Friday, August 3, 2012

Modern Day Animal Magnetism

I mocked animal magnetism back here. But if it hadn't been for Franz Mesmer and mesmerism, Michael Faraday wouldn't have tried to debunk its resurgence. Because Faraday discovered so many properties of electricity and magnetism, James Clerk Maxwell felt compelled to describe electromagnetism mathematically. Maxwell inspired everybody and led indirectly to a host of predictions and experiments including those by a young Dutchman named Pieter Zeeman who surreptitiously conducted experiments for which he was fired (he later won the Nobel Prize for those experiments). Zeeman's work inspired Johannes Stark's work which in turn inspired Wolfgang Pauli, who in turn inspired Isidor Rabi to propose that certain atomic nuclei should resonate with radio waves when placed in a magnetic field. This idea led to the development of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) after the Second World War by Felix Bloch and Edward Purcell. NMR led directly to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

So the basic truth of what Mesmer tried to do--to heal people with magnets--turned into healing people with the help of magnets.


  1. I do understand how the MRI works, however there are the persistent charlatans who put bar magnets on the heads if the sick, wave crystals about (there must be chanting to cause the magic trick to work) and possible put a tetrahedron (pyramid) over the patient's heart.

    Those who are cured, rise and walk attribute the cure to magnetism and pseudoscience.

  2. You're missing the irony, Kimball. Intentional?

    Anyone ever tell you that you look like someone well known?


    Other potential uses for magnets that Maxwell never considered...


    Breaking Bad - The television series for bad chemists (better living through chemistry?).

  5. Birds and fish probably use the earth's magnetic field to navigate on migration.

  6. Birds and fish probably use the earth's magnetic field to navigate on migration.

    Not only just the magnetic field, but also the Zeeman effect which is what got me interested in stringing all those names together: link