Magnetic fields permeate our entire existence. The Earth’s molten iron core generates a gigantic magnetic field that shields us from the harsh solar winds that our Sun blows forth and, when it momentarily fails, generates the beautiful aurora seen at the more extreme latitudes. They’re also behind some of the greatest technological advances in modern times from things like the humble hard drive that’s in the vast majority of computer systems to the first television screens that were driven by cathode ray tubes.Visualizing a magnetic field is somewhat difficult though as whilst may things react to them they don’t really show you their beautiful field lines. Ferrofluids however are one material that showcases them quite distinctly and they’re quite beautiful:
You can actually purchase both of the sculptures in the video from here and whilst they would make an awesome little art piece on their own I think they’d also be a great little educational tool. Magnets and iron fillings get you part of the way but ferrofluids like this give you a much better view of how the fields interact with each. Most importantly they show them in 3D space, something that’s incredibly hard to grasp when you demonstrate magnetic fields the old fashioned way.
Now if only someone would chuck one inside an MRI machine, I’m sure that’d make for quite a display.