Free Atoms and Magnetic Charge
Do the atoms in air have a magnetic charge?
Most atoms in the air are slightly magnetic, like a super-tiny bar magnets. We do not
notice it much because they do not all point in the same direction. As they bounce
around in the air, their directions are constantly changing. Still, the magnetism is
Dr. Ken Mellendorf
Illinois Central College
The term "charge" is not the term usually used to describe the magnetic properties,
since magnetism (so far as is known) is a dipole -- that is it has a North and South
pole -- where electrical charge can be a "point" source (or almost). Some atoms, those
with an unpaired electron. Such atoms and its electron can have a magnetic field from
the non-spherically symmetric motion of the electron about the atomic nucleus and/or
the intrinsic spin of the electron itself. It the atomic nucleus also has a net spin
there is a further, but smaller contribution from it too.
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Update: June 2012