All physicsfun toys

Phase Locking Folk Toy v5.0 

Versions of the Gee Haw Whimmy Diddle available from these sources:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Hooey Stick Folk Toy
From eBay: BUY NOW Hooey Stick Folk Toy

See the other versions in my collection here: Phase Locking Folk Toys

Phase Locking Folk Toy v5: a final post in this series featuring the “Magic Twin Helicopters” toy that I found in a shop at the Tokyo airport a few years back. A helicopter themed version of the hooey stick, this time with the four rotor blades serving as the propellers. Rubbing the stick over the notches creates both vertical and horizontal vibrations- and leads to a cyclic motion of the struts in the center of each of the propellers, which begin to rotate (with some effort). See previous posts for more info on this folk toy with surprisingly complex physics.

Vibration Unthreading

Get inexpensive small motors and accesories for DIY projects here:
From Amazon: BUY NOW DC Motors Kit


Vibration Unthreading: a DIY project to see if just shaking a bolt at the right frequency could make a standard nut rotate and fall off. I believe the mechanism is based on similar physics to the phase locking propeller toys featured in my recent posts. Motivated by videos seen on Instagram where a brass bolt is placed in magnetic putty and the nut mysteriously rotates up and off- now convinced that vibration is how that effect is produced. Here a small DC motor spins an offset mass to produce the vibrations. 

Spark Science

Cake decoration sparklers available here:

Fron Etsy: BUY NOW: Small Sparkler Fireworks

Spark Science: the bright flashes of light emitted from a common sparkler are tiny bits of burning iron metal which can be caught and collected with a simple piece of paper as a net. These tiny metal bits are hot (more than 1000 °C, 1800 °F) and become molten where surface tension then pulls them into spheres before they cool- seen here at 300x magnification. Although the sparks are very hot, they can’t burn paper (or skin) because they carry very little thermal energy due to their tiny mass- they cool very quickly. Fun firework physics!

Magnetic Top and Curious Forms

This top and moving cutout set will be part of the very next Curiosity Box:
Get (or give!) a Curiosity Box subscription here: JOIN NOW: The Curiosity Box

Magnetic Top & Curious Forms: this fantastic physics toy will be coming in the very next @thecuriositybox (Order today!)— The magnetized tip of the spin top connects to a smooth metal cutout, but since the top is much more massive, the metal cutout moves creating the curious motion. This kinetic art toy takes advantage of Newton’s 3rd law and rotational kinetic energy. The Vsauce team has created this amazing version of the classic “top & snake” physics toy from the 1950s- and the supplied cutouts include a spiral, an abstract form with triangular symmetry, and a snake! 

Spring Launcher Toy

Get these inexpensive toys here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Spring Launcher Monsters

Spring Launcher Toy: spring force vs. suction cup, or more specifically, Hooke’s law vs. fluid pressure of air. Initially the spring remains compressed (with potential energy stored) due to some part of the always present 14.7 pounds per square inch of air pressure pressing down on the flattened elastic cup. The toy suddenly launches when enough air leaks past the imperfect seal and reduces the partial vacuum under the cup, so that the spring can overcome the force of the fluid pressure of the air- rather catastrophically! So much physics behind this common toy. 

Magic Portal Illusion Redux

Get one, expertly printed and assembled, here:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Magic Portal Illusion Desk Toy

Or print it yourself: 3D Print Files: Magic Portal Desk Toy

Magic Portal Illusion Redux: another look at this new illusion I’ve been obsessed with where it appears as though these colorful strands are passing in and out of a 4th dimension- the illusion seems even stronger when operated along the horizontal. The mechanical principle employed is similar to that of a lead screw and slider type actuator, except here translating the slider back and forth rotates the helical strands at just the right rate to produce the illusion. An amazing 3D print creation of Ada Cohen, expertly printed and assembled by Alex L. Kling.

Sandscape Spontaneous Stratification 

Get this particular sand kinetic art here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Sandscape Kinetic Desk Toy

Click here for more amazing types of kinetic sand art. 

Sandscape Spontaneous Stratification: a striking feature of this sand motion desk toy is the formation of striped layers. Typically pouring stuff together results in further mixing, yet here, when the sand mixture descends through a gap, the resulting pile is ordered into sorted layers. The larger rounded dark grains separate from the smaller sharp-edged white grains forming the layers you see here. The darker grains alone would stack into a steeper pile (larger angle of repose) than the white which would form a less steep pile. 

Drop & Pop

Available from these fine sources: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Dropper Popper
From Amazon: BUY NOW Drop and Pop Toys

Drop & Pop: stored elastic energy. The elastic potential energy of the inverted rubber is released upon impact sending the half-sphere to hit the ceiling. Upon impact the popper reconfigures back to its original shape in the blink of an eye, shown here recorded at approximately 480fps.

Septarian Sphere Fluorescence 

Similar mineral carvings available here:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Phosphorescent Septaria

You will also want an awesome UV flashlight like this one:
From Amazon: BUY NOW: High Power UV Light

Septarian Fluorescence: When exposed to long wavelength UV light, this polished sphere of septarian nodule glows brightly like some alien planet. Septarium nodules can be described as a 50+ million year old fossilized mud bubble which contain honey calcite (which fluoresces in pale green), bands of dark brown argonite that glow pale white (with an eerie afterglow from phosphorescence when the UV light is switched off), within a limestone matrix. 

Spin Shades Turbine Lamp

These vintage lamp kits are available here:

From eBay: BUY NOW; Spin Shades Lamp Kits

Spin Shade Turbine Lamp: a simple kit that transforms any 4 Watt night light into kinetic art. Energy transfer: electrical energy heats the filament of the bulb which then supplies heat to give kinetic energy to the rising air which then gives rotational kinetic energy to the turbine/lamp shade. 

