All physicsfun toys

Tensegrity Icosohedron Toy: The Skwish

Available here in a variety of colors and wood types:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Kwish Tensegrity Toy

Tensegrity Icosahedron Toy: an architectural engineering inspired toy for tots- believe it or not this design is sold as a toy for babies: the Skwish rattle by the Manhattan Toy Company. Six wood struts float isolated from each other but held in a stable configuration by a net of 24 connecting elastic cords. This configuration of three sets of parallel struts forms a Jessen’s icosahedron under tension, and was invented by the famous architect Buckminster Fuller in 1949. A physics toy for ages 0 and up! 

Star Wars Digital Hologram

In 2015 these sold for $250 for the stand and hologram! Still with limited availability here and a bit cheaper in price: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Star Wars Digital Hologram 
From eBay: BUY NOW Star Wars Digital Hologram 

Star Wars Digital Hologram: full color digital holography brings to life “A New Hope: Death Star Battle” using the latest technology in 3D imaging. This hologram image is comprised of 734000 hogels (hologram pixels) and comes with its own display stand that illuminates from below. Unlike photographs, holograms are recordings of the interference pattern of light waves. This interference pattern can encode moving 3D images which are revealed by illumination by a point source of light and viewing from an appropriate angle. The latest hologram in my collection, and it looks even more stunning in person. 

Climbing Sphere Spiral Illusion

I bought this kinetic illusion at the Exploratorium Museum back in 1995. Not sure if this model is still available anywhere. Here are some available kinetic illusions that operate on the same principle: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Spiral Spinner Illusion 
From eBay: BUY NOW Spiral Spinner Illusion 

Climbing Sphere Spiral Illusion: hanging by string the rotational motion of the helical spring creates translational motion downward along the vertical direction- however, the ball is often perceived to be rolling upward through the coil.

Acrylic Refraction Art

Vasa Mihich's gallery offer this piece for sale and others: 
Gallery of Vasa Mihich 

Also often available on eBay: 
From eBay: BUY NOW Art by Vasa Mihich 

Acrylic Refraction Art: “Block with Five Colors” by Vasa Mihich. Vasa’s art utilizes refraction, reflection, and color mixing to produce sculptures that dramatically change character depending on the angle from which they are viewed. 

Refraction Vanishing Act

This glass device is available from this shop in Germany: 
From BUY NOW Vanishing Glass Demonstration 

Refraction Vanishing Act: the liquid (immersion oil) in this glass tube has the same index of refraction as the glass. When the oil covers the glass rod inside the tube, the rod becomes invisible! Immersion oil is used with high resolution microscopes and designed to have the same index of refraction as the glass slide and objective lens. This physics puzzle demonstration was handcrafted by a glass maker in Germany and is sold by experimentis, the online shop for physics. 

In-Feed Google 3

RGB Color Addition

These Light Blox are available in this nice kit from Laser Classroom, a science education supplier: 
From Laser Classroom: Light, Color and Shadow Kit 

Wikipedia has a fantastic introduction on the topic of RGB Color Theory 

RGB Color Addition: three LED light boxes demonstrate the additive nature of colored light. Mixing Red, Green, and Blue to create Yellow, Magenta, and Cyan. An object casts shadows showing the following mixings: R+G=Y, G+B=C, and R+B=M. Adding all three R+G+B produces White (a little pinkish here as the Red is a little bit bright for complete white balance). RGB color addition is the basis for all computer and TV displays- all the colors you are looking at right now on your screen are made from adding pixels of R G and B in different proportions and intensities!

Andris Tri-Zonal Space Warper

Available here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Andrus Tri-Zonal Space Warper 
From eBay: BUY NOW Tri-Zonal Space Warper 

Magician and professor of psychology Richard Wiseman describes the genius of Jerry Andrus and the psychophysics of the Space Warper

Andris Tri-Zonal Space Warper: Stare at the center of the spirals for at least 15 seconds- the next thing you look at will appear to be in motion. This spinning disk top features the famous illusion by magician Jerry Andrus that demonstrates aspects of the physics and psychophysics of our visual perception- specifically the part of our brain that detects motion. The effect is even stronger in person than in the video.

