Scientists have discovered a brand-new kind of magnet hiding out in a uranium compound.
The compound, USb2 (a compound of uranium and antimony), a so-called "singlet-based" magnet, is novel in that it generates magnetism in an entirely different way than any other magnet known to scientists.
Electrons, which are negatively charged particles, generate their own tiny magnetic fields. These fields have a "north" and "south" pole, a consequence of a quantum mechanical property known as spin. In most objects, these magnetic fields point in random directions, canceling each other out. (This is why your body isn't a giant magnet.) But in certain materials, those fields become aligned. When that happens, they create a magnetic field powerful enough to, for example, move a bunch of iron filing around or cause a compass to point north.