Andrew's Space Wheel

This vintage 1970s item available now on eBay 
From eBay: BUY NOW Andrews Space Wheel 

Andrew's Space Wheel: kinetic art desk toy from the 70s- the rotor will stay in motion for weeks, until the hidden 9V battery is depleted. The rotor has a magnet at the end of each spoke- a coil and circuit identical to that of the "Top Secret" mystery top that I've posted about gives these magnets a push as the rotor passes through the middle- conservation of energy and angular momentum does the rest! 

Perpetual Dolphin Wheel

This vintage 1970s item often available on eBay 
From eBay: BUY NOW Andrews Space Wheel

Perpetual Dolphin Wheel: another kinetic art desk toy from the 70s- the rotor will stay in motion for weeks, until the hidden 9V battery is depleted. The rotor has a magnet embedded within each dolphin- and an extremely simple and ingenious circuit within the base (comprised of: a coil, a battery, and one transistor), senses the approaching magnets and energizes the coil to gives these magnets a push as the rotor passes through the middle. Similar to the Andrew’s Space Wheel, this device also takes advantage of conservation of energy and angular momentum to sustain the motion. 

Trinitite Glass

Samples of trinitite are still available:
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Trinitite Sample

Amazingly these Victoreen CD V-700 Geiger counters made in the 1960-70s still work great. Detetect the invisiable world of radioactivity with a piece of history! Make sure to buy the model 700, it's the only model that can detect low-level radaition sources:
From eBay: BUY NOW: CD Geiger Counter

Trinitite Glass: more nuclear physics history- a vintage Civil Defense Geiger counter detects a few ionizing tracks per minute at close range (but hardly any a few centimeters away- so not dangerous if handled appropriately). This green glass was produced by the heat of the very first atomic explosion, on July 16, 1945, and the gamma ray radioactivity picked up by the Geiger counter is mostly from Americium 241, Cesium 137, and Europium 152- three of the longer lived radioactive fission products from plutonium used in the “Gadget” device. The 25 kiloton explosion melted a centimeter thick layer of the desert sand out to a radius of a kilometer, and this glass contains isotopes that reflect the particular chain reaction unleashed that day

Personal Geiger Counter

Get this affordable device here:

From eBay: BUY NOW: Affordable Geiger Counter

Personal Geiger Counter: this amazingly affordable detector will sense a wide range of invisible ionizing radiation using a Geiger-Müller tube the size of a ballpoint pen. Here the counter is clearly sensing the radiation from the Thorium 232 found in some (older) lantern mantles. Th232 is a naturally occurring radioactive element which decays to Lead (Pb208) through a complicated decay chain involving gamma, beta, and alpha particle emissions. This device is from Russian old stock surplus and currently sold by vendors in the Ukraine.

Tritium Gas Lamps

Get these tiny continual glow lights here:

From eBay: BUY NOW: Betalights

Tritium Gas Lamps: mini-glow sticks that emit light for 12+ years- without recharging by a light source. More nuclear physics fun! A phosphor coating shines due to activation by beta radiation from radioactive tritium gas in the vile. Tritium (Hydrogen with two neutrons accompanying the proton in its nucleus) is unstable with a half life of 12.32 years and only emits beta rays (high speed energetic electrons) which are stopped by the glass and plastic- when these electrons impact the Zinc Sulfite (green phosphorescent pigment) they stimulate the green glow just as UV photos would, making the little vile glow constantly and continually. Other pigments can produce glow in other colors, but green seems the brightest. 

Am-241 in Wilson Cloud Chamber

I found this vintage apparatus on eBay. Here is a similar device made for classroom demonstrations (a bit pricey though): 
From 3B Scientific: BUY NOW Wilson Cloud Chamber 

Diffusion cloud chambers that use dry ice are more affordable: 
From eBay: BUY NOW Diffusion Cloud Chamber 

Wikipedia has nice descriptions of Am-241 and the history and operation of Wilson Cloud Chambers 

Am-241 in Wilson Cloud Chamber: the typically invisible ionization tracks of alpha particles emitted from a radioactive source are revealed in this miniature expansion type cloud chamber. When an americium nuclei disintegrates it ejects a high speed cluster of protons and neutrons (2 of each) called an alpha particle which then plows through the air creating a trail of ions, tearing electrons off any nearby molecules it passes by. A rapid decrease of pressure (releasing the squeeze bulb) drops the temperature in this chamber allowing cloud formation. Alcohol droplets prefer to condense on ionized molecules/atoms and so reveal the tracks. Amazingly the synthetic element americium-241 is found in common smoke detectors, where a few micrograms will emit thousands of alphas per second. Of course please use great caution if you choose to mess around with any Am-241- it’s safe inside the smoke detector, much less so if removed. 

Lithophane Color Einstein Portrait

Get a color lithiphane here: (photo of your choice)

From Etsy: BUY NOW: 3D printed full color lithophane

Lithophane Color Einstein Portrait: in celebration of the great physicist and his monumental discoveries this portrait is a modern take on the lithophane technique from the 1820s- but updated via modern 3D printing to produce full color images through selective absorption and transmission of light. Traditional lithophanes produced gray tone images by shining light through a translucent substance, initially porcelain, where thicker regions absorb the light and appear dark gray, and thinner regions look light gray. 3D printing allows a new method for producing this art form with amazing detail, where layers of colored plastic, applied in the right sequences and thicknesses, can produce lifelike and artistic results. Another amazing 3D print by Alex L. Kling! ➡️