All physicsfun toys

Planetary Gear Train

From Rail and Oak: the Esty shop of Logan Needham 
From Etsy: BUY NOW Planetary Gear System 

Planetary Gear Train: with non-circular gears! This piece of kinetic art features a 6-sided Sun Gear, six 3-sided Planetary Gears, all held within the 12-sided space of the Annular Gear. The video captures three of the many interesting modes of these epicylic gear systems: 1) holding the sun gear fixed while rotating the annular gear allows the planetary gears to orbit, 2) pinning the planetary gears such that they can spin (but not orbit) allows the sun gear to go in the reverse direction of the annular gear, 3) holding one planetary gear fixed produces curious motion- note that although the other planetary gears move they do not spin about their axes! Situation 2) is how reverse gear is accomplished in the transmissions of many vehicles. Thanks to Logan Needham (@pillagethenburn) for the ingenuous display stand that allows full demonstration of this work of physics and engineering art.

Oil Drop Timer

Get one here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Dolphin Timer 

Oil Drop Timer with Dolphins: immiscible fluids of different densities stay separate under gravity with the lightest density on top. The density of the plastic dolphins is greater than the density of the top fluid but less than the density of the bottom fluid, so they stay at the boundary in equilibrium. The dolphins have a metal weight in their tails so that the buoyant force will keep them upright even as the liquids trade places (2 minutes shown in time-lapse). Archimedes' Principal at work here at multiple levels. 

Vortex Marble with Gilson Opal Sphere

Similar art glass available here: 
From Etsy: BUY NOW Vortex Marbles 

Vortex Marble with Gilson Opal Sphere: glass art intersects with the physics of optics in this spectacular piece from lampworking master Raven Copeland aka @madglasser -The clear glass face acts as a convex lens giving the illusion that the spiral goes deeper than the diameter of the marble. The illusion is even stronger in person and I'm still trying to figure out how Raven produces the amazing 3-D background features. 

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Benton Hologram

These are available on eBay! 
From Ebay: BUY NOW Star Trek Rainbow Hologram 

Benton Hologram: also called a rainbow hologram which are often embossed on foil as means of production. Commonly found on credit cards and forms of currency as a method of anti-counterfeit security, this hologram of the Starship Enterprise is an especially nice example of this hologram type with striking 3D effect. Here the motion is produced by moving the point source of illumination (a halogen lamp). Amazing what manipulation of light interference can create! 

Balancing Bottles

Get one here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Balance Bottle Dock 

Balancing Bottles: serve with physics style this season displaying this design where the combined center of mass of the wine rack and two bottles is directly above the base of the wood rack- because sometimes it takes two bottles of wine to bring life into balance! ?? 

Magneto Top

Available through Indiegogo here: 
From Indiegogo: ORDER NOW Tesla's Insight 

Magneto Top: a top that generates electricity and lights LEDs when spun. This top contains a strong dipole magnet which becomes the rotor in this alternator set up. A 1000 turn coil in the base can be adjusted so that the rapidly changing magnetic field of the top will induce an AC current in accordance with Faraday's law. The intensity of the light emitted from the LEDs in the base indicates how much current is being generated. Special thanks to Tobi Lee of @fireflylabs for sending me one of his Tesla's Insight tops. 


Available here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Wobblo Toy 

Wobblo: curious kinetic art toy- a hollow plastic torus contains a rolling heavy steel ball within. The motions of the center of mass of the ball and torus combine dynamically- the resulting curious motion is related to the interplay between the exchange of kinetic and potential energy and conservation of angular momentum of the system. The concave mirror keeps the toy from rolling out of frame for the video. A simple system that leads to interesting and complex motion.

Balance Squid

3D printed in your choice of color here: 
From Shapeways: BUY NOW 
Balance Squid 

Balance Squid: everyone’s seen the balance bird- so how about a balancing cephalopod? The weight of the primary tentacles create a center of mass below the squid’s beak- making a system in stable equilibrium on its custom stand. No magnets! 

Gallus Lamp

Available here: 
From Grand Illusions: BUY NOW 
Gallus Lamp 

Gallus Lamp: the flame slants and rotates in this unique Swiss design. The glass of the lamp channels the convection and three inlets in the brass base direct the inflow of air into a slow swirl. Lovely engineering and physics of thermodynamics. 


Magic Vortex Marble

The astonishing art of Raven Copeland, aka the madglasser: Buy a marble here! 
From Etsy: BUY NOW Vortex Marble artwork of Raven Copeland 

Magic Vortex Marble: glass art intersects with the physics of optics in another spectacular piece from lampworking master Raven Copeland aka @madglasser -The clear glass face of the marble acts as a convex lens giving the illusion that the spiral goes deeper than the diameter of the marble. A Gibson opal seems suspended in space above the unique vortex- see the @madglasserInstagram stream for more from his Magic Marble series. The vortex depth illusion in these is even stronger in person! 

Infinity Star Mirror

Sold as a tree topper: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Infinity Star Tree Topper 
Similar products sold here: 
From eBay: BUY NOW Star Infinity Mirrors 

Infinity Star Mirror: parallel partially mirrored panes create the illusion of depth through the physics of reflection and refraction. Found this physics toy in the holiday decoration section at my local Target store- ? sold as a tree topper ?

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Magnetic Suspension Pencil Topper

Made by HogWild Toys 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Skydiving Pencil Topper (Sold out everywhere as of 12/20/2017 it seems) 

Magnetic Suspension Pencil Topper: super silly physics today- skydiving cow, dog, and pig on the top of your pencil. A magnet on the top of the plastic arc attracts a magnet inside each skydiver, keeping them in suspended equilibrium against gravity, free to spin at the top of a nylon tether. Love the goggles on these critters. 

Photicular 3D Animation Book

Kainen and Kaufmann now offer four books in this series- all amazing! 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Photicular Animation Books 

Photicular 3D Animation Book: the foremost in lenticular image technology produces these looping motion images that look like videos on a computer screen. This amazing book of 8 astonishing moving images is the creation of photographer/artist/inventor Dan Kainen where the moving images use Kainen's patented process where a specially processed image slides under a thin film of lenticular lenses. Writer Carol Kaufmann puts each image into context incorporating fun science facts appropriate for kids yet informative to all. 


This ornament comes complete with an LED to light the images and a Vince Guaraldi Trio soundtrack! 
From Amazon: BUY NOW 
Snoopy Skates Praxinoscope Ornament 

Praxinoscope: this Hallmark brand tree ornament brings Snoopy to life using a century old animation technology. The praxinoscope and its predecessor, the zoetrope, both demonstrate the physics and psychophysics behind motion animation- still images flashed in rapid succession produce the illusion of motion through persistence of vision. The ring of 8 mirrors is crucial to creating the illusion allowing visual stimulus of each image for a short duration like a flip book- without these pauses only a blur is perceived. When the image flash rate is above the flicker fusion frequency (approximately 16Hz) we perceive fluid motion- the basis for all movies and TV.