All physicsfun toys

Splat Pig Ball

Available in many colors and shapes: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Splat Pig 

Splat Pig Ball: water filled ball made of an extremely elastic and sticky (tacky) soft polymer. This toy can regain its initial shape after extraordinary deformation- as caught in 240 fps slow motion (see the replay). The exact chemical makeup of these splat toys seems to be a trade secret but involves the following main constituents: polymerizing styrene, butadiene napthenic oil, calcium carbonate, and hydrogenated polyterpene resin as a tackifier that allows the temporary adhesion to the surface. Similar polymers are used in toys such as wall tumblers and sticky hands.

Center of Mass Spinning Top

Available here 
From DaWanda: Magneto Gyro by Kreisel 

Center of Mass Spinning Top: any 2D shape will spin nicely if spun about an axis through its center of mass. Careful placement of stem (held in place by neodymium magnets) allows the half disk of this acrylic protractor to spin evenly. If the placement is off by even a millimeter the top will not balance. Thanks to Tim Rowett for sending me this unusual top.


LessMore Bowls

Available here: 
From Art of Play: BUY NOW LessMore Bowls 

Learn more about this illusion and its history on the Wikipedia page: Jastrow Illusion 

LessMore Bowls: (non-physics post) these serving dishes by @artofplay are a 3D version of the famous Jastrow Illusion, where the lower curve always appears larger than the top one. Note that even after we verify the bowls are the same size, our perception still misleads- a reminder that we need science to transcend the limits of our senses.

Vintage Magneto Waveform

Working vintage magnetos can be found on eBay for reasonable prices: 
From eBay: BUY NOW Vintage Bar Magneto Generators 

Lots of digital oscilloscopes on eBay as well: 
From eBay: BUY NOW Tektronix digital oscilloscope 

Vintage Magneto Waveform: 1905 tech meets 2005! Using a digital storage oscilloscope to look at the AC waveform output of a vintage 5 bar telephone magneto generator. Note that although the output voltage is periodic, it is far from the ideal AC sine wave that we learn about (like those off the mains into our homes). Faraday’s Law describes the produced current in a moving coil of copper near a magnetic field, but it takes careful engineering of the coil and field to produce a sinusoidal AC output. This digital oscilloscope calculates the frequency and peak to peak voltage, which are of course related to how fast one cranks the generator. With a peak voltage of more than 350V, these magneto generators were used to ring telephone bells up to 20 miles away because only 10% of rural US had household electricity until the 1940s. 

Bismuth Crystal Pendent

See more of Ernie's amazing creations here in his Etsy shop Element83 
From Etsy: BUY NOW Bismuth Jewelry

Bismuth Crystal Pendent: element 83 on the periodic table, bismuth becomes crystalline when melted and cooled. Reaction with air creates oxide coatings that provide the amazing Iridescent hues of yellow and blue long associated with bismuth. This piece of bismuth geode was set into a silver bezel by jeweler and artist Ernie McElhannon. 


Strobe Coin Spinning Top

These are not just tops, but works of art. Available in Copper and in Silver! 
From Shire Post Mint on Etsy: BUY NOW Copper Strobe Top 
and in one Troy once of 999 silver 
From Shire Post Mint on Etsy: BUY NOW Silver Strobe Top 

These are not just tops, but works of art. Available in Copper and in Silver! 
From Art of Play: BUY NOW 
Strobe Coin

Strobe Coin Spinning Top: beautiful coin tops made of solid copper and silver display a remarkable spinning strobe pattern when viewed on video from a smartphone. Incredible art/physics from @shirepostmint that takes advantage of aliasing and the wagon-wheel effect. The black enamel pattern on the top of the coin is specifically designed to interact with the frame rate of the video process to produce the intricate motions of the concentric circle patterns seen here, and on the back of the coin a starburst pattern provides similarly interesting effects. These coins can be spun on both sides with spin times reaching 12 minutes! The contact points are super hard spheres of silicon nitride black ceramic (Si3N4) providing a low friction bearing. 

