricity!  This mag-jig was designed to be used as a way to fasten a 3/4" piece of wood, used as a fixture or featherboard on a table saw, to the steel surface of the saw.  To move the fixture, turn the knob CCW.  To secure the fixture, turn the knob CW.  The photo on the right shows it attached to a refrigerator.  It can hold several pieces of paper!  I bought this from www.woodcraft.com .  To see how it works, see patents 6707360 and 7012495 at www.pat2pdf.org.  Costs about $25 each.  Great gift idea!  (Can  you tell what kinds of gifts I like?)  Another magnetic base is also shown - used to hold a dial indicator to determine the centering of shafts.  Also available from Mag-Tools.

There are also electrically actuated magnetic chucks.  Check these sites out: 



Bucky Balls




216 5mm magnetic spheres that you can play with in hundreds of ways!  They also come in lots of colors.  Cost about $17.    http://www.the-buckyballs.com/

Bucky Cubes




Similar to the balls, these are 216 4mm magnetic cubes that you can play with in hundreds of ways!  They also come in different colors.   http://www.the-buckyballs.com/  Also at VAT19.

Nano Dots / Spinning Magnetic Orbs


These spheres contain gimbal-mounted magnets that can rotate independent of their shells.   An interesting set of magnets to play with.  About $40 at VAT19.