A couple of years ago, I was moved to a new cubicle at work. While cleaning out and moving into my new desk, I found 5 small magnets, all the same size and shape. Here’s what one looks like:

1 magnet 2

Now, I apologize, my pictures aren’t that great. There’s no reference for size here. The magnets are about an inch long, so they’re really not that big.

Magnets are really cool. Set them one way, and they snap together and stick together, like magic. Twist them the other way and they push apart, or twist back around all by themselves (like magic!) so they can stick back together they way they want. You can use one magnet to push another magnet around your desk without touching the second magnet. Place two magnets on either side of your fingers and have them stick there, defying gravity, seemingly sticking to your fingers, but really to each other. It’s like it’s magic or something.

They’re a great way to pass the time while on a long, boring conference call you have to be on but aren’t expected to actually participate in.

The other day, one of these magnets broke. Just about in half. Snap. As seen below:

2 magnets 1

I wish it were easier to see exactly how the broken edges line up. Here’s another picture:

2 magnets 3

Maybe this picture isn’t any better. Hopefully you can tell that these two pieces of magnets are set out the way they used to fit together. Like I said, my photos aren’t that good. Maybe if you squint?

So, you might think that if you nudge these pieces toward each other, they’ll snap together, and magic magnetic forces will hold those two pieces together as if they were one magnet again.

Nope. If you thought that, then you, like me, would be wrong. Nudge them toward each other, and one of them will flip around and they’ll stick together, but not like before. Instead, they’ll look like this:

2 magnets 2

Here’s another view:

2 magnets 7

As you might be able to see, the pieces aren’t sticking together cleanly. That’s because they are no longer pieces of the same magnet, they are now two separate magnets. With their own individual magnetic fields. One entity has now become two entirely independent entities. I found this amazing. I had 5 magnets, and now I have 6.

I find magnets amazing. What makes them work? Where do magnetic fields come from, and what gives them the energy to move themselves and/or other objects? What gives them the energy to defy gravity?

I want to learn more about magnets. One of the several possible story ideas I had that I wrote down and did nothing with (yet, hopefully) involves an alien race that ventures out into space and even develops planet wide and solar system wide engineering. Without developing electricity or internal combustion engines. No electricity, no rocket engines, no computers. Lights and control panels are not as we know them. Everything is mechanical. Gears and levers, pulleys and cables. I haven’t figured out all the details yet, since I haven’t actually done any work on it, so there are a lot of questions. What do they do for light? Air circulation? Temperature control? Propulsion? I don’t know. Like I said, I haven’t figured it out yet. Perhaps they can use the magical properties of magnets for some things. Not electromagnets of course, just normal magnets. Who knows? If I ever get around to writing about it, maybe I’ll find out.

So, anyway, I was thinking about the broken magnet and for some reason, I start thinking about mirrors. I realized that mirrors had something in common with magnets. If you have a mirror, and look into it, you see one reflection. If you break that mirror into two pieces, you now have two reflections. Even if you hold those pieces together, the same as before you broke it, and you look into it, you are not looking at a reflection of your face. You are looking at two different reflections of your face. Two different reflections of the world. One mirror has become two. However many pieces you break a mirror into, that’s how many separate, independent mirrors you end up with.

Now mirrors and magnets become separate independently functioning (albeit smaller) versions of themselves when broken. What happens when someone’s mind is broken? Sometimes, when faced with tragedy or trauma, the mind splinters. Sometimes the mind splinters into several different minds. Separate and independent minds, personalities, and memories, all residing in the same person, the same brain.

Sometimes just a part of the mind breaks, such as the memory. The mind might take a memory and lock it away to where it cannot be accessed. One memory has become two.

One last thought to think about for tonight – What happens when someone’s heart is broken? If a heart breaks, are there now two hearts?

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