Thaumatrope

Get a set here: 
From eBay: BUY NOW Thaumatropes 

Wikipedia has some good details on the history and operation of the Thamatrope 

Thaumatrope: the physics and psychophysics of vision in this reproduction of a toy invented in 1824. Still images flashed in rapid succession produces the the combined image of bird + cage through persistence of vision. When the image flash rate is above the flicker fusion frequency (approximately 16Hz) we perceive fluid motion- the basis for all movies and TV. ?Thanks to @artofplay for sending me this nice reproduction!


Rocking Seagull Kinetic Art

These vintage kinetic sculptures are often available on eBay. 
Follow this link to see all the Otagiri art curently available. 
From eBay: BUY NOW Otagiri Kinetic Art 

Rocking Seagull Kinetic Art: counterbalanced seagull figures swing back and forth, each with a different period of oscillation in this vintage Otagiri sculpture from 1980. Each seagull + wire + weight structure is a type of pendulum (physical pendulum) and the period of swing is primarily related to the length of the pendulum with respect to its axis of rotation (pivot point)- note that the far seagull (shortest) completes two cycles in the time it takes the center seagull (tallest) to complete one back and forth. 

Photoelastic Polymer Toys

Glitterins offers toys for young children that utilize the physics of polarization: 
From Glitterins: Polarizing toys

Photoelastic Polymer Toys: a simple polariscope designed for kids. Special gel polymer cutouts (this one in the shape of an eye) show how polarized light will reveal internal stresses with bursts of colorful light as the polymer is stretched and compressed. ?Special thanks to Pamela Saha of Glitterins for sending me this wonderful kit.

Scale Jupiter and Earth

Made by Jay Fisher and available here! 
From Shapeways: BUY NOW Jupiter 

Or buy the Solar System! 
From Shapeways: BUY NOW Scale Model Solar System

Scale Jupiter and Earth: 3D printed accurate scale model of the Earth (diameter = 0.80 cm) and Jupiter (diameter = 9.0 cm). Wonderful detail allowed by the 3D printing process reproduces the belting and storms in the Jovian atmosphere- note that the hundreds year old cyclone that is the Great Red Spot is more than twice the size of our home planet. Made by artist/maker Jay Fisher using images from NASA. More planets to come.


Mystery Orbiter UFO

Similar toys available here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Gravitron Gyroscope UFO 

From eBay: BUY NOW Gravitron Space Gyroscope

Mystery Orbiter UFO: hidden within this flying saucer shaped toy is a gyroscope, allowing it to balance at seemingly impossible angles, and causing it to precess around an axis through the contact point. The physics and vector nature of angular momentum! Blowing air through one of the three holes spins this gyroscope up. 

In-Feed Google 5


Stainless Steel Rattleback

This metal version is available here: 
From KJ Beckett: Metal Rattleback 

These acrylic versions work great and are inexpensive: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Rattlebacks 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Rattlebacks 

Stainless Steel Rattleback: prefers to spin counter clockwise. If spun clockwise, a complicated combination of friction, precession, and instability induced vibrations transforms the rotational energy into into rattling (energy of oscillations) and then into rotational energy in the opposite direction! This behavior is related to the asymmetric shape of the bottom of this kind of rattleback, it's somewhat propeller shaped with an "S" curve along the bottom ridge.

Microscope Hologram

This vintage hologram is currently available on eBay in limited quantities: 
From eBay: BUY NOW Microscope Hologram 

Microscope Hologram: This photopolymer hologram is so realistic one can look through the eyepiece! ?Using a halogen bulb as a point light source the microscope in this vintage 1980s reflective hologram pops from the page with stunning detail- and with the eye positioned just right one can see the magnified image of a small insect. 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. My favorite hologram in my collection, and it looks even more stunning in person! 

Moiré Kinetic Art

Shelley's art is available here: 
From Etsy: BUY NOW Moire Art by Shelley James 
also: See Shelley's glass work in collaboration with Mathematicians: shelleyjames.co.uk 

Moiré Kinetic Art: Entitled “Stream 2” this elegant work by Shelley James creates motion animation from Moiré pattern effects of constructive and deconstructive interference. Constructed from screen printed low-iron glass and paper, the bands appear in motion as one moves across the room in relation to the frame, and the size of the bands depend on how close the artwork one is.