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B Do magnets that attract actually touch?

  1. Jun 13, 2017 #1
    So I know why magnets repel, it is to do with the orbit of electrons and all that. I also know that you do not actually touch anything, there is an atom of gap between it or something like that, because the electrons have a negative charge. But when magnets attract, what is going on? And do they actually touch or is there still the gap in between them?
     
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  3. Jun 13, 2017 #2

    fresh_42

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    In the end they repel each other even when they touch. The electromagnetic charge of the electrons prevents them to "touch" as it prevents us from falling through the earth. I mean most part of matter is actually a void. So what does "touch" mean, i.e. on which level?
     
  4. Jun 13, 2017 #3

    phinds

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    What exactly does "touch" mean? They answer to your question depends on how you answer that question.
     
  5. Jun 13, 2017 #4
    Okay then, do the magnets that attract come closer to each other on an atomic level than when I just touch an everyday object, or is the repel from the electrons having the same charge still at the same strength?
     
  6. Jun 13, 2017 #5

    fresh_42

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    This still depends on how you define "close", i.e. a distance. The charges don't change, they are only aligned. Since you can still separate them without destruction of the material, I'd say they are not as strongly bonded as the molecules in the material are. You need a force to do so, but this doesn't mean they are closer. But for details I better leave a more accurate answer to the physicists among us.
     
  7. Jun 13, 2017 #6

    mfb

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    For all practical purposes, you touch things. If you think there is a gap between your finger and the other object then you also have to see a gap between the atoms in your finger. While that is a possible view, I don't think it is useful.

    Two magnets close together, attracting each other, behave like your finger touching something.
     
  8. Jun 14, 2017 #7

    sophiecentaur

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    Dang - you got there first. :wink:
     
  9. Jun 14, 2017 #8

    CWatters

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  10. Jun 14, 2017 #9
    So in conclusion, it depends what you mean by touch.
    Thanks for the answers.
     
  11. Jun 14, 2017 #10

    sophiecentaur

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    Also, you need to consider there the 'Poles' of the magnets are located. The Earth is an extreme case where the Poles are considered to be well below the surface. Same thing must apply, in principle, to any real, permanently magnetised lump of material.
     
  12. Jun 16, 2017 #11

    ZapperZ

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    But we already know this. The simplest "magnet" is the one produced by electrons due to its spin angular momentum. It is analogous to a magnetic dipole. And a He atom has two of them living within the same atom.

    Zz.
     
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