All physicsfun toys

Paperclip Magnetic Top

These tops will work with a paperclip too: 
From eBay: BUY NOW  Magnetic Tipped Top

Here is a very nice version:
From Grand Illusions Ltd: BUY NOW: Magnetic Tipped Top

Paperclip Magnetic Top: the magnetic tipped top attaches to the perimeter of the paperclip- but since the top has much more mass, the paperclip is put into curious motion due to Newton's 3rd law and the top's rotational inertia. This transparent version allows full view of the moving clip. Patented in 1946 under the name Hoy-Poy Top, this antique kinetic art toy made it into my collection as a gift from the folks at @shirepostmint- thanks! 

Impossible Caged Golf Ball 

Some nice versions of this impossible object available here:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Golf Ball in Wood Cage

See more of these thought puzzles in my collection here: Impossible Objects

Impossible Caged Golf Ball: Here a regular off-the-shelf golf ball is somehow trapped within a cage made from a solid piece of hardwood walnut. Neither the ball nor the wood were cut or glued in the fabrication process. The puzzle aspect is to consider how this object was produced (I have some theories- but I do not know the secrets of this artist).

Sphalerite Phosphorescence 

Samples of this glow-in-the-dark mineral available here:
From eBay: BUY NOW: Phosphorescent Sphalerite

You will also want a powerful UV flashlight:
From Amazon: BUY NOW: High Power UV Light

Phosphorescence: in daylight this rock looks like an ordinary stone, but when illuminated with long wave ultraviolet light, patches of the mineral sphalerite will glow orange and dramatically fade after the light is turned off- due to the process of the zinc sulfide molecules in the mineral absorbing a UV photon and the delayed quantum transition which emits the lower energy orange photon. One of a few glow-in-the-dark naturally occurring rocks! This sample came from the Nelly James Mine near Miller Peak in Arizona.


Impossible Dovetail

Inexpensive versions of this "impossible box" like that in the video avaiable here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Impossible Box Puzzle

Impossible Dovetail: this impossible object is pretty common, but it is a classic, and included in my collection. If one assumes a regular dovetail joint then this construction would indeed seem impossible without cutting and gluing, but what one sees from the sides makes for misleading assumptions as this box opens easily. Swipe for reveal once you’ve thought about about possible constructions. 

The Levimoon

Get a levitating moon globe lamp here! 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Levitating Moon Globe Lamp

The Levimoon: this detailed moon globe is an adjustable lamp that levitates! Charged through wireless induction via the base, the moon floats above the Earth while illuminated from the inside to reveal the major features of the lunar surface, and will rotate when given a slight push. This kind of levitation uses a control system with an adjustable electromagnet in a feedback loop with Hall effect sensors which allows for fine tuning of the magnetic field to exactly balance the pull of gravity. 

Rainbow Twirler

Get one here: 

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Rainbow Twirler

Rainbow Twirler: shaped by angular momentum and centripetal acceleration- when the speed of the ribbon is faster than the flicker fusion frequency of human vision it looks like a bubble. As the rotation speed increases the shape flattens- similar to the way the Earth bulges due to its rotation. Found this fun motorized base for this item in a toy store last week.


Square Dissection Puzzles

Get these and other well made disection puzzles here:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Square Dissection Puzzles

These puzzles are expertly laser cut and sold by GamesEfce. I spray-painted the pieces of mine to better show the shapes and relationships for the video. 

Square Dissection Puzzles: a square can be cut (dissected) into polygons and then reassembled into other regular polygons. Shown here: an equilateral triangle, a pentagon, and a hexagon. These are the record holders for smallest number of pieces needed: triangle (4 pieces by Henry Dudeney 1902), hexagon (5 pieces Paul Busschop 1870s) and pentagon (6 pieces Robert Brodie 1891). Fun fact- It is not known if any of these records are the smallest possible, no mathematical proofs yet exist on this question.

Unmixing Density Column

The bottle used here is from Voss Water: a nice cylinder and the labels come off easily. Amazon has the ingedients:

From Amazon: BUY NOW 
acetoneblue glitterfood coloring, Voss Water

The density column I made for this video is based on blend of two ideas: this "science snack" from the exploratorium: Klutz-Proof Density Column and this ChemED X post: Blog of Prof. Tom Kuntzleman  

See my Salt Fractionation post for details. 

Unmixing Density Column: three liquids that won’t stay mixed! Acetone (dyed blue) floats on top of the higher density vegetable oil, which in turn floats atop salt water (dyed orange) which is more dense than oil. Acetone usually dissolves in water through hydrogen bonding interactions, but solubility can be altered. In a process called “salting out” a sufficient amount of salt is dissolved such that the water molecules, which are much more attracted to the resulting Na+ and Cl- ions (through ion-dipole bonds), will then ignore the weaker acetone hydrogen bonds. This results in the spontaneous separation of these three liquids no matter how well shaken up. 

In Defiance of Gravity

Neodymium magnets will produce the largest gap when suspending a nail or other iron rich objects.
Please use exterme caution when handling these magnets. 

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Neodymium Super Magnet

In Defiance of Gravity: a 3 oz plumb bob in suspension between a chain and a powerful neodymium magnet. Ferromagnetic attraction over a distance of many millimeters, and a reminder of the presence of the typically invisible electromagnetic forces all around us. Sculpture: oak, stainless steel chain and hardware, neodymium super magnet, standard plumb bob tool. Iron filings in oil align and chain together to reveal the magnetic field lines of the equilibrium configuration.


