Talent 2030

Physics and fashion – what’s the link?



Physics and fashion are probably two industries you would never expect to meet but this time they do, and expect more from both sides of the pond too. Physics enthusiasts may not be the first people to turn to for fashion advice but they can most certainly take credit for a popular nail craze – magnetic nail polish .

It sounds like a genius way to fake magical powers; zapping paper clips towards your hands without having to pick them up,  but magnetic nail polish refers to a traditional-looking polish that makes interesting patterns if it dries in the presence of a magnet.

There are different kinds of magnetic nail polish, but in general you apply one coat of the polish and let it dry, and then apply a generous second coat one nail at a time. After applying the second coat of polish to a nail, you hold a magnet (often built into the lid of the bottle) directly over the polish for about 10 seconds and the pattern emerges.

So how does it work? Nail polish manufacturers mix iron powder in with the polish. The colour of polish looks uniform when it is painted on, because at that point the iron is evenly distributed within the polish. However, when a magnet is placed near the polish, the bits of iron are attracted and repelled by the magnet and each other, and form a pattern just as the iron filings do in the lab. The pattern that appears on the nail depends entirely on the arrangement of magnets and where you place them above the nail. Of course nail polish is just one of the many applications of magnets, but it is one that is a lot of fashion fun!

Have you heard of magnetic nail polish before, do you have some? What do you make of the craze?

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