Liquid Magnets

(Image from Amazon. Used here for review purposes only.)

I’ve been reading For the Love of Physics, the book co-written by MIT professor Walter Lewin and Warren Goldstein. It’s pretty good, mixing Lewin’s autobiography with examples of his experiments from his undergraduate physics courses. The chapters are divided up into optics and rainbows, astrophysics, magnetism and electricity, gravity, etc. There’s no hard math or theoretical discussions, just plain-language descriptions for how stuff works, and why he demonstrates the experiments that he does. It’s a decent introduction to prism effects, DC motors and halo rainbows.

One of the more interesting topics is about liquid magnets. The book gives a link for how to make your own, with a kind of messy process including printed circuit board etchant, iron filings and lots of heat, but the Household Hacker group has a much simpler video on youtube demonstrating a method using printer toner and vegetable oil.

How-to video direct link

The art demo videos are also really cool. Basically, the liquid has very fine iron particles in a suspension (oil or kerosene), and they align with whatever magnetic field lines that are present in metal objects via rare earth magnets, or electric coils. This is the kind of stuff you should have panels on at SF conventions, if you don’t already.

Art demo direct link

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