I'm not a science geek--and by that I mean I'm not smart enough to be a science geek--but for those of you who are, give the magicians behind Polymagnets about 10 minutes, and they will blow your minds.
At least that's what I'm told.
Polymagnets are "programmed" magnets whose magnetic fields have been manipulated, calibrated, and completely customized in machines built by Larry Fullerton and his team at Correlated Magnetics. The machines are able to combine many magnetic fields to precision-tailor their subjects into performing tricks and tasks no conventional rare-earth magnet can.
If you skip to about 5:50 in the video above, you'll see a pretty nifty Polymagnet latch concept in action. Two magnets are aligned, and seemingly repellent on a spool. You know the drill: press them together as hard as you can, but they will not touch. However, the Polymagnets' field design has been tweaked such that when you turn the top magnet just a few degrees, they attract and snap together. So tightly you cannot pull them apart unless you turn them back the other way. Potential (and according to Smarter Every Day in the video, "game-changing") applications include latches for doors and cabinets.
Fullerton's first "smart" magnets emerged from an idea for a toy for his grandchildren; he wanted to be able to assemble the magnetic parts inside a box by simply shaking it. He ultimately created the toy by arranging his magnets in patterns / "codes" he knew from his background in wireless communications and signal processing theory.
Polymagnets are available for purchase in 6 families, each of which exhibits a different general behavior and performs a different function, such as Align, Latch, Spring, and Couple. Once you choose your magnet type, you'll select your desired attach force, size and shape, alignment features, etc. The filters will return all of your Polymagnet choices. General price range is $1 to $6 apiece.