To understand what life would be like without magnets, you have to know how many devices rely on them to work. Magnets create force through magnetic fields that attract and repel. there are several different kinds of magnets, but the one you’d most notice if it disappeared in a puff of smoke right now are electromagnets, which only create a magnetic field when electricity is applied to them. Every electric motor contains several magnets that help power it. Look around; see anything that requires electricity? Your laptop, cell phone, blender, vacuum, speakers, hairdryer; they all use magnets to power them. What would the world like be like without magnets? It’s a life without the Internet, for one.
The Protective Magnetic Field
It’s easy to point out that things like washing machines and iPads aren’t technically necessities. There are plenty of health and science related devices that depend on magnets to help locate injuries or better understand our world, but even these aren’t necessary for survival. So life would go on without magnets, right?
Don’t forget the earth has North and South Poles. The Earth is a magnet. The Earth’s core is molten, and the motion of the liquid iron interior creates a magnetic effect that emanates outward from the center of the planet. This is why compasses function and help explorers find where they’re going. It’s also responsible for your relative safety in space. The geomagnetic field that surrounds the planet serves as a protective shield, not from asteroids or aliens, but from cosmic rays and charged particles found in solar wind. Without the magnetosphere, the ozone layer wouldn’t exist and UV rays would crisp you like bacon.
Reversing the Poles
Maintaining the integrity of the magnetosphere is paramount to sustaining life on earth, but some change is expected. Fluctuations are normal, and they can even help scientists improve navigational accuracy and earthquake detection, as well as help locate natural resources deep within the ground.
Every once in a while, the Earth’s magnetic field plays a trick on us. It can reverse directions. There will come a day when magnets will point south instead of north, and this has happened several times in the past. Scientists believe the next polarity shift will occur in less than 2,000 years. If the switch occurred now, communications systems around the world would most likely get a good scrambling, but no mass extinctions would result.
Even if you exclude the Earth’s magnetic field, life without magnets would be very different and much worse. Without magnets healthcare would decline, communications would falter, and landfills would overflow. There would be no electricity. So the next time you use your phone, wait at a stoplight, or enjoy the sunshine, remember how important magnets are to your survival.