Magnets are pretty basic – some poles attract, some repel, and you can use them to hold stuff up on your fridge. However, what happens when magnets can be “programmed” to react in different ways? Huntsville, Ala.-based Correlated Magnetics Research has some magnets that can do some amazing – and slightly spooky – things.

These magnets can “hold together” while still not touching, release from each other with a twist, and even act as a sort of magnetic motor. In one cool demo Stephen Straus, VP of CMR, shows us magnets that repel each other from a certain distance and then, when pushed close enough, snap together. Before you run away screaming “perpetual motion machine,” understand that the laws of physics still apply.

CMR essentially programs the magnets as they’re built and the company creates magnetic solutions for companies around the world who need to control torque and movement but want to maintain an “air gap” between metals. Fortunately, they have a web store so we can try these things at home and attempt to build wild, non-intuitive magnetic interaction machines.

By John Biggs