Nice question! Here's my answer!
No, a magnet will not always fall on the same
side--it depends on the magnet and on its
For most magnets in most places, the magnet
will fall the same way that a non-magnetic object
would fall. This is because the falling magnet
will only feel a magnetic force if it is inside a
magnetic field. These magnetic fields are
created by other magnetic objects or by moving
electrically-charged objects. When you are farther
away from that object, its magnetic field gets
weaker. So even if there is a strong industrial
magnet in the next room, you probably won't be
able to tell by dropping a magnet.
Still, there are other ways to detect weak
magnetic fields. A compass works because the
magnetic tip of the needle feels a force from the
Earth's magnetic field. Since the core of the
Earth is so far away, this magnetic field is very
weak. But as long as all the other forces on
the needle are weaker, the magnetic force from the
Earth will move the compass needle until it is
aligned with the magnetic field.
Why doesn't the magnet feel a force from its
own magnetic field? When an object is
aligned with a magnetic field, it will not
feel any force (no matter how strong that field
is). This is why the magnet doesn't have a force
from its own magnetic field--it is already aligned
with it. It's also why the needle of a compass
stops moving when it is pointing north, because
then it is aligned with the Earth's magnetic
field. That's why we say the Earth's magnetic
field points north.
It's easy to test your question. You can take a
refrigerator magnet and try dropping it starting
from different angles. You should see that the
magnet will fall just like a non-magnetic object,
because it is not in a magnetic field (or,
technically, the field is too weak to notice).
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