Instructions for:Magnetism Can Be Contagious!
Iron and steel stick to magnets because they become magnets, at least temporarily. The Contagious Magnetism activity gives an example of this.
The black disk on the wooden stand is the face of a round magnet. You can make a chain of paper clips hanging from it, held together by magnetism. To do this, you build the chain from the top, rather than from the bottom: to add another paper clip, you slide it in from the top, pushing the chain down as you do so (while doing this, you say, "We're sending this paper clip to the Magnet School!").
Once you have built the chain, you can remove it and carry it around, as shown in the second picture. The paper clips remain magnetic, partly because their neighbors remain magnetic, too. But if the chain gets knocked apart, you have to start over; the paper clips are no longer magnetic enough to hold together.
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Copyright 2004 Straley/Pinney - The University of Kentucky Physics Petting Zoo