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Pointing North Category: Geography
Dated: 2009-10-19
Did you know that the Earth acts like a giant magnet and attracts other magnets towards its north pole?  Try this experiment with two needle-magnets to see how the Earth pulls on magnets.

Steps to taken

1.  Float a small piece of paper in a bowl of water and rest a needle-magnet on it.  When the needle is still mark which way it points.
2.  Now do the same with the second needle-magnet.  Both needles should point the same direction, which is along a north-south line.

How to find north

To find out which end of your needle-magnet points north, you can either use a compass or you can use your shadow.  Go outside at midday on a sunny day.  If you are north of the equator, your shadow will point north.  If you are south of the equator, it will point south.

Difference between magnetic North pole and the Geographic North pole

During the 15th Century it was realized that the magnetic North Pole and the Geographic North Pole were not exactly in the same place. The small angle between the two is known by seamen as “the variation”. Some experts have claimed, however, that the Chinese were already aware of the existence of variation as early as the 11th Century. Again, in the 15th Century, it became apparent that the earth itself was a great magnet.
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  • Water
  • A Bowl
  • A Compass
  • Two Small Pieces of Paper or Sliced Cork
  • Two Needle-Magnets (refer to experiment - Make Needle-Magnets)