Magnetism and gravity
Teaching Guidance for 5-11 11-14
Gravity is not related to magnetism
Wrong Track: We are pulled down onto the Earth's surface by gravity. Gravity works because the Earth is like a giant magnet which attracts things to the surface.
Right Lines: Gravity is not related to magnetism.
Forces associated with the Earth
Thinking about the learning
This is a common conflation. Children know that magnets are associated with a magnetic force and that there is magnetism associated with the Earth. When a mechanism is sought to explain gravity, magnetism therefore becomes an obvious candidate.
The gravitational force and magnetic force are different in nature, as an example shows.
Imagine two magnets: the magnetic force between them will and two attracting and repelling (depending on the orientations), whilst the gravity force between them will always be attractive.
Now imagine two non-magnetic bars of identical mass to the magnets: there will be no magnetic force between them (whatever the orientation of the bars), but the gravity force between them will still always be attractive, and of the same value as before.