All physicsfun toys

Tesla's Egg of Columbus

Get this amazing (and affordable) reproduction here:
From engineDIY: BUY NOW: Tesla's Egg of Columbus
This version comes with a 35mm solid aluminum sphere. 

Get the aluminum phiTOP "egg"  here: BUY NOW phiTOP 

Tesla’s Egg of Columbus: an aluminum ellipsoid egg (PhiTOP) mysteriously spins and stands upright in this modern version of Tesla’s famous demonstration from the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago that first showcased the principles behind wireless power transfer and his AC induction motor. The base has no moving parts- instead special copper windings (very similar to Tesla’s original design) form four electromagnet coils on a circular steel core, and a special circuit supplies each with AC currents in such a way that a rotating magnetic field is created. This rotating magnetic field from the coils under the concave glass induces electric eddy currents to flow in the aluminum ellipsoid- these currents then create their own magnetic field which oppose the initial fields underneath and pushes the ellipsoid to spin. Finally, the ellipsoid top stands up vertically (when spun with sufficient rotational velocity) due to physics similar to that of the tippe-top. 



Balancing Wine Rack

Find similar wine racks here: Balancing Bottles

Balancing Wine Rack: a physics souvenir from my recent visit to Spain. I found this interesting metal version of the well known balancing wine rack which came complete with a cut out silhouette of the coat of arms of Madrid- El Oso y el Mandroñoa (Bear and Strawberry Tree). Suspended by this rack is a delicious red blend from northern Catalonia. Such suspension is due to the physics of placing the center of mass of the rack/wine bottle system directly over the base providing unstable equilibrium to enable the balancing act. 

Simple Polarimeter and Polarization Art

This DIY device is part of the polarization kit that you will get from a MEL Physics subscription:

Subscribe to: MEL Physics (click to see the contents of this great kit). 

Simple Polarimeter and Polarization Art: another amazing experiment from the MEL Physics polarization science kit. Geometric patterns of overlapping cellophane tape with color revealed when viewed with linear polarizing filters- create your own polarization art! This kit provides two linear polarizing sheets that when oriented at 90 degrees creates this device that reveals rainbows hidden within the patterns of polarization in the light transmitted by various objects. In the first video the layers of cellophane rotate the polarization of some light frequencies more than others. In the second video the polarimeter colorfully reveals the trapped internal stresses created in many plastics from their formation process (typically cooling of a liquid in a mold). All items shown included in this kit (plus much more). 

Two Marble Puzzle

Great versions of the puzzle avaliable:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Two Marble Puzzle, or get this set of puzzles
From Etsy: BUY NOW: Two Marble Puzzles

Similar 4 marble version of this puzzle available here: 
From Etsy: BUY NOW Four Marble Puzzle  

Two Marble Puzzle: physics brain teaser- move both marbles to their top locations on each side simultaneously. The solution to this puzzle relies on some fun basic physics principles- can you figure out which ones? Swipe to reveal solution. Found this well made version of this classic physics puzzle at a gift shop in San Francisco (note Golden Gate Bridge motif).

UFO Mirascope

Similar devices available here:

From Curiosity Box: BUY NOW: Mirascope with tiny Orange Octopus
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Mirascope 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Mirascope 

UFO Mirascope: two parabolic mirrors create a 3D image above the actual object. The image of the tiny alien made here is not a hologram and is produced solely by reflection of light rays between special concave mirrors. Love the space saucer theme on this version. The mirascope design principle was discovered circa 1969 by Landry and Elings at UC Santa Barbara.

Magnetic Soma Cube

Get this inexpensive SomaCube here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Magnetic Soma Cube

Magnetic Soma Cube: a new fun variant of the famous math toy invented by Danish scientist and artist Piet Hein, who claimed that this puzzle came to him as he was listening to a lecture on Quantum Mechanics by Werner Heisenberg (yes- that Heisenberg). The seven pieces of this puzzle are all the ways 3 or 4 cubes can be joined such that the piece has at least one inside corner. In this version small magnets are encased in cleverly designed cavities such that they will always flip over to attract a counterpart in another puzzle piece, allowing the puzzle to stick together- or hang from the side of the refrigerator. Amazingly there are 240 ways to make the cube from these 7 pieces- still not that easy! 

Floating on Mercury

See my other posts: cautious fun with mercury

Here is a discription of the artwork by the artist Calder himself.

Floating on Mercury: metal mercury (Hg) is liquid at room temperature, and it is 13.5 times more dense than water- more dense than many other metals. US coins float on its surface! This demonstration was inspired by the Mercury Fountain of Calder (swipe to see in action) that I posted about a few days ago. In one historical account it was mentioned that visitors at the 1937 World’s Fair would toss coins into the fountain (as folks like to do) and were then astonished that the coins did not sink into the liquid- and hundreds of French francs were skimmed off the surface each day. Caution: contact with the skin and breathing vapors are to be avoided with mercury- make sure to have proper training when investigating this hazardous material. 

