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magnetism, force of attraction or repulsion between various substances, especially those made of iron and certain other metals; ultimately it is due to the motion of electric charges.

Magnetic Poles, Forces, and Fields

Any object that exhibits magnetic properties is called a magnet. Every magnet has two points, or poles, where most of its strength is concentrated; these are designated as a north-seeking pole, or north pole, and a south-seeking pole, or south pole, because a suspended magnet tends to orient itself along a north-south line. Since a magnet has two poles, it is sometimes called a magnetic dipole, being analogous to an electric dipole, composed of two opposite charges. The like poles of different magnets repel each other, and the unlike poles attract each other.

One remarkable property of magnets is that whenever a magnet is broken, a north pole will appear at one of the broken faces and a south pole at the other, such that each piece has its own north and south poles. It is impossible to isolate a single magnetic pole, regardless of how many times a magnet is broken or how small the fragments become. (The theoretical question as to the possible existence in any state of a single magnetic pole, called a monopole, is still considered open by physicists; experiments to date have failed to detect one.)

From his study of magnetism, C. A. Coulomb in the 18th cent. found that the magnetic forces between two poles followed an inverse-square law of the same form as that describing the forces between electric charges. The law states that the force of attraction or repulsion between two magnetic poles is directly proportional to the product of the strengths of the poles and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.

As with electric charges, the effect of this magnetic force acting at a distance is expressed in terms of a field of force. A magnetic pole sets up a field in the space around it that exerts a force on magnetic materials. The field can be visualized in terms of lines of induction (similar to the lines of force of an electric field). These imaginary lines indicate the direction of the field in a given region. By convention they originate at the north pole of a magnet and form loops that end at the south pole either of the same magnet or of some other nearby magnet (see also flux, magnetic). The lines are spaced so that the number per unit area is proportional to the field strength in a given area. Thus, the lines converge near the poles, where the field is strong, and spread out as their distance from the poles increases.

A picture of these lines of induction can be made by sprinkling iron filings on a piece of paper placed over a magnet. The individual pieces of iron become magnetized by entering a magnetic field, i.e., they act like tiny magnets, lining themselves up along the lines of induction. By using variously shaped magnets and various combinations of more than one magnet, representations of the field in these different situations can be obtained.

Magnetic Materials

The term magnetism is derived from Magnesia, the name of a region in Asia Minor where lodestone, a naturally magnetic iron ore, was found in ancient times. Iron is not the only material that is easily magnetized when placed in a magnetic field; others include nickel and cobalt. Carbon steel was long the material commonly used for permanent magnets, but more recently other materials have been developed that are much more efficient as permanent magnets, including certain ferroceramics and Alnico, an alloy containing iron, aluminum, nickel, cobalt, and copper.

Materials that respond strongly to a magnetic field are called ferromagnetic [Lat. ferrum = iron]. The ability of a material to be magnetized or to strengthen the magnetic field in its vicinity is expressed by its magnetic permeability. Ferromagnetic materials have permeabilities of as much as 1,000 or more times that of free space (a vacuum). A number of materials are very weakly attracted by a magnetic field, having permeabilities slightly greater than that of free space; these materials are called paramagnetic. A few materials, such as bismuth and antimony, are repelled by a magnetic field, having permeabilities less than that of free space; these materials are called diamagnetic.

The Basis of Magnetism

The electrical basis for the magnetic properties of matter has been verified down to the atomic level. Because the electron has both an electric charge and a spin, it can be called a charge in motion. This charge in motion gives rise to a tiny magnetic field. In the case of many atoms, all the electrons are paired within energy levels, according to the exclusion principle, so that the electrons in each pair have opposite (antiparallel) spins and their magnetic fields cancel. In some atoms, however, there are more electrons with spins in one direction than in the other, resulting in a net magnetic field for the atom as a whole; this situation exists in a paramagnetic substance. If such a material is placed in an external field, e.g., the field created by an electromagnet, the individual atoms will tend to align their fields with the external one. The alignment will not be complete, due to the disruptive effect of thermal vibrations. Because of this, a paramagnetic substance is only weakly attracted by a magnet.

