Magnetism: A Very Short Introduction

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OUP Oxford, Jun 28, 2012 - Body, Mind & Spirit - 142 pages
Magnetism is a strange force, mysteriously attracting one object to another apparently through empty space. It has been claimed as a great healer, with magnetic therapies being proposed over the centuries and still popular today. Why are its mysterious important to solve? In this Very Short Introduction, Stephen J. Blundell explains why. For centuries magnetism has been used for various exploits; through compasses it gave us navigation and through motors, generators, and turbines it has given us power. Blundell explores our understanding of electricity and magnetism, from the work of Galvani, Ampere, Faraday, and Tesla, and goes on to explore how Maxwell and Faraday's work led to the unification of electricity and magnetism, thought of as one of the most imaginative developments in theoretical physics. With a discussion of the relationship between magnetism and relativity, quantum magnetism, and its impact on computers and information storage, Blundell shows how magnetism has changed our fundamental understanding of the Universe. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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Magnetism is electricity’s less appreciated twin. In our daily lives we only think of magnetism in the context of fridge magnets, magnetic clasps, or at most when considering the needle of the compass. However, magnetism is one of the most pervasive and useful natural phenomena, and in so many ways modern life would be unimaginable without it.
This very short introduction aims to give a very comprehensive account of the phenomenon of magnetism. The book goes into the history of our understanding of magnetism, describes some significant discoveries, provides theoretical explanation of magnetism, and examines some of the most significant applications of magnetism today. Some of these applications have become so ubiquitous that we don’t even think of them much any more – such as the magnetic memory that is the bases of all hard drives that are in use today. Others are a bit more obscure but no less fascinating. The book is written with a non-scientist in mind, although some degree of scientific literacy and appreciation of science will go a long way in making the most out of this material. Aside from a very short appendix, the book contains no equations and “scary” scientific graphs. There are a few neat diagrams though, that manage to explain concepts visually for those of us who like that kind of thing. Even if you are an experienced scientist, or even a physicist (like myself) you’ll find a lot of useful and intriguing tidbits of information within this short volume. This is particularly true if you happen to teach some course that deals with magnetism.
The writing in this book is very lucid and engaging. It is definitely one of the better-written popular science books. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wishes to broaden his or her understanding of science.


1 Mysterious attraction?
2 The Earth as a magnet
3 Electrical current and the path to power
4 Unification
5 Magnetism and relativity
6 Quantum magnetism
7 Spin
8 The magnetic library
9 Magnetism on Earth and in space
10 Exotic magnetism
Mathematical appendix
Further reading

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About the author (2012)

Stephen J. Blundell is Professor of Physics at Oxford University and a Fellow of Mansfield College. He is actively researching the phenomena of magnetism and superconductivity and has published over 200 research papers on the topic, as well as three books, Magnetism in Condensed Matter (OUP,2001), Concepts in Thermal Physics (with K.M. Blundell) (OUP, 2006), and Superconductivity: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2009).

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