The Colorizer

Get the Colorizer and lots of fun artwork here:

From BUY NOW: The Colorizer

The Colorizer: Our perception of color depends not only on the pigments and dyes embedded in objects and artwork, but also on the frequency of the illuminating light. The Colorizer uses multiple LEDs to morph the intensity (and mix) of the emitted frequencies through various rhythmic patterns- which then animate any still image comprised from a bright color palette. Swipe for a few examples. A creation of Miles Warren of ColorimetryLights. Images: 1- Zebra (Loren Shaw) 2- Colorimetry logo 3- Pentomino Tiling 1.0 (R Hall) 4- AlienPattern (Brent Johnson)

Matsuyama's Paradox

Get this and other amazing math puzzles here:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Missing Square Puzzle

Matsuyama’s Paradox: dissect a large square in to four equal quadrilaterals, rotate and reassemble- to find a small square is missing! Where did the additional area come from? Fun math involved in the design of this puzzle, which illustrates how the concept of area can often challenge our intuitions. Swipe to compare the two assemblies. A precision crafted puzzle by Jeux Efcé game shop. Wikipedia has good details: Missing square puzzle

Moravian Star Lamp

Get a star lamp here:

BUY NOW: Herrnhut Star Lamps

Moravian Star Lamp: recently I was traveling trough Munich where I discovered this beautiful geometric holiday decoration throughout the airport (swipe for photos). The star has 26 points with the geometry of a stellated rhombicuboctahedron which produces 8 triangular points and 18 square shaped points. Also called Herrnhut Stars these decorations have been a traditional part of the holidays for more than 160 years where the first stars where constructed by a mathematics instructor at a Moravian church boarding school as part of a geometry lesson. 

Stellated Dodecahedron of the Sagrada Familia

Similar 3D printed form:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Stellated Dodecahedron

Stellated Dodecahedron of the Sagrada Familia: another amazing application of aesthetic geometry encountered in my travels to Barcelona. The latest addition to the continued construction of Antoni Gaudi’s design was placed upon the Tower of the Virgin Mary in 2021, an illuminated stellated dodecahedron made of glass. Swipe to see a photo and the impressively detailed model of the spire featured in the on-site museum. I purchased this 3D printed model of the star in the museum gift shop

Kinetic Sandscapes by KB

Sandscape art from Klaus Bösch available here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Sandscapes by KB

Follow this link to learn more about Mr. Bösch's art (since 1988)

Kinetic Sandscape: by Klaus Bösch, aka “The Sandman”, the originator of the sand+water+bubble form of these kinetic art pieces. The phenomenon of spontaneous stratification is a striking feature of these Sandpictures. Typically pouring stuff together results in further mixing, yet here, when the sand mixture descends through a gap in the air bubbles, 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. The stratification process is a slow one in this device, here each transformation takes about 40 minutes or more- shown here using iPhone time lapse. 

Fluorescence of Lapis Lazuli 

Get a sphere and other polished samples of Lapis Lazili here:
From Etsy: BUY NOW: Lapis Lazuli

You will also want an awesome UV flashlight like this one:
From WayTooCool: BUY NOW: High Power UV Light (best UV products and service available)

Fluorescence of Lapis Lazuli: A polished sphere of lapis lazuli, blue with the mineral lazurite, evokes the form of a banded planet with swaths and speckles of other minerals such as calcite, pyrite, sodalite, and hauynite. The beam of a long wave UV flashlight reveals an astonishing transformation of appearance where the banding on the sphere glows bright yellow via fluorescence of the hauynite inclusions. The colorful glow comes from complex quantum mechanical behavior where molecules of some of the minerals absorb high energy UV photons and then emit this energy out in the form of lower energy photons- the physics of fluorescence. 

H6 Chondrite Meteorite

Own a piece of space rock! Afordable meteorties of many types and sizes:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Meteorite Specimens

H6 Chondrite Meteorite: identification of rocks that fell from space- H6 chondrites are stony iron meteorites with a high percentage of nickel-iron in the form of little spherical blobs called chondrules. Chondrules are only found in meteorites- and you can see that some of them are protruding from the surface of this specimen as little shiny bumps. H6 meteorites are so full of these that they will be strongly attracted to a magnet. Over one third of all classified meteorites are such H Chondrites, and a great way to find a rock from space is with a magnet on the end of a stick! 


Dendritic Quartz

Available here:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Dendritic Quartz

Dendritic Quartz: Fractal patterns are found throughout Nature- but few are in as pure a fractal form as these manganese dendrite inclusions, found in quartz and other mineral compounds where they grow along the cracks and joint planes of crystals. The fractal dimension of these delicately branched structures is about D=1.8 as estimated by the famous “box counting” algorithm. I picked up this beautiful fractal quartz freeform cabochon from @rareearthminingco (thanks Curtis!) at the Tucson gem, mineral, and fossil show. 

Spacemen Ramp Walker

Get this vintage toy here:

From eBay: BUY NOW: Spacemen Ramp Walker

Ramp Walker Toy: dragged to the edge but never over. Patented in 1888, this toy exhibits complex motion with very simple construction, and uses physics to stop right at the edge. Note that as these space-suited explorers approach the edge, the direction of pull becomes straight down with no horizontal component to maintain forward motion.

Filpbook Astronomy

Find used copies of this book here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Dynamic Astronomy with Flipbook Animations

Flipbook Astronomy: often static images are insufficient to explain complex motion, and before there was YouTube, animations of astronomical concepts were hard to come by- except for this 1971 astronomy textbook! The author of this text included eight flipbook animations in the margins. Swipe to see three animations 1) what the Big Dipper will look like after 100,000 years “time lapse”, 2) the path of Jupiter in the sky over the course of one year, and 3) the motion of the Earth and Moon over a one month period as their center of mass orbits the Sun. An excellent textbook for its time: Dynamic Astronomy by Robert T Dixon, Prentice Hall. The psychophysics of flipbooks: when the image flash rate is above the flicker fusion frequency (approximately 16Hz) we perceive fluid motion- the basis for all movies and TV.