In a ferromagnetic substance, there are also more electrons with spins in one direction than in the other. The individual magnetic fields of the atoms in a given region tend to line up in the same direction, so that they reinforce one another. Such a region is called a domain. In an unmagnetized sample, the domains are of different sizes and have different orientations. When an external magnetic field is applied, domains whose orientations are in the same general direction as the external field will grow at the expense of domains with other orientations. When the domains in all other directions have vanished, the remaining domains are rotated so that their direction is exactly the same as that of the external field. After this rotation is complete, no further magnetization can take place, no matter how strong the external field; a saturation point is said to have been reached. If the external field is then reduced to zero, it is found that the sample still retains some of its magnetism; this is known as hysteresis.

Evolution of Electromagnetic Theory

The connections between magnetism and electricity were discovered in the early part of the 19th cent. In 1820 H. C. Oersted found that a wire carrying an electrical current deflects the needle of a magnetic compass because a magnetic field is created by the moving electric charges constituting the current. It was found that the lines of induction of the magnetic field surrounding the wire (or any other conductor) are circular. If the wire is bent into a coil, called a solenoid, the magnetic fields of the individual loops combine to produce a strong field through the core of the coil. This field can be increased manyfold by inserting a piece of soft iron or other ferromagnetic material into the core; the resulting arrangement constitutes an electromagnet.

Following Oersted's discovery the various magnetic effects of an electric current were extensively investigated by J. B. Biot, Félix Savart, and A. M. Ampère. Ampère showed in 1825 that not only does a current-carrying conductor exert a force on a magnet but magnets also exert forces on current-carrying conductors. In 1831 Michael Faraday and Joseph Henry independently discovered that it is possible to produce a current in a conductor by changing the magnetic field about it. The discovery of this effect, called electromagnetic induction, together with the discovery that an electric current produces a magnetic field, laid the foundation for the modern age of electricity. Both the electric generator, which makes electricity widely available, and the electric motor, which converts electricity to useful mechanical work, are based on these effects.

Another relationship between electricity and magnetism is that a regularly changing electric current in a conductor will create a changing magnetic field in the space about the conductor, which in turn gives rise to a changing electrical field. In this way regularly oscillating electric and magnetic fields can generate each other. These fields can be visualized as a single wave that is propagating through space. The formal theory underlying this electromagnetic radiation was developed by James Clerk Maxwell in the middle of the 19th cent. Maxwell showed that the speed of propagation of electromagnetic radiation is identical with that of light, thus revealing that light is intimately connected with electricity and magnetism.


See D. Wagner, Introduction to the Theory of Magnetism (1972); D. J. Griffiths, Introduction to Electrodynamics (1981); R. T. Merritt, Our Magnetic Earth (2010).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Domain (electricity and magnetism)

A region in a solid within which elementary atomic or molecular magnetic or electric moments are uniformly aligned.

Ferromagnetic domains are regions of parallel-aligned magnetic moments. Each domain may be thought of as a tiny magnet pointing in a certain direction. The relatively thin boundary region between two domains is called a domain wall. Within a wall the magnetic moments rotate from the direction of one of the domains to the direction in the adjacent domain.

A ferromagnet generally consists of a large number of domains. For example, a sample of pure iron at room temperature contains many domains whose directions are distributed randomly, making the sample appear to be unmagnetized as a whole. Iron is called magnetically soft since the domain walls move easily if a magnetic field is applied. In a magnetically hard or permanent magnet material a net macroscopic magnetization is introduced by exposure to a large external magnetic field, but thereafter domain walls are difficult to either form or move, and the material retains its overall magnetization.

Antiferromagnetic domains are regions of antiparallel-aligned magnetic moments. They are associated with the presence of grain boundaries, twinning, and other crystal inhomogeneities.

Ferroelectric domains are electrical analogs of ferromagnetic domains. See Antiferromagnetism, Ferroelectrics, Ferromagnetism, Magnetic materials, Magnetization, Twinning (crystallography)

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Physics. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(1) Royal domain, hereditary land possessions of the king in the countries of Western and Central Europe in the Middle Ages. It included ancestral lands, fortresses, cities, forests, and pastures scattered in various areas of the country. It served as a fund for grants of land to the direct vassals of the king and also as the main source for the maintenance of the king and the royal court. The expansion of royal domains through the annexation of estates of large feudal lords was one of the means of strengthening royal power and eliminating feudal fragmentation. Dukes, counts, and other major feudal lords also had their own domains.

