Experiments are teasing out new details about the unique properties of ‘magnetic monopoles’
Magnetic poles are seemingly inseparable: Slice a magnet in half, and you get two smaller magnets, each with its own north and south poles. But exotic magnetic particles that flout this rule may be lurking undetected, some physicists suspect.
The hunt is in full swing for these hypothetical particles known as magnetic monopoles — which possess a lone north or south pole. Now, two groups of researchers have further winnowed down the particles’ possible masses and characteristics, using data from particle accelerators and the corpses of stars.
There’s good reason to suspect magnetic monopoles are out there, some physicists suggest. The particles’ existence would explain why electric charge is quantized — why it always seems to come in integer multiples of the charge of an electron instead of a continuous range of values. As a result, magnetic monopoles are popular. “A lot of people think they should exist,” says James Pinfold, a