Stranger Things and Magnetic Fields
Warning! This post may contain spoilers!
Last July, Netflix released the first season of the instantly popular Stranger Things. Set in 1983, the eight-part show features a number of odd occurrences in the town of Hawkins, Indiana. There are plant monsters from other dimensions, telepathic tweens, and a menacing government agency bent on keeping it all under wraps.
One of the major arcs of the show deals with the disappearance of 12-year-old Will. While not much hope is given to his return, Will’s three pals and their new acquaintance Eleven, set out to find him. That’s where magnets come in!
The trail seems cold for much of the series, until one of the boys, Dustin, notices something strange going on with his compass. He notes that the needle is no longer pointing true north (although it should really point toward magnetic north). He shows this to the other boys who perform the experiment with their own compasses. Sure enough, none of the compasses actually point north.
In order for a compass to deviate from pointing north, there would have to be a pretty strong magnetic field running interference! The boys believe the disruption is being caused by a secret government laboratory running experiments aimed to contact other dimensions. This leads the gang to believe that following their compasses’ new trajectories might lead them to their missing friend Will!
Any Evidence to Back this Up?
In a show devoted to creepy science fiction, there are certainly some liberties taken in terms of evidence-based facts. For instance, using sensory deprivation to enter another plain of existence probably isn’t within our grasp.
However, is there any precedent for strong magnetic fields disrupting a compass’s perception of magnetic north? Indeed there is.
You can perform this experiment right in your own home. This is a phenomenon known as magnetic deviation. While this is easy enough to do with a simple compass and small neodymium magnet at close range, is it possible that a strong enough magnetic field could interfere with compasses over several miles like in Stranger Things?
Again, the answer is yes! There are natural magnetic anomalies such as shifts in the earth’s magnetic fields and large deposits of iron ore that can swerve a compass needle. In addition, if there were some sort of machinery capable of bridging the gap between dimensions, there’s a good chance it would give off a pretty significant magnetic field and, yes, would cause a compass to point right toward!
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