(2) Seignorial domain, part of the patrimony (or temporarily held service lands) on which the feudal lord carried on an independent (domanial) economy, using the labor of feudally dependent peasant holders or landless workers. It included arable lands (situated, as a rule, in open fields along with peasant lands), fields, orchards, structures, livestock, and tools and equipment.



in mathematics, an open connected set, that is, a set that satisfies the conditions (1) for any division of the set into two parts, at least one part contains a limit point of the other and (2) for each point in the set, some neighborhood of that point also belongs to the set. Thus, in the plane, the interior of a circle is a domain, but the set of interior points of two externally tangent circles, while open, is not a domain. A domain on a line is an open interval, either finite or infinite (seeINTERVAL AND SEGMENT). There is an infinite variety of domains in the plane. The concept of domain may be extended without change to any topological space.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(computer science)
The set of all possible values contained in a particular field for every record of a file.
The protected resources that are surrounded by the security perimeter of a distributed computer system. Also known as enclave; protected subnetwork.
The final two or three letters of an Internet address, which specifies the highest subdivision; in the United States this is the type of organization, such as commercial, educational, or governmental, while outside the United States it is usually a country.
For a function, the set of values of the independent variable.
A nonempty open connected set in Euclidean space. Also known as open region; region.
(solid-state physics)
A region in a solid within which elementary atomic or molecular magnetic or electric moments are uniformly arrayed.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. land governed by a ruler or government
2. a region having specific characteristics or containing certain types of plants or animals
3. Austral and NZ a park or recreation reserve maintained by a public authority, often the government
4. Law the absolute ownership and right to dispose of land
5. Maths
a. the set of values of the independent variable of a function for which the functional value exists
b. any open set containing at least one point
6. Logic another term for universe of discourse (esp in the phrase domain of quantification)
7. Philosophy range of significance (esp in the phrase domain of definition)
8. Physics one of the regions in a ferromagnetic solid in which all the atoms have their magnetic moments aligned in the same direction
9. Computing a group of computers that have the same suffix (domain name) in their names on the internet, specifying the country, type of institution, etc. where they are located
10. Biology the highest level of classification of living organisms. Three domains are recognized: Archaea (see archaean), Bacteria (see bacteria), and Eukarya (see eukaryote)
11. Biochem a structurally compact portion of a protein molecule
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


A group of computers whose fully qualified domain names (FQDN) share a common suffix, the "domain name".

The Domain Name System maps hostnames to Internet address using a hierarchical namespace where each level in the hierarchy contributes one component to the FQDN. For example, the computer is in the domain, which is in the domain, which is in the domain, which is in the uk top-level domain.

A domain name can contain up to 67 characters including the dots that separate components. These can be letters, numbers and hyphens.


An administrative domain is something to do with routing.




In the theory of functions, the set of argument values for which a function is defined.

See domain theory.


A specific phase of the software life cycle in which a developer works. Domains define developers' and users' areas of responsibility and the scope of possible relationships between products.


The subject or market in which a piece of software is designed to work.
This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (


(1) In a LAN, a subnetwork made up of a group of clients and servers under the control of one security database. Dividing LANs into domains improves performance and security.

(2) In a communications network, all resources under the control of a single computer system.

(3) On the Internet, a registration category. See domain name and Internet domain name.

(4) In database management, all possible values contained in a particular field for every record in the file.

(5) A group of end points (phones or gateways) in a SIP telephony environment. See SIP.

(6) In magnetic storage devices, a group of molecules that makes up one bit.

(7) In a hierarchy, a named group that has control over the groups under it, which may be domains themselves.
Copyright © 1981-2019 by The Computer Language Company Inc. All Rights reserved. THIS DEFINITION IS FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY. All other reproduction is strictly prohibited without permission from the publisher.
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