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Physics  2002 

A closer look at the hysteresis loop for ferromagnets - A survey of misconceptions and misinterpretations in textbooks

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Abstract:

This article describes various misconceptions and misinterpretations concerning presentation of the hysteresis loop for ferromagnets occurring in undergraduate textbooks. These problems originate from our teaching a solid state / condensed matter physics (SSP/CMP) course. A closer look at the definition of the 'coercivity' reveals two distinct notions referred to the hysteresis loop: B vs H or M vs H, which can be easily confused and, in fact, are confused in several textbooks. The properties of the M vs H type hysteresis loop are often ascribed to the B vs H type loops, giving rise to various misconceptions. An extensive survey of textbooks at first in the SSP/CMP area and later extended into the areas of general physics, materials science and magnetism / electromagnetism has been carried out. Relevant encyclopedias and physics dictionaries have also been consulted. The survey has revealed various other substantial misconceptions and/or misinterpretations than those originally identified in the SSP/CMP area. The results are presented here to help clarifying the misconceptions and misinterpretations in question. The physics education aspects arising from the textbook survey are also discussed. Additionally, analysis of the CMP examination results concerning questions pertinent for the hysteresis loop is provided.

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