This really mysterious force is, of course, Magnetism.
Certainly we know how to deal with magnetism. I have books full of magnetic design equations and, like Ohm’s law, I use them in my work with great confidence. One can actually design things that produce a quantitatively predictable magnetic effect that can reliably and predictably pick up or attract pieces of iron (for instance entire steel-bodied automobiles). You can design a “magnetic circuit” that can be used to produce a predictable force exerted by a current-bearing wire situated in the field, like what takes place in a loudspeaker or an electric motor (actually, both are the same thing). And you can reliably predict the voltage produced on a ribbon of aluminum as it vibrates in a magnetic field you designed. Computers are a big help and can give high accuracy in predicting the actual spatial “lines of flux” in both air and in magnetic conductors (like iron and steel) of definable geometry. This is called “Finite Element Analysis” or “FEA” in techno-speak. We like FEA.
Like Ohm’s law, magnetic equations describe a natural law and the behavior of a life-force that exists everywhere in the natural universe, including in our own human bodies.
But what a mystery! You can’t see or feel magnetism. But if you pass a wire through a magnetic field, you have created an electrical generator in the purest sense. This is the essence of the ribbon microphone. If you connect this wire to an electrical load, this will create an electrical current and produce both force and heat. It produces heat allegedly because electrons collide with the atoms of electrical conductors and this "friction" heats them up, like a running back colliding with a hungry defensive line (in American football). Well, um, not exactly. You see, electrical current flow goes one way and electron flow goes the other way. This is what I was taught in engineering school, anyway. Forget this for now (or forever). We do know that another magnet will actually be attracted or repelled by a magnetic field, depending on its orientation. Iron (only iron and not anything else in creation) will be attracted to a magnetic field and iron filings will accumulate on the magnet like bees on honey. Why? Because of "electron spins"? These can be illustrated by pointing your thumb, index and middle fingers in some way I forgot. I accepted this as an engineering student, but "electron spins"? There must be a better explanation, especially one that humans can relate to. And, of course, this explanation provides no clue whatsoever as to what magnetism really is anyway. Yet mankind has been living on a big permanent magnet (earth) since first appearing (or arriving, depending on whose opinion you believe; you really had to be there to know for sure).
When pressed (I’ve done this many times), Professors of Physics and the like will be forced to admit that no one really knows what magnetism really is. I mean, we know what water is and what sound is. And lots of other stuff too, like what kitties and spiders and pizza is. But magnetism? No cigar here. Personally, I’ve given up trying to figure this out and just accept this part of creation for what it is and for what it does so well. I know we can accurately predict and use magnetism for great works and for use in clever and helpful machines. But, after almost a half-lifetime of study and speculation, my overwhelming conclusion is that magnetism is pure magic. ( ! ) Nothing else explains it.
Isn’t that enough? Furthermore, isn’t that a lot more inspiring and empowering than making stuff up about electron spins and finger-pointing?
“Hi, I’m Cliff Henricksen. My work is exclusively based on the use and confident prediction of pure magic.” I'm a Magician. I love it.
(For another spin on the nature of magnetism, listen to the RM1-recorded message from a veteran Physicist/lecturer in the “How-To” section of this website. Listen to "Chris" at the bottom).