Small Things Can Have a Big Impact

The Earth Issue

Small things add up. As you'll read in this issue of fields, that goes for the good as well as the bad.

This spring marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. In honor of that semicentennial, we've created a special section in this issue that highlights how high magnetic fields are tackling environmental challenges.


These challenges involve very small things, including PFAS (so-called "forever chemicals") and potentially poisonous petroleum molecules found in asphalt roads. Though tiny, these compounds have insinuated themselves far and wide, from the North Pole to your driveway. High-field magnets are shedding light on many other environmental issues, too, including better batteries and solar cells, more efficient conductors, microplastics, fracking fluids, historic climate change and more.

In the face of all these problems, one person can feel powerless. But every small, helpful action adds up, too. Take inspiration from the scientists we interviewed who work hard every day to make the planet better — on their off time. As scientists, they feel a special call to act, and they challenge each of us to step up in whatever ways we can.

So, Happy Earth Day. Whether you’re a scientist at an office, a lab or at heart, we hope these stories spur you to act in ways big and small to help our planet on April 22 — and on every other day of the year.

(Learn more about this issue's cover art and hunt the trash lurking across the planet).

Fields faviconLatest Stories

  • Poison in the Pavement

    Poison in the Pavement

    Spring 2020

    A deeper understanding of petroleum molecules is shedding a harsh light on how some of them behave in our environment.

  • Scientists Get Down to Earth on Climate Change

    Scientists Get Down to Earth on Climate Change

    Spring 2020

    Researchers talk about what they're doing outside the lab to protect our planet and how their training as scientists informs those efforts.

  • ’Til Death Do They Part?

    ’Til Death Do They Part?

    Spring 2020

    Some manmade chemicals feature bonds so strong they could last forever. And that's a life-threatening problem.

  • Artsy-Chartsy


    Spring 2020

    With a little imagination and editing, discoveries found using high-field magnets could fit as well on a museum wall as they do on the pages of scientific journals.

  • There's a First Time for Sciencing

    There's a First Time for Sciencing

    Spring 2020

    In the first year of this new decade, we asked researchers about their most memorable first-time experiences as scientists. Here’s what they had to say.

  • The Phew Moment

    The "Phew" Moment

    Spring 2020

    A team tackling some gnarly physics using tricky techniques rounds a critical corner. Joy ensues. Then, back to work.

  • Studying Magnets in Magnets

    Studying Magnets in Magnets

    Spring 2020

    Researchers put little permanent magnets into large electromagnets to find out how to make them better.

  • A Superconductor Full of Surprises

    A Superconductor Full of Surprises

    Spring 2020

    High magnetic fields usually kill superconductivity. But in this material, it brought it back to life.

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