Magnetic Monopole Confusion

On our latest show (you can listen to it here) we started with a story about magnetic monopoles. My source was this article on Science Direct, entitled “Magnetic Monopoles Detected In A Real Magnet For the First Time”.  I summarized the article, and we talked for a bit about magnetism and made some rather naive attempts to conceptualize magnetism and how a monopole would work.  I think I even mentioned a magnet that only sticks on one side at some point.

After the show, my friend Andrew (who works in engineering physics) contacted me and explained that we clearly had no clue about how magnetism really works.  This is fine, as we’re not physicists, but we probably should have clarified that we were just guessing.  However, it turns out that the magnetic monopole story has more problems.

Jesse Brydle, of CFI Vancouver, directed me to this post on “Starts With A Bang” which examines the Science Direct article and shows that they took some liberties with the actual study. It quotes from the study abstract:

While sources of magnetic fields–magnetic monopoles–have so far proven elusive as elementary particles, several scenarios have been proposed recently in condensed matter physics of emergent quasiparticles resembling monopoles.

Note that they’re not actually monopoles – they just resemble them! Clearly this is a case of overly zealous science reporting. I should’ve tracked down the original study, but you know how things go sometimes. I’ll definitely be double-checking my sources in the future!

Thanks to Andrew and Jesse for calling us on our error.  We love it when listeners make sure we’re on track!


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