Airplane Glory

Wikipedia has this introduction to the phenomena of the Aircraft Glory 
For a detailed discussion with math, see this entry from the Physics Stack Exchange 

Airplane Glory: optical phenomenon that forms rings of color in the clouds- in this case around the shadow of my 737 flight, and is not the same physical process as that of a rainbow. Airplane glories are produce only by very tiny droplets (tens of visible light wavelengths across) in the cloud, and arise due to complex process called wave tunneling, where the electromagnetic waves that make the colors are induced in the drop by a photon only passing close by its surface. Interestingly, the exact details of this phenomenon is still an active area of research! Caught this out the window returning yesterday from a national science teachers convention in Atlanta. 

Mirror Anamorphosis

This image by István Orosz is available as a poster and as a puzzle: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Mysterious Island Puzzle 
From BUY NOW Mysterious Island Poster 

For those who want to see the math behind this art, here is an initial paper on the topic published in 2000 in the American Journal of Physics: Anamorphic Images by Hunt et al. 
Many books are available (with mirror cylinders) from Amazon: Anamorphic Art in Books 

Mirror Anamorphosis: this famous print by artist István Orosz has a hidden anamorphic image revealed by placing a mirrored cylinder over the depiction of the moon in the image. The work visualizes a scene from the book “The Mysterious Island” by the science-fiction author Jules Verne- whose portrait emerges in the reflection on the cylinder. The math describing this mapping is quite complex and was given in detail in a physics journal in 2000, but before that Martin Gardner described the math in 1975. Repost for this week’s theme as I head to G4G! 

Balance Drinking Vessel

Get a set here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Balance Cups

Balance Drinking Vessel: physics meets design in this stainless steel cup- when empty the cup tilts to one side, but when full it stands straight. The walls of this spherical vessel are hollow, asymmetric, and weighted, designed with the center of mass displaced from the symmetry axis such that the empty cup rests in stable equilibrium at a 23 degree tilt. The addition of mass (pouring a drink) within the offset interior of the cup places the center of mass (cup + contents) onto the symmetry axis allowing an upright stable equilibrium. Designed by Katja Hoeltermann for Carl Mertens design of Solingen Germany. 

Tumble Rings

I made this set of tumble rings from reading Martin Gardner's description in his famous mathematical recreations books- highly recommended: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Knots and Borromean Rings by Martin GardnerDescribes the Tumble Rings 

From Amazon: BUY NOW Books on recreational math and puzzles by Martin Gardner Lots of physics and math toys in these pages! 

Tumble Rings: the links in this chain are connected in a special way such that the top ring appears to tumble to the bottom- a compelling illusion! 

Pluto Globe by MOVA

Available here: 
From BUY NOW Pluto MOVA Globe 

Wikipedia has a wonderful summary of the 2015 Pluto flyby and the complete mission of the New Horizons space probe. 

Pluto Globe by MOVA: simulate the historic 2015 Pluto flyby of NASA’s New Horizons space probe with this self rotating detailed image of the dwarf planet’s surface. Each MOVA rotating globe is sealed within a clear liquid filled acrylic sphere. The rotation is powered by light that shines through the semi-transparent Pluto globe on to solar cells inside the globe which drive a motor. But what does the motor push against to maintain the rotation? Believe it or not it uses magnets to push against the Earth's magnetic field like a compass needle. Love this clever device. With thanks to @movaglobes for sending me this amazing globe. 

Pet Tornado

This vintage item is out of production. Here are some similar times based on whirlpool vorteces: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Vortex Lamps

"Pet Tornado": whirlpool powered by a magnetic stirrer (like those in a chemistry lab). The knob on the side has settings F1 through F5 ? One of my sillier toys- but vortices are just so cool.

Optical Trick Portraits

If you are ever in Florence be sure to visit the Galileo Museum and see the original- as well as a collection of Galileo's telescopes and experiments. 
Visit: Museo Galileo 

Optical Trick Portraits: Hold a flat mirror up to this painting of Charles III, Duke of Lorraine, to reveal his daughter Christina in this 1593 work by Ludovico Buti. A very early example of lenticular images, Gioco Ottico hangs in the Galileo Museum in Florence as part of the Medici Collections. I got this toy version from the museum gift shop a couple months ago. 

Volumes of Constant Width

Get a set of Reuleaux solids here: 
From Shapeways: BUY NOW Volumes of Constant Width 

Volumes of Constant Width: these shapes have constant diameter no matter their orientation and will roll like spheres between two planes- note how the acrylic plate stays parallel to the table top. Two of these three solids are based on the Reuleaux triangle and the other on a Reuleaux pentagon.