Steve : If all of these domains are of a similar size, then none may be strong enough to force the others to align with it. In which case a piece of iron, for example, may have no magnetic field at all because of all the warring magnetic kingdoms within it.
Robert : However, if you apply a strong enough magnetic field from outside the material, you can help one domain expand its control over its neighbors, & so on, until all of the domains have been unified into one kingdom all pointing in the same direction.
Steve : & now, finally, you can rule with an iron fist– I mean, magnet. It’s magnetic because it’s ferromagnetic & all of the domains are aligned.
Robert : Exactly. What’s remarkable is that magnetism is a fundamentally quantum property amplified to the size of everyday objects. Every permanent Magnet for sale is a reminder that quantum mechanics underlies our universe. In order for an everyday object to be magnetic, though, it has to have a unified kingdom of magnetic domains, each made up of bajillions of magnetic atoms which also need to be aligned with each other, each of which can only be magnetic in the first place if it has an approximately half-filled outer shell of electrons so their intrinsic magnetic fields can align & not cancel each other out. Not surprisingly, these criteria are pretty difficult to fulfill, which is why there are only a limited number of suitable materials you can use when you’re building a magnet.
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