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What is the fundamental difference between an electric dipole and a magnetic dipole?

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If a magnet is carefully and repeatedly cut, it would expose two new faces with opposite poles such that each piece would still be a magnet. This suggests that magnetic fields are essentially dipolar in character. The most elementary magnetic structure always behaves as a pair of two magnetic poles of opposite types and of equal strengths. Hence, analogous to an electric dipole, we hypothesize that there are positive and negative magnetic charges (or north and south poles) of equal strengths a finite distance apart within a magnet. Also, they are assumed to act as the source of the magnetic field in exactly the same way that electric charges act as the source of electric field. The magnitude of each ‘magnetic charge’ is referred to as its ‘pole strength’ and is equal to qm = \(\frac{M}{2 l}\), where \(\vec{M}\) is the magnetic dipole moment, pointing from the negative (or south, S) pole to the positive (or north, N) pole.

However, while two types of electric charges exist in nature and have separate existence, isolated magnetic charges, or magnetic monopoles, are not observed. A magnetic pole is not an experimental fact: there are no real poles. To put it in another way, there are no point sources for \(\vec{B}\), as there are for \(\vec{E}\); there exists no magnetic analog to electric charge. Every experimental effort to demonstrate the existence of magnetic charges has failed. Hence, magnetic poles are called fictitious.

The electric field diverges away from a (positive) charge; the magnetic field line curls around a current. Electric field lines originate on positive charges and terminate on negative ones; magnetic field lines do not begin or end anywhere, they typically form closed loops or extend out to infinity.


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