Magnets' History And Their Uses

The unnatural behavior of a piece of iron in the proximity of a magnet never ceases to astound an audience even after repeated viewing. The effect called magnetic effect seems magical and amazing. This relationship between a piece of iron and a piece of magnet chart a long span of time of over several centuries. The first documented reference to the effects of magnetism dates back to the 4th century when it finds mention in the Chinese literature in a book called ''Book of the Devil Valley Master.'' This book states for the first time in history that ''lodestone attracts iron to it.''Lodestone is defined as a kind of magnetite metal characterized with a special crystalline structure that naturally creates a magnetic field resulting in attracting and magnetizing iron. Chinese sailors, in the 12th century A.D, used lodestone rocks as compasses, for navigating in the sea.

History also states that lodestone contains anti-aging components and helps in attaining a consistent youthful look by enhancing the skin tone of the person. Cleopatra, the eternal beauty mentioned in many western myths, was reported to have slept on a lodestone for a long time to take advantage of its anti-aging values. Besides this, the great scholars, Aristotle and Plato often mentioned the benefits of lodestones in their writings.

In 2000 B.C, magnets also gained popularity in Chinese medicine in relation to acupuncture and reflexology. Magnets are often used today to treat many common ailments. Warm lodestones when strategically placed on a patient's back are believed to align the spirit. Modern-day medicine is utilizing the positive aspects of magnetism more than ever. Along this line, magnetoencephalography (MEG) is a technique for mapping brain activity and the use of shock therapy to start a stopped heart has been there for several years now.

Furthermore, the use of magnets in mechanical and industrial applications is quite common in today's time. Magnets act as the fundamental driving force for electric motors and electric generators of various kinds. Every electric motor is equipped with magnets where the electrical coils are found surrounding the magnet. Electro-magnets are extensively used in telephones, telegraphs, doorbells, cell phones, computers, tape recorders and so forth. Cranes are often equipped with electromagnets to pick up and drop heavy loads. Even industrial conveyor systems are fitted with electromagnets to separate metal parts from various materials. Truck-mounted magnets assist in cleaning up construction sites.

In the current times of technological revolution, magnetic technology has helped in the development of the MAGLEV (magnetically levitated train). This system consists of a train track in a single rail system with the train levitating above the track. This technique almost eliminates all friction and reduces wear and tear on the train and the track. The train is driven by fluctuating electrical currents with the provision of high speed owing to negligible chances of friction. This technique though developed in theory will soon be done practically with the construction of the first MAGLEV train between Las Vegas, Nevada and Disneyland in California.

The need for greater efficient energy and superior methods of transportation has increased the importance of magnet technology. Mankind's discovery of the effects of magnetism and its numerous properties and uses is often times counted as one of our paramount achievements as par with the invention of the wheel and the creation of fire.

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