2016 has certainly been a newsworthy year, and magnetism didn’t miss out. It seemed like every time we turned around, magnets were popping up somewhere in the world (or galaxy). So as the year draws to an end, we thought we’d take a look back on some of the most exciting and interesting pieces of magnetic news.  

Animal Magnetism

More specifically, how do groups of animals such as a flock of birds or a school of fish use magnetism to navigate as one? For one thing, birds can use Earth’s magnetic field to navigate during migration. Other animals like dogs use the planet’s magnetism for similar reasons.

But have you ever seen a large flock of birds moving as if they were one unit? How do they all know to turn in the same direction? The answer might be magnetism. Research conducted this year suggests that bird flocks act similarly to human cells, using the magnetism of individual units to communicate with one another. Pretty cool!

Bridge-Saving Magnets

Bridge collapses are often caused by erosion around the base of the structure. This erosion comes from the constant battering of filaments in a river against support columns. For a long time, this was just thought of as the cost of doing business, too often with tragic consequences.

Fortunately, researchers found a way to detect erosion, skirting disaster. The science involved throwing magnetic “boulders” into the river near the bridge. They would come to rest in pockets of erosion. Their magnetic fields would then allow engineers to determine the depth and severity of the erosion and create a plan to fix them.

Magnets and Virtual Reality

2016 was the year of virtual reality, and of course magnetism played a role! As VR surges into the future, becoming more sophisticated and lifelike with every passing day, it soon became clear that electromagnetism could be used to provide the user with the most realistic experience possible.

Using gloves with magnets on each finger tip, users could forgo a traditional joystick or controller and have even more control over their virtual reality adventure. While VR is still a burgeoning market, we know magnets will continue to play a role.

The Future of Transit

We’re not exaggerating when we say magnetism is everywhere. For this story, we’re headed to the United Arab Emirates where plans for a new public transit system are revolutionizing the way people travel.

Like something straight out of science fiction, these super-fast pods fly along suspended tracks, sometimes right inside of buildings. These pods are propelled by high-power magnets and allow passengers to travel at speeds of 62 mph! The proposed system in Abu Dhabi will connect different areas of the city in an on-demand and eco-friendly manner and is expected to be a model for other cities around the world.

Discovery of Proxima B

Magnetism is confined to Planet Earth. It shows up throughout the far reaches of outer space. One of the biggest stories this year was the discovery of a planet in a neighboring solar system. Proxima B is considered an exoplanet and could possibly sustain human life—under very specific conditions.

A lot of it depends on the planet’s magnetic field. Proxima B is much closer to its star, Proxima Centauri, than Earth is to the sun. This means a lot of radiation coming straight for the helpless planet. In order to even be considered habitable, Proxima B would have to have a magnetic field much more powerful than Earth’s, and we’re just not sure if it does.

As we wrap up 2016 and look forward to 2017, we know magnets will continue to make their way into headlines around the world! Make sure to check our blog for all the breaking stories.