Q. There is something I don’t understand about magnets. If you wrap a length of wire around a piece of steel and pass current through the coil, the steel will become magnetized. But with a permanent magnet, there is no coil or current. How can this be?
A. Iron atoms, and those of a few other chemical elements, act as little permanent magnets. This is due to the particular arrangement of protons in the nuclei and electrons going around the nuclei. Normally, the little atom-magnets are not aligned with each other. They point in random directions, so their magnetic fields cancel each other out. But when the iron (or steel) is magnetized, some of these atom-magnets become aligned, and point in the same direction. Then their magnetic fields aid, and together they form a magnet.