COOL IMAGES: Seeing Fields

Science  19 May 2000:
Vol. 288, Issue 5469, pp. 1131a-1131
DOI: 10.1126/science.288.5469.1131a

Moving a magnet through a wire coil to generate a current, reproducing what Michael Faraday first noticed around 1821, is a neat experiment to watch. But it's not always easy for students to grasp what's going on. To help make such demos clearer, MIT's John Belcher and colleagues have plugged electromagnetism equations into software used by animators and video game makers. The result is movies showing field lines billowing out from charged objects and current-carrying wires. For example, see an animation of field line tensions resulting from Faraday's law, the basis of electric motors. Other animations in a growing collection include charged spheres and a magnet levitated by a superconductor. Even professionals might be surprised by the weird patterns that appear when you turn on a dipole.

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