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Gravity vs. Magnetism — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Maham Liaqat — Published on February 24, 2024
Gravity is a universal force of attraction between masses, fundamental to the structure of the universe, while magnetism is the force exerted by magnets when they attract or repel each other, crucial in various technological applications.
Gravity vs. Magnetism — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Gravity and Magnetism


Key Differences

Gravity, a fundamental force, acts between all masses in the universe, dictating the motion of planets, stars, and galaxies, and influencing the structure of the cosmos itself. Its strength depends on the mass of the objects and the distance between them, following Newton's law of universal gravitation. Magnetism, on the other hand, arises from the motion of electric charges, affecting only materials sensitive to magnetic fields, such as iron, nickel, cobalt, and certain alloys. It plays a critical role in electrical and electronic devices, from simple compasses to advanced data storage systems.
Gravity is always attractive, pulling objects together, while magnetism can either attract or repel, depending on the orientation of the magnetic poles. This duality allows magnets to do work, like driving electric motors or levitating trains (maglev). Gravity’s influence is omnipresent but weak compared to electromagnetic forces, including magnetism, which is why we can use a small magnet to lift a paperclip against the entire Earth's gravitational pull.
The source of gravity is mass and energy, according to Einstein's theory of general relativity, which describes gravity not as a force in the traditional sense but as a curvature of spacetime caused by mass and energy. Magnetism, however, originates from the spin and orbital motion of electrons around an atom and the alignment of these elements in certain materials to create a magnetic field.
In terms of range, gravity has an infinite range, affecting objects across the vast expanse of the universe, whereas magnetism tends to have a more localized effect, with the strength of the magnetic force decreasing rapidly with distance from the source. Despite their differences, both forces are integral to the functioning of the universe and our daily lives. For instance, gravity is essential for keeping planets in orbit around the sun, while magnetism is key to the Earth's magnetic field, protecting us from solar radiation.
Applications of these forces vary widely. Gravity is crucial in astrophysics, planetary science, and for understanding the universe's large-scale structure. Magnetism finds its applications in technology, including electrical engineering, digital data storage (like hard drives), and medical devices (such as MRI machines).

Comparison Chart


Universal force of attraction
Force from electric charges’ motion

Acts On

All masses
Magnetic materials

Force Type

Always attractive
Attractive or repulsive


Mass and energy
Spin and orbital motion of electrons


Decreases with distance, relatively local


Structure of universe, planetary orbits
Electrical devices, Earth's magnetic field


Astrophysics, planetary science
Electrical engineering, data storage

Compare with Definitions


A force attracting two masses.
Gravity keeps the planets orbiting around the sun.


A force from moving electric charges.
Magnetism allows a compass needle to point north.


Essential for planetary orbits.
The Moon remains in Earth's orbit due to gravity.


Can attract or repel objects.
Opposite poles of magnets attract, like poles repel.


Weak but universal force.
Gravity affects all objects, regardless of their size.


Localized effect but powerful.
Magnetic fields can lift objects many times their weight.


Explained by Einstein's theory of general relativity.
Gravity bends the fabric of spacetime around Earth.


Essential in technology.
Hard drives store data using magnetic fields.


Influences the large-scale structure of the universe.
Gravity causes galaxies to cluster.


Originates from electron motion.
Electrons spinning around an atom create magnetic moments.


The natural attraction between physical bodies, especially when one of the bodies is a celestial body, such as the earth.


The branch of science that studies magnetism


Gravitation, the universal force exercised by two bodies onto each other.


The class of phenomena exhibited by a magnetic field.


The state of having weight; beaviness; as, the gravity of lead.


The study of magnets and their effects.


The science which treats of magnetic phenomena.

Common Curiosities

How do magnets work?

Magnets work by aligning the magnetic moments of electrons in materials, creating a magnetic field that can attract or repel certain metals.

What is the main difference between gravity and magnetism?

Gravity is a universal force acting between all masses, always attracting, while magnetism affects only magnetic materials and can both attract and repel.

Why is gravity considered a weak force?

Compared to electromagnetic and nuclear forces, gravity is much weaker; it's significant only at large masses or cosmic distances.

Is Earth's magnetic field related to gravity?

Earth's magnetic field is generated by movements in its core, independent of gravity, but both are essential for life on Earth by providing orientation and protection from solar radiation.

How do gravity and magnetism influence life on Earth?

Gravity holds the atmosphere and oceans in place and influences climate, while Earth's magnetic field protects against solar and cosmic radiation.

Can we use magnetism to counteract gravity?

In specific applications like maglev trains, magnetic forces can counteract gravity to achieve levitation and frictionless movement.

Are there materials that can block gravity or magnetism?

While there's no material that can block gravity, materials like mu-metal can shield against magnetic fields.

What role does gravity play in the universe's expansion?

Gravity acts as the attractive force that shapes the structure of the universe, influencing the expansion rate and the clustering of galaxies.

Can magnetism affect gravity?

Magnetism does not directly affect gravity, as they are distinct forces; however, both contribute to the universe's physical phenomena.

How are gravity and magnetism measured?

Gravity is measured using gravimeters, which detect variations in gravitational pull, while magnetism is measured with magnetometers, detecting strength and direction of magnetic fields.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Maham Liaqat

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