Science Kit, and others, sell a little box filled with mineral oil with suspended iron filings in it. This box has a hole through the middle to allow the insertion of a "cow" magnet - that's a small cylinder magnet. It shows a 3-D magnetic field. Very cool stuff. However, it costs $154.00!! I have a 99¢ solution. Obtain
With a pair of good scissors, cut the steel wool into small strips no longer than 1/8 inch. (If you have fine iron filings, it's cool) Now, drop the steel fibers into the baby oil bottle. Shake a little. You should see the fibers basically floating around the oil evenly. Now, bring the magnet close to the bottle. You will be able to view a fine 3-D pattern! It's so cool! The fibers, due to there own weight will begin to settle after a while, so shake the bottle periodically.
You can place the cylinder magnet in a small test tube and actually immerse it into the oil in the bottle. MUCH cooler affect than holding the magnet to the outside of the bottle. This way, you actually have the magnet surrounded. [Thanks to an audience member at the 2000 NJ Sci Teacher's Convention for the suggestion!]
MARRIAGE SAFETY NOTE : If you keep one of these around - a bottle of baby oil with iron fibers in it - do yourself a favor and label it boldly with "skull & crossbones and radioactive triangles and sirens and stuff! Case in point: My wife stays at the Jersey shore for the summer (while I work for a living, she works on a tan....tuff job, huh?). She came home one day for some special event and had a slight sunburn. So, being the dutiful husband, I offered to rub oil on her shoulders and back to help. See where this is headed? I grabbed the only oil I could find. Yep, the one with the iron fibers in it. Can you imagine the surprise I got when my gesture of compassion produced a shrieking she-devil? Geez. You'd think that rubbing iron fibers into burned flesh hurt or something. I became very comfortable sleeping on the couch for the next week or so till all those little fibers worked their way out of her skin. What a sissy! So, warning given.
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