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Q & A: keeping paper clips unstuck

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Most recent answer: 02/06/2015
Q:
Good day Van, I am thinking of a way to stop paper clips from sticking together. It is the most annoying thing to do in the workplace! Sitting all day untangling paper clips! I have tried googling different relative holders to see if anything has been done. And so far nothing. I have come to realize it is the magnetic force that will ultimately keep them from forming or pulling together. Is this correct? Can you help me? Can you help me come up with a possible scientific way to prevent paper clips from linking together? Maybe space them out on a flat magnetic surface but not a magnet that's so strong it will pull them together. I think it is so simple but so needed in a day to day workplace environment. I am writing you trusting 1. You will not steal my idea lol :)& 2. You seem to know a lot about magnets and I think this could be the beginning of a breakthrough if it has not been done/created in the workplace. Those pesky paper clips just LINK...Everyone knows it, expects it and has dealt with it. I want to do something to change it but don't know where to begin scientifically. Can you help me? Thanks so much for taking time to read/review this.
- Daisy (age 30)
Edmond, OK
A:

At first  I thought you meant that the paper clips were a little magnetic, so that's why they stuck. Experimenting with some paperclips fresh from the box, it doesn't seem that that happens. Even when I magnetize one enough to pick up another, it doesn't stay magnetized to stick noticeably to another after the magnet is removed. Results may differ for different iron alloys in other clips, but I'm guessing that you just meant that they get all tangled up with each other.

So then you're wondering if laying them on a weakly magnetic sheet would keep them from getting tangled. I took one of those weakly magnetic flexible ads designed to use on a refrigerator. It works fine for just that purpose. One layer of clips sticks to it, and they pull off easily. 

Looking on the Web, there are lots of varieties of magnetic paperclip holders. You can't beat the price of one of those rubbery magnetic refrigerator-ad sheets though, and they could be used to cover big areas of a desk.

When your millions pour in from this invention, please think of our impoverished Physics department.

Mike W.


(published on 02/06/2015)

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