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Q & A: magnets, spin, and temperature

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Most recent answer: 08/14/2012
Q:
My first question is regarding the mechanics that makes a positive attraction relative to its negative attraction. You mention how the spin of an electron dictates it's magnetite and how an object may be magnetized when most of it's electrons spin in a certain vector, my question would be lets say that an electron is spinning clockwise (we will call this the positive charge) would a counter clockwise spin be consider the negative charge? My second question is regarding the statements you made about how an increase of heat would remove the magnetism of an object. Would this be due to heat (assuming heat is really an increase of movement in the subatomic state) scrambling the spin of the electrons hence randomizing the direction and hence potentially or eventually removing the field?
- Alain (age 24)
LA, CA
A:
If two electrons have opposite spins, they do indeed have opposite magnetic moments. However, it isn't quite right to think of these moments as opposite "charges". An electrical charge is just a number. The magnetic moments are a type of vector, pointing a particular direction.

On your second question, yes the thermal energy provides a way for spins to turn away from the low-energy direction, scrambling the magnetism. You don't really need to say anything about "movement in the subatomic state", which I don't quite follow.

Mike W.

(published on 08/14/2012)

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