Magnetic field

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A magnetic field is a field of force produced by moving electric charges, by electric fields that vary in time, and by the 'intrinsic' magnetic field of elementary particles associated with the spin of the particle. There are two separate but closely related fields to which the name 'magnetic field' can refer: a magnetic B field and a magnetic H field. The magnetic field at any given point is specified by both a direction and a magnitude (or strength); as such it is a vector field.[nb 1] The magnetic field is most commonly defined in terms of the Lorentz force it exerts on moving electric charges.

The relationship between the magnetic and electric fields, and the currents and charges that create them, is described by the set of Maxwell's equations. In special relativity, electric and magnetic fields are two interrelated aspects of a single object, called the electromagnetic field tensor; the aspect of the electromagnetic field that is seen as a magnetic field is dependent on the reference frame of the observer. In quantum physics, the electromagnetic field is quantized and electromagnetic interactions result from the exchange of photons.

Magnetic fields have had many uses in ancient and modern society. The Earth produces its own magnetic field, which is important in navigation since the north pole of a compass points toward the south pole of Earth's magnetic field, located near the Earth's geographical north. Rotating magnetic fields are utilized in both electric motors and generators. Magnetic forces give information about the charge carriers in a material through the Hall effect. The interaction of magnetic fields in electric devices such as transformers is studied in the discipline of magnetic circuits.


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