A magnet is any object that has a magnetic field. It attracts ferrous objects like pieces of iron, steel, nickel and cobalt. The discovery of magnetism dates back to the ancient shepherds of Asia Minor. They noticed that the iron tips of their staffs were attracted to certain types of stones. These stones were NATURAL MAGNETS known as LODESTONES, meaning "leading stone." The shepherds also observed that the iron tips of the staffs, if left in contact with lodestones, soon acquired the ability to attract other pieces of iron. While these ancients did not understand WHY these things happened, they were observing two types of magnets, NATURAL and ARTIFICIAL.

These days magnets are made artificially in various shapes and sizes depending on their use. One of the most common magnets - the bar magnet - is a long, rectangular bar of uniform cross-section that attracts pieces of ferrous objects. The magnetic compass needle is also commonly used. The compass needle is a tiny magnet which is free to move horizontally on a pivot. One end of the compass needle points in the North direction and the other end points in the South direction.

The end of a freely pivoted magnet will always point in the North-South direction.

The end that points in the North is called the North Pole of the magnet and the end that points South is called the South Pole of the magnet. It has been proven by experiments that like magnetic poles repel each other whereas unlike poles attract each other.

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