How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 598

How does the power/frequency of the earth's magnetic field compare to the magnetic fields of electrical appliances? — MC, Independence, KA
Although I haven't been able to find detailed lists of the magnetic fields near common appliances (such lists do exist), those fields are unlikely to be stronger than the earth's own magnetic field. That's because the magnetic fields in most appliances are created by electric currents and you must be quite near a relatively large current before the magnetic field of that current exceeds 0.5 gauss, the strength of the earth's magnetic field. But while an appliance's magnetic field is likely to be no greater than that of the earth, the appliance's magnetic field does change with time. It reverses each time that the alternating current from the power line reverses. In the United States, that's 120 reversals per second (60 full cycles of reversal, over and back, each second).

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