There are many legends that try to explain the origin of magnets. One of the most popular is the tale of an elderly shepherd named Magnes who hailed from the isle of Crete more than 4,000 years ago. The old man was herding sheep in Magnesia, an area in Northern Greece. Suddenly the metallic tip of his walking stick and the shoe nails in his footwear became stuck to the black surface he was standing on. intrigued by this phenomenon, Magnes started to dig around the black rock where he found lodestones rather than disc magnet. The black rock was called magnetite to honor his name and the name of the place the rock was found.
Since their discovery, magnets have always been thought to have some health benefits. The famous Cleopatra used to sleep with magnets to maintain her legendary beauty. In 2,500 BC, people used to rub magnetite on the surface of their skin to keep it supple and youthful. In Chinese medicine, a magnet was used to stimulate pressure points and relieve pain on the human body. Some people who have used magnetic bracelets say that the bracelets reduce the effects of arthritis.
Magnets are simply metals with billions of atoms which have microscopic magnetic properties. For instance, steel atoms clump together to form domains. The atoms making up each domain point in the same direction. Each domain acts like a bar magnet with a north and south pole. If the domains in a metal face different directions, the overall magnetic force becomes zero. When current flows in the metal the domains are aligned in one direction and a powerful magnet is formed.
Magnets are used in motors, electric trains etc. The trains use magnetic force to levitate the on the train track. These trains are usually very fast and do not have the usual drag associated with normal trains.
Magnets are also used to make computer hard drives and other forms of digital memory. The full potential magnets has not been achieved and there are ongoing research and studies being conducted in military and government facilities worldwide.