As both magnets and gravity cause attraction, it is easy to mistake both forces as the same. However, the fact is that both are entirely different forces in nature. To better understand the difference between magnetism and gravity, let’s take a look at some key differences between the two forces.
Primary source of attraction – As explained by Albert Einstein, gravity is a key characteristic of space-time fabric. Einstein said that all objects with mass create ripples in the space-time fabric, which in turn is observed as gravity. Gravity applies to any two objects with mass, even though it may not be noticeable for small objects. Gravity is also independent of the type of material the object is made up of.
In comparison, magnetism is produced due to motion of electrons. Every atom has electrons that rotate around the nucleus to create electric current. In effect, every electron functions like a microscopic magnet. However, the force of magnetism varies depending on the type of material. For example, non-metallic objects like paper, cloth, etc. have an equal number electrons rotating in opposite direction. This neutralizes the overall magnetic power of that substance. In comparison, metals like iron and nickel have most electrons rotating in same direction. This is why these can be easily magnetized using a strong magnet.
Poles – As you may be aware, every magnet has South Pole and North Pole surfaces. This is due to the earth’s magnetic field that has north and South Pole. The inside of the earth is considered to be made up of molten iron. As the earth spins on its axis, it creates an electromagnetic field around it. In comparison, gravity is not governed by poles. It is only based on the mass of two objects.
Opposites attract – When we consider gravity between two objects, the end result is only attraction. In comparison, magnets may attract or repel based on their North Pole or South Pole. If you bring positive and negative sides of two magnets in front of each other, the result will be attraction. Vice versa, if you try to bring together negative + negative or positive + positive surfaces together, the magnets will repel each other.
Last but not least, magnetism is a reversible process. To demagnetize a magnet, various methods can be used such as heating the magnet, applying force to the magnet, placing the magnet in a reverse field, or just leaving it there for a long time. So, magnetism is something that can be created and destroyed. In comparison, gravity is a universal force and it cannot be reversed as long as the two masses exist.