Submit a link Features Reviews Podcasts Video Forums More ▾

A giant electromagnet's cross-country road trip

A 50-foot wide, doughnut-shaped electromagnet recently completed a journey from New York to Illinois. It went most of the way by barge — down the Eastern seaboard and then up the Mississippi River before hitting the road for the last 26 miles, shutting down multiple lanes as it crept along over the course of three nights. Livescience has pictures from this incredible journey. Maggie 5

HOWTO make a magnetic detachable stapler for center-stapled booklets and the like


On Instructables, DIYHacksAndHowTos has a great method for separating a cheap stapler and sticking magnets on both halves, enabling you to center-staple booklets and the like. Every year or two, I do something zine-like that requires this sort of thing, and I always end up wasting money on a long-reach stapler that's always lost by the time the next project rolls around. (Don't get me wrong, long-reach staplers are awesome, but if you only need to do booklets once every year or two, they're a lot of investment). This is what I'll do next time (and as a bonus, it'll be great for kid craft projects where we want to use a staple in th center of a large sheet of paper).

One limitation of a typical office stapler is that it only lets you staple about 3 1/2" into the paper. This isn't enough for a lot of projects. If you want to put together your own comic book or a large banner, you are usually stuck stapling your project onto a piece of cardboard or carpet and then bending the legs of the staple by hand. They do sell extra long staplers or staplers with swivel heads but they still have their limitations.

A better option would be to make a stapler with a detachable base. The base would be positioned under the paper and aligned to the top half of the stapler with magnets. This would allow you to staple any area of a project regardless of location. So in this project, I am going to show you how to convert a standard stapler into a two part magnetic stapler.

How to Make a Two-Part Magnetic Stapler by DIYHacksAndHowTos (via Lifehacker)

Ball of Whacks magnetic creativity toy/tool

I gave "Ball of Whacks" to my 6-year-old son as a Hanukkah gift and I wish I'd have given it to myself. It reminds me a bit of Rubik's Snake but it's much more free-form and fun as the individual blocks aren't permanently connected but rather held together by 180 rare earth magnets. The blocks fit together in a 30-sided rhombic triacontahedron and can be recombined into animals, stars, and other geometric wonders. The Ball of Whacks comes with a guidebook suggesting lots of neat configurations, creativity exercises, and tips but we haven't bothered with that yet. It's addictive without any instruction. Ball of Whacks is available in red, blue, black, and multi-color which is what I, er, my son, was given. Maybe next we'll go for Von Oech's X-Ball, Y-Ball, or Star Ball magnet toys! Ball of Whacks

Videos of ferrofluids in art and science

Wired's Adam Mann and Nurie Mohamed have a good roundup of a dozen-plus ferrofluid videos, showing off the remarkable aesthetics created at the intersection of magnets, liquid, and metal filings. Not every one of these videos did it for me, but there are some absolute corkers in the lot.

The black liquid mixture is known as a ferrofluid, and is made up of nano-sized, iron-containing particles suspended in water or an organic solvent. When a magnetic field is applied, the ferrofluid puffs out, creating some alien-looking shapes and formations.

Video: Bizarre Magnetic Ferrofluids Will Blow Your Mind

HOWTO make a magnetic "reverse hammer" to remove dents from brass instruments


SuperMagnete documents a clever method for removing dents from brass instruments using powerful magnets. You insert a steel ball (smaller than the dent) in the instrument, and then use a padded magnet on the outside to "rub out" the dents. A more elaborate method uses a "reverse hammer" that works on harder surfaces.

To remove the dents on the hard parts of the instrument, Roberto developed a "reverse hammer". It is made of a non-magnetic rod (e.g. copper) with a movable heavy metal block on it's axis (e.g. the head of a normal hammer), a magnet on one end of the rod and a stopper on the other end (see drawing). When the hammerhead hits the stopper, a part of the resulting energy is transported through the magnet to the steel ball within the instrument, which "hammers" the dent from the inside.

Straightening out brass instruments (via Red Ferret)

Can magnets make you lie?

A small Estonian study is offering some hints that our brains could be even weirder than we'd imagined. Researchers found that magnetic pulses directed at a certain part of the frontal cortex affected whether people were more willing to fib, or more likely to tell the truth. Only 16 people were involved in the study, so these results are more something potentially cool to follow up on than a definitive declaration about brain function. There's a good chance this could turn out to be a statistical fluke. But it is worth researching further. If the effect is real, it could have some really interesting ethical, legal, and neurobiological implications.

Say it with me now: "F***ing magnets, how do they work?" Mo Costandi explains:

Inga Karton and Talis Bachmann of the University of Tartu adopted a different and novel approach, by examining the natural propensity to lie spontaneously during situations in which deception has no consequences. They recruited 16 volunteers, and showed them red and blue discs, which were presented randomly on a computer screen. The participants were asked to name the colour of each disc, and that they could do so correctly or incorrectly at their free will.

The researchers used a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to disrupt the participants' brain activity during the task. TMS is a non-invasive technique in which pulses of electromagnetic radiation are targeted to a specific brain region, inducing weak electrical currents that can either inhibit or enhance activity in that area.

They split the participants into two groups of eight for the experiment. Half of the participants in one group received magnetic pulses to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) in the left hemisphere of the brain, while half in the other received them to the DLPFC on the right side. The rest of the participants acted as controls, and TMS was targeted to either the left or the right parietal cortex.

Statistical analysis of the results revealed that magnetic stimulation directed at the left DLPFC slightly increased the participants' tendency to lie about the colour of the discs, whereas stimulation of the right DLPFC slightly reduced it. By contrast, stimulation of the left or right parietal cortex had no effect on the participants' propensity to lie.

Costandi has actually made his full interview with the primary researcher in this study available online. In it, he gets a bit more into the nuance of what happens when you turn up a result as odd as this one, why scientists conduct such small studies, and what they do with the results of those studies.