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Magnets can be made of any metal that demonstrates ferromagnetism — the ability to retain a magnetic field — particularly iron, nickel or cobalt. Magnetic fields, the source of a magnet’s force, travel in large arcs outside the magnet itself.
Magnets have two poles, defined as north or south based on the direction that the magnetic field flows. The field exits the north pole and travels in a large circle outside of the magnet toward the south pole. It “re-enters” the magnet and goes toward the north pole again.
Because of this, opposite ends of magnets attract each other, while similar ends repel.
An encompassing idea
Since the Earth has a liquid iron core, the planet acts as a giant magnet with a north and south pole that travels around the world.
Compasses utilize this phenomenon in order to constantly point toward the north side of the Earth’s magnetic field.
Thanks to the rotating motion of the planet’s core, magnetic north is not located on the physical North Pole, nor is it stationary. In 2001, magnetic north was located on Ellesmere Island in Canada. Since then, it has moved more than 30 miles a year towards Russia.
Geologists have estimated that magnetic north is currently located in the ocean north of Canada. It’s weird!