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We Could Watch Magnets Fall Through Copper Pipes All Day [Video]

No. That's not a euphemism for anything.

copper pipe

Magnets are not attracted to copper, but incredibly strong magnets interact with copper in a pretty amazing way. If you drop a neodymium magnet down through a copper pipe it’s descent is slowed. The stronger the magnet and the thicker the pipe, the slower the fall. Take a look.

This particular video was uploaded to YouTube way back in 2010, but we saw it this morning thanks to a tweet from our favorite Canadian astronaut/Bowie impersonator Chris Hadfield.

The video description by YouTuber JamesRB1995 explains what’s happening:

The neodymium magnets are super powerful and even though they are not attracted to the copper, they still produce eddy currents that buffer the fall as seen in the video. Lenz’s Law make a great experiment for kids to adult. Also, great at parties when conversation goes stale.

If you’re not familiar with Lenz’s Law, Wikipedia defines it as:

An induced electromotive force (emf) always gives rise to a current whose magnetic field opposes the original change in magnetic flux.

Basically it explains how electromagnetic circuits adhere to Newton’s third law and the conservation of energy.

That first video gets the point across, and we watched it more than a few times, because it’s really incredible, but we took to YouTube to find more. We wanted stronger magnets, thicker pipes, and better video quality. Here’s a more recent video with a big fat pipe and some really powerful magnets.


(via JamesRB1995 and Deborah Rhea)

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Glen is a comedian, writer, husband, and father. He won his third-grade science fair and is a former preschool science teacher, which is a real job.