USA Politics are more polarized than usual these days. What does polarized actually mean? The pole is a fundamental concept that gives rise to a vast swath of physical science. Poles are discussed early in the study of electromagnetism—essentially the second half of classical physics.
Earth spins on an axis—an imaginary line that passes through the north and south poles.
Actually, the axis doesn’t pass through the magnetic poles.
Earth has a magnetic field. Magnetism arises from charges in motion. Molten iron churns in Earth’s core.
Metals, like iron, often have an abundance of delocalized electrons. Electrons have negative charges. It’s the motion of these charges that most likely creates Earth’s magnetic field.
The north magnetic pole is a bit off from the axis.
The same is true for the south magnetic pole.
Here’s the confusing part: Earth’s geographic north pole is actually a magnetic south pole, and the geographic south pole is a magnetic north pole.
Why do we call Earth’s magnetic south pole, the north pole? Because an independent magnet’s north pole, points north on Earth. (A compass is just a magnet that rotates about a central point–an axis–with minimal friction.) The north pole of a magnet is attracted to the south pole of other magnets. The arrow of a compass points at Earth’s south pole. That arrow is on the north pole of the independent magnet; hence, we call that direction north.
I guess we could say the south pole is on the tail of the arrow, but there is a better, simpler way to describe whats happening. It doesn’t matter what point you specify on a magnet. The field passing through the magnet points in one direction.
Notice that the arrows leave the north pole and enter the south pole. This is what’s called a convention. Conventions are arbitrary things. We could just as easily assume field lines leave south pole and enter north poles. It doesn’t matter. We do need to agree on one or the other so we can communicate about magnetic fields without needless confusion.
Magnetic fields exist inside of magnets too. Remember: magnetic fields come from charges in motion. Most magnets are made of metals. Metals have more mobile charges than other types of materials. The magnetic fields arise from small regions called domains that sometimes align. When the domains point in the same direction, the material is magnetized.
North and south poles are a false binary reference systems to help us explain magnetic fields. The only crucial characteristic of a magnetic field is direction. (Actually, magnetic field strength is important too, but not necessary in this post.)
USA has a two-party system. Each party serves as a pole of sorts: the Republicans are at one, and the Democrats occupy the other. Partisans at each extreme believe they have philosophies that clearly distinguish themselves from the opposition. We could say the Republicans stand over the south pole while Democrats reside at the northern extreme. It could be the other way, too. Political poles suffer from some of the similar confusing conventions that we see with magnetic poles.
Political poles are similar to magnetic poles in that they don’t really exist other than a means to explain–and complicate in some ways–a more simple phenomenon. For magnetism, poles help us understand magnetic fields. Political poles help us understand historical progress in the distribution and dispensation of power–this is commonly known as governance.
Republicans are typically classified as conservative, while Democrat are pegged as liberals. Conservatives are leery of change while liberals are more eager to make progress–liberals are sometimes called progressive too. Political progress is similar to a magnetic field line in that it points in one direction. Conservatives and liberals both advocate progress; truly, they differ only in the preferred rate of change. Conservatives like the way things have been done in the past: they know what works and they think it’s best to stick to the tried and true as we move forward in history. Liberals advocate for a quicker pace and they are keen to experiment with new ideas on how to govern.