Did you know that your cell phone could become a replacement for a compass? It’s true, according to Mark Frauenfelder. GPS is not always enough, hence the continued use of magnets. Today’s compasses are so small that they can even fit into your mobile devices. The possibilities here are limited only by your imagination. Just think of it as the year of the magnet.
We’d be lost without the Earth’s magnetic field — literally. But thanks to the liquefied iron and nickel swirling around in our planet’s core, people and migratory animals have learned to use the resultant magnetic field to help them figure out where they need to go. Birds have built-in magnetic sensory apparatus that they use for navigation, but people must resort to a tool called a compass. Compasses have been used for navigation for over 2,000 years, and the basic design hasn’t changed much — a magnet on a freely rotating mount that swivels to stay parallel with the Earth’s magnetic flux lines — until the 1960s, when electronic magnetic sensors were developed.