How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 222

How does a magnet induce a metal to become attracted to the magnet? Does the metal become a magnet also?
A steady, motionless magnet can't induce a piece of normal metal (not iron, cobalt, or nickel) to become magnetic. Only a moving or changing magnet can do that. When a metal is exposed to a changing or moving magnet, it does become magnetic. That metal becomes a type of magnet; an electromagnet. The metal itself isn't really the magnet; the electric charges inside it are. These charges move in response to the changing or moving magnet nearby and they become magnetic, too. The effect is always repulsive, not attractive. The temporarily magnetic metal repels the magnet that is making it magnetic.

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