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Posted by on Jul 25, 2013 in Electromagnetism | 0 comments

What is Electromagnetism?

Beginning to learn about electromagnetism can be a daunting prospect. While it is indeed complicated, electromagnetism is also one of the four known fundamental forces of physics, meaning there are limitless examples of electromagnetism in action.


Illustration of the directions in which magnetic field moves through a traditional magnet.

But what exactly is electromagnetism and where does it come from? Electromagnetism is the name given to the results of electric and magnetic forces acting on an object. Once thought to be completely separate forces, it has been discovered they actually share a close relationship with one another. For example, running an electric current through a metal wire creates a magnetic field around the wire. This field moves clockwise or counterclockwise around the wire, depending on the direction of the electric current, and emanates from it much like light or heat would. Likewise, one can create an electric current in a looped wire by moving it into an existing magnetic field.

Electromagnetism is responsible for countless interactions between atoms and their components. All matter is derived from the electromagnetic force between the atoms that make it up. Without this force, subatomic particles would fly around almost without rhyme or reason! This is because the electromagnetic force and other fundamental forces acting on subatomic particles work to hold them together. These particles typically have a charge, positive or negative, that attract them to or repel them from one another, just like play magnets have north and south poles. These charges and how they affect one another are understood through the rules of electromagnetism.

Another ubiquitous result of electromagnetism is electromagnetic radiation, more commonly known as light. All light, visible or not, is created by disturbances in electromagnetic fields. Differing rates in these disturbances lead to different kinds of light, with low-frequency disturbances creating radio waves, medium-level frequencies causing visible light, and high-frequency disturbances leading to dangerous gamma rays. These disturbances are called “photons” and are typically described as packets of light.

Electromagnetism is too complex a topic to be fully explained in a single blog post, but the Future Data Testing Department hopes that this has been a revelatory outline of some of its broad concepts.

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