Experiments with magnets and our surroundings

Magnetic Art

Magnets and electromagnets are being used by several individuals as a new medium for their artistic work.  Below are some links to their sites.

Morpho Towers

This first display called "Morpho Towers - Two Standing Spirals" uses ferrofluid as the medium that interacts with magnetic fields.  The artists for this are Sachiko Kodama and Yasushi Miyajima.

Morpho Towers

The above is a very imaginative usage of ferrofluid, and when put to music, can be a unique piece of art.
The other creative part is the conical shape of the steel with a spiral groove used to create the fields needed to make the fluid flow upward and spike outward.  At the end of the video, there are other videos you can view.


Protrude, Flow

This second display called "Protrude, Flow" also uses ferrofluid, but it looks like there are two electromagnets, one above the other, so the fluid can interact with both.  The artists for this are Sachiko Kodama and Minako Takeno.

Protrude Flow

A site by Martin Frey also using ferrofluid.  Check his video, too.


Deterministic Nonperiodic Flow

The following is a very creative term project by Eva Schindling and Daniel Wilson, at the MSc. ‘Art & Technology’ Program at Göteborg University and Chalmers University of Technology under Mats Nordahl.  http://dnf.evsc.net/

Take the time to read about the motivation, construction, installation, and especially the simulation pages to this site, and the other projects on Eva's site. 

Deterministic Nonperiodic Flow

The basic design is similar to the toy called the Magnetron seen here

Bruce Gray

Bruce Gray has created several sculptures using magnets in a different way.  You can see several of his pieces of work at his web site here:  http://www.brucegray.com/htmlfolder/magneticsculptures.html
These are similar in concept to this design of a calendar from the Museum of Modern Art that also uses magnets to create a tension in the string.



Since motors use electromagnets, here is an interesting way to make a sand sculpture by moving a steel ball around on a plate with sand to create repeating patterns.  This is found at the Technorama in the city of Oberwinterthur, Switzerland, and at the Science Museum in St Paul, MN.  This is called Sisyphus.  Sisyphus was a mythological Greek king who was punished for his deceitfulness by being forced to roll a large rock up a hill, only to have it roll back down, repeating this laborious, futile task for all of eternity.

Also check out their page about electricity and magnetism.

The creator of this active sand sculpture is Bruce Shapiro.  Check his site for a lot of other unusual and fascinating projects he has developed.


Wooden Mirror

Here's a most unusual idea, a Wooden Mirror created by Danny Rozin.  The individual squares (like pixels) are made of wood, but are tilted downward or upward (using motors, of course) in order to change the brightness of each pixel seen by the person in front of the mirror, by changing the amount of light reflected off of each square.  Check the video on this!  Really cool!  Also check the bitforms gallery.


Magnetic Sculpture Kits

There are hundreds of magnetic sculpture kits available from several sites.  They use various steel shapes and colors that stick to two magnets in the base and to each other.  Here are some sources and other interesting links.  Check them out!



Magnetic Sculpture

Here is something I came up with that has been fun to play with.  I used a large steel ball bearing, about 2" in diameter.  It is attached to a base using a couple of 3/4" ring magnets.  I then stick various size steel balls to it using one or more 1/4" tube magnets.  The tube magnets can be easily moved around on the surface of the big ball.  As you can see in the second photo, you can even connect additional layers of spheres, almost like a futuristic city connected by tubes.  Other types of structures can be seen here.

How do they make steel balls?  Check this out:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afEGx4jpFzo 


Robert Hodgin

Robert Hodgin does some amazing work.

At this site:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/flight404/sets/72157616704023547/ are fantastic sculptures of his using spherical magnets, cylindrical magnets, steel balls, and a super imagination!


Magnetic Rag, Scot Joplin

Scott Joplin wrote a piece of ragtime music he called "Magnetic Rag".  I'm not sure why "magnetic" is in the title, but it is a fun piece to listen to.  It was the last rag he published in his lifetime, in 1914.  Some links of interest:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IyLwLe6rB8  - very fun with a LEGO train.  Titled with SanteFe Rag, but it's really the Magnetic Rag that is being played.


Pe Lang

Pe Lang, from Switzerland, has been creating some very unique, imaginative, dynamic sculptures utilizing electromagnets, ferrofluid, permanent magnets and motors.  You need to visit his web site to see photos and videos of his work.  I was very impressed with his ideas and the meticulous execution of those ideas. 


Necklaces and Magnets


This is similar to something I saw at the Exploratorium in San Francisco.  I have 6 large, 12" square magnets, and several colored necklace chains that will stick to the face of the magnets.  Patterns and pictures can be created with that, and the necklaces will not fall off!

1. The magnets were from MagnetKing, item PSA60-35, already cut into 12"x12" squares by them.  These cost about $11.31 each if you buy 1 to 9; only $7.04 if you buy 10 to 24, …  I bought 6.
2. The 3/16" panelboards, with white melamine on one side, were from HomeDepot.  I had the store cut it into 8 squares, each about 12" square.  The 2'x4' board cost $9.97.
3. I then carefully peeled the backing off of the magnets and stuck them onto the white melamine surface of the panelboards.  I used a rolling pin to help with getting the magnets stuck to the surface, starting at one edge, and slowly rolling the magnet down to the other side, peeling the backing off as I go, so that bubbles don't appear in the middle.  Once it sticks, you really can't peel it back off to reposition it.
4. The colored chain necklaces were from Sun and Moon Craft Kits that come in 19 different colors, in 24" lengths for only $0.25 each.  They are 2.4mm in diameter, which seems to work well.  Bigger chain necklaces could be used, too.  A key is to make sure they are made of steel or nickel plated steel, but not aluminum.  I purchased colors that were bright.


Keep your eyes open for new and unusual artistic displays involving magnets, electromagnets, motors, etc.