The Orb Drop IV

A new KickStarter campaign from engineer and maker extraordinaire Rian Suiter. Rian has delivered on each all 11 (eleven!) of his creative physics toy related KickStarter campaigns to date. Check out his latest here: 
From KickStarter: Order NOW Orb Drop IV marble run track 

The Orb Drop IV: @orbdrop has created another fun DIY marble run- this one uses an Archimedean screw mechanism to bring the marbles continuously back to the top where they are launched along one of three paths- including a vortex funnel. Gravitational potential energy is transformed to the kinetic energy of the orbs as they loop and negotiate the banked turns of the snaking tracks. Three AA batteries and a small motor power the transport assembly. 

Gas Collection for Emission Spectra

I made the display holder and I got this set of gas tubes here (about $7 per tube): 
From eBay: BUY NOW 
Gas Pure Element Samples 

Here is the miniture tesla coil used in the video:
From engineDIY: BUY NOW: Mini Tesla Coil

The breakdown voltages of the elements featured in this post are described by Paschen's Law: 
 
Here is a excellent article with an overview of the physics of glow discharge and its application in lighting and other technologies. 

Gas Collection for Emission Spectra: pure samples of hydrogen, nitrogen and five noble gasses are subjected to the high frequency pulsed field of a miniature Tesla coil. Each gas has a characteristic breakdown voltage and emission spectrum- note that Nitrogen has the highest breakdown voltage and only glows when very near the coil where the field is most intense whereas Neon and Helium have the lowest breakdown voltage and begin to glow many centimeters away from the coil. The color of each gas is due to a mix of the colors emitted from electron energy transitions specific to each element- the basis of spectroscopy. The Krypton tube also exhibits interesting oscillations with this particular Tesla coil. 

Advanced Gyro Hybrid Spinning Top

Get one from David Fowler's shop: 
From PhysicsHack: BUY NOW: Advanced Gyro
Made with extraordinary craftsmanship and high quality materials, and sold at a very reasonable price! 

See also this other device by Mr. Fowler: Vortex Dome

Hybrid Gyroscope Top: the Advanced Gyro is a new design by @physicshack which exhibits a interesting vertical stability phenomenon when placed on this unique stand with three ball bearings that serve to minimize friction and keep the gyro centered. The top defies gravity, due in part to its angular momentum, and its spin axis slowly rises to a stable vertical position from subtle rolling friction interactions with the ball bearings. No pull cord needed, this unique design spins up via friction with a working surface (thin cardboard works well) and applying a circular motion to bring the rotor up to 1000s of RPM. Machined from solid stainless steel this top weighs in at about half a kilo, providing inertia that produces long spin times. Thanks to inventor/designer David Fowler for sending me this fantastic gyro. 


Pendulum Clock

Affordable gravity powered pendulum clocks available here in a number of styles:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Pendulum Clock

The version featured in the video is the: Hermle Ravensburg Clock

Gravity Powered Pendulum Clock: invented in 1656 by Christian Huygens, the physics properties of a swinging pendulum was the basis of all precision clocks until the 1940s. As noted by Galileo, the period of swing of a pendulum can be made very precise and stable depending only on its length. This modern version is made faithfully in the original design powered only by gravity as the potential energy of the descending weight is transferred to the kinetic energy of the drive train gears and pendulum. The key feature of any pendulum clock is the anchor escapement mechanism- a curved piece attached to the pendulum with two prongs that only allows the escapement wheel to move forward one tooth per swing cycle, and producing the characteristic “tick-tock” sound. The weight descends about 1 cm per hour, and when hanging from a wall the chain needs to be pulled once a week, raising the weight up about 2 m to keep the clock in operation. This beautiful clock, made by Hermle, features a chime that sounds upon the hour. 

Stirling Engine

Get this very nice working model engine here, choose a configuration:

From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Stirling Engine 
From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Stirling Engine with Generator
From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Stirling Engine Simple Vehicle  

Stirling Engine: an elegant model of an external combustion heat engine with dual reciprocating pistons which operates by cyclic compression and expansion of air. Heat one cylinder with the cute little alcohol burner and this model gets up to speed quickly. Pyrex glass allows one to view the hot cylinder in operation (shown here in slow motion) and this version of the model includes a small generator to convert some of the mechanical energy into electrical energy which then powers some LED lamps. This design is attributed to Scottish engineer Robert Stirling back in 1816- a working piece of the industrial revolution for your desk top!

 

Hyperbolic Holes

This inexpensive kit available here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Hyperbolic Holes Kit

Hyperbolic Holes: a straight rod, in this case a pencil, glides through a symmetrical pair of curved holes. The design is based on the hyperboloid, the 3D ruled surface traced by an offset rotating diagonal line. This device is sold as an inexpensive kit to assemble yourself, and includes a motor with geared drive and pre-cut pieces. The pencil is my addition- sharpened to just the right size to clear the curved openings.


Tea Candle Steam Engine

Get one from these fine sources: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Tea Candle Steam Engine 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Tea Candle Steam Engine 

Other interesting engines available here: Simple Heat Engines

Tea Candle Steam Engine: a functional piston steam engine complete with boiler and flywheel. Takes about 2 minutes to get going after the candle is lit. The invention that powered the industrial revolution on a desktop! Made by Wilesco. 

Pop Pop Boat

Get one here: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Pop-Pop Boat 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Pop-Pop Boats 

Wikipedia has the details on the physics and history of this little steamboat toy 

Pop-Pop Boat: birthday candle powered, super simple steam engine named after the sound it makes when operating. The engine is just a metal box, heated by the candle, with two pipes coming out of it. Steam builds up pushing water out with an explosive pop- which then creates a vacuum sucking more water in to repeat the process. Patented in 1915 these were very popular in the 1940's.