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Watch This Blob of Ferrofluid Multiply Faster Than the Sorcerer’s Apprentice’s Broomstick

Ferrofluids are pretty much the coolest thing ever

smithsonian.com

Ferrofluids—surely some of the most fascinating substances in the world—are liquids that can become strongly charged and do crazy things when affected by a magnetic field. For instance, look at this. This is wicked:

Little bits of easily magnetized material, like iron, says USCB, are mixed in a liquid. When a magnet is brought nearby, the whole thing just goes nuts, taking on complex shapes and structures.

But they aren’t just beautiful. For Science NewsAndrew Grant explains how ferrofluids can actually help us learn things about the natural world.

In nature, molecules such as proteins can autonomously warp and fold themselves into new arrangements. Scientists want to create self-assembling synthetic structures that are as dynamic and versatile as the natural ones that drive life.

Physicist Jaakko Timonen at Aalto University in Finland and colleagues figured they could do that with ferrofluids, liquids that contain suspended magnetic nanoparticles and behave in strange ways when exposed to magnetic fields.

So, take a glob of ferrofluid, apply a magnetic field that slowly gets stronger over time and you get… this:

It sort of looks like dividing cells, but really it’s just the ferrofluid balls trying to maintain their even spacing in the presence of the ever-stronger external magnet.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Anti-Gravity Machine for Levitating Fruit Flies

About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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