Did you know that you can easily make your own compass?
It is very easy to do. There is hardly any preparation time. Great as a rainy day activity.
And as with any experiments involving magnets, be aware of the danger.
Warning: Magnets are very hazardous if swallowed. Please keep them away from children who still put everything into their mouths.
What you need
- a bowl of water
- Rub one end of the needle on one side of the magnet 30 times (the north pole if your magnet is labeled). Always rub in the same direction.
- Flip the magnet over and rub the other end of the needle on this other side 30 times. Again, rub in the same direction.
- Cut a circle about 2 inches in diameter out of the paper.
- Carefully thread the needle through the paper circle twice, but not all the way through, so that the needle lays flat on the paper.
- Place the paper and needle on the surface of the water. Both ends of the needle should be above the floating paper circle.
- Watch it slowly rotate and then stop.
- Check the directions with a compass. One end of the needle (the one that you rubbed on the north pole of the magnet) should point to north and the other south.
- Label the circle with the corresponding N (north) and S (south) directions. You now have a homemade compass!
Iron is a ferromagnet. Ferromagnets, such as iron, nickel, cobalt and manganese, can be magnetized by applying an external magnetic field and retain the magnetism even when the external field is removed.
When a needle is rubbed against a magnet, it is magnetized and becomes a temporary magnet.
On the Earth, there is a natural magnetic field all around us. Earth’s magnetic field is relatively weak and normally doesn’t exert enough force to move a stationary needle. But floating on water has significantly less friction, allowing the needle to freely rotate and align itself along Earth’s magnetic field. As a result. one end of the needle points north while the other points south